I have been to Sicily for long weekends before. That usually means flying into Palermo or Catania and quickly exploring one of the island’s two largest cities, then patting ourselves on the back, and heading back to Rome. However, this year I am determined to find the more unexplored sides of Sicily.
I’ll be traveling back and forth to this little island for the next several months. From hilly farmland, to bustling urban markets and pristine beaches, there is a lot to uncover so I recommend getting a head start looking into your dream Sicily vacation rentals.
Why? Because Sicily is one of those rare last outposts of the Italian dream. Rugged but beautiful, tinged with ancient history and modern intrigues, and boasting the holy trifecta of sun, sand and food.
But to really really see Sicily, I am realizing very quickly that you need to get out the city.
Sicily is an incredibly diverse island. From the foods to the landscapes, it is a place that has already surprised me more than once with its differences from the rest of Italy. That’s why I am deep into vacation planning mode, so here are my tips of where to go to experience a less discovered side of Sicily:
Enna: Central Sicily is often overlooked, but it is an incredibly tranquil setting filled with rolling hills and small stone towns. While most people head for the beaches, you should make your way towards Enna, a city perched at an elevation of more than 3,000 ft (about 940m). The town has views of Mt. Etna, as well as of the surrounding countryside. Plus, there are several monuments to add to the already charming allure. Easily one of the highest on my Sicilian must-see list this summer.
Favignana: I know I just said that Sicily is not all beaches, but I will make an exception for a trip to Favignana. The small island (yes, an island off an island) is between Trapani and Marsala, about 7 km off the western coast of Sicily. It is the largest of the three Egadi islands, and is well connected by ferry. Rather than a resort speckled getaway, the island life remains largely unchanged in the face of tourism — which is exactly what I find so appealing. Rent a bike for the day to cruise around the flat area of the main town, or to access some of the more popular beaches.
Ortigia: Ah, Ortigia. So many Italian friends have told me that this is their favorite part of Sicily, and after a quick visit last week I can certainly see why. Ortigia is also an island, however it is so close to Siracusa that you can easily walk across a short bridge to get there. The city has been beloved since Ancient Greek times, so there are still ruins of the Temple of Apollo as soon as you cross over the bridge. But there is also a buzzing market, flower filled balconies, beachside promenades, and a lovely cathedral. Ortigia is small enough to be explored on foot, but don’t rush it. This UNESCO World Heritage site should be savored between plenty of stops for granita and/or crisp white wine.
Noto: Small Noto packs a powerful punch when it comes to gorgeous architecture. The sleepy feel of the lovely town is in direct contrast to some of Sicily’s other most touristy cities. What Noto lacks in seaside, it makes up for with warmly lit baroque buildings and small streets. It also almost time for Noto’s annual Infiorata flower festival (the third weekend in May), when Via Nicolai is transformed into a carpet of elaborate and colorful designs made entirely out of blooms and other plant material. Top of my to do list in Sicily, however, is to grab a dessert at Caffe Sicilia – which is said to make some of the best sweets on the entire island.
Modica: Another interior town in south-east Sicily that I would love to visit is Modica. Whether you love food or sites, Modica is a crowd pleaser because it well known for both. The city has some of the most impressive examples of Baroque architecture in Sicily. However, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m more interested in Modica’s famous chocolate. The secret to their amazing chocolate is said to have been brought by the Spanish who invaded Sicily in medieval times and remembered to bring cocoa beans (stolen from the Aztecs) along for the journey.
Cefalù: Though hardly undiscovered, Cefalù has earned its reputation for good reason. The picturesque fishing village is set on a hill that slopes towards the water and is a perfect day trip from Palermo. So if you do prefer to stay near major cities, you can still explore the more undiscovered sides of Sicily with short excursions. In Cefalù, that can include hiking to the temple above town for a breathtaking view, or settling in for a glass of wine by the harbor for the sunset.
Anyone else interested in a Sicilian vacation? What are your favorite holiday spots in Sicily? I’m definitely taking suggestions!