Sicily Main Attractions – history and culture

Sicily is Italy's southern treasure and its warmest region with its mostly sunny weather and beautiful beaches to enjoy during the spring, summer until mid-October. You can visit and walk through the historical places for the entire year while enjoying the Mediterranean climate.

Visit Sicily once, and you will keep coming back.

Sicily is Italy’s southern treasure and its warmest region with its mostly sunny weather and beautiful beaches to enjoy during the spring, summer until mid-October. You can visit and walk through the historical places for the entire year while enjoying the Mediterranean climate. The landscape is romantic, and the atmosphere is as colourful as its people and its exquisite foods. Passing by the natural wonders of mountains, hills and plains is like a dream, indescribable and entrancing.

As the famous German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said,
“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.” 

The sites to see and things to do are endless, but we have listed the best 12 attractions for you below to help you plan your trip. Visit our blog page too for more exciting reads about this beautiful island.

12 Most popular attractions in Sicily

Temple of Concordia in Valley of the Temples, Agrigento

The Valley of Ancient Greek Temples in Agrigento (Valle dei Templi)
 
The Greater Greece golden age has left some of its outstanding architectural pride in the coastal areas of Southern Italy. The city of Agrigento in Sicily was once a leading city during the Magna Graecia era, and the location of its glorious remains, the Valley of the Temples or also known as the Valle dei Templi. The entire park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most significant archaeological site in the world, making it not only a tourist favourite but a history and myth lovers haven of discoveries. We recommend reading a few mythological stories about Sicily to keep you entertained while visiting, it takes your trip to a whole new level.

After surviving the test of time and many natural disasters over the centuries, the Valley holds the remains of seven temples which warmly greets their new generation of visitors. They were the homes of gods and goddesses who served and protected the ancient Greek city of Akragas which is the present-day Agrigento.

Read more: Discover the Valley of the Temples: Facts, Myths and Secrets

Mount Etna located in Catania

Mount Etna

If there is an iconic place that represents Sicily’s splendour and cultural voyage, it is the Mount Etna. The largest active volcano in Europe is a constant reminder of events and legends about Sicily and its blended customs since the ancient times, from Greeks to Celts, Romans, Normans and its current tribulations. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated between the cities of Messina and Catania and a must-visit Italian destination with thousands of tourists every year wishing to get a glimpse of the nature deity’s intimidating beauty.

Read more: Exciting things to do in Mount Etna

Mount Etna is also a prime host for a nostalgic hiking experience. Mountain climbers and regular visitors love the thrill of discovering its secret caves, quiet craters, viewpoints and breathtaking panoramas. The volcano is continuously erupting, so the entry limitations are also changing. Please make sure to check the weather and news update before your journey, take photos and quietly admire the mountain’s majesty.

Teatro Greco in Taormina Sicily

Taormina

Boasting perfect postcard images on its every corner, with its natural backdrop of the sea and mountains, the hilltown of Taormina is a real jewel located in the eastern part of Sicily. It provides one of the most picturesque views of the Etna volcano which is in less than an hour drive. The second largest ancient theatre in the island can also be found in Taormina, the magnificent Teatro Greco which hosted theatrical performances, musical concerts and many important events such as the 43rd G7 World Leadership summit.

Taormina serves as a quick getaway for locals who want a weekend vacation and relax while being close to home. It is a fairy-tale village for tourists who keep coming back to witness its beauty all over again and enjoy walking its streets full of surprises. Wandering around, you can stumble upon impressive wonders of old churches and galleries showcasing antique Sicilian items and ceramics. There are plenty of bars, small food shops and restaurants to dine too. Or if the weather allows it, the most romantic set up will be a table for two or the entire family in your hotel balcony overlooking the Ionian sea and its beaches, charming houses and their beautifully decorated terraces of bougainvillaea flowers.

Palermo Historic Centre

Palermo is not Sicily’s capital for nothing, the city offers the best places to learn more about Sicily and its rich history that transcends for many years. Palermo continues to welcome diverse settlers and embrace different cultures and traditions. from its foundation by the Phoenicians in 734 B.C. to colonisation, foreign invasions and today’s modern immigration.

Travellers from all over the world come to Palermo to see and understand the remnants of its colourful past. It is still evident in the historic centre of Palermo composing of hundreds of palaces including the Palazzo dei Normanni which is the Royal Palace of Palermo, work of the art churches like the Cappella Palatina inside the royal palace and the Palermo Cathedral nearby, squares, convents, monasteries, museums, galleries, and theatres. Every corner and wall has a story to tell or a character representing the city’s previous conquerors from Greek to Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, German, English, Spanish, and its unification with Italy. Jaw-dropping landmarks are in walking distance to each other. Divided into four districts, the heart of the historic centre is the Quattro Canti, a Baroque square with its cross streets the Via Maqueda and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele and four buildings facing one another and feature fountains, and statues of prominent figures as the four Spanish kings of Sicily.

Read more: Palaces, castles and museums in Palermo Sicily

Monreale Mosaic Cathedral 

Together with the Norman Palace and Cappella Palatina, the Palermo and Cefalu cathedrals and five other monuments, the church of Monreale in the province of Palermo is also covered in the series of UNESCO World Heritage site promoting the preserved combination of Norman, Arab, Byzantine arts and culture in Sicily.

Joining the legacy of his predecessors in promulgating Christianity, King William II ordered the construction of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Monreale in 1172 and later restored by religious orders, consisted of the main cathedral, a square, towers, monasteries and dormitories. Dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin Mary, the young king commissioned renowned artists and sculptors which took inspirations from the Cappella Palatina, only its grander and bigger with walls and ceiling covered in glass mosaic interior in Byzantine style portraying scenes from Old and New Testament.

Read More:

The beach town of Cefalù

Seventy kilometres away from Palermo city is the scenic seaside village of Cefalù, a townlet that seems to be straight out of a fairytale with the fortress cliff and Tyrrhenian sea as its fascinating backgrounds. The narrow streets of Cefalù will take you to medieval houses, 17th-century churches and Sicily’s hidden gem, the Cefalù Cathedral. The Cathedral manifests the Arab-Byzantine-Norman architecture of the 12th century and receives millions of onlookers annually. The village is also recognized for its lovely beach which one can enjoy all year long, soaking up under the sun, strolling on the sand or dining in Michelin restaurants that serve authentic Sicilian cuisines.

Read More:E

Aeolian Islands

Formed by the incredible movements of nature for hundreds of thousands of years, appearing as a group of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea and believed to be the kingdom of the demigod of the winds, Aeolus, the Aeolian Islands offers its visitors a majestic experience to reflect life’s meaning and be one with nature. The archipelago is composed of eight small islands; Lipari,
Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Basiluzzo.

The islands are isolated from the mainland and can only be accessed through the sea by ferries or private boats. The ferry routes usually start from the largest island Lipari where you can begin your exploration and move on to the other islands afterwards. There are many activity options from trekking and swimming in crystal clear water in Lipari to hiking and mud bathing in Vulcano, beach hopping in Salina, climbing the active Stromboli volcano and partying in the posh island of Panarea.

Selinunte

The archaeological site of Selinunte is located in the province of Trapani and was an ancient Greek colony that played an important role in wide spreading the Hellenic civilization in Sicily in the 6th century B.C. The territory of ancient Selinunte was vast, claimed to be extending from the Mediterranean coastlines up to the present Belice river, its hills containing the ruins of the ancient city and the frontier district of its neighbours, the Segestans. Due to its strategic and abundant location near the sea, the city had encountered prosperity as well as conflicts throughout its existence. Notable accounts were its disputes against the Segestans who were the indigenous people of Sicily and defeat from the Carthaginians that helped their enemies.

Many of the remains of Selinunte featuring evidence of its affluent past, culture, religion and cult practices can still be visited in the excavation site. This comprises necropoleis, sanctuaries, inhabitants houses and the main settlement area, the Acropolis with ruins of Greek Doric-style temples honouring deities like Hera, Demeter, Kore and a few more. Metopes of these mythological gods were found in the site and now preserved in the Regional Archeological Museum Antonio Salinas in Palermo.

Read More:

Villa Romana del Casale in Enna

After conquering Sicily during the First Punic War versus the Carthage in 241 B.C., the Roman Republic(which later established as the Roman Empire) transformed the island as their first province assigning governors in ruling the entire land. As part of the territory, Sicily became the summer retreat for aristocrats and high ranking officials of the empire. The Villa Romana del Casale in Enna is the excavated remains of one of the wealthy example of Roman-era lifestyle.

The area is protected and one of Piazza Armerina’s main tourist sights exhibiting sets of detailed Roman mosaics made less than two millennia ago. Majority of the mosaics show hunting adventures and images of animals. There are many hypotheses to which residence it belonged but nothing is definite yet. Perhaps, it was owned by a Roman senator or a consul or one of the prominent patrician families.

Historic City of Syracuse

The history of Magna Graecia period in Sicily is not complete without mentioning the powerhouse ancient city-state of Syracuse. Syracuse was a rising star at that time, often compared to Athens and challenged by wars, it had grown to be a dominant force across the Sicilian region. Like all of Sicily, Syracuse had watched the metamorphosis of the island, changing from one ruler to another, calamities, epidemics, its faith, from paganism to Christianity and Islam and back to Christianity again. One can imagine the variety of influences that were left behind here.

The original foundation of ancient Syracuse is retained in the Old Town of the captivating Ortygia island including the Cathedral of Syracuse, a Baroque style church built from the ruins of the ancient Greek temple of Athena and now dedicated to the Syracusan native martyr and the patroness of the city, Santa Lucia. Two miles from the island was the seat of the ancient city of Neapolis, preserved as an archaeological park displaying both Greek Theater and Roman Amphitheater.

Modica

A flamboyant hill ranged municipality in the province of Ragusa,
bestrode in the Hyblaean Mountains and adorned with Baroque style buildings, Modica gives off a dramatic and stage-like ambience that can put anyone in awe. This is the result of the continuous rebuilding during the 17th and 18th century after the earthquake of 1693 which destroyed several parts of Sicily including Modica and gave way to the manifestation of the extravagant Sicilian Baroque architecture in the island.

Modica is also globally known as the chocolate capital of Sicily for its traditional chocolate production and offers gastronomical feasts to its explorers.

You did not see your favourite Sicily attractions on the list? Please write it on the comment section so we can or any of our readers can visit them and discover more of Sicily’s enchanting beauty.

Ciao beddi!

Read More: Must-See Attractions in Sicily, Best Beaches in Sicily

Tags: Sicily Travel Guide, Sicily Tourist Attractions, Sicily Top Ten attractions in Sicily, History of Sicily, Sicily Short Stay Accommodations, Sicily Holiday Rentals, Sicily Stay

2 Thoughts on “Sicily Main Attractions – history and culture

What is your Sicily story?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.