3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Sicily? The Godfather, mafia, Goodfellas, crime and several other non-flattering things brought about by Hollywood. You probably don’t think about stunning landscapes, amazing food, beautiful destinations and a sensory overload of pretty much everything! I just visited Sicily for the 3rd or 4th time and was yet again blown away. Here are 3 places not to miss in Sicily.

Catania

Catania is the second largest metropolis in Sicily after the capital of Palermo. Catania is very popular with European package tourists but not so much with Americans. It is rough around the edges but so is Sicily in general and that’s also what gives it some charm. I used Catania as a base for 4 days in Sicily.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Catania, Italy, Duomo, Duomo Square
First, I stayed at the Sheraton Catania; which is the worst Starwood hotel I’ve ever stayed in. To be fair they upgraded me to a suite because of my status but it was terrible. The bathrooms smelled like sewage. The carpets were orange, as were the walls, as if they were suspended in 1975. The water was hot when you wanted cold and the service was subpar. Not to mention it was 15-20 minutes taxi from the center of Catania. Also to be fair, I did no research on the hotel, I just booked it assuming it’d be up to Sheraton standards but it was not except for a nice view.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Catania, Sheraton Catania
The center of Catania is a great place to walk around and has a tremendous energy to it. It’s not a beautiful city by any means but it has beautiful things in it. The city revolves around Piazza del Duomo, as many Italian cities do. This particular piazza is very aesthetically pleasing. The Duomo itself is awesome from the outside and mixes well with the adjacent Cattedrale di Sant’Agata.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Catania, Italy, Duomo, Duomo Square
Cattedrale di Sant’Agata is great because you can climb up the windy stairs all the way to the top and you get great views of Catania. The best shots are of the Duomo and of the looming figure of Mount Etna that hovers over the city of Catania like a conquering king.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Catania, Italy, Mount Etna, Etna
If you walk up Via Etnea, you will see the real center of Catania; it’s people. The people are abundant, alive and love to be outside. They do everything you think they should do. They talk emphatically with their hands, they smoke a lot, they sip cappuccinos and they’re dressed impeccably. It’s Italy after all!
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Catania, Italy
The other obvious thing that is great about Catania is the food. In Sicily, most food revolves around meat or fish. When I think of Sicily I think of fish first so that’s what I go with generally. I like seafood and pasta which makes life easier. My favorite place was called Osteria Antica Marina located next to the famous La Pescheria. So yes it smells a bit like fish but the food is fresh and fantastic. Make a reservation or you’ll have to resort to negotiating like I did!
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Catania, Italy, Fish
Catania is a good base in the middle of Eastern Sicily as you can easily take a rental car, taxi, bus or train from Catania all over the island. It is definitely one of the 3 places not to miss in Sicily!

Taormina

Taormina is like a dream. If you can look past the crowds; which you’ll have to anywhere in Italy, you will be delighted beyond words with Taormina. It truly speaks for itself. Just look at my photos!
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina. hotel
Taormina is about 1:15 minutes by train or bus from Catania. I actually took the bus because it seemed easier and certainly a lot cheaper than driving and dealing with maniacal Italian drivers.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina
Taormina is situated on a high terrace of Monte Tauro and looks out in several directions-most notably to Mount Etna and out to sea. Any way you look it is breathtaking.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina, view
The main attractions in Taormina are the Teatro Greco; which is fantastic, and the main pedestrian thoroughfare, Corso Umberto. Teatro Greco is an amphitheater that looks out over Taormina and down to the sea below. The setting and the views are perfect. It is a 10 euro charge to get in but unlike many sites like it, this one is well worth the price of admission.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina, Teatro Greco
Don’t expect to get an idyllic shot all alone or anything as there will be hundreds of other tourists in there with you but you won’t even mind. I definitely suggest walking around both the theatre itself and going to the very top and getting the views in each direction. They’ll be some of the best in Taormina.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina, Teatro Greco, view
Corso Umberto is the undisputed main drag and center of the Taormina wheel. All restaurants, shops and side streets derive from Corso Umberto. It is jam-packed but again, you’re so infatuated with looking around that you’re totally unfazed by the crowds.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina, Corso Umberto
Pick a restaurant, pasticceria and sit down and watch the world walk by. Then keep going from gate to gate stopping to take photos in the piazza.
Taormina pasta, 3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina
Taormina is not cheap by any stretch and the city itself is probably the richest city in Sicily; whereas much of the rest of Sicily has economic issues. Don’t expect deals but expect to be thoroughly blown away by Taormina; one of the 3 places not to miss in Sicily.

Siracusa

Siracusa, often called Syracuse, is a cool little place. Driving in, you have no idea what the big deal is with the place. It’s pretty drab, ugly and industrial. Then as you pull in toward the bridge to Ortygia island, you see what all the fuss is about. There is a delightful old town to wander, ogle and photograph.
Duomo, 3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Siracusa, Syracuse
Like many towns in Sicily, there is a Piazza del Duomo and it is absolutely gorgeous. The Duomo here is very striking and you’re happy to have lunch facing it in the piazza. The restaurant, aptly names Café del Duomo has excellent pizzas and I do mean excellent!
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Taormina, pizza
Ortygia is a small place and you can really see most of it in a few hours so take your time and stroll. Have a few cappuccinos, gelatos and order the extra cannoli!
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Siracusa, Syracuse, Piazza Duomo
Aside from the Duomo the main sites are a very disappointing Fontana Aretusa; which is a fountain that is supposed to be an ancient spring where fresh water still bubbles up-I was not impressed but that’s OK.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Siracusa, Syracuse, Castello Maniace
Further along on the southern tip of the island is the Castello Maniace. It was actually closed the day I was there so I was relegated to taking pictures from the outside. It looks cool from the outside and I imagine it looks like a fort inside, as they generally seem to do!
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Siracusa, Syracuse
That aside, the best thing to do in Siracusa is simply stroll around. It is a very charming place and if you’re going to go to both Taormina and Siracusa and you have a choice, go to Siracusa first because it’ll be more impressive. That’s how awesome Taormina is.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Siracusa, Syracuse, walkways
There is one site of note in the main town and it’s the Teatro Greco. Don’t even bother. It’s not that nice, cost 10 euros and it was completely under construction when I was there but they didn’t bother to tell you. Plus they make you walk like a mile to buy tickets in the opposite direction of the site so you’ll walk through crappy souvenir shops. Trust me, take a pass.
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, Siracusa, Syracuse, Teatro Greco
So there you have it, 3 places not to miss in Sicily. None of them are perfect, but what is? Sicily and Italy in general are far from perfect but we love them anyway. That’s what true love is right? Sicily will win you over from your first rice ball!
3 Places Not to Miss in Sicily, Sicily, rice ball

Comments

  1. Rice balls are the greatest food in the world!

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