Why I love Sicily
“Decades after my first visit, I still find Sicily one of the world's most captivating places. Among the island's innumerable charms, here are a few personal favourites: the ever-present scent of lemon trees, the purity of dawn light on terracotta walls, the colourful decrepitude of Palermo's markets, the drama of Stromboli erupting against a darkening sky, the sense that history lurks always just around the next...” Read More
Top experiences in Sicily
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Palermo Street Food Walking Tour
In the morning, meet your guide at Piazza Verdi, home to Teatro Massimo, Italy’s largest opera house. Receive a special ‘foodie’s passport’, and listen as your guide explains that it will be stamped after each tasting, creating a personalized souvenir of your small-group food tour. Then, begin your gastronomic jaunt through Palermo. Wind through the web of alleyways that make up Mercato di Capo and Vucciria Market. Breathe in the heavenly aromas that waft through the air and browse the stalls, which are piled high with regional fare.As you walk, listen to your guide share the secrets of Sicilian street cuisine and explain the history of the city, while pointing out notable monuments including the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which, should you wish, you can choose to enter (own expense). Savor snacks from several street vendors and stop into local bakeries and traditional inns as part of your educational epicurean experience. During the tour, try five different Sicilian specialties, such as arancine (stuffed rice balls) and panelle (chickpea fritters), as well as sipping on a sweet local wine.Top it all off with a lip-smacking local dessert, such as an icy granita (a frozen slushy dessert), ice cream or cannoli (fried pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta and other ingredients). During summer months (June to September), the tour concludes after three hours at Piazza San Domenico.If your tour takes place between October and May, continue your culinary quest for another hour, during which you’ll see the famous Baroque buildings of Quattro Canti and the Florentine fountain at Piazza Pretoria, before moving onto Ballarò Street Market, a favorite among locals. Sated and satisfied from all the food, you'll then visit the Cathedral of Palermo, where your tour concludes. Please note: In the special requirements field at check out, please advise of any dietary restrictions or food allergies; substitutions may be accommodated with advance notice.
Mount Etna Day Trip from Taormina
Start your day trip by boarding your air-conditioned coach in central Taormina, and then relax on the 1-hour journey inland to Mount Etna, the island’s brooding – and spectacular – nemesis. Set in the middle of a national park, Europe’s highest active volcano dominates the Sicilian landscape around it.Hop out of your coach at the base station Rifugio Sapienza, and then enjoy roughly three hours at leisure to trek independently around the foothills of Mount Etna. The area is covered with hiking trails that zigzag in all directions, and your host will happily point you in the right direction for the Monti Silvestri Craters – two small, yet impressive, craters near the base station. If you want lunch before or after your hike, visit Rifugio Sapienza’s restaurant. Food and drinks are at your own expense, but the restaurant offers a good selection of hot and cold snacks.Eager to visit Mount Etna upper crater? Upgrade to skip the three hours of independent time and head to approximately 3,000 meters height with an alpine guide, instead. Ascent by cable car up to 2,500 meters and continuing on board jeeps up to the authorized crater zones at approximately 3,000 meters with the assistance of licensed guides of the CAI (Italian Alpine Club); stop to admire the eventual activity of the summit craters in a safety zones according to weather conditions.Then, return to Taormina in the comfort of your air-conditioned coach. Your day trip finishes with a drop-off at the start point.
Sicilian Cooking Class in Taormina
Meet your host, a professional local chef, near Porta Messina in the historical center of Taormina, and start your cooking experience with a stroll to the open market. Sicilians – like all Italians – tend to shop for locally produced ingredients in markets, selecting simply whatever looks best. Follow their example, and help your host select the finest ingredients of the day to cook with.The market is near to the restaurant, a traditional Sicilian seafood restaurant, so walk there next, and head inside for your cooking class. Put on your apron as your host explains the dishes of the day and gives an introduction to the cuisine of Sicily. While the countryside’s soil tends to be more sun-baked than verdant, Sicily’s produce is lush, characterized by delights like ruby-red sun-ripened tomatoes, plump olives and fresh nuts. The seas around the island supply enough fish to satisfy an insatiable appetite for fresh seafood, and Sicilian desserts, like cannoli (pastry rolls of sweetened ricotta), are legendary. Help chop vegetables or prepare pasta for your course, and learn how to sear meat and fish to perfection. The menu changes for each cookery class, but you can expect dishes like Parmigiana di melanzane (baked eggplant, layered with tomato and Parmesan) or pasta al pesto di pistacchi – pasta with a pesto sauce made from pistachio nuts.After cooking your three courses, take a seat in the restaurant and savor your creations with samples of wine. The restaurant has a wide selection of both red and white wine, so let your host select different varieties to complement your food. The number of samples varies, but you can expect to try enough to constitute two glasses. Your cooking experience finishes after your meal and wine-tasting session. Before you leave, collect cooking certificate to take as a keepsake!
Valley of Temples, Villa Romana del Casale Tour
Meet your guide in the center of Taormina and set off on your journey to Agrigento, on Sicily’s sunny south coast. The city’s main claim to fame is the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO-listed archeological site on a hill that’s home to ruins dating to 430 BC. After paying your entrance fees, head inside the site with your guide, and pick your way through the maze of awe-inspiring relics and ruins while learning about ancient Sicily.See the so-called temple of Castor and Pollux (not the temple, which is actually in Rome, but a composition of ruins devoted to the two Greek gods), as well as other countless highlights. Admire the Temple of Concord – a perfect example of a Classical monument – as well as the Temple of Juno, Temple of Jove and the oldest ruin, the Temple of Hercules.After optional lunch, (at own expense), and then travel inland to Piazza Armerina, to spend your afternoon at the town’s big-name attraction: Villa Romana del Casale. The ancient hunting lodge is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics that depict scenes from everyday life and mythological tales.Head inside at your own expense and explore its public rooms like the thermal baths, public hall, dining area and courtyard. Gaze in awe at the famous ‘bikini girls’ mosaic wall and listen to stories of the site’s history from your guide. Hear how the lodge was hidden after a 12th-century landslide before being discovered around seven centuries later. Its true magnificence was realized after later excavations and it was eventually given a well-deserved spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.After exploring the attraction, return to your coach and relax on your journey east to Taormina. Your day trip finishes back at the start point.
Erice and Segesta Day Trip from Palermo with Sicilian Food and Wine Tasting
Meet your tour leader in central Palermo and head for the hills towards two beautiful towns in Sicily’s wild west. After a relaxing journey in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle, stop at Erice, an isolated medieval town perched high on top of Mt Erice. Listen as your tour leader reveals Erice’s fascinating backstory. Legend suggests that Erice was founded by the indigenous Elymian people, who were believed to be Trojan exiles. Admire the breathtaking vistas of sweeping valleys and wander around the maze of Mediterranean lanes. Venture into some of the town’s pastry shops, which are known for their mouthwatering selections of specialty sweets, such as marzipan candies and almond and pistachio pastries.Travel to a Sicilian olive oil estate and tuck into a typical Sicilian lunch that features fresh local produce such as cheese, olives and pasta. Savor samples of olive oil and wine, which are also produced locally.After lunch, continue to Segesta, another city connected to the ancient Elymian people. Pay the admission fee to enter the archaeological site independently. Explore the ancient ruins at your leisure, marveling at the unfinished Doric temple, which dates back to the 5th century BC and at panoramic vistas of the rolling hills. Please note that your tour leader will not accompany you inside the site, but he or she will be able to share information about its highlights and history.Afterward, settle back into your seat for a scenic drive back to central Palermo, where your tour concludes.
Aeolian Islands Day Trip: Stromboli and Panarea
Leave central Taormina by air-conditioned coach and relax on the 1-hour journey north to the Port of Milazzo, just west of Messina. Hop aboard a motorboat and speed through the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea to Panarea in the Aeolian Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Small yet stunning, the island of Panarea is a picture-perfect delight boasting a tiny whitewashed village surrounded by pristine beaches. Enjoy some free time to explore, perhaps shopping in the village’s quaint stores or relaxing on the beaches. You can also use the time to enjoy lunch at a local cafe; ask your host for tips!Return to the port at the pre-arranged time and cruise across the water to Stromboli, an island named after its active volcano. Spend time at leisure in Stromboli village, admiring its black lava-sand beach and pretty houses decked with vibrant flowers. After watching the sun set over the steaming volcano, head back to port and enjoy a light dinner on board your boat.Then, it’s time for your evening’s highlight: a boat ride around the island to see Stromboli’s volcanic activity. Cruise until you reach a clear spot for viewing Sciara del Fuoco, where the most dramatic lava eruptions take place. Small eruptions and detonations occur frequently (usually around every half hour), so have your camera ready to capture bright explosions of liquid lava and rocks propelled into the air, against the backdrop of the night sky. After watching one of Sicily’s best natural fireworks displays, cruise back to the Port of Milazzo, and then return to central Taormina by coach.