Things to see in Sicily differ depending on personal attitudes: the Island is rich in beaches and archipelagos where to relax on summer, but it has also many great spots for a holiday dedicated to ancient history and a legacy of several cultures visible through the remains left behind, such as architecture and many castles; moreover, the mild climate and the cuisine can attract visitors at any time of the year, making Sicily the perfect tourist destination.
If you are thinking about an escape, you can choose among several Sicilian vacation packages available all year round and select the ideal destinations for your Sicilian vacation.
Things to see in Sicily: 3 beautiful cities in Sicily
Among the things to see in Sicily, Messina, Catania and Syracuse are definitely on the list. Messina is a famous cruise port known for the bell tower of the Cathedral Square. Catania, at the foot of Mount Etna is characterized by the use of lava stone in the buildings and the baroque architecture, and Syracuse with the enchanting old town of Ortygia Island: there are a number of things to see and to do during a Sicilian vacation itinerary, both in summer and in wintertime. Let’s discover together some highlights!
Messina attractions in the historic center can count the Cathedral Square and its famous astronomical clock –the biggest in the world- characterized by moving statues representing many scenes of the religious and civil life of the city.
Other highlights of the Square are the Orion Fountain, realized by Giovanangelo Montorsoli in 1555, and the Cathedral, built in 1100 by the Normans, who then ruled Sicily. The church was severely damaged by the earthquake of 1908 and during World War II, but the reconstruction remained faithful to the original form.
Among the Messina attractions deserving a visit there is the Church of Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, built in the 12th century and the only one that survived the 1908 earthquake. This elegant building today is a symbol of Messina’s history.
If you would like to admire valuable painting, works of art, a sculpture collection and an archaeological section then you should visit the interesting Regional Museum of Messina with our Messina city tour with Regional Museum: the Museum contains works of prestigious sculptors such as Antonello Gagini, Francesco Laurana and Goro di Gregorio. Of particular importance are “The Cult of the Shepherds” and “The Resurrection of Lazarus from the Dead” works of Caravaggio: definitely one of the top things to see in Sicily!
Another of the fundamental Messina attractions is the statue of the Madonna della Lettera -also called “Madonnina”, that stands in the port on a 60 meter column erected in 1934. The Latin inscription at the base of the column is “Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus” -We bless you and your city-, which is a quote from a letter that the Virgin Mary should have sent to Messina’s citizens.
Last but not least, one of the best Messina attractions is the Nature Reserve of Peloro Cape and the lakes of Faro and Ganzirri, also called Punta del Faro, whichis the extreme north-eastern tip of Sicily, where more than 400 aquatic species live. The Sicilian Pylon is placed right near the extreme tip of Peloro Cape, where according to the legend lives the monster called “Cariddi”.
This place represents the northern entry point of the Strait of Messina, where the Ionian Sea meets the Tyrrhenian Sea, creating impressive and very strong currents. If you want to learn more about Cape Peloro have a look at our blog post about Messina Sicily and its treasures.
Things to do in Catania
Catania is for sure among the things to see in Sicily at least once. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Sicily, characterized by the use of Etna lava stone for the construction of churches, palaces and monuments, which gives the city the uniform gray-black colour, starting with the Cathedral Square, the heart of the city.
Right in the center of the square, you can admire the emblem of the city: the Elephant Fountain -carved in black lava- above which an Egyptian obelisk stands. The legend tells this statue has the power to appease the wrath of the Etna volcano.
Behind the fountain, there is the Cathedral, whose facade is entirely made in white marble. The church keeps inside the relics of St. Agatha, the Patron Saint of Catania and also the tomb of Vincenzo Bellini, the famous classical composer.
The must-see attractionof Catania are many, for example you can go to the gardens of Villa Bellini, one of the perfect places to enjoy some cool breeze, have a picnic or simply rest. And if you want to have fun… events and concerts are regularly organized!
There’s a street where it is possible to admire more than 4 baroque churches along the way: Via Crociferi, also called “the Street of Churches” with the church of St. Francis, the church of St. Benedetto (it is said that it was built in one night), the Church of St. Giuliano and the Church of St. Nicolò all’Arena.
Among the things to do in Catania you cannot miss a visit to the former Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolò l’Arena -the 2nd largest building in Europe now housing part of the University- and the Ursino Castle, built by Frederick II of Swabia in the 13th century, today converted in the Civic Museum of the Etnean city.
Originally, this castle was located on top of a hill and built on a cliff overlooking the sea. Earthquakes and the volcanic eruption of Etna of 1669 changed the landscape of this area.
Syracuse Sicily and Ortigia Island
Syracuse is a city to be included in the top things to see in Sicily during a Sicilian vacation (we have many options of Sicily vacation packages that include a tour of Syracuse Sicily). Syracuse is a real wealth of treasures: numerous temples, a theater, a necropolis and an amphitheater that testify to its past as an important Greek city.
Ortygia Island, also known as the Old Town, is the ideal place for a relaxing walking through the medieval alleys, have a look at the traditional market, the fountains, the artisan shops and the remains of the ancient temple dedicated to Apollo.
The Cathedral Square of Syracuse Sicily is one of the most beautiful and scenic Square of Italy. The Cathedral -characterized by the unique structure that keeps the columns of the ancient Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva- boasts one of the most beautiful facades in Sicily realized during the eighteenth century in a mix of Baroque and Rococò elements.
Among the things to see in Sicily, in Syracuse Sicily there’s The Puppets Theatre, located a few steps from the Duomo, with a rich season of shows for young and old people. In addition to the theater, the Bottega del Puparo and the Puppet Museum are also worth a visit, where characters come to life from papier-mâché thanks to the skill of craftsmen.
Other attractions to visit in Ortygia Island are the Maniace Castle, representing the Swabian period in Syracuse, built on the extreme tip of Ortygia by Emperor Frederick II of Swabia around 1200. Today a walk among the towers and on the ramparts offers an incredible almost 360° view of the sea around the city.
Another place to visit is the Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, one of the most important archaeological museums in Italy which keeps one of the best collections in Europe.
Finally, in the list of top things to do in Sicily there is certainly going to see the complex of the Neapolis Park, one of the most important archaeological areas in the world and one of the most visited attractions in Sicily.
Among the highlights of the area, there is the Ear of Dionysus (l’Orecchio di Dionisio), an artificial cave in the shape of an auricle, that, according to tradition, was built as a prison by the tyrant Dionysius, who could hear the words exchanged by prisoners from the outside.
The second big attraction is the Roman amphitheatre, the largest Sicilian amphitheatre and – at the time of its maximum splendour- one of the largest ever. It isn’t easy to choose the first things to see in Sicily, as the beauties of Trinacria are so many!
Book you Sicilian vacation with us and we will be happy to take you on a pleasant holiday discovering this enchanting and art cities in Sicily… there are many good reasons to explore a truly unique place that can be visited at any time of the year, alone or in company.
Admire the Sicilian history through the monuments and… enjoy the excellent cuisine, which can be tasted all over the Island!