Sicily is tourist’s paradise – vibes of ancient civilizations, ambiance of medieval towns, beautiful landscapes, miles of coastline, beaches, people’s friendliness, temperate climate ….
What is so magic about Sicily?
Quick look at the map reveals that the island of Sicily is located almost perfectly in the center of the Mediterranean Sea.
This may be a “discovery” for some of us, but since the “beginning of time” it was not the secret for Mediterranean civilizations. In fact, Sicily’s location at the “crossroads” of maritime commercial network of sealed its destiny....
It may be easier to say who was not controlling the island. Over the last three millennia, successive rulers – most notably ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans then Byzantine Imperium and Arabs followed by Normans, then Spanish and French (Bourbons) Crowns established strong presence on the island.
Then finally, at the end of the 19th century, Garibaldi (not necessarily with full support and understanding of Sicilians) declared the island as a part of newly formed Kingdom of Italy. Since then, the narrow (just few miles wide) Strait of Messina that for millennia was a guardian of Sicilian distinctiveness became a vital part of unifying forces.
Greek temple in Selinunte
Palatine Chapel in Palermo is one of the best examples of Christian Byzantine art with Arabic and Normans accents (all peacefully co-existing!)
No doubt, consecutive rulers brought a lot of suffering and misery to the population of the island. But they also brought “new genes” and with them - goods, plants and animals as well as new visions, ideas, beliefs, skills, experience and endurance so necessary to assure growth in this let’s face it – harsh environment (invaders, pirates and if like this was not enough - forces of nature…).
Thanks to fertile Sicilian “souls & soil” they left behind countless traces in form of architectural marvels and magnificent works of art (music, literature, paintings….) but also great “cuisine” (food and wine) and by now already encoded in their genes – Sicilian kindliness. And that is in short what we would like to focus on in our unfolding story named “Rediscover Sicily”.
Sicily's "Landmark" - Etna (it's the place not to miss)
Villa Romana" Some of the best preserved Roman mosaics
Monreale: Monastery's cloister
Obviously this short description wouldn’t even make good introduction to the whole story about Sicily. Because Rediscovering Sicily is not only about undeniable human achievements, it is also about equally impressive works of Mother Nature.
Beautiful hilly landscapes, blue waters blending over horizon with cloudless umbrella of sky, sandy beaches but also dramatic cliffy coastline and overlooking the island – all powerful Mount Etna. It is also combined effort of nature and men – orchards dotted with orange, lemon, almonds and olive trees, hillsides covered by vineyards, meadows painted with spring flowers….
Here, you do not have to close your eyes to see such beauty (contrary to what you may experience in “some-place-else”). In fact, to live this dream, you have to open your eyes (providing you are in Sicily!).
So when is the best time to Rediscover Sicily?
The short answer is – pretty much all year round! Sicily has quite enjoyable “Mediterranean” climate with a short period of an unpleasant African “touch”. The Mediterranean part of climate brings warm, sunny and mostly dry summers with typical temperatures in the range of low 70’s – low 80’s °F (22 to 28°C) . It is also responsible for mild winters with temperatures in high 40’s - low 50s °F (about 8-12 °C) and “tolerable” amount of rain. Climate-wise it sounds like a paradise (to be more specific, Sicilian climate can be compared to that observed in the coastal Southern California).
It should be noted however that in sunny summer days, coastal areas may easily reach a bit less comfortable temperatures somewhere in 90s °F (32 °C). Good news – it is not a tropical “sticky” hell, air is rather dry, so you will not have to change your shirt few times a day.
December, the wettest month brings on average about 3 inches of rain (by all accounts not that much to upset seasoned tourists). Summer with on average a quarter inch of rain and long sunshine hours makes the traditional high (but also very crowded) season.
The “Touch of Africa” comes with the sirocco - a strong African wind with gusts reaching 50mph (80km/h). On its wings it brings clouds of Saharan sand. It may be hot or cold, but rather humid and suffocating! Usually it happens twice a year - in the spring and fall times. If you are lucky, it will last may be one day, sometimes however it may test your endurance for quite longer.
Sicily: Coastline next to Cefalu
Now a bit more practical picture: Some, especially those inclined to explore island’s interior may say that Sicily has only two seasons: Green and Brown. Devotees of beaches and swimming may push for their own classification: Blue and Gray seasons…
It’s an individual decision when is the best time to visit Sicily. Lovers of sunbathing and swimming may try to “time” the warmest sea waters (around 80°F (27°C) in August with swimming time extending well into the end of October). For experienced tourists and explorers the best time for visiting Sicily may be “any time” throughout the year including winter. Although most likely you wouldn’t enjoy swimming till April-May, the winter actually is not that bad.
The main problem with winter is that during the low season not all you would like to see as a tourist is open on a daily basis, or if open, then working hours are shorter. But if you can live with that than you may truly enjoy local life unspoiled by hordes of tourists…. I guess lower rental prices and no burning sun will greatly add to your pleasure of Rediscovering Sicily. And as a bonus, what about skiing on the slopes of Mt. Etna? Sounds like a deal?
Springtime, the Mother Nature will generously offer refreshingly green landscapes dotted with orchards of fresh ripe oranges, tangerines and lemons while local markets will bloom with real killers – tasty, aromatic, organic-like fruits and veggies. For sure you when Rediscovering Sicily you will also rediscover long forgotten taste of real “all-natural” tomato!
Fruits have short way to the local markets (and they smell and taste like fruits :-)
If you still have doubts about visiting Sicily, then let’s talk shortly about:
Why Sicily (is for You)?
Temperate climate, beautiful landscapes, miles of coastline, blue sky, beaches gently washed by warm Mediterranean waters, myriad of archeological sites remembering ancient imperia, old medieval towns keeping their secrets hidden in the labyrinth of narrow winding streets and newer ones revealing jewels of the best Sicilian architecture and styles…
Vibes of ancient ages mixed with craziness of modern time and omnipresent friendliness of Sicilians makes this island an attractive place for even most demanding tourists.
Such cities like Palermo, Catania, Syracuse or Ragusa (Ibla) are between the most favorite tourist destinations in Sicily, but they are just the tip of much larger iceberg. You wouldn’t grasp Sicily without visiting Trapani, Erice, Marsala, Mazara del Vallo, Partana, Cefalu, Monreale, Enna, Taormina, Noto, Modica……, without viewing Greek temples of Selinunte, Segesta or Agrigento, numerous amphitheaters, castles, magnificent cathedrals, monasteries and churches….
You wouldn’t taste Sicily without sipping few cups of a freshly brewed espresso, drinking few bottles of Sicilian wine, without trying local food and sweets (think cannoli)… You wouldn’t understand Sicily without chatting with Sicilians, without watching favorite soccer game…
You will still find these "jewels" on the streets (Fiat 500 from 50's)
But do not worry, highways are modern and good!
You should know that in not that remote past, Sicily was one of the most prominent European centers of fine arts. Throughout millennia numerous Sicilian writers, poets, composers, painters, philosophers and in general “elite” enormously contributed to the intellectual heritage of human civilization. Just few examples: Archimedes - the native of Syracuse (mathematician, physicist, astronomer, engineer… in other words “all-in-one”) secured his place in schoolbooks as far as we know forever.
Sicilian language thanks to its richness and subtleties was largely used by Italian poets (as the matter of fact Dante Alighieri claimed that all Italian poetry can be called Sicilian and I guess we can trust him on that). Melodic lines of opera-composer Vincenzo Bellini (for that reason nicknamed “Swan of Catania”) were enthusiastically received on stages of world’s biggest Opera Houses. And this list can go on and on….
The bottom line – vibes of so rich past still can be felt across Sicilian fields, they keep vibrating along narrow streets of Old Towns, they stay alive in Sicilian hearts…
... and do not forget about Sicilian sweets: here famous Cannoli
All that makes this island a fascinating place to visit, (warning: some may even decide to stay). Undeniably, the best way to comprehend Sicily, to grasp its lively atmosphere is to hit the road behind the steering wheel…
After this introduction to Sicily feel free to explore the following:
For city-goers: --> Top Tourist Destinations
For Nature Lowers: --> Sicilian Nature Parks
For those interested in history: --> Sicily Across Millennia
If you enjoyed this visit, then please share your experience with friends :-)
Exceptionally, pictures on this page do not have their high-resolution version. However you will find them on all remaining pages dedicated to the Island of Sicily.