Sicily is an open book of history of humanity: find top tourist destinations, explore architectural treasuries, castles, palaces, museums, feel vibes of old cities and the glorious past….
For most of us, Sicily is associated with impoverished Italian south and as such not of much interest.
But the truth is very different: we cannot be more wrong regarding Sicilian Island as an uninspiring, “foggy” world far beyond our horizon of interests. While the famous movie “Godfather” brought back to our attentions this almost forgotten land, it did not make any significant “dent” in this perception.
In fact, Sicily is a crossroad of so many civilizations spanning from elusive Elymians and native Sicans through Phoenicians, ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moors (Arabs), Normans to Renaissance-enlightened West-European societies and cultures that this small island is actually the best example of history of humanity over the last three millennia. If these short words are no so convincing please read details at: --> Rediscovering Sicily
In other words, Sicily the place not to miss, so (quoting Mark Twain) …” throw-off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover …”
Obviously, Sicily is a Treasure for everybody willing to embrace “old” (in terms of time), but “new” (in terms of our experience”. Certainly, Sicily with its treasuries spanning from ancient archeological monuments to let’s say magnificent achievements of 17th-18th century Sicilian Baroque will amaze everybody. Add to that very specific ambiance and vibes you will feel across the streets of old towns, unique taste of fresh, mostly local and organic food and enriching encounters with local people (the good news is that they are mostly bilingual, the bad news is that they speak Italian and Sicilian). English is understood in form of body language, but once you include hands into communication skills (read it – Vocabulary), it will work! .
So here is our proposal for “city-goers" - What to see and Where to go when visiting Sicily:
Note also treasuries of Sicilian Mather Nature, by visiting: --> Sicilian Nature Parks
Palermo – the largest Sicilian city is certainly one of the places not to miss when visiting the island. It’s the city with the millennia long Sicilian history “written” by successive civilizations and rulers, beautifully blends with its contemporary status of the regional capital. No wonder that Palermo is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe and certainly number 1 on the Sicilian Island.
Palermo was founded in 734 BC by Phoenicians at the north-eastern periphery of their Sicilian colony.
During the next few centuries, somehow “miraculously” Palermo avoided major clashes with Greeks encroaching on the eastern side of the island. While the “fragile” dividing line between the eastern Sicily controlled by Greeks and the western part of the island controlled by Phoenicians was frequently moving, Palermo (known to Greeks as Panormus) benefited period of “relative” peace. Things changed in the 3rd century BC with the arrival of Romans and beginning of devastating Punic Wars.....
For more details visit: --> Top Sites to See in Palermo
Enna – the capital of the province is located near the center of the Sicilian Island on the top of the mountain towering surrounding countryside.
For good reason Enna was called the King’s Nest. The gigantic hill with large area of quasi-flat top walled on all sides by steep cliffs makes a natural, almost self-protected fortress (the true meaning of location was probably never more tested than here). Sitting at an altitude of 931 m (3,055 ft) above the sea level, for several centuries Enna dominated the “political, military and agricultural landscape” of the island what made it a “must-to-conquer” place to rule the whole island. ....
..... The rulers “engraved” their presence in form of countless historical monuments; some like 4th century AC Villa Romana del Casale (near Piazza Armerina) are truly unparalleled in the whole Mediterranean world. But certainly it was the last millennium that left in Enna (and throughout the province) remarkable traces of human achievements in form of castles, churches, palaces and countless objects of art.....
For more details visit: --> Top Sites to see in Enna
Trapani (similarly as the nearby Erice) was founded by Elymians - mysterious population that most likely came from an ancient Troy. Historians tend to agree that after the devastating 11th century BC war with Greeks, Trojans went out into the sea in search for a new “homeland”, finding it on a scarcely populated Sicilian Island....
Trapani: Palazzo Cavaretta
..... Much of today’s old city including churches, palaces and government buildings dates to late medieval and early modern times covering the span from 14th to 20th century. Architecturally, the old town skillfully combines elements of several styles including Norman Gothic and Italian Renaissance with Moorish-Catalan accents and Sicilian flavor of Baroque.
Old defensive walls that once upon the time protected the city were gradually demolished making room for the swelling city. Cutting through the old town avenues like Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Via Nunzio Nasi, Via Liberta, Via Garibaldi practically wiped out Arabic Kasbah-with its labyrinths of narrow, winding streets and with them the remote past…
Go to: --> Top Sites to See in Trapani and Erice
Syracuse is one of the oldest ancient Greek cities in Sicily. It was founded in 8th century BC by Greek colonizers from Corinth. At the time of the peak of its prosperity between 5th and 3th century BC it was one of the biggest, most beautiful and most important cities of Greater Greece equaling the power, importance and fame of Athens. Its population numbered some 250 thousands inhabitants (it may be shocking but similar to today’s Syracuse).
Sketch of Syracuse (here the oldest part of the city - Ortigia) from 1584
The heart of the ancient Syracuse was located on the small island Ortigia (Ortygia) separated from the Sicilian mainland only by a narrow stretch of shallow waters of the Ionian Sea. With time...
Continue at: --> Discovering Syracuse
Marsala is one of the oldest cities on Sicilian land. It was founded by Phoenicians at around 397BC. Originally known as Lilybaion, it was an important commercial center and heavily walled military base defining Phoenician’s sphere of influence on the western side of the island. Thanks to its location at the westernmost tip of the island, the city with its busy harbor was connecting the rich African continent with the Europe. Conquered by Romans in 241BC the city under its Latin name Lilybaeum reached the peak of its ancient glory.....
To visitors Marsala offers a lot of history, but do not forget - it is also the City of Wine (here scene from Florio Winery Wine Tasting Tour)
..... City’s revival started in the 9th century with the conquest of Sicily by Arabs. As the matter of fact, most likely its name comes from Arabic “Mars el’Allah” (meaning God’s Harbor) although some try to see its roots in Latin ”Mare Salis” (meaning Salty Sea or Salina) what could refer to the nearby salinas in Mozia. The rest is the history “written” by succeeding rulers of Sicilian Island. They left behind an Old Town with countless architectural monuments, rich history, charming narrow streets, famous wineries and vibrating atmosphere ....
To read more see: --> Top Sites in Marsala & Nearby
Taormina - … “A landscape where you find everything created to seduce eyes, mind and fantasy…” (Guy de Maupassant)
Words written by famous French writer more than hundred years ago are not an exaggeration. Taormina, thanks to its location on the hillside of Mount Tauro some 200 meters above the sea level offers stunning views in all directions. Cliffy coastline giving way to sandy bays washed by waters of the Ionian sea (to the East), “hanging” village of Castelmola tightly nestled on the top of narrow ridge and ruins of Saracen Castle hovering the city- seemingly still “on guard” ceaselessly overlooking nearby hills and sea (to the West), and on the backdrop – the majestic Mount Etna (to the South) – whenever you look it’s spectacular view taking your breath away.....
Hotel Metropol: Lounge Bar
Taormina preserved several world-class historical sites spanning millennia. Greco-Roman Theatre, Naumachia, mentioned earlier Saracen Castle, Palace Corvaja, Palace of Dukes of Saint Stephen, Cathedral and numerous churches, magnificent City Gates (Porta Messina and Catania)…. the list can really go long.
But what Maupassant couldn’t fully experience during his visit to Taormina is the atmosphere on the streets. The streets did not change much, what dramatically changed however is the presence of cafes, restaurants, hotels, colorful shops and resonating vibes of “life” omnipresent at every corner, plaza…..
See details at: --> Best of Taormina and Nearby Area
Piazza Armerina, despite being located far from heavenly beaches is one of the top Sicilian tourist destinations. Unfortunately for the city of Piazza Armerina (and also for tourists although they may be not aware of that) the focal point of “pilgrimage” is located few kilometers outside of the city limits. It is a Villa Romana del Casale – a 4th century patrician residence famous for its magnificent floor mosaics.......
Villa Romana del Casale: Hunting Scene (floor mosaics)
..... While it’s true that the Villa Romana is a real treasure opening the “window” into the lavish world of Roman’s upper class at the peak of Imperium, it is also true that the city of Piazza Armerina itself deserves tourists’ attention. The known fact is that the construction of a new town on Mount Mira started in 1163. It received the name “Piazza” breaking this way continuity with assumed Byzantine and Saracen past. Piazza Armerina quickly reached the status of one of the most important Sicilian cities...
See details at: --> Piazza Armerina's Tourist Attractions
In the middle of hilly landscape, on the top of a steep, rocky ridge overlooking Irminio Valley sits one of the most fascinating Sicilian towns – Ragusa Ibla. Its roots go back to “Hibla Heraia” (Hybla Heraea) – a stronghold founded by Sicels in pre-Greek times. Following civilizations embraced its strategic position. The nearby Irminio River provided a vital communication link with the Mediterranean Sea. Being navigable, it allowed for transport of agricultural goods out of the valley and for commercial exchanges with the “External World”......
See details at: ---> Magical Ragusa-Ibla
Well, if you already visited all these sites, or simply want to find some peace after spending too much time on the streets please see Sicilian nature: --> Sicilian Nature Parks
or make the short trip across millennia of Sicilian civilizations: --> Sicily Across Millennia