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Things to Do in Sicily - page 4

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Marsala
1 Tour and Activity

You might be familiar with the name “Marsala” because of the famous fortified wine that originates in the city - and in fact, one of Marsala’s nicknames is the “Città del Vino,” or city of wine. It would be a shame to get to this city on the western coast of Sicily and not try its namesake wine, but that’s surely not the only reason to visit.

Marsala is a historic port city, the furthest point west on the island of Sicily, and is known for its history, beaches, and, of course, wine. The ancient Roman city that once occupied this spot was one of the most important on the island, thanks to its position as a busy commercial port. Today, while Marsala is still a port city, it’s more of a tourist area than a commercial center. Things to do and see in Marsala include an archaeological museum, a former Benedictine monastery (which houses a Garibaldi exhibit), the lagoon (popular with windsurfing and kite surfing), and the nearby island of Motya.

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Noto
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3 Tours and Activities

The city of Noto is located on the southeastern coast of Sicily, and it makes up part of the Val di Noto UNESCO World Heritage site. Settlements in Noto date back to the 3rd century B.C.E., in present-day nearby Noto Antica. The newer city of Noto was rebuilt in a slightly different position after an earthquake in the late 17th century C.E. that completely destroyed the town. Having the entire place rebuilt in the then-popular Sicilian Baroque style led to the town being one of several in the area that remain perfect examples of the best of this unique architectural style. These Val di Noto towns were added to UNESCO's list in 2002.

Of all the Val di Noto towns, Noto itself is seen as the best showcase of the Sicilian Baroque. The town's many churches are exquisite and worth visiting, along with other historic buildings in the city center. Walk down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele III to see the prettiest buildings, taking your time and enjoying the scenery.

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Taormina Old Town (Centro Storico)
2 Tours and Activities

The town that we know today as Taormina is in an area in which there has been a settlement of some kind since the 8th century B.C.E. - but in the town itself one of the oldest neighborhoods is the Borgo Medievale, or medieval quarter.

Taormina’s historic core centers on the Borgo Medievale, with its picturesque cobblestone streets. The buildings themselves have been beautifully preserved, giving the whole quarter a postcard look. The main street in Taormina, Corso Umberto I, runs through the center of the medieval quarter from the Piazza IX Aprile to the Piazza del Duomo.

You can begin your tour of the medieval quarter from the Piazza IX Aprile and going through the arch in the 12th century clock tower. The tower was actually almost completely destroyed in the 17th century, and when it was rebuilt the clock was added. The tower serves as something of a gateway to the Borgo Medievale, most of which dates from the 15th century.

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Marzamemi
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3 Tours and Activities

The small town of Marzamemi sits at the southeastern-most point of Sicily, and is known for its pretty beach and abundant seafood. Historically, Marzamemi has long been known as an important seafood processing town. The Arabs who came to Sicily in the 9th century C.E. started some of the first fish processing operations here, and the tuna processing facility that was built in the 16th century – the Tonnara – still stands today. This historic building is no longer used for fish processing, however.

Marzamemi still serves as a fish processing center, but the town is far more popular as a summer seaside tourist destination. The small town swells in size during the summer, as visitors flock to the pretty beach and historic center. In addition to the Tonnara and the town's beautiful beach, don't miss the Church of San Francesco di Paola.
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Taormina Cathedral (Duomo) and Piazza del Duomo
2 Tours and Activities

As is the case with most small Italian towns, Taormina’s main street will lead you to the town’s main church. In Taormina, that means when you walk along the Corso Umberto, you will eventually arrive in the Piazza del Duomo and at the Duomo itself.

Taormina’s Duomo, dedicated to San Nicolò di Bari, was built in the 13th century and its design is typical of many churches of its era - the exterior more closely resembles a fortified castle than a house of worship. For this reason, it has the nickname of the “fortress cathedral,” or “cattedrale fortezza.”

The Duomo was built over the ruins of a small existing church, and some of the signature Taormina pink marble used in the construction of the columns appears to have been taken from the ruins of the Teatro Greco that sits above the town. The main door was rebuilt in the 1630s in the Renaissance style, and a rose window added in that same wall.

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Taormina Cruise Port (Taormina Terminal Crociere)
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1 Tour and Activity
This chic resort town on Sicily’s northeast coast is located high in the mountains, which means visitors can take advantage of challenging hikes and beautiful views. How to Get to Taormina Most ships offer shuttles to Taormina from Giardini Naxos. The trip takes about 20 minutes and requires guests switch to a minivan to navigate the narrower streets. Taxis are also available for hire and tend to be a faster—if more expensive—option. Those who prefer to skip the trek can avoid the hassle by relaxing on one of Giardini Naxos’s local beaches. One Day in Taormina Outdoor enthusiasts shouldn’t miss climbing Mt. Etna, one of the world’s biggest active volcanoes. Most cruise lines and local outfits offer daylong tours that include meals, transportation and of course, a scenic hike. Less active travelers can venture into Taormina and spend the morning sipping cappuccinos and people watching on Corso Umberto, a pedestrian walkway that winds through the town’s main shopping district.
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Castelmola
1 Tour and Activity
The town of Taormina sits high above the Mediterranean Sea, so it already boasts some of the loveliest views in Sicily. But the tiny town of Castelmola, which sits above Taormina, can argue its views are even better. Little Castelmola is just over 1,700 feet above sea level - for comparison, Taormina sits at just under 670 feet - and is a great hiking destination from Taormina. It’s a challenging hike, as you’re going uphill and up staircases almost from the time you leave Taormina until you arrive in Castelmola, but the views and town are worth it. It’s true that you can see Taormina’s beaches and the Mt. Etna volcano from the Teatre Greco in Taormina, but from Castelmola you can see all of that plus the views on the other side of the mountain. From Castelmola, you’ve got a 360-degree view - and that’s hard to beat. The town itself invites you to stop and stay awhile as you recover from your uphill hike, with places to eat and get a drink, as well as just relax and take in the view.
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Acireale

In addition to larger and more famous cities and towns on Sicily’s eastern coast - like Catania, Taormina, and Syracuse - there are several notable towns that may not be on your radar but are excellent bases for exploring the area. One of these cities is Acireale, which sits at the base of Mount Etna, not far from Catania.

Attractions in Acireale include a number of beautiful churches (one of which is in the famous Sicilian Baroque style) and several public parks and gardens. One of the parks overlooks the sea, giving visitors the lovely combination of being surrounded by a nature reserve and having glorious views of the water. Acireale is a mid-sized city, but compared to nearby popular destinations like Taormina it may feel a bit further away from the tourist crowds, even in the summer. The time when Acireale will feel like the entire planet has arrived is during the city’s annual Carnival celebrations.

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More Things to Do in Sicily

Villa Comunale

Villa Comunale

If you’re tired from all your sunbathing and sightseeing and you’re looking for a green space in Taormina where you can unwind a bit, look no further than the gardens of the Parco Duca di Cesarò - also known as the Villa Comunale.

The Villa Comunale isn’t necessarily the sort of park you’d expect in Sicily, since it’s something of an English garden, but it was the creation of a Scottish woman who lived in Taormina in the late 1800s. Lady Florence Trevelyan was asked to leave England in the 1880s after having a fairly public affair with the future King Edward VII. She eventually married a man in Taormina and began work on her gardens.

The design of the gardens at Villa Comunale may be English, but the plants Lady Trevelyan used were local. She died in 1907, but it wasn’t until 1922 that ownership of the property was transferred to the town of Taormina. Of particular note in the garden grounds is a building that includes a tower and gazebo-like covered areas.

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