University of Palermo
University of Catania
Media dell’Università di Catania
University of Messina
University of Enna Kore
The largest island in the Mediterranean is not only characterized by tourist beaches, the hamlet of Taormina and the Temples of Agrigento. Although these places are representative of Sicily, they do not summarize or exhaust the attractions of the region and its historical, artistic and cultural traditions. The various waves of invasions and occupations still determine the differences between cities. In this varied context, Sicily can be divided into two large areas: a western one that pivots around the capital and has an Arab, Carthaginian and Punic imprint; and an eastern one, the Magna Graecia that includes Messina, Catania and Syracuse. These two areas show economic, social and linguistic differences (the sing song like dialect of the Palermitans and the dry-sounding essential dialect of the Catania and Syracuse people). Sicilian society is in the balance between modernity and tradition, between memory and future, where a more agile economy based on tourism and organic agriculture contrasts with the historical heritage of the large landed estates. In the same way, an increasingly strongly felt and widespread civil and democratic conscience has developed.
Main cultural destinations
Agrigento is the city of temples, a Unesco heritage site and the right destination for those who want to “taste” a bit of art, history and culture. A mix of culture and history that day after day surprises archaeology lovers. Recent discoveries of the ancient Hellenistic theatre and archaeological remains have brought to light, thanks to numerous excavations, wonderful testimonies of the magnificence of one of the most important cities of the island: Agrigento. Lampedusa, the largest island in the Pelagie archipelago is a destination for those who want to enjoy, especially in the summer, a holiday by tropical-like sea.
Palermo, the regional capital, is one of the main Sicilian cities to visit. The variety of architectural styles, from the Arab domes to the Baroque buildings, and the tasty local cuisine from the most varied origins are of great impact. Especially worth seeing are the XIIth century Cathedral of Palermo, which houses royal tombs, and the imposing neoclassical Massimo Theatre, famous for its opera performances. In the city centre, there is also the Normanni Palace, a royal palace dating back to the IX century, and the Palatine Chapel, with Byzantine mosaics. Not to be missed are also the characteristic markets of Ballarò and Vucciria.
Taormina is one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of Italy. Perched on a hill about 250 meters above sea level, the city is located between Messina and Catania, a strategic point for enjoying out-of-town excursions along the east coast of Sicily. Taormina is a city full of history. Its foundation traces back to the IV century and its beauty is mainly represented by the presence of important monuments such as the Greek Theatre, which still gives stage to numerous concerts and cultural activities. Among the places not to be missed in the surroundings of Taormina, the Giardini Naxos, Isola Bella and Mazzarò hold a place of honour.
Syracuse and Ortigia are located in the south-east of the island, Ortigia is connected to the mainland by a short walkway with the centre of Syracuse. It was the most important Greek city and, even today, one can relive its glorious past by visiting its vast archaeological area, consisting of numerous temples, a theatre, an amphitheatre and a necropolis. Ortigia, also called the Old Town, is a romantic place for walks in its narrow medieval alleys.
Islands in the island, the Aeolian Islands, of volcanic origin, represent the seven wonders of a beautiful and rich island. To the north of Sicily, we find Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Basiluzzo. The largest and most touristic island is Lipari, and the most daring travellers do not miss the opportunity to climb up to the craters of Vulcano and Stromboli, the two still active volcanoes of the archipelago. The Aeolian Islands have been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site, as well as the aforementioned Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
Events and fairs
Religious events, traditional fairs and festivals mark the Sicilian calendar all year round. The celebrations for the patron saint are emotional events, strongly felt and participated by the population. The celebrations of the Holy Week are authentic and suggestive everywhere, culminating in solemn processions, especially in Enna and Trapani. The Carnival, especially in Acireale, Sciacca, and Tèrmini Imerese, allows a ‘secular’ look at the folk festival, as a moment of social cohesion, in which everyone participates. The right season for those attracted by contemporary culture, or rather by the reinterpretation of classicism through experimental languages, is the summer: between May and September there is a flourishing of film, theatre and music festivals, often hosted in prestigious contexts.
The complete calendar of events and information is available on the websites www.siciliainfesta.com, and www.festedisicilia.it
Birdwatching. It is possible to observe migratory and sedentary birds in the reserves at the mouths of the rivers Bèlice, Plàtani and Torre Salsa, between the Trapani area and Agrigento, and in the protected area of the Pantani (marshes) of Vendìcari in the Syracuse area.
Hiking and trekking. Trekking is mainly practiced in the internal areas, between Madonìe (www.parcodellemadonie.it) and Nèbrodi (www.parcodeinebrodi.it), and on Etna (www.parcoetna.it), a destination also for speleological expeditions (www.gruppogrottecatania. it). The walks in the Zingaro Reserve (www.riservazingaro.it) take place in a marine environment and allow you to combine your trip with diving in a beautiful sea. Excursion destinations are also the Alcàntara River Park (www.parcoalcantara.it), the Cava Grande del Cassìbile Reserve (www.cavagrandedelcassibile.it; due to a large fire in 2016, only one path is accessible), the reserve of Pantàlica, Valle dell’Anapo and Cavagrande Torrent, in the Syracuse area, Mount Pellegrino and the woods of Ficuzza, in the Palermo area. For the parks and protected areas, useful sources are the websites www.siciliaparchi.com (full of information), www.wwf.it and www.lipu.it (for the oases respectively managed). Various types of active tourism proposals in the Trapani mountains (but also in the upper Bèlice corleonese area and in the Nèbrodi mountains) are illustrated on the website www.montagneinsicilia.it.
Skiing. Between January and March, it is possible to ski with sea view in the Etna ski resorts (to the south around the Sapienza refuge, to the north in Piano Provenzana; www.caicatania.it, www.etnasci.it) and on the Madonìe in Piano Battaglia (www.pianobattaglia.it).
Water sports. The Sicilian coasts offer ample opportunities for windsurfing, snorkelling, diving and water sports in general. For these activities it is easy to find courses, and furthermore, there are beach horse riding tours. This is often, but not only, combined with agritourisms and park activities. For the list of dedicated sites, visit the websites www.turismoequestre.com and www.agriturist.it.
The Sicilian thermal baths have Greek and Roman origins and are all fed by natural spring waters: the complete list is available on the website www.termeitaliane.com. Traditional thermal baths are located in Sciacca (www.termedisciacca.com), in the archaeological area of Segesta (Gorga thermal baths, www.termegorga.com), in the hinterland of Castellammare del Golfo, not far from Àlcamo, and in Ponte Bagni (Segesta thermal baths). Other resorts that exploit thermal waters for health and wellbeing are in Acireale (www.terme-acireale.com), Alì Termal baths and Vigliatore thermal baths (www.parcoaugusto.com) in the Messina area; in Tèrmini Imerese (www.grandhoteldelleterme.it) and Montevago (Acqua Pia thermal baths, www.termeacquapia.it) in the Agrigento area.
Ceramics: a traditional production with centres of excellence in Caltagirone, Santo Stefano of Camastra, Sciacca and Burgio.
Coral: in Trapani, the centuries-old craft of coral working contributed to the fortune of the city.