With a volcano to rival Vesuvius, ruins to match Rome’s and postcard-pretty towns that could take on the Amalfi Coast’s, Sicily holidays give mainland Italy a run for its money.
Sicily’s the big island being kicked by Italy’s boot. It technically falls under the Italy umbrella, but it’s a bit of a cultural mishmash. In the past, the isle’s closeness to Africa meant it was an easy target for invaders. We’re guessing they clocked onto its top weather, dramatic scenery and pristine beaches. Plus, you don’t just get one island – the off-shore Aeolian Islands give you seven extra.
Honey-dipped Cefalu manages to muscle in on the beach and sightseeing action. Its long sandy beach bumps up to tangled Medieval streets and a Norman-style cathedral. Plus, you can easily take city breaks into capital Palermo to check out its Gothic palaces, eerie catacombs and Italy’s biggest opera house.
Zip over to the island’s east coast, meanwhile, and all eyes are on Mount Etna. Taormina’s up there as one of Sicily’s best-looking towns. View-wise, it’s a two-for-one deal – you can eye up the sea and the snowy volcano from its ancient Greek theatre. Drop south a tad and you’ve got Giardini Naxos for beach days and volcano hikes.
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Italy and history go together like spaghetti and meatballs, and Sicily’s no exception to the rule. Plump for Cefalu, and ancient sites like the centuries-old Temple of Diana are in good voice. These hilltop ruins watch over the old town, where Norman architecture reigns supreme. The main square hosts a UNESCO-ranked cathedral built by King Roger II in the 12th century, and the monarch’s almost-intact home – Osterio Magno – isn’t far away either. Elsewhere, balcony-emblazoned lanes tangle their way towards the waterfront, with trattorias, cafés and boutiques doing business along the way.
Cut Taormina and it bleeds Italy’s trademark green, white and red. Everything about his hilltop town’s in keeping with the country’s trademark features – from the frozen-in time architecture to the scattering of church-lined piazzas. It’s draped across the steep slopes of Sicily’s eastern edge, and feels like the island’s version of the Amalfi Coast. There’s even a volcano on the horizon to complete the look.
On the east side of Sicily, 5 kilometres south of the Medieval town of Taormina, the jagged edges of volcanic rock give way to Giardini Naxos. This star of the shoreline has grown from a sleepy fishing village to a thriving resort that still draws on its laid-back charm. And location wise it couldn’t be better – the place sits in a picturesque bay overlooked by Mount Etna.
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