Holidays to Sicily meet the brief if you’re after postcard-ready beaches, ancient ruins and unreal food.

If you look at a map, Sicily’s the big island in the Med being kicked by Italy’s boot. It’s technically part of it, too, but it’s got a whole personality of its own – and whatever you do, don’t call the locals ‘Italians’. They’re proud to be Sicilian and we don’t blame them. The island’s got a lot of clout and is constantly being name-checked on travel award shortlists. It serves up a mix of volcanic landscapes with textbook beaches, and towns so aesthetic that the Amalfi Coast’s jel, plus ancient ruins that could make Rome quake in its boots. And if one island’s not enough for you, the Aeolian Islands give you seven more to work with.

Why pick Sicily

A bit of everything

The island is like the perfect picky-bits lunch – you get a taste of loads of stuff in one trip. Live the dolce life on dreamy beaches, hike up Mount Etna – Europe’s tallest volcano – and get your ancient history on at the Valley of the Temples. And nothing screams ‘main character’ more than sipping an espresso and soaking up the chic vibes in one of Palermo’s piazzas. Bellissimo.

History for days

With Sicily looking this fine, it’s no wonder everyone’s wanted a slice of it over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans, Normans and Spanish have all left their mark, as well as the island’s OG inhabitants – the Sicanians. Head to Taormina to see a classic Greek amphitheatre, and the Roman version in Siracusa. The city on the east coast was the place to be back in the day, with big names like Plato, the ancient philosopher, showing their face here.

Buon appetito

The island’s cuisine is all about Italian staples spiced up with a Sicilian twist. The result? A taste sensation. Forget round pizza, they come square here, with extra dough, sauce and cheese. The pasta dishes are super simple but big on flavour – try it ‘alla Norma’ with tomatoes, aubergine and ricotta. Aside from the classics, you’ll find lots of arancini, fresh seafood and lemon-flavoured treats on the menus. And no trip to Sicily is complete without trying cannoli, crispy pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta cream and topped with chocolate, pistachios or almonds. They are just *chef’s kiss*.

Beaut beaches

Sicily’s coastline had to one-up everyone else too, ofc. It’s got every kind of beach going, from Taormina’s rocky coves and Cefalu’s sandy sweep to boujie lidos in Giardini Naxos. Wherever you pick, you’re guaranteed a backdrop of colourful towns or lush hills, and some spots have their own little islands just off the shore. From Milazzo and Messina, on the north coast, you can catch a ferry over to the Aeolian archipelago and spend the day hopping from island to island.

The non-touristy pick

Noto

Set back from the south coast, this tiny town is missed off most must-visit lists. It may not have beaches, but it’s got serious rizz and the receipts to show for it. After an earthquake in the 17th century, Noto was given a complete Baroque glow-up and was rebuilt using local yellow limestone, which has since earned the town UNESCO status. The town takes golden hour to a whole new level, so stop by in the late afternoon to see everything turn caramel.

Best places to stay

Taormina

Move over Amalfi Coast, Taormina’s entered the chat. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, it’s all ocean views, sun-drenched buildings and cypress trees – oh, and Mount Etna perfectly placed in the background. Spend days sightseeing at Teatro Greco, topping up the vitamin D at Isola Bella Beach and strolling past ceramic stalls down Corso Umberto I, the main pedestrianised street. When the evening rolls around, take a seat in the lively Piazza IX Aprile for an Aperol spritz while the sun sets over the sea.

Giardini Naxos

A small fishing town, but make it glam. Just along the coast from Taormina, Giardini Naxos keeps things simple, with all eyes on its lovely beach. Plonk yourself down on the pebbles, or level-up your lounger game and pay a bit extra for a lido. The seafront is lined with restaurants and gelaterias, which makes going from horizontal to eating gelato and back again super convenient. And there’s a prom that runs the whole way along, so you can join the locals’ ritual of a pre-dinner walk every evening.

Cefalu

Terracotta tiles, Medieval streets and a UNESCO-status cathedral – you already know how good Cefalu’s going to look on the ‘gram. Add in a sandy beach and Greek temples, and it’s easy to see why it became a popular pick for VIPs – King Roger II’s home, Osterio Magno, is nearby. For the best view of it all, follow the trail up La Rocca, the hill that overlooks the town – it’s worth the hike.

Palermo

Sicily’s vibrant capital sits right on the north coast, so you’ve got that sweet combo of city sights and beach time – which makes perfect sense why everyone’s wanted a piece of Palermo over the years. The mix of architecture will keep you on your toes, with North African-style souks sitting next to Byzantine chapels and a Norman palace. For a bite to eat, make moves over to the Ballarò and Vucciria markets to check out the street food scene. You’ll smell the stalls before you can see them, so follow your nose and pick up some arancini, panelle (chickpea fritters) and sfincione – slices of Sicilian pizza.


Picks that don’t cost a penny

To learn about the darker side of Sicily and its association with the Mafia, visit the No Mafia Memorial in Palermo. This museum is completely free and is all about the war on gangsters in the city and across the island, with a memorial to those who lost their lives in the struggle against organised crime.

Getting around

With so much stuff to squeeze into your trip, here are the best ways to get from A to B around Sicily.

Car hire

Did somebody say road trip? Get yourself some wheels and the island’s your oyster. The coastal roads are an absolute dream to drive down, and it’ll be super easy to head inland to find those under-the-radar spots, too. Just a heads up, though – Sicily's roads can be narrow and twisty, and finding a parking spot in busy Palermo and Catania might be a challenge.

Buses

Let someone else take the wheel so you can sit back, relax, and soak up the scenes out the window. It’s the cheapest way to get about, and regular bus services operate all over the island with routes between most cities, airports and even the smaller towns.

Trains

There are super handy trains that run along the Ionian Coast between Palermo, Cefalu, Messina and Milazzo in the north down to Catania in the south. Tickets aren’t very spenny, and the views along the way are next level.

Taxis

It goes without saying that taxis are normally the most expensive way to get around. They’re definitely a good option for sticky situations, but you’ll quickly burn through the spending money if you always use them to get around. The official ones to look out for are white, and you can find them at taxi ranks. And it’s good to know that if you book one over the phone, you’ll have to pay extra for the taxi to get to you.

Ferries

Trying to get to the Aolian and Egadi islands? Ferry services run all-year round from Messina and Milazzo to Salina, and from Palermo in the summer. It takes about two to three hours depending on which port you’re going from, and there are multiple services daily – Messina has the most with up to 12 a day in peak season.

At a Glance

  • Fill up your camera roll in easy-on-the-eye Taormina
  • Get all the feels watching the sunset from Mount Etna
  • Stroll through the stalls at Palermo’s lively markets

Top Destinations

TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN SICILY

BEACHES

SHOPPING

NIGHTLIFE

FOOD & DRINK