"To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
5 Most Visited Sites in Sicily
July 15 2019
Italy is home to 20 spectacular regions that all possess a myriad of spectacular sites within them. The iconic Colosseum in Rome, the artistic Uffizi in Florence, and the majestic lakes and villas along Italy’s northern Alps all spring to mind. However, at the bottom of the Italian peninsula lies its most spectacular and arguably most unique region- the autonomous region of Sicily. The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily composes over 8% of the Italian population and is a major player in Italy’s agriculture, wine, and oil refinement exports and trade. Culturally speaking, it has its own language, its own cuisine, and even its own host of traditions and legends.
For our savvy travelers, Sicily is also a goldmine in terms of both archaeological ruins and cultural events, and we can visit Greek temples in the morning and then take in local ‘tarantelle’ music in the evening. Even in the geographical sense, we can ascend one of the numerous volcanoes that dominate the landscape and then visit the famous salt flats along Sicily’s gentle, western coastline. Sicily owes its uniqueness to the diversity and the development of its past, as every empire from the Phoenicians to the Greeks, and from the Arabs to the Spanish, have all sculpted the history and the physical landscape of this Italian Island. Take a look down below to learn about the top 5 visited sites in all of Sicily and let’s explore them together!
1. The Valley of the Temples, Agrigento
Located in the southern region of Agrigento, the valley of the Temples is a vast archaeological site that contains the best-preserved Greek temples and structures in all of Magna Grecia. The Temple of Concordia in particular is among the most notable edifices of the Greek Civilization that still exist in the modern world as it still possesses a multitude of Doric columns and pediments. Also of great renown is the Temple of Juno, dating back to 450 BC. Built in the same Doric style as the temple of Concordia, it pre-dates it by about 15 years and it is an more ruinous state. This site is a sprawling playground for any archaeology lover as new artifacts continue to be unearthed here all the time!
2. Ortygia, Syracuse
Ortygia is an island off the coast of the southwestern city of Syracuse. Even though it is an island, the span of separation is only a narrow channel, and there are two bridges (for both cars and pedestrians) that connect it to mainland Sicily. The island is an extremely popular place for visitors, as is Syracuse as a whole, due to its rich Greek history, its scenic Mediterranean views, and, of course, its outstanding cuisine. This ancient part of Syracuse, possessing the ruins of the temple of Apollo, is one of Sicily’s 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites and is the birthplace of the mathematician and engineer, Archimedes.
3. Mount Etna, Catania
Mount Etna is located midway between Catania and Messina and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Further, it is not only the tallest active volcano in Italy, it is also the tallest active volcano in Europe. In a state of almost-constant activity, the numerous volcanic eruptions have incidentally produced excellent and fertile soil that have aided in the development of agricultural cultivation, vinyards, and orchards throughout the region. Visitors can spot the smoky-gray outline of the volcano from almost anywhere in Catania and Messina. Better yet, visitors can ascend the volcano to see its daunting crater, either by foot or by cable car, and to take in the stunning panoramas of the surrounding cities.
4. Ancient Theater of Taormina
The Ancient Theater in Taormina is a spectacular Greek amphitheater that is perched on Mount Tauro and overlooks the Ionian Sea. It is such a unique and impressive site that, while the famous German writer Johann Goethe was traveling through Sicily, he visited the theater and wrote: “No theater audience has never had such a sight in front of them”. This landmark of Taormina, known as the city of ceramics, looks out over the city, the infamous Mount Etna, and Taormina’s nature reserves. While it was built in the 3rd century BC, it is still used today for theatrical performances and for concerts!!
5. Ballarò, Palermo
Ballarò may seem like just any ordinary Sicilian marketplace, but the history and the cultural fabric of this particular marketplace is unique. Located in the heart of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, this market is an amalgamation of cultures and languages, and it awakens all the sensez with its vivid colors and its aromatic scents. This living scene of cultural heritage embodies the very essence of Sicily as this food market has been operating since the 10th century AD! Travelers from all over the world might spot some fresh spices that make excellent gifts or souvenirs, or they may be tempted by the scent of roasted chickpeas wafting in the air. Whatever your pleasure, the Ballarò marketplace is sure to have it!