The Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea is full of cultural and natural wonders. From the massive – and active – mount Etna volcano to the exuberant facades of the many baroque churches, Sicily is pure Italian life.
Sicily is pretty big, so it’s best to choose a region you want to explore more, rather than rushing all over the island. The east coast between Messina and Siracusa is extremely beautiful with plenty of little towns, temples and beaches to see.
Taormina: It’s one of the most attractive towns but also the most touristy. However, it is still a pleasure to stroll along the main Corso Umberto I in the small centro storico with many shops, or to discover the small ancient side alleys. From the main square piazza IX Aprile you have a fantastic view. The atmosphere here is especially lively in the evening, when there is cheesy live music in the bars and lights shine on the nice chiesa di San Giuseppe. The main attraction is the Ancient Greek Theatre with an amazing view toward mount Etna and the coast. The thousands of years old scenery delighted and inspired everyone from Goethe to Oscar Wilde and Woody Allen. There is another small roman theater called Odeon hidden near palazzo Corvaja. The small public park Villa Communale is a refreshing and calm place in the middle of the vibrant alleys.
A few kilometers above Taormina lies the village Castelmola with an even better view and many restaurants. To get to the beach you just have to drive straight to the coast or take the cable car, Funivia, down to Mazzaro and Isola Bella or Giardini Naxos. One way costs three euros and the entrance is down the street of Porta Messina. The beach of Isola Bella is very nice, but also usually crowded with tourists. It’s a bit calmer in Giardini Naxos where you find the beach directly at the main street. Afterwards you can sit in the local Bar Makla and enjoy good coffee while watching the sailboats go by.
Restaurants in Taormina are touristy but there are some nice places, for example the small bar Arco Rosso on Vico Marziani or the very good restaurant Tiramisu. The best Italian pastries in the world are from Laboratorio Pasticceria Roberto! Not only the famous Sicilian cannoli but also the almond pastries and just everything is delicious. For the unique Sicilian breakfast of granita and brioche go to colorful Bam Bar.
Down in Giardini Naxos you find the excellent enoteca A Putia, or drive up to Castelmola where pizzeria Gallo Cedrone is hidden at the town’s exit.
If you’re looking for nightlife in Taormina definitely check out the fancy and beautifully Italian Morgana Bar.
From Taormina you can also easily arrange a day trip to the Aeolian Islands of Panarea and Stromboli.
Catania is the second largest city in Sicily following Palermo. It is a vibrant city with many students and baroque buildings. The most impressive churches are right around the Piazza Duomo. There is also the famous Fontana dell’Elefante, the town’s landmark. The old Caffe Duomo with delicious pastries and espresso is right there, too. From the piazza it’s only a few steps down to Catania’s fish and vegetable market where you can find fresh, colorful and local products every morning from Monday to Saturday.
The main shopping street is Via Etnea where you also find the nice park Villa Bellini. When shops close for lunch hour join the locals for an espresso and an arancino at bar Silvia or Pasticceria Spinella on Via Etnea.
The active volcano Mount Enta created a very unique landscape and flourishing nature that is perfect for various hikes. For example around the Monti Sartorio starting at Rifugio Citelli through birch forest and windy lava fields. Or around Monte Ruvolo and Monte Minardo. Interesting is also the Gorges of Alcantara. The lava canyon and the landscape around it are perfect for a nice walk in the afternoon.
There are many interesting little towns around Mount Etna, for example Adrano or the medieval Randazzo with the delicious Pasticceria Musumeci right across the church Santa Maria. There is also Sant Alfio where you can visit a thousand year old chestnut tree and the nice Pasticceria Papotto.
There are so many more amazing destinations in Italy, find ideas for trips to the beautiful Amalfi Coast, and Capri, for Pugila here or here and the Aeolian Islands of Stromboli with its volcano and the fancy jet set island Panarea.