Everyone who goes to Sicily expects a lot of impressions from this island. I can say for sure that the island will not disappoint you. You will get a lot of impressions: it will be a delight from the nature of the island, and awe of the highest active volcano in Europe, perhaps some disappointment from the ancient cities, which, it seems, were built and were not repaired, or maybe you, on the contrary, be enchanted by their narrow, shabby streets, and of course, do not forget about street food – make up your own view of it!
I recommend my article ” How to plan a vacation in Sicily “
The content of the article:
Volcano Etna (Sicily)
The most important and world-famous attraction of Sicily is Etna, the highest volcano in Europe, in addition, it is also an active volcano – it erupts to this day. As a result of these constant eruptions, the height of the volcano also changes; today it is approximately 3329 meters above sea level. By the way, Etna is one of the “slowest” volcanoes in the world, its lava velocity during an eruption is less than five km per hour, and eruptions occur very often, which means that major disasters in Sicily do not threaten. And also, a unique black grape is grown on the slopes of the volcano, which becomes the basis of delicious Sicilian wines! And of course, everything that is grown on volcanic soils has its unusually rich taste and color.
I also recommend my article on Mount Etna, where you can find out how to get to Mount Etna
Palermo Best Attractions
Palermo is the central and most famous city of Sicily. A colorful, noisy city with an indescribable atmosphere and world famous street food .
The intersection of the “four corners”, or the square of Villena, is a certain reference point, the “zero kilometer” in the central part of Palermo. It is here that the 4 main historical quarters of Palermo intersect: Calsa, Albergeria, Seralcadio and La Loggia. There are fountains on the slanted corners of the houses (the square is a bit like the Roman square of the Four Fountains), and above them are sculptures of four Spanish kings. Above them are the patronesses of the city: Saints Agatha, Christina, Ninfa and Oliva.
Piazza Pretoria is one of the central squares of the main city of Sicily, made in the style of Sicilian baroque. In the center of it is the fountain of the same name, and around the perimeter are the Church of Santa Qatar, San Giuseppe dei Teatini, as well as the Palazzo Pretorio, or Senate, the building in which the City Hall of Palermo is now located. The Pretoria Fountain was erected in the 16th century by a Florentine architect, and they (Florentines), as you know, are not conservative, and therefore the fountain is decorated with sculptures of naked people. Sicilians for a long time could not accept this, protests swept across Palermo. Gradually, their indignation subsided, but the second name of the fountain – “fountain of shame” – remains to this day.
Teatro Massimo –an opera house located on Verdi Square. Massimo translated from Italian means great, huge, I must say that the name justifies its name – it is the largest opera house in Italy and one of the largest theaters in all of Europe. Its capacity is about 3000 people, and the acoustics are simply excellent. Construction began in 1874, after a ten-year competition to select the chief architect. He chose a fan of the ancient culture of Giovanni Battista Filippo Bazile, who built the theater in the neoclassical style, using, inter alia, elements inherent in Greek temples. Today, everyone can not only visit the Theater from the outside, but also get to one of the most famous productions – Madame Butterfly, Bolero, etc. The cost of tickets starts from 25 euros. You can buy tickets in advance.
The Cathedral (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) is the main church of Palermo. The history of the Cathedral begins in the 6th century, when sacred buildings were located on this place, and from the 12th century it was transferred to the archbishopric and illuminated as the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin. Over the centuries, the Cathedral was rebuilt several times, therefore, in its external appearance there are also elements of Arab-Norman, Gothic styles and classicism. The Cathedral acquired a modern look only after the reconstruction of 1781-1801. The relics of the city’s patroness, St. Rosalia, as well as the tombs of Sicilian kings and German emperors are stored in the Cathedral.
Villa Bonano. Not far from the Cathedral, literally opposite, is pl. Victoria, and in the center is Villa Bonano. It was arranged at the very beginning of the 20th century, and today it is a cozy park.
The Royal Norman Palace (Palazzo Normanni) is the former residence of the kings, and today it is the meeting place of the Sicilian parliament and the royal museum – the Palatine Chapel, which stores the treasures of Norman culture. The Palace is located on the outskirts of the central part of Palermo, and looks like a fortress. The main entrance is from Victoria Square. The Palazzo adjoins the triumphal arch with the emblem of the Senate (bas-relief in the form of an eagle). This is the New Gate, or Porta Nuova , which was erected in the 16th century after Charles V won the Tunisian War.
The Capuchin catacombs are another Palermo attraction that I personally would not agree to visit for anything in the world. The Capuchin catacombs, or the museum of the dead, is a museum in Palermo, which you would like to call not a museum, but a cemetery, because you can see more than 8000 mummies in it – the remains of the local elite and outstanding citizens of the city. Here mummified bodies are everywhere and in different positions – lying, hanging, sitting, and even form compositions. This museum is located under the Capuchin monastery, the entrance fee is 3 euros.
The ruins of the ancient city of Solunt (Solunto)located about 20 km from Palermo, near the town of Santa Flavia. The city was founded by the Carthaginians in the 4th century BC. on an elevation called Catalfano. Later, the city was conquered by Syracuse, the Greeks, and in about 250 BC, the city fell under the control of the Romans. From the 1st century AD, the process of city decline began, and in the 7th century, after precipitation by the Saracens, it finally became empty. Since the mid-20th century, the territory has been an archaeological park, in front of which there is a museum with exhibits such as ceramics, coins, statues, etc., all found on the ruins of this ancient city. At the very beginning of the zone, we see the outskirts of the city, with houses of poor people, a little further begins more luxurious houses, which usually consisted of three floors (one of the best preserved houses is the Leda house). After the residential area there is a zone with public buildings, it is interesting that already at that time carting was forbidden to the city center, as evidenced by a small threshold on the border with the central zone. On the territory there is a gymnasium, a temple complex with a place for sacrifice, an amphitheater, which, according to scientists, during the period of decline, was partially rebuilt into a dwelling. At the top of the mountain there are several more buildings whose purpose is still unknown. And from Mount Catalfano, where the ruins of Solunt are located, offers a magnificent view of the sea, Cape Zafferano and Porticello Bay. Entrance ticket 4 euros. Read more about during the period of decline, it was partially rebuilt into a dwelling. At the top of the mountain there are several more buildings whose purpose is still unknown. And from Mount Catalfano, where the ruins of Solunt are located, offers a magnificent view of the sea, Cape Zafferano and Porticello Bay. Entrance ticket 4 euros. Read more about during the period of decline, it was partially rebuilt into a dwelling. At the top of the mountain there are several more buildings whose purpose is still unknown. And from Mount Catalfano, where the ruins of Solunt are located, offers a magnificent view of the sea, Cape Zafferano and Porticello Bay. Entrance ticket 4 euros. Read more about Sicily prices.
Bagheria – a city and commune in Sicily, is located near Palermo, literally 20 km (How to get to Bagheria and neighboring cities read here) At one time Bagheria was the place where wealthy Palermitans built their baroque villas, it was a region of vineyards and lemon plantations. Today Bagheria is a relatively large city in Sicily, which attracts tourists, firstly, for its authenticity and color, and secondly, for the variety of villas, the most popular of which is Villa Palagonia, or Villa Monsters, designed in 1705. It got its name from the statues of monsters “decorating” the garden and villa building. Initially, there were 200 of them, and by now only 60 are left. Another villa – the Catholic Villa – is famous for hosting a gallery of modern art. The book is devoted to the city by D. Maraini, “Baaria,” and the film “Baaria,” by J. Tornatore, showing the life of this town through the eyes of one of its inhabitants – childhood under the fascist regime of Mussolini, youth during the Second World War, and later – the fight against the mafia. Also in this city there is a series of events of the film “The Godfather-3”. You can come to this city and visit the Villa Palagonia.
Sights of Catania
Another city of Sicily, the most popular among tourists – Catania, it also has something to see.
The black elephant fountain is one of the central attractions of Catania and its visiting card. It is believed that it is the black elephant that protects Catania from the hot volcanic flows of Etna. The fountain itself appeared on Catania Square about 300 years ago, but the age and origin of the black elephant is not known for certain, and therefore many legends walk around this statue. The most popular says that the figure of an elephant and an obelisk were brought by the glory after the eruption of Etna in 1669. However, historians have proven that the statue has been in the city since almost the 13th century! A granite obelisk, probably of Aswan (Egyptian) origin, brought to the city during the 13th century crusade.
The Catania Cathedral ( Duomo), or St. Agatha Cathedral, is one of the oldest churches in the city, located on the central square of Catania, opposite the sculpture of a black elephant. It is dedicated to the Holy Martyr Agatha, the patroness of the city. Over its long history, the church was destroyed and rebuilt several times: 1169 – the church was destroyed by a major earthquake, a few years later – the city fire again destroys the Cathedral, the next earthquake of 1693 leaves almost nothing from St. Agatha Cathedral. Today, the Cathedral received its appearance in 1711.
The Massimo Bellini Theater is an opera house located in one of the central squares of Catania. The theater was built at the beginning of IXX, very organically fitting into the architectural style of the square – the buildings around were built in the late 17th century in the style of Sicilian Baroque. The theater is named after the native of the city – the great composer Bellini.
Catania’s fish market Pescheria is one of the most famous markets not only in Catania, but throughout Sicily. The market is very colorful – the smell of fish, gradually turning into the smell of fruit, crowds of people, noisy merchants who want to sell their goods more expensively or simply simply want to cheat on a tourist onlooker. You can buy fish, cheese, ham, as well as vegetables and fruits in this market. Do not forget to buy Sicilian red oranges, which you can taste only on this island, but be prepared for the fact that this is a market, and half of the oranges will be ordinary, orange, but no less sweet and tasty.
Ursino Castle was built in the 13th century on a high cliff – to protect the eastern coast of Sicily. Today the castle is by no means on the shore, but already 2.5 kilometers from the embankment. The eruption of Etna in 1669 greatly changed the coastline and the Castle was almost in the center of Catania. In addition to the defensive fortress, the Castle served as a meeting place for the City Council, and for some time was the residence of Sicilian kings.
Taormina is a very beautiful resort town, reminiscent more of Capri, or Amalfi, than Sicily. There is a kind of special atmosphere that is not like the atmosphere of Palermo and Catania. Many tourists, gorgeous views, beautiful nature, many cafes and restaurants, souvenir shops.
One of Taormina’s attractions is the Antique Amphitheater , built back in the 3rd century BC. In the 1st century AD, when the power was in the hands of the Romans, the theater was somewhat rebuilt under gladiatorial battles. The diameter of the theater is about 120 meters, and it is the second largest theater in Sicily after the theater in Syracuse. And those who visited the amphitheater are delighted with the views that open from the upper tiers.
It is also worth exploring Taormina Cathedral (Duomo) , built in the 15th century. This church is famous for its icon of the Byzantine Madonna. It is curious that she was discovered in one of the ancient walls, probably in order to hide from the invaders who constantly ravaged Taormina during the time of Arab rule. In front of the Cathedral there is a fountain, in the composition of which you can see a basket of fruits, and on it is the symbol of Taormina-Centaur (and here it is a Centaur-woman, although the Centaur-man is usually depicted).
Palazzo Corvaja Palace – located on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele . Previously, it was an ancient forum, later – the seat of Parliament, and today it houses a travel agency.
In my article, I did not list all the sights of the North and East of Sicily, not to mention how many attractions in the South and the West are Agrigento with the Valley of the Temples (you can buy an entrance ticket on the spot, or in advance through a specialized website ), and the town of Marsala, famous for its unique wine, and Modica, where chocolate is made. And also the center of the island – the cities of Enna, Corleone, Segesta and many, many others! It is impossible to visit everything in one trip, to see more, you need to return to Sicily again and again.