Just off the toe of Italy’s boot, Sicily has a culture that is at once quintessentially Italian and totally unique.
With a rocky, ruddy landscape (the island is home to Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes) and melting-pot culture that combines North African, Greek, and Spanish influences, the largest island in Italy is a must-visit for any traveler. The food is, of course, incredible—beloved dishes such as arancini and cannoli were born here—and the architecture is stunning, with baroque cathedrals sharing space with Islamic domes. Palm trees and citrus groves thrive alongside fragrant Mediterranean herbs and wildflowers. There’s something here for everyone!
The eastern city of Catania is home to an international airport which connects to most major European cities as well as mainland Italy, while the southern town of Comiso has a smaller airport that mainly connects with the rest of Italy. You can also easily reach the island by ferry. Once you’re on the island, the best way to see it all is by car, so you can stop in at the many small towns that dot the hillsides. There are also train routes that traverse the island; they are famous for moving at a leisurely pace, which may be just the thing to get you into the Sicilian state of mind!
Giadzy producer Natasha Wynnyk recently returned from a trip to the south of Sicily, and brought us back her recommendations for a sun-soaked Sicilian holiday.
One of many Sicilian towns that are designated as UNESCO world heritage sites for their extraordinary history, Modica is a centerpiece of the Sicilian Baroque style. The city was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century after a devastating earthquake, and must-see buildings such as the cathedrals of San Giorgio and San Pietro are grand, gorgeously ornamented monuments built from reddish volcanic stone.
Azienda Agricola Puglisi Giorgio
Contrada Bosco Cavette
This family-run dairy farm specializes in ricotta and caciocavallo an aged, teardrop-shaped cheese that is a specialty in Southern Italy. The fourth-generation farmers are dedicated to the health and happiness of their cows, feeding them locally sourced grasses to imbue the cheese with the pure taste of Sicily.
Corso Umberto I
Modica is known for its chocolate, which is still made in the ancient Aztec tradition first brought to Spain in the 16th century. It is cold-processed with no added emulsifiers, giving the final product a rustic texture and out-of-this-world pure chocolate flavor. This chocolatier, the oldest in Modica, has been producing gorgeous sweets for more than 150 years.
Just down the hill from the Duomo di San Giorgio, this all-day outdoor bar and restaurant set among the trees is a magical perch from which to see the city. The naturally leavened pizzas are made with stone-milled, Sicilian grains for rich flavor and a perfect chew. Order an aperitivo or one of the excellent natural wines from their list and enjoy the view.
Like Modica, Ragusa was devastated in the great earthquake of 1693, but when it came time to rebuild, the residents were divided. The result is a city with two distinct personalities: Ragusa Superiore at the top of the hill, where the wealthy townsfolk moved to start from scratch with wide avenues and imposing Baroque buildings, and Ragusa Ibla, the historic city where the rest of the population rebuilt their homes in the narrow, winding medieval lanes they knew. Be sure to visit both parts for a wonderful snapshot of Italian life over the centuries.
Via Orfanotrofio 39
This Michelin-recommended restaurant in the whitewashed, vaulted basement of a palazzo in Ragusa Ibla provides a fine dining experience at a very reasonable price. At night, let the chef take you on a tour of traditional dishes with a modern twist with the seven-course tasting menu. During the day, stop in for gorgeous breads and scacce ragusane, a local flatbread topped with veggies or caciocavallo cheese.
Just steps from the southernmost point on the island of Sicily, Marzamemi is a quaint seaside town built around a thriving fishing industry. While the large tuna processing plant (the tonnara) is no longer in operation, seafood of all kinds is still central to the local cuisine, and anchovies, smoked swordfish, and even salami made from tuna can be found. The turquoise-painted archways and sun-bleached stone of the open piazzas make for a picture-perfect beach holiday stop.
Vicolo Villadorata 6
Friggitorias are fried-food stands that specialize in arancini and other crispy delights. Get a glass of white wine and sit down at a table in the cobblestoned alley next to this stand, or take your mixed fried squid, prawns, and other fish (sold, simply, as pesce) to go in a paper cone. Don’t miss the chickpea-flour fritter called panelle, a local favorite.
Piazza Regina Margherita
This one-stop shop is a restaurant, bookstore, wine merchant, and gift shop all in one romantic stone building on the town’s central piazza. Enjoy traditional Sicilian dishes like caponata on the piazza, then browse the locally made products, all hand-selected with love.
A destination for Italian tourists from around the country, Noto is a lively town with stunning architecture and grand archways in gorgeous golden limestone that seems to glow in the southern sun. Grab a gelato or granita and stroll up Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which runs right through the historic town center and is lined with Baroque palazzos, churches, and verdant gardens.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele 125,
Established in 1892, this café and pastry shop has been in the Assenza family for four generations. In addition to innovative, dazzling pastries, the granita here is a must, especially the flavors made with milk from the island’s famous almonds. Do as the Sicilians do and get a brioche on the side to dip in your granita—it’s a summertime breakfast favorite!
Just 15 minutes from the Noto town center is this quintessentially Italian seaside resort. Reserve your spot for a small fee and get a lounge chair under a grand palm-frond umbrella on the stunning white sand beach. When you’re done swimming in the crystal-clear waters, stroll up to the restaurant for delicious fresh seafood and light pastas like spaghetti pomodoro.
At the base of Mount Etna, this vibrant city is Sicily’s second-largest. It’s home to the island’s oldest university, established in the 15th century, and has a vibrant, youthful energy with a bustling nightlife scene. Pay a visit to the bustling fish market La Pescheria for a glimpse of Catania’s dynamic daily life that has hardly changed over the centuries. In addition to a vast array of stunningly fresh seafood, vegetables, pickles, and prepared foods are also on offer here to assist hungry shoppers.
Piazza dell’Indirizzo 17
Sit outside on the piazza under the colorful umbrellas to enjoy pizzas like mortadella with Sicilian pistachios and burrata or sausage, olives, and broccoli rabe at this bustling bar and restaurant. Don’t forget a spritz to go with your meal!
Via Auteri 27/29
At the end of a cobblestone street sits this charming bar surrounded by potted plants and bougainvillea. The eclectic decor and great soundtrack give it a laid-back feeling, perfect for relaxing with a gin and tonic after a long day of sightseeing.
Corso Italia 306
From breakfast to dinner, this casual restaurant has you covered. Classically Italian, it’s home to a pastry shop and tea room for breakfast and daytime snacks as well as a restaurant for casual meals. Stop in for a granita any time of day, or come for dinner to enjoy the rigatoni with creamy pistachio sauce.
Via Crociferi 77
The name says it all! This charming restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating and serves a fresh, genuine taste of Sicily. Don’t miss the pasta with truffles and porcini mushroom, and be sure to make a reservation in advance, as there’s almost always a wait for a table here.
In the heart of the historic city center, this hotel makes a great home base for exploring Catania. A former 19th-century factory-turned-sleek, 17-room boutique, the rooms are modern and well-designed, with industrial touches and calm, clean lines.
This medieval village on the hillside near Mount Etna is a charming stop to appreciate the history of the region. The local museum traces the region’s history back to the 6th century BCE, when the island was under Ancient Greek rule. Visit here in June to witness the annual strawberry festival and taste the stunning wild strawberries for which Maletto is known!
This tiny winery run by Sonia Gambino, who returned to her family’s hometown of Maletto during the pandemic, makes delicious natural wines from the grapes that grow in tiny family vineyards around the village. Sonia’s passion for the terroir of the region shines in the delicate, well-balanced wines she produces.
The Capri of Sicily, Taormina is a posh resort city perched above rocky cliffs and sparkling blue waters on the east coast of the island. It’s famous for its Teatro Antico di Taormina, a stunning outdoor Ancient Greek circular theater that is still used during the city’s annual arts festival. For centuries, Taormina has been a beloved vacation destination for Italians and international travelers alike.
Via di Giovanni 45
Lined with colorful tiles decorated with local motifs of citrus flowers and fruits, this café and granita shop is the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping street Corso Umberto. The flavors are fresh and bright and the owner is kind and welcoming.
Vico Francesco Paladini 3
At this Slow Food–certified family trattoria, the best local products are put to use in deliciously simple Sicilian recipes. The care is evident in every bite, from the orange and fennel salad and spicy pork meatballs to the classic penne alla Norma.
Via Luigi Pirandello 81
A stay this 19th-century villa-turned-boutique hotel just a few minutes from the historic city center will have you feeling like old-fashioned royalty. High atop the cliffs with a panoramic view of the stunning blue waters below, it’s decorated in a comfortably overstuffed style for a true luxury experience.