Many travellers believe that there are no places left in Europe that have gone undiscovered. With this continent being the most popular destination for tourists worldwide, it’s easy to believe this, but there are places even here that lack the hustle and bustle that is normally associated with peak season. The island of Sicily, which is the ball to Italy’s boot, is one of those underrated gems that hasn’t been noticed by the global travel press…yet. There are many reasons to visit Sicily now, but here are five of our best excuses to discover one of Europe’s last refuges of undisturbed nature, authentic culture, and real people.
1) You’ll never eat better in your entire life
While many people typically group Sicily with the rest of Italy when it comes to cuisine, the reality on the ground is far more complex than that. This island’s food culture has had a potpourri of influences that have shaped it over the years, as it was ruled by the Greeks in ancient times, the Romans during the height of their empire, Arabs in the 10th and 11th centuries, and by the Normans and the Germans in the 11th and 12th centuries. Combine that with settlers that have arrived here over many generations from places such as Spain and North Africa, and it is not hard to see why dishes here are so unique. With such a long culinary tradition, care and attention to detail are poured into specialties such as Pasta alla Norma (made with tomatoes, basil, and ricotta cheese) and Cassata (a liqueur-infused sponge cake covered with icing, ricotta cheese, and candied fruit), which is a fact that will be apparent to you after your first bite of these and other dishes.
2) The accommodations available are truly fabulous
Italy may be notorious in travel circles for being an expensive place to travel, but Sicily is something of an exception to that rule. As a result of this, many amazing accommodations can be had for prices that are entirely reasonable. From charming country bed and breakfasts, to jaw-dropping luxury hotels and villas in Sicily like The Ashbee Hotel above, that boast killer views of the Mediterranean Sea, there are many places that will go a long way towards helping you create a memorable holiday here. Through us, you can find many Sicilian villas that have infinity pools, decks with amazing sight lines and courtyard gardens that are bursting with all types of subtropical plant life, as well as interiors that boast all the latest state-of-the-art electronics, comfortable bedrooms, and delectably decadent bathrooms.
3) You’ll get to experience the raw power of nature
Sicily is a nation that is defined by its relationship with the Earth, both in terms of water and fire. Ringed by the Mediterranean, there are many deserted beaches that one can find if they have the will and the time to search them out. Some are calm, some are continually pounded by massive waves, but most have a sublime beauty to them that makes finding them well worth the time invested. The landscape and the islands that surround Sicily were shaped by volcanic activity that continues to rage in the present day, and there is no better way to bear witness to that then by visiting Mount Etna. Tours will take you up the side of the mountain, but will stop more than 1.400 meters short of the summit. If you wish to trek to the summit, hiring a guide is required by law for safety reasons, but they also have great insight on the history and geology of this active volcano. What’s even more remarkable is that there is a ski resort on its slopes during the winter months, which may allow you to capture a photo of you decked out in skiing or snowboarding equipment while Etna’s crater belches out ash in the background.
4) Some of the best-preserved remnants of the Greek Empire can be found here
Despite being part of Italy today, and part of the Roman Empire during its heyday, Sicily was once part of the Greek Empire as well. Within its interior, travelers will find some of the best preserved ruins from that time in history near the cities of Siracusa, Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta. While all are impressive in their own way, some have been recognized by UNESCO as world heritage sites. Its theaters, temples, and other Greek-era structures rival or surpass some of the ruin complexes found in Greece, but often have crowds that are far less intimidating. This makes Sicily a great option for cultural travelers that loathe having to wade their way through the tourist hordes that often plague Europe during high season.
5) It is still unspoiled compared to the mainland
With respect to the last point, Sicily get far less tourist traffic overall compared to destinations elsewhere in Italy. While places like Rome, Venice and Tuscany are swamped with visitors during the peak tourism months many parts of the island are less crowded or are refreshingly free of the camera-toting gawkers that many travelers seek to avoid. The best overall strategy for visiting Sicily is to come by during the shoulder season, which allows visitors to see many of its attractions without having to deal with any crowds at all, while having half decent weather to enjoy when they have finished sightseeing for the day.