Sicily is Italy's largest region and is also its most varied. In terms of geography, you will find offshore islands, endless coastline, rugged mountains, rolling fields and active volcanoes.
Further, a remarkable variety of history and architecture is waiting for you as the significance of Sicily goes back to the Greek Empire and the island has been subject to invasions by the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish and Bourbons before unifying with Italy.
The Northeastern area of Sicily is dominated by the impressive, still active Mount Etna, and the Aeolian islands with the always active Stromboli volcano. The combination of fire spitting mountains, crystal clear waters, historical towns and fabulous Italian gastronomy sets the perfect scene for your next adventure.
OUR SICILY ADVENTURES
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea, covering an area of just under 26,000km². The island resembles the shape of a triangle and awarded Sicily the name Trinakria in ancient times. Sicily is surrounded by the Tyrrenian sea in the North, the Ionian sea in the East and Mediterranean sea in the Southeast and -west. The total length of the island is around 1,000km and at its closest point to Italy, it is only 3km between Messina and mainland Italy. While you find steep coast interrupted by numerous small bays in the North, the Southern coast is rather flat and gentle with long sandy beaches.
Sicily is surrounded by small island groups like the Aeolian Islands in the North and the Egadi Islands in the West. Further, the two bigger islands of Ustica in the Northwest and Pantelleria in Southwest are also considered Sicilian.
Most of the landscape is shaped by mountains and hills, which cover around 80% of the mainland of Sicily. Plains are common in the South and in the area surrounding Catania. Several mountain ranges run along the Northern coastline, starting with the Peloritani Mountains in the East, the Nebrodi Mountains and the Madonie Mountains South of Cefalu. Further, you will find the Iblei Mountains in the Southeast and the Erei and Sicani Mountains in the center.
Especially the Eastern side of Sicily is dominated by the mighty Mount Etna (3345m), the highest and most active volcano in Europe. Other active volcanoes in Sicily include Stromboli and Vulcano on the Aeolian Islands. Pizzo Carbonara in the Madonie Mountains (1979m) is the highest non-volcanic mountain on the island.
Salso is the longest river on Sicily, originating from the Madonie Mountains and leading 144km into the sea at Licata. The 52km long Alcantara River is one of the most noted rivers in Sicily due to the deep gorges the river carved into the lava from Etna. There is only one natural lake on Sicily, the Lago di Perdusa in the center of the island, which is of volcanic origin.
REGIONS OF SICILY
The Eastern side of Sicily is dominated by the mighty Mount Etna, overlooking the Ionian Riviera and Sicily’s second largest city, Catania. The East is also home to the romantic resort town of Taormina which has been drawing visitors for centuries. Parts of this area have been devastated by wars, earthquakes, tidal waves and lava flows, but the land and its people steadily bounce back after each ordeal.
Wine production plays a key role and thanks to the fertile volcanic soil, the lower slopes of Etna are carpeted with vineyards and blood orange groves.
Many of the towns in Eastern Sicily are thousands of years old, dating back to when the Greeks first landed at Giardini Naxos around 5BC. Mount Etna has played an integral role in the settlement of the area and many houses in the mountain villages are built of lava stone.
Stretching from Messina to Palermo, the Northern coast is characterized by four varied landscapes. You will find several superb beaches along the Northern coast, especially around the small resort of Cefalu, and small pleasant coastal villages. The dramatic Nebrodi and Madonie Mountains ranges with their traditional mountain villages rise over the hills of Sicily’s Northern interior with vast agricultural fields and vineyards. It often seems like nothing has changed here for centuries - the same castles safeguarding the royal passageway now overlook the modern autostrada. Off the coast, you will find the wonderful volcanic Aeolian Islands with black sand beaches, steaming fumaroles and the always active Stromboli volcano.
Settled by the Phoenicians in the 8th century. Palermo fell first to the Romans, then the Arabs, who chose Palermo for their capital, making the city one of the most magnificent and powerful in the world. This splendour was compounded during the Norman reign. Today, what remains of earlier ages coexists with modern life. Buildings destroyed in World War II have been left open to the sky and today Sicilians seat restaurants in crumbling courtyards or bombed-out churches.
Culturally, the Western side of Sicily was strongly influenced by Africa, especially by the Arabs and Carthaginians. Here you will find gorgeous medieval villages, magnificent ruins and some of Sicily’s most beautiful islands and seascapes.
From the olive groves, vineyards and fertile plains of the interior to the salt pans of Trapani and the small pebble beaches of the Zingaro Nature Reserve, the landscape in this area is very varied and until recently, much of the area was still quite remote and presents great opportunities to wander through fishing villages, watch shepherds at work and witness a slow and traditional way of life that has grown for centuries. The rocky mountainous interior has some of the harshest terrain in Sicily with scarce water resources, relentless heat and frequent earthquakes. Offshore, you will find the Aegadian Islands and the volcanic island of Pantelleria with vert dramatic landscapes.
The region is home to the sweet Marsala wine and you will often come across Arab-influenced dishes. Some of the islands best wines and olive oils are grown in this area.
Sicily’s Southern regions are characterized by small fishing towns along long sandy beaches and rich agricultural land with silvery olive and dark green citrus groves in the interior. Further, the area is home to some of the greatest Greek archaeological treasures outside Greece and outstanding Roman relics. Small farming villages of the unspoiled interior remain isolated on their hilltops between rocky mountains or rolling fields. Due to the lack of infrastructure, the area remained mainly remote until the mid 19th century, leaving those villages nearly stuck in time.
An area packed with ancient treasures, baroque architecture and prehistoric tombs, yet you will also find long lonely sandy beaches, nature reserves and some of Sicily’s best food and wine. While you will find Greek and Roman remains in Syracuse, including the magnificent city of Magna Graecia, the towns of the Valle di Note have been rebuilt at the peak of the baroque period after the destruction during the 1693 earthquake. The towns of Caltagirone, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli have all been declared UNESCO World Heritage.
The area has become a hot spot for foodies as many young chefs return to traditional roots and ingredients, which help to preserve the authentic cuisine in the region. Some of the best Nero d’Avola wines also come from this region.
Visit our selection on travel information, facts and all kinds of stuff about Sicily in our travel bonanza.