Best Place To Stay in Sicily – Tips and Advice
- Why visit Sicily: If you’re looking for the best of Italian food and culture without the crowds and premium prices of Venice or Rome.
- What is the best time of year to go to Sicily: Placed in the middle of the Mediterranean, the weather is famously good here. With about 300 sunny days a year, there’s almost never a bad time to visit Sicily.
- Can you visit Sicily on a budget: Sicily doesn’t have quite the infrastructure of hostels that you’ll find on the mainland, but there are plenty of other opportunities to find budget accommodations at guesthouses and small pensiones.
Additionally, you’ll find everything from food, to transportation, to tickets for attractions considerably cheaper here than they might be in, say, Florence.
- Is Sicily safe: Although Sicily has a reputation for being dangerous, this has been a hotspot for in-the-know tourists for years. Normal precautions should keep you perfectly safe.
Italy has long been a favorite destination for a holiday, particularly for other Europeans. But creeping into the cultural cache alongside Italian tourism behemoths like Florence, Rome, and Venice is the incredible island of Sicily.
Not only is Sicily famous for its idyllic weather, but it also contains some of the most important ancient Greek and Roman archeological sites in the entire country.
It is home to the towering Mt. Etna, both the tallest volcano in Europe and one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Italy. Summiting the volcano is a favorite activity in Sicily for tourists.
Positioned just off the “toe” of Italy, it is the largest island in the Mediterranean and possibly the perfect spot to take a vacation. With plenty if history, natural spaces, and exquisite dining, there is plenty to see and do in Sicily.
Sicily City Neighbourhood Guide
While Sicily may appear small when you’re looking at it on a map, it is the largest island in the Mediterranean and represents a vast portion of Italy. It is composed of many different regions with a multitude of cities within them.
If you’re unsure of where exactly to book your first Sicilian vacation, here’s an overview of some of the most popular cities on the island to help make your decision easier. If you’re wondering where to stay in Sicily, keep reading for helpful hints and suggestions.
The 8 Best Areas To Stay In Sicily
For your first trip to Sicily
The Capital and cultural center of Sicily, Palermo truly encapsulates the entire island into one, bustling metropolis. All of the main draws of Sicily – sun, beaches, history, dining – can be found here, so it’s the perfect Sicilian city to visit if you have limited time.
Sicily’s central location in the Mediterranean means that it has been host to a myriad of cultures, languages, civilizations, and influences. Originally inhabited as far back as 8000 BCE, it began to take its place as a major port city with the arrival of the Phoenicians.
In the nearly 3000 years since then, the city was controlled by the Greeks, Romans, and Arabs, and finally becoming the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily until the early 19th century. This convoluted history is on full display today, with even some of the remnants of the original Phoenician city walls remaining as part of the city of Palermo.
If you want to dive deeper into the island’s history, the Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonino Salinas, or the Palermo Archeological Museum, is an ideal spot to peruse art and artifacts excavated from Sicily and beyond.
The items you’ll find here will help tell the tale of this ever-changing city, and how it secured its venerable spot in the cultural consciousness of the Mediterranean region. If you prefer a slightly more macabre bent to your exploration of Sicilian history, the Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs is a must-see.
Part historical record, part tourist attraction, this crypt was originally designed to enshrine the remains of deceased Friars, but eventually also took on the task of entombing Sicily’s elite. You’ll find a mix of skeletal and mummified remains throughout it corridors, so this isn’t a stop for the faint of heart.
The influx of Christianity into Sicilian culture brought with it some of Palermo’s most incredible architecture. Most of Palermo’s Catholic churches are still standing today, and serve as both a house of worship and as a stronghold of Sicilian history.
The Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, or La Matorana as it is lovingly called, is today a part of the Italo-Armenian Catholic church, though it began its life under the conscription of the Eastern Orthodoxy.
Together with the Cappella Palatina at Palermo’s Norman Palace, they offer a display of various religious influences that have been a part of Sicily over time, with Byzantine, Ottoman, Baroque, and Islamic styles of art and architecture all on display.
But a visit to Palermo shouldn’t be spent entirely indoors, and thankfully there are plenty of places to get away from the city center and experience their famously good weather. Just a short drive away is the iconic Mondello Beach.
On weekends, crowds of tourists and locals alike descend upon it for some fun in the sun, but midweek is usually much more relaxed. If you’re feeling up to it, you can climb Monte Pellegrino.
Technically a hill, you don’t have to be a very serious mountaineer to summit it, and the views are well worth the climb. Atop it stands a picturesque sanctuary dedicated to St. Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PALERMO
For Connoisseurs of Italian Beaches and Wines
On the far western coast of Sicily might just be the perfect beach town: Marsala. With several beaches within a short walk or drive from town, you could easily visit a different beach every day within a week-long visit. And to make your trip that much more decadent, this is the home of Italy’s famous Marsala wine.
In addition to the various designations that connote how long it was aged, Marsala wine is typically one of three varieties: the deep red Rubino, the rich amber Oro, and the sweet Ambra.
To be classified as a Marsala wine by Italy’s DOC, it must be produced in a particular manner that includes fortification, or the addition of a distilled spirit that both changes the flavor and increases the alcohol content.
It can be quite strong, often approaching 20% alcohol by volume, but unlike unfortified Italian wines, this variety is meant to be savored in small portions, often as an aperitif. Once you’ve scoured Marsala’s many wine shops for your new favorite bottle, be sure to pack one in your beach bag when you’re ready for a bit of sun and sand.
Lido Marakaibbo is the first stop for many tourists and is famous for its fine sand and clear, warm water. This is a great beach to bring the whole family as there is plenty of infrastructure in place to quell any need you might have.
There are lots of folks willing to rent you a beach chair or umbrella, and just off the sand you’ll find a plethora of bars and restaurants if you’d like a break from the beach.
But before you leave Marsala, be sure to pay at least one visit to the ultra-romantic Lido Torrazza. This secluded beach has a much more natural feel: think palapas on the sand just adjacent to a tiny harbor. While there’s much less in the way of activity in the immediate surroundings, those looking for a little relaxation won’t mind at all.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN MARSALA
Just north of Marsala, Trapani looks exactly like you might imagine a hundreds-of-years-old Sicilian town would look: cobblestone streets, traditional storefronts, and a sleepy port that still serves traditional fishermen.
While Trapani doesn’t have the same bustling streets and crazy nightlife as larger Sicilian towns, it does offer an extremely walkable city center with tons of hidden gems to explore.
In the center of Trapani is the city’s Old Town. Streets here are lined with rowhouses decked in Juliet balconies, many with stores on the ground floor. While there are plenty of places to go shopping – for artisanal goods, foods, and souvenirs – the biggest draw in Trapani is the food.
Trapanese food is known throughout Sicily as being some of the finest cuisine in the region, and wandering through Old Town is the best way to find a quaint spot to enjoy a delicious meal. There are so many iconic family-owned restaurants in Trapani’s Old Town that you can easily try a new one every day.
If you can schedule your Sicilian vacation around the end of July, you can catch Trapani’s annual Stragusto festival. This yearly event celebrates the best food and wine from Trapani and beyond, and creates the perfect opportunity for tourists to try a wide variety of Sicilian foods.
While you’re wandering around Old Town, there are several tourist sites to stop and see. Certainly, the Saturn Fountain and the Twin Clock Tower are both rewarding and easy to fit into an itinerary, but if you have time, pay a visit to the Castello di Venere. Of the several castles in Trapani left standing from antiquity, this one is the most vast, and has the best views.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN TRAPANI
For stunning views of Mt. Etna
Many tourists use Catania as a base for Etna treks and excursions, and there are many options available to visit Europe’s tallest volcano for all different experience levels. While summiting Etna isn’t a particularly technical climb, it can be difficult for those not exceptionally fit.
Instead, you can choose to explore it via cable car or in a Jeep with a guide, which is also a great option if you have limited time. Your first stop in Catania, just as many Italian cities seem to similarly beckon, will likely be the Piazza del Duomo.
The busiest and most connected public square in the city, it is anchored by the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata. But if you do decide to take a closer look, don’t forget to check out the petite Chiesa della Badia di Sant’Agata on its grounds. Though smaller, the views of Mt. Etna from its dome are impressive and worth a peek.
If your tastes are a little less adventurous, you’re going to want to visit Lido Azzuro, just a short drive south of the city center. This Mediterranean beach has soft sand and clear water, and is appointed with beach chairs and bars to make you more comfortable throughout the day.
There is also the nearby San Giovnani Li Cuti, a black-sand and volcanic rock beach that looks like it’s from another world. Though it’s vastly different than Lido Azzuro’s idyllic beach-day vibe, there’s plenty around – like dining and shopping – to occupy you for a whole day.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CATANIA
For counterculturists and LGBTQ+Travelers
About an hour north of Catania is the towering city of Taormina. Perched on a cliff overlooking the sea, this city is topped with a Norman castle where an impenetrable citadel once stood. Today, this picturesque town begs for a visit, if only to gaze out over the Ionian Sea from the iconic Piazza IX Aprile. Its proximity to Mt.
Etna also makes it a great spot from which to schedule a volcano visit or trek. After the unification of Italy, Europe’s eye focused on Taormina as an ideal holiday location.
Their laid-back reputation began to attract artists, writers, and LGBTQ+ vacationers that admired their take-all-kinds approach to welcoming tourists. Though in many ways it is a very traditional Sicilian town, Taorminians have long welcomed everyone willing to come fall in love with their unique city.
The main thoroughfare in town is the vibrant Corso Umberto. The beating heart of Taormina, this main drag is lined with shops ranging from elegant boutiques to kitschy souvenir shops and is liberally dotted with cute cafes and mom and pop bakeries.
If you’re out enjoying some shopping in the summer, there are plenty of places to drop into for a quick bite or an espresso if you require a respite. When you’ve tired of navigating the crowds in town, pay a visit to the Villa Comunale, a public park and garden from which the city may seem to fade away.
Once the private gardens of a wealthy English woman who was fascinated by all kinds of birds, there are many birdbaths and feeders placed within the delicately maintained vegetation to attract all kinds of wildlife. The park also features a viewpoint: the perfect place to snap a few photos of your Sicilian vacation.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN TAORMINA
6. Siracusa (Syracuse)
For lovers of Culture and the Arts
South of Catania is the lovely Siracusa, or Syracuse. Home to one of the oldest, and definitively the biggest, Greek amphitheater still in existence, this city has a centuries-long tradition of supporting the arts. One of the best ways to get involved in Siracusa’s theatrical past is to attend a modern performance.
Their ancient Teatro Greco is still in use, and they stage a number of theatrical performances throughout the year. While these are generally scheduled during the day, the occasional performance is held during the full moon. If you’d like to experience a live performance of a Greek tragedy lit by moonlight, be sure to schedule your trip in concert with the lunar cycle.
At some point, you’re going to want to make your way to the Ear of Dionysus, an artificial cave in a former quarry. Maybe the most visited attraction in all of Siracusa, the big draw here is, like the name might suggest, the particular way that human voices echo within the expanse.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SIRACUSA
For lovers of Architecture
Like many other Sicilian towns, Ragusa was nearly leveled by an earthquake in the late 17th century. Interestingly, the city was so badly damaged that they first decided against rebuilding, and created a brand new town on a nearby hilltop.
It was years before the original old town was restored, but their resiliency led to the creation of one of the finest collections of Baroque architecture in all of Sicily, albeit split between distinct locales.
In Ragusa Ibla, or old town, you’ll find few buildings left from before the earthquake, but its narrow winding streets and laid-back vibe are charming enough that you won’t miss them.
Here is where you’ll find the bustling Piazza della Repubblica, from which ascends a staircase that leads to the Anime del Purgatorio, a Baroque church that is iconic to the city. But probably the most beloved piece of architecture in the entire city is the cobalt-blue domed Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Itria.
Built by the knights of Malta in the 14th century, this Rococo-style church is meticulously decorated in intricate designs depicting flowers and fruit. Combined with its bright blue-hued dome, it’s one of the most unique sights in all of Sicily.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN RAGUSA
For History Buffs
There’s a lot to see and do in Agrigento, but the number one reason most tourists visit is to see the incredible Valle dei Templi, or Valley of the Temples. This vast UNESCO World Heritage site features 8 temples from antiquity, all built between 510 and 430 BCE.
The temple plain is quite vast, but if you don’t want to hoof it, you can schedule a tour on an electric scooter. Be sure to leave yourself several hours to explore, and bring plenty of water with you. While you’re there, stop into the Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum.
Set right in the middle of the complex, you can even buy a combined ticket that includes your museum admission. Inside is an impressive collection of Greek and Roman pottery, several sarcophagi, and the Telamon: a stone colossus that is iconic to the city.
Once you’ve had your fill of Sicilian archeology, you’ll be ready to visit what may be the best natural wonder of Sicily: the Turkish Stairs. This compelling geological phenomenon looks like a staircase carved into the cliffside overlooking the sea, but it emerged naturally over time due to a combination of the composition of the rock face and the aggressive surf.
Though it’s an extremely popular tourist destination in the region, at off-times you may get the chance to enjoy it almost completely alone.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN AGRIGENTO
While your unique personality will likely drive a lot of your decision when you’re deciding where you’d like to visit Sicily, your circumstances should play a part too.
Whether you’re going on holiday fr your honeymoon or to have a break with the whole family, you can be assured there’s a perfect property in Sicily for you.
- Best Luxury Hotel in Sicily: ($$$) • Il Principe Hotel Catania • Catania
- Best Boutique Hotel in Sicily: ($$$) • Hedoné Design Experience B&B • Agrigento
- Best Family Hotel in Sicily: ($$$) • Palazzo Alfeo Aparthotel • Siracusa
- Best Romantic Hotel in Sicily: ($$) • Atmosfere di roccia • Ragusa
- Best Cheap Hotel in Sicily: ($) • A casa di Amici Boutique Hostel • Palermo