Sicily Travel Guide
Where is Sicily Located?
Italy’s largest region, Sicily is also the largest island in the Mediterranean – slightly bigger than Sardinia and a bit smaller than the combined area of the other three large Mediterranean islands (Cyprus, Corsica, and Crete). Lying in the heart of the southern Mediterranean Sea, a mix of Greek, Arab, Norman and Roman influences shapes its unique culture.
What is the Origin of the Name Sicily?
Various names have been used over time to indicate Sicily. The name Trinacria has its etymological roots in both Greek and Latin. The name Vitulia is explained by the Catania historian Santi Correnti, a profound connoisseur of the history of Sicily, who reports that the Ionian coastline from Taormina to Messina in ancient times was called “Vitulia”, because calves sacred to the sungod were raised there.
The term “Sicilia” presumably derives from “sica”, the Latin word for sickle.
According to this interpretation, “Sicilia” means land of the sickle bearers. According to other theories, the name “Sicilia” actually derives from sik, a term denoting swelling and growth. Thus, Sicilia would mean “land of fertility, island of fertility.”
What to see in Sicily?
- Palermo and Monreale: awe-inspiring Arab-Norman architecture, baroque palaces and churches, the sandy Mondello beach with its crystal-clear waters.
- Cefalù: one of Italy’s most beautiful coastal towns, also housing a monumental Arab-Norman cathedral.
- Syracuse: the Ancient Greek theater and the island of Ortigia
- Etna: Europe’s most famous volcano.
- Taormina: picture-perfect coastal town on the slopes of Etna, also housing a Roman amphitheater.
- Pantelleria: the island of capers and Zibibbo grapes, lying only a few kilometers away from the Tunisian coast.
- Valley of Temples: Italy’s best-kept ancient Greek temples.
- Marsala: salt marshes and the namesake wine.
- Noto, Modica and Ragusa: baroque gems in southeastern Sicily.
- San Vito Lo Capo and Riserva dello Zingaro: awe-inspiring beaches and coastal landscapes in Western Sicily.
What is the Typical Dish of Sicily?
Sicily boasts the most varied culinary tradition in Italy. Arab influences shape iconic dishes like cous-cous alla trapanese (with seafood) and arancini (rice balls stuffed with meat ragù and cheese or butter and ham).
Eggplant parmigiana and pasta alla norma (with fried eggplants and tomato sauce) rank among the best-known vegetarian dishes. Sarde a beccafico (sardine rolls with raisins and fried breadcrumb), grilled swordfish and Aeolian-style tuna are some of the most popular fish recipes.
Aged Ragusano cheese often goes hand in hand with Nero dei Nebrodi ham, the Italian answer to Spanish Patanegra, made from free-range black porks raised on the namesake mountains.
Popular street foods include pani ca’ meusa (bread with spleen), stigghiole (lamb guts) and sfincione (Sicilian pizza with anchovies, tomato sauce, and Caciocavallo cheese).
Last but not least, Sicilian cannoli (tube-shaped sweets stuffed with ricotta cheese), cassata (sponge cake) and pistachio gelato or granita (frozen dessert) are a must-try when visiting Sicily.