Sicily - Travel Guide and Tourism Information for Sicily, Italy
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Provinces: Palermo, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Ragusa, Siracusa, Trapani
This is the biggest island in the Mediterranean, separated from the Italian peninsula by the strait of Messina. It has important mountain groups: Peloritani, Nebrodi, Madonie, Iblei. The coasts offers a landscape of beauty almost everywhere; groups of smaller islands are scattered round the coast (the Eolie or Lipari, Ustica, the Egadi. the isle of Pantelleria and the Pelagie). The Etna, rising in the center of a volcanic area of Sicily, is the highest active volcano in Europe (3,323 mt). The isles of Stromboli and Vulcano also are active volcanoes.
Historical Palermo sits compactly around one central crossroads, the Quattro Canti, which is at the core of four distinct quarters. The Albergheria and the Capo quarter, the latter beyond the cathedral, lie roughly west of Via Maqueda; the Vucciria and old harbour of La Cala and the La Kalsa, lie to the east, closest to the water. In these areas you'll find virtually all the surviving ancient monuments and buildings of the city: the hybrid Norman-Arab-Baroque Cattedrale-S.Maria Assunta and nearby Palazzo dei Normanni (Royal Palace), with its superb, mosaic-decorated chapel, the Cappella Palatina; the glorious Norman churches of La Martorana and San Giovanni degli Eremeti; the Baroque opulence of San Giuseppe dei Teatini. Located in the center of Palermo, near Via Libertà.and Piazza Croci, Villa Trabia is one of the few aristocratic homes open to the public.
This estate, which is now owned by the City of Palermo, houses civic offices and a public library. The palace is set in a beautiful wooded park open to the public most days. Built for the Prince of Trabia (Lanza family) in the eighteenth century, Villa Trabia provides a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Palermitan aristocracy of that era. Just outside Palermo you may visit the La Favorita and La Zisa villas and the Capuchin Convent, with its catacombs.
Castelbuono: visit the church Matrice Vecchia and the Ventimiglia
Located on a plateau overlooking Sicily's southern coast, Agrigento was founded as Akragas around 582 BC by a group of colonists from Gela, who themselves were the immediate descendants of Greeks from Rhodes and Crete. Akragas was renamed Agrigentum by the Romans, and Girgenti by the Saracens, only to be christened Agrigento in 1927. At the southern limit of the ancient city, in the so-called "Valley of the Temples", the city architects erected their sacred buildings during the fifth century BC. The oldest of Akragas's temples is the Tempio di Ercole, the other ones are the Tempio della Concordia, dated to around 430 BC and perfectly preserved, Tempio di Giunone, Tempio di Giove and the so-called Tempio dei Dioscuri. The medieval city of Agrigento is not without a certain charm. High in the historical center of the city, the Romanesque Gothic cathedral, built during the fourteenth century, still displays some of its medieval character, as does the thirteenth-century Church of San Nicola. Also visit the S.Spirito Abbey and the Museo Archeologico Regionale.
Canicattì: From Agrigento you may easily reach this town, famous for
its grape variety Italia. Visit the church of S. Diego, the Chiesa
del Purgatorio, typical of the 18th century, and the richly
decorated Chiesa di S. Francesco. Amongst the many beautiful
monuments in Canicattì, there is the Mother Church of S.Pancrazio,
home to precious pieces of art, like a marble statue representing
the Ecce Homo and a painting of the Holy Family with S. Anna and S.
Gioacchino. Also the Castello Bonanno, the Torre dell'Orologio
(clock tower), the Palazzo of Baron La Lomia and Palazzo Bartocelli.
A splendid Baroque City at the slopes of the Etna, from the eighteenth century on, Catania has been considered the second most important city of Sicily. Subjected to the Etna Vulcan, this town has been damaged by lava flows and earthquakes on several occasions. The city has two Roman amphitheatres, one which was built on a pre-existent Greek one and the other which is a completely Roman structure.
Visit the Ursino Castle, built on the orders of Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen in the first half of the thirteenth century, and now a museum open to the public. The oldest part of the Duomo (Cathedral) dates back to 1092; it hosts the tombs of Frederick III of Aragona, who ruled from 1296-1337, and the one of Constance, wife of Frederick IV of Aragona. Most of Catania’s wide streets and palazzi were built during the eighteenth century, a characteristic is the gray, volcanic stone used in the buildings. This was the period in which noble families from across eastern Sicily, used to build palazzo in Catania, beginning a subtle social and economical rivalry with Palermo. The two most famous citizens are S.Agata, the martyr patroness of the city and Vincenzo Bellini, the opera composer. Stroll through Via dei Cruciferi and visit the churches of S.Benedetto, S.Giuliano and S.Niccolò.
Caltagirone: Once the location of a Saracen fortress, this charming
mountain town is famous for its hand made, traditional ceramics.
There are many cultural bodies who promote this aspect of the city
like the Ceramic School and the Ceramic Museum. Since the earthquake
of 1693 the night dedicated to S.Giacomo(24/25 July) has been
celebrated with huge images made up of colored lights or 'luminarie'
which have to illuminate a staircase. The 'Scala' itself has been
used since 1785 and just like ancient times over 4000 sand weighted
papers cartons 'coppi' containing terracotta lanterns and the finest
of oil are used for the illumination.
Until Roman times, this was the most powerful and magnificent city in all Sicily. Today, it is an impressive and intriguing sight, with a mixture of late Baroque architecture - vivid yet damaged by the passage of time, and the reconstruction of the city following the terrible earthquake of 1693 - and ancient classical architecture. It is situated in an exquisite landscape of sea, rocks and Mediterranean vegetation. Siracusa may be divided in several areas.
The most ancient part of town is the island of Ortigia, linked to the mainland by the Ponte Nuovo. Have a stroll and look at the Fonte Aretusa, related to the myth of the goddess Diana’s nymph. Don’t miss the beautiful Baroque Duomo with its ornate chapels, carved Doric columns, frescoes and statues. The other Baroque buildings, on the same square, include the striking Palazzo Beneventano del Bosco whith a lovely courtyard, the Palazzo del Senato and the Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia (S.Lucy is the patron saint of this town). Visit the Linear Theatre and the churches of S. Maria delle Colonne, S.Giovanni, S.Pietro, Palazzo Mergulese-Montalto. Palazzo Bellomo hosts an Art gallery ( Entombment of St. Lucy by Caravaggio, Annunciation by Antonello da Messina), and the imposing Maniace Castle with its Swabian architecture don’t has to be missed. Via della Maestranza is one of the oldest and interesting streets of Ortigia, literally stuffed with Baroque buildings: look out for Palazzo Interland Pizzuti, Palazzo Impellizzeri, Palazzo Bonanno, Palazzo Romeo Bufardeci, S.Francesco all’Immacolata. We also recommend a walk through Mastrarua, another old street, Via Mirabella and Corso Matteotti, full of shops. Also interesting: the Church of S.Spirito and the Belvedere S.Giacomo which offers a spectacular view.
In the archaeological area on the mainland part of town, called Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, you may visit the Ear of Dionysius (situated in the Latomia del Paradiso, a garden with orange and palm trees), the ancient Greek theatre, the Roman amphitheatre and the Tomb of Archimedes. In the Regional Archaeological Museum Paolo Orsi you may view many interesting finds dating back to Sicilian prehistory.
In the areas of Tyche and Akradina: visit the Papyrus Museum, the S.Giovanni Catacombs, the Crypt of S.Marciano, the Basilica of S.Giovanni Evangelista and S.Lucia extra moenia. Also worth: a walk to the Eurialo Castle, on the north side ot town.
A favourite excursion is a boat trip starting at the Fonte Ciane, at about 8 km out of town; it will get you to the spot, where, according to Ovid, the Rape of Proserpina took place.
Noto: Defined as “Stone garden", Noto was entirely built with a soft stone that, owing to the effect of sun rays, has gradually acquired a beautiful honey shade.
Noto: iIs the capital of the 18th century Sicilian and European
baroque, and its religious and civil monuments are the most valuable
examples of talented artists of the time: Gagliardi, Sinatra, Labisi
along with local skilled workers. Have a tour, starting with the
Cathedral, Palazzo Ducezio, the Holy Crucifix, the Monastery of "SS.
Salvatore", "S. Francesco", S. Domenico, Santa Chiara. Palazzo
Nicolaci di Villadorata has incredible grotesque sculptures; Via
Nicolaci", is called the street of balconies. But Noto is not only
Baroque; its whole territory offers the necropolis of "Noto Antica"
and of "Castelluccio", the archaeological finds of the Greek town of
Eloro, the sanctuaries of "S. Corrado Fuori le Mura" and of "S.
Maria della Scala", the rupestrian and Byzantine oratories, the
beautiful sea and the naturalistic reserves of "Vendicari" and "Cava
Set on a wide limestone hill between two deep valleys it is divided into two distinct areas: Ragusa Ibla the old town with its lovely baroque architecture, and Ragusa (the upper side).
Ragusa Ibla's best-known church is the Basilica di San Giorgio, whose entrance is reached by climbing a spacious set of elegantly decorated curving stairs. The majestic dome of the church towers above the town and dominates the Piazza del Duomo and its neat rows of palm trees beneath it. The basilica was built in 1738 by the famous architect Rosario Gagliardo and is considered Gagliardo's baroque masterpiece. The beautiful piazza before the church is surrounded by striking aristocratic buildings like Palazzo Arezzi and Palazzo Donnafugata.
The splendid Villa Comunale (public gardens) is situated at the far end of Ragusa Ibla. Very well-mantained, it offers beautiful sights of the mountain ranges and down over the Irminio valley. The Church of San Giorgio il Vecchio has an amazing Gothic-Norman doorway. Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Idria, dated 1639 has a decorated bell-tower with lovely floral panels of majolica from Caltagirone. Palazzo Cosentini is the most typical of all the 18th century buildings in town, with elegant balconies supported by ornamented corbels and sculptured animals and masks typical of the Baroque Art.
Castello di Donnafugata: this castle, situated in proximity to Santa
Croce Camerina, about 20km from Ragusa is a major attraction for
tourists. Thanks to its scenery, it was the setting of many films.
Walking in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the old Loggia, Via Torrearsa, Via Garibaldi, you’ll notice lots of historical palazzi and churches of notable artistic worth: Palazzo Cavarretta, the Cathedral, Palazzo Riccio di Morana, Palazzo San Rocco, Palazzo Riccio di San Gioacchino, Palazzo Lucatelli, the Chiesa del Collegio. In the Chiesa del Purgatorio, the sacred statues of the Misteri of Trapani are kept. The Chiesa di San Pietro treasures the precious organ built by Francesco La Grassa from Palermo. The Corso then leads into the so-called Ghetto, Via Della Giudecca and Via degli Ebrei, which was inhabited by the Jewish community up to the XV century. The Northern part of the town is characterised by the Litoranea (seafront) with the picturesque Piazza del Mercato del Pesce (Fish Market Square). Villa Margherita, the “lung” or outdoor space of the town has giant ficus trees and is ideal for a relaxing walk.
Favignana: this island is the largest of the archipelago of the Egadi and a popular tourist destination because of its wonderful sea characterised by numerous coves. It is an island rich in history, the famous naval battle between the Romans and the Carthaginians was fought here. Favignana is also famous all over the world for its “mattanza” (slaughter of tuna fish) tradition. Levanzo - The smallest of the Egadi Islands, is an ideal place for trekking. Marettimo is the furthest from Trapani and therefore this island still is a real natural paradise, with rugged and enchanting landscape and crystal clear water.
Mozia - One of the largest Phoenician centres in Sicily. The
archaeological excavations have revealed precious finds such as the
necropolis, a house of mosaics, and a paved road. One should not
miss a visit to the Whitaker Museum that conserves archaeological
finds of great importance such as the Giovane (a young man) dressed
in a tunic, a statue of Greek origin from the second half of the V
Two great earthquakes hit this city, in 1783 and 1908, and during WWII it was heavily bombed.
Visit the Museo Regionale with Byzantine and Norman works as well as works by Messina’s famous artists, Antonello da Messina and Girolamo Aliprandi. Also interesting the Mannerist building - Monte di Pietà and the church Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani. A short way from the Duomo, this church was built in the 12th century during the Norman rule and remodelled later on by the Catalans. The apse is a fine specimen of the Norman composite style, that combines Roman, Moorish and Byzantine features. The Duomo has been rebuilt in Norman style, after the earthquake of 1908. From the inside you may access the Treasury, which displays a fine collection of religious objects and vestments, reliquaries, candlesticks, chalices and a fine 1600’s monstrance, containing a host.
The astronomical clock on the bell-tower to the left of the cathedral has a mechanism dating from 1933.Don’t miss a look at it on midday! It consists of several layers, each with a different display endowed with a separate movement. At the bottom, a two-horse chariot sets the day of the week; above, the central figure of Death looks at the four ages of man that pass before him. At the third stage, the Sanctuary of Montalto sets the scene for a group of figures which, according to the time of year, represent the Nativity, Epiphany, Resurrection and Pentecost. At the top, the tableau enacts a scene relating to a local legend whereby the Madonna delivers a letter to the ambassodors of Messina in which she thanks and agrees to protect the inhabitants of the town who were converted to Christianity by St. Paul the Apostle.
The female bell-strikers are the local heroines Dina and Clarenza, during the period of resistance against the Angevins (1282).. The southern side of the bell-tower shows a perpetual calendar, the astronomical cycle marked by the signs of the zodiac, and the different phases of the moon. When the clock strikes midday, all the mechanical figures come to life. On the Piazza del Duomo you may admire the Fontana di Orione with allegoric statues of four rivers.
For excursions in the area:
Ganzirri and Torre Faro, two characteristic, pictoresque fishing villages full of life. Or the medieval hill village of Savoca which boasts interesting churches like the Convento dei Capuccini, the 15th century Chiesa di San Michele with fine Gothic-Renaissance portals, and the Chiesa Madre. From Casalvecchio you’ll have a panoramic view over the Ionian coastline and may visit the Chiesa Madre, decorated with Taormina marble.
Tindari: Piazzale Belvedere, Greek theatre and Basilica at the archaeological site.
A volcanic archipelago on Sicily’s North-Eastern Tyrrhenian coast with the islands of Lipari ( the largest one), Salina (a green island with many wineyards), Filicudi, Alicudi, Stromboli (with an active volcano), Panarea (a jet-set island) and Vulcano (famous for its fango baths). The Greeks who colonized the islands around 580BC named them after the god of the winds Aeolus. These beautiful spots offer an enchanting landscape, great beaches with white sand, castles, thermal resorts and medieval structures and are a main tourist resort in Summer.
On Lipari the volcanic phenomenon can be observed in the island's thermal springs (up to 600), in its solfataras and in its 12 volcanic systems converging towards the 602 metres of Monte Chirica. This elevated and craggy island has spectacular beaches and breathtaking ragged coasts.
Panarea - The main village, Contrada San Pietro, consists of a group of white houses clustered along the eastern side of the island. The built-up area is crowned with olive trees and protected by huge walls. The other two villages north and south of San Pietro are Dittella and Drauto.We recommend a boat tour to the nearby small islands of Basiluzzo, Dattilo and Lisca Bianca, to the Scoglio Bottaro (with its underwater "fumaroles").
Salina - More than 400 different types of plants grow here. It is also the island with the highest peaks such as the three volcanoes that originated e.g Monte Fossa delle Felci (962 m), which is partially covered by one of the most beautiful strawberry tree woods of the entire Mediterranean.
Vulcano - famous for the baths in the warm waters of its submarine springs. This 21 km2, 500 metre high (Monte Aria) isle is the Aeolian island closest to the Sicilian coast. Its name is a clear description of its geography: a land of lava and fumarole, yellow sulphur rocks and black sands all worth a visit.
Stromboli - This 924 metre high lava mountain (Serra Vancori) which drops abruptly down to 2000 metres below sea-level is Europe's biggest active volcano after Etna. During the night, the glittering "sciara" of fire (the red-hot flow descending towards the sea) can be seen from the boats and from Panarea. During the day, the smoke of the peak joins the steam raising up from the water that cools down the red-hot lava detritus which have plunged into the water after sliding down the slope of the coast. The white houses of the little village create a unique contrast with the black lava background dotted with dark-green bushes.
A 19th century haunt of the English aristocracy, it has long been Sicily's most famous resort town and it was here that D.H. Lawrence was inspired to write Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Taormina has endlessly winding medieval streets and tiny passages. The most famous view you can get on your strolls is the one overlooking the Greco-Roman amphitheatre, one of Sicily's largest, with Mount Etna and the sea in the background. The Teatro Greco was founded by Greeks in the third century BC but the visible remains are almost entirely Roman. Between July and August the theatre hosts an international arts festival including film, theatre and music.
Located in the very heart of Sicily: It boasts a baroque Cathedral with frescoes by the Flemish artist Guglielmo Borremans, 17th century Palazzo Moncada, the remnants of the Saracen Pietrarossa Castle, the church of S.Sebastiano as well as many other Baroque churches. A little out of town you’ll reach the Romanesque Abbey of S. Spirito – founded by Roger I in the 11th century. It hosts a beautiful wooden crucifix of the 15th century.
Gela: Regional Archaeological Museum, the Greek Acropolis and
excursion to the Castle of Falconara.
Also called “Belvedere della Sicilia”, as it occupies a magnificent position on a plateau 948m above sea level. It’s rather unknown as a touristic destination, yet it hosts many interesting churches and museums. Duomo: although largely rebuilt in the Baroque style in the 16th and 17th centuries, the cathedral with its coffered ceilinghas maintained its Gothic apses. Alessi Museum: houses the collections of Canon Alessi.17th and 18th century sacred vestments embroidered with gold thread and coral; selection of paintings, Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins; an assortment of archaeological finds ranging from prehistoric times to the Late Middle Ages. Lombardia Castle which looks out over the valley; S.Michele Arcangelo, S.Marco, erected on the site of an old synagogue. Don’t miss a stroll in the Quartiere Fundrisi with its typical single-storey houses.
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