Sicily is among the leading tourist destinations in the world. The island is extremely popular among world and Europeans travellers, but for the majority of the Italians it is a favourite place to spend their summer vacation. Sicily is renowned as one of the sunniest and friendly places on the continent. It offers beautiful architecture, exotic scenery, fabulous beaches, delicious and healthy southern cuisine and everything necessary for a lazy summer holiday without any dynamic and hurrying.
Geographic location and size. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. It belongs to Italy and has distinct triangular shape. Occupies an area of 25.711 sq. km.
It is located only 3.1 km from the coast of Calabria, south of Italy and is situated between 36.38 and 38.18° north latitude and between 12.25 and 15.39° east longitude. It plays the role of imaginary border between the eastern and western Mediterranean.
Into the borders of the administrative Region of Sicily fall also some smaller islands such as Pantelleria and Lampedusa, situated amidst the waters of the Mediterranean Sea near by the island.
The population of Sicily is about 5,100,000 inhabitants. The locals speak both Italian and Sicilian, which is not official despite its prevalence.
The Sicilian language is a Romance with influence from Arabic, Greek and Spanish, similar to the local culture. Locals are well known throughout Europe as temperamental, emotional and passionate people with a taste for life.
Typical of Sicily are the strong family ties and the fact that local people lead very active social life compared with people from other parts of the continent. You do not need a long time to see that the local cafes and restaurants are full of Sicilians who talk animatedly while drinking cup of Italian coffee.
Warm and kind attitude will be felt quickly by foreigners. People working in the hotels are extremely friendly and contact, and almost every tourist is able to tie a friendship with at least one of the locals.
If you become a friends with someone it is not uncommon to invites you in his home and to lay a lavish feast, which for the locals is something very usual and a part of every day life.
Cities. The largest settlements in Sicily are located in coastal areas of the island. Four of them have a population of over 100,000 inhabitants. The most populated city is the capital of Sicily – Palermo.
It is located on the north coast of the island and is much more dynamic and busy than most tourists had expected. Palermo is home to about 660,000 inhabitants.
There is usually a heavy traffic, and crowds of people are always rushing somewhere. This dynamic is something that is otherwise hard to find in Sicily and is rather typical for the large western European cities.
Second largest with a population of about 300,000 inhabitants is the city of Catania. It is located on the east coast and has a much more relaxed and informal atmosphere. Messina is the third largest city in Sicily.
It has a population of 250,000 people and is an important transportation centre, as it is situated close to mainland Italy. Fourth largest, but one of the most famous cities is Syracuse. It is located in southeastern Sicily and is known for its exceptional architecture. Its population is approximately 130,000 inhabitants.
Economy. Sicily is still among the poorest regions in Italy. This beautiful island has always been famous as “the Europe’s backyard.” The reason is the low standard of living and widespread poverty.
Today, however, everything begins to change, although poverty can still be felt in the air. Tourism industry is booming, and the provincial environment is no longer seen as a disadvantage, but rather as a unique opportunity for tourists to experience the uniqueness of the Italian countryside.
Besides tourism, agriculture also plays a very important role here. Most commonly grown are citruses, olives, almonds and other plants.
In recent years an increasingly important role began to play the real estate market. Not only Italians, but also many Germans, Brits, Scandinavians and Russians are looking for real estate in sunny and exotic southern Italy.
Some people invest in property and live there throughout the year, while others use the property only seasonally during their summer vacation. Sicily is known also for something else – the Mafia.
It is estimated that there are still many sectors of the economy of the island that are related to the mafia.
Tourism in Sicily
Sicily, like most places in Southern Europe, is a land of ancient history. The first people to settle on this fertile Mediterranean island came here 12,000 years ago, but up to the present nobody can give a precise answer to the question “where exactly did they came from”.
Over the centuries many cultures have left their mark here, but perhaps most strongly influence felt the ancient Greek civilization. You’ll feel the atmosphere and the spirit of local culture and architecture.
From the moment the first settlers arrived on this island, Sicily has always been a crossroads of cultures and ethnicity.
The island was one of the shortest routes between Africa and Europe, and its strategic location in the central Mediterranean played both positive and negative role. Sicily fell many times under the thumb of different nations, for whom it was a matter of honour.
The island was owned by Spaniards, Frenchmen, Normans, Arabs, Greeks, and today it falls within the borders of one of the most beautiful countries in the world – Italy.
Owning Sicily meant to control one of the key shipping routes for Southern Europe. Today Sicily is a real paradise for lovers of culture and ancient architecture. The island is dotted with relics of the past of Sicily.
You can see the traces of each nation, but the Greek amphitheatres and ancient monuments are literally at every turn. But perhaps the most impressive traces of the ancient Greeks one would find in cities such as Syracuse and Taormina.
Syracuse is considered to be one of the most beautiful Greek cities ever. Today its architectural heritage is under the auspices of UNESCO, but the fact that here are interlaced two of the most colourful and rich cultures of the human history (Italian and Greek) makes Syracuse a real treasure under the open sky.
Sicily has a wonderful subtropical Mediterranean climate. Sun is shining generously throughout the year, but there are people on the beaches from the second half of April to early November.
However in April the sea water is still cool, and in November the weather becomes variable and rainfall becomes more frequent event. Summer temperatures range from the pleasant 22 – 23°C in April and November to around 30 – 35°C in July and especially in August.
Sometimes proximity to the coast of Africa makes a joke with Sicily and the island suffers from an unusual hot tropical heat, coming from the Sahara Desert.
Winter months are known for their variable weather. Overall, even in January temperatures are nice and in warm and sunny days you can walk with t-shirt.
Sometimes however, there are cases when it becomes cold, windy and rainy. In the higher parts of Sicily winter months can bring heavy snowfall and that’s good news for lovers of skiing.
The nature of the island of Sicily is very beautiful. Typical feature of the local landscape is its diversity. From the Mediterranean coast to Mount Etna the local nature changes dramatically.
The lowest parts of the island, where the weather is warmer are dominated by Mediterranean species such as olives, citrus trees (oranges, tangerines and lemons), palms, cypresses and others.
Around the coast you can see even some tropical species such as cacti for example.Vineyards occupy very large areas and grow extremely well. One of the most popular plants on the island is the Almond tree.
The variety of flowers is amazing. In height, increases the number of coniferous and deciduous trees such as oaks and chestnuts, and reduces the diversity of evergreen plant species.
In Sicilian forests you can find such animals as Sicilian deer (which is the largest animal on the island), wild boar, wild cat, red fox and others. The island is a refuge for many migratory birds that use Sicily as a place for hibernation.
Etna volcano is one of the most important sights of Italy. This is a tourist attraction that brings revenue of millions of Euros each year.
Many hotels and restaurants in the vicinity rely almost entirely on the tourism flows to the volcano. Nearby, work a chair lift, which can save to the visitors the exhausting steep slopes climbing.
It is important to add that Etna is interesting, but expensive destination. Prices of services (especially transport services) in the region are higher compared with the average prices in Sicily.
Because of its significant height the temperatures in the vicinity of the volcano are much lower compared with those in the lowest parts of the island.
Everything is bathed in silence around and if there are not huge crowds of tourists you can even hear your own breathing.
Sicilian cuisine is considered to be one of the most delicious and wholesome in the world. The southern – most Italian island is famous for the consumption of a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and a wide range of meat and vegetarian dishes.
Daily lives of Sicilians and tourists is most often flavoured with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, olives, potatoes, eggplant, citrus fruits, fish and other delicious marine products, wide variety of cheeses and meat products.
In the majority of local dishes and salads Sicilians like to add some of the most fantastic sauces. Like elsewhere in Italy, Sicilians also consume in large quantities spaghetti and pasta.
Onions and garlic are added to different types of sauces and salads. The most popular herbs are oregano and basil.
Sicily is known also for something else – some of the most superb wines in the world. The rich in valuable ingredients Sicilian soil, in combination with mild winters, abundant winter rainfall and plenty of sunlight throughout the year, promote the wide variety of quality grapes that are perfect for production of red and white wines with a worldwide reputation.
All these facts have turned Sicily into one of the most attractive places in the world to practice culinary and wine tourism.
The beaches in Sicily are beautiful and in combination with hot climate and long summer season this is a solid base for turning Sicily into a paradise for holidaymakers.
It is difficult to determine which are the most beautiful (everyone has its own taste), but we still have a small list of places that according to our team offer the best opportunities for fun on the beach:
One of the most beautiful beaches of Sicily is called San Vito Lo Capo and is located in Trapani, approximately about an hour’s drive west of Palermo.
The beach is located at the northwest corner of the island and face north. The sand is very light, almost white. The sea waters are transparent and at the west end you will find a charming small marina, which is suitable for people arriving by water.
Pretty impressive is also the beach, which stretches east of Castellammare del Golfo. Its length is more than 9 kilometers. The looking north beach is covered with fine golden sand. It is located about 40 minutes west of Palermo, not far from Trapani.
On the northeastern coast of Sicily is located Taormina. The beautiful town and smaller surrounding villages are famous for their incredible beaches.
This is actually the most popular tourist destination for holidaymakers in Sicily. In Letojanni just north of Taormina is located a lovely beach.
Beautiful beach you will find also in Giardini Naxos, located south of Taormina. The beach in Mazzaro is a small, but very charming. Here sea waters are generally calm since the place is tucked away.
One of the most beautiful beaches in southern Sicily is Vendicari. Besides its light, fine sand and clear waters, the area boasts unspoiled nature and wildlife.
Here on the shore of the Ionian Sea is located Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari nature reserve. One of the biggest advantages here is the pure nature and the lack of tourist crowds which to disturb your rest on the beach.
In the southwestern part of Sicily is located the town of Sciacca (Agrigento). Four kilometers west of the town you will find one of the most beautiful beaches in this part of Sicily – San Marco. It faces west and therefore here is a perfect place to welcome the sunset in the late afternoon.
When to travel to Sicily? Many people believe that the island offers excellent opportunities for tourism throughout the year.
But we’d recommend May, June, September and October when you can see the island in its best light.
During these four months the temperatures are perfect, the sunshine is in abundance, unbearable heats are missing, the conditions are great for the beach, but there are not too many people. In July and August temperatures are too high and the tourist crowds are huge.
What clothes should I wear for tourism in Sicily? From December to March the weather gets cooler and it requires a warmer clothing.
However, temperatures rarely fall below 10 degrees, so too thick clothes are unnecessary. Winter in Sicily is very similar to spring, so except for a warm sweater and jacket is good to wear also some t-shirts, because sometimes even in the midst of winter could become too hot under the strong Sicilian sun.
In April and November is good to combine spring with summer clothes, as conditions in different days vary strongly. In early April the weather may still be cool, but at the end of the month you may already lounge on the beach.
The same goes for November. From early May to late October summer clothing is most appropriate. A coat is optional depending on whether you are planning to go in the higher parts of the mountainous island and if you are too chilly.
During the hottest months (especially July and August) airy and light-coloured clothing is most appropriate.
And do not forget to be careful how long you stay outside because the heat is very strong and barely tolerable, especially for residents of northern states. Avoid the hottest midday hours. Sunscreens and sunglasses are mandatory!