Historical sites, friendly locals, and amazing food await you in Sicily.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and is renowned for its sumptuous cuisine. Lino Sauro, chef-owner of Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare and a proud Sicilian, shares with us 10 must-try activities in his hometown.
1. Night Calamari Catch
This is a very special place for me, as I am constantly looking for the freshest source of seafood because at Gattopardo di Mare, we focus on serving fresh, sustainable seafood. On Pantelleria Island, just ask any of the many fisherman along the island to take you out for a trip and they will be more than happy to let you experience this. For a 4-6 hour trip, it’ll cost around 80 euros.
2. Visit the Gorges of Tiberius
Named after Emperor Tiberius, these gorges stretch along more than 250 metres and are recognised by UNESCO for its great geological value. Here, you can see fossils of gastropods in the rock walls and a diverse variety of birds’ nest hovering just a few centimetres from the water. Get your adrenaline pumping with some canyoning or white water rafting, also available here.
3. Skydive above an active volcano
Mount Etna is the tallest and most active European volcano, and is a hotbed of activity for those who enjoy outdoor adventures. Of course, you can also admire her powerful beauty from the top … by skydiving! (Editor’s Note: Mount Etna recently erupted for the first time in two years, so please ensure it’s safe before booking any activities.)
4. Visit the most beautiful village of Italy
Gangi is my hometown, and it only has 7, 000 inhabitants. It used to be a sleepy town until recently, when it was voted in a nationwide TV contest as the most beautiful village in Italy. With origins dating back to ancient Greek and Roman times, Gangi has many beautiful historical sites worth visiting. These include the The Castle, situated on the highest part of Mount Marone, and was built some time in the 14th century, as well as the Parish church of Santa Maria del Gesù, which houses the precious sculptures of Madonna with Child and Annunciation by Quattrocchi.
5. Buy an amazing house for 1€
As part of a strategy to revive the economy of the village, the very dynamic mayor (who used to work in the tourism industry) came up with a brilliant plan. The old, ancient houses in Gangi went on sale for one euro each, but with clauses on renovation period – and most importantly, renovation must be done by the local craftsmen. This gained us international stardom, which was unexpected! People from different parts of the world — from China to the USA — came and bought houses, and there is currently a huge waiting list. But hey, give it a try!
6. Attend a concert at a 2000 years old Greek Amphitheatre
Taormina was built in the third century BC, and is the second-largest of its kind in Sicily. It is frequently used for concerts as well as operatic and theatrical performances. But to be honest, the breathtaking views from the ruins alone is worth a visit.
7. Take a thermal bath on Vulcano Island
Vulcano Island’s volcanic nature has been the island’s main draw for centuries; the ancient Romans used to believe that this was the chimney of the fire god Vulcan’s workshop. Today, people continue to visit the island for its therapeutic mud baths and hot springs. It may feel like you’re wallowing in mud but it’s definitely one of the must-try experiences on the Aeolian Islands.
8. Walk the 142 ceramic steps of Caltagirone
Caltagirone is famed for its ceramic crafts – workshops and display rooms dot the town liberally. But the most dramatic ceramic feature of them all is “La Scala”, a 142-step staircase displaying particularly fine creations – each stair has a different ceramic tile and glistens in the night.
9. Visit Ballaro Market
Palermo’s Ballaro market is a place that awakens all of the senses. The sounds, colours, and yes, the flavours are all amped up at Ballaro Market. It used to be restricted to only residents living in Palermo but today, Ballaro Market open to everyone, including tourists. Here, you can spoil yourself with the freshest and most delicious Sicilian seafood, snacks, and pastries.
10. Sleep in the middle of 2000-year-old temple
Valley Agrigento in a luxury resort that overlooks the Valley of the Temples, Europe’s largest archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 13th-century building has been carefully restored and gives you the once-in-a-lifetime experience of sleeping in a medieval watch tower. All its rooms and suites offer breathtaking views of the Valley of the Temples and the surrounding countryside. From here, it’s also a short and scenic stroll to the beach of Maddalusa.