Sicily ... at a glance
Cox & Kings’ Europe expert Leah Reavley shares the best times to visit Sicily, where to stay, what to eat and what to do.
Valley of the temples, Agrigento
Visit between April and June or September and November when it’s warm but not scorching. Temperatures are good for sightseeing (although be prepared for a rush of tourists around Easter) and the beaches are not yet crowded.
Temple of Castor and Pollux in Agrigento
For those on the trail of Inspector Montalbano, the stylish De Stefano Palace in the historical centre of Ragusa offers spacious rooms in a neoclassical building. Modern luxuries are teemed up with period features, such as exposed stonework, barrel-vaulted ceilings and restored frescoes. If you want to stay within sight of the magnificent Doric temples in Agrigento, then the Villa Athena is the ideal spot. This elegant property provides temple views from its terrace and many of the rooms, as well as an exclusive entrance to the site. For some down time after a tour, stay at The Verdura Golf & Spa Resort on the west coast, near to Sciacca. Part of the Rocco Forte collection, this hotel has indulgence written all over it, with 2km of private coastline, three golf courses, an infinity pool, tennis courts and extensive spa.
Hotel Villa Athena view in Agrigento
You’re unlikely to visit Sicily without tasting Marsala wine. This dry or sweet fortified beverage is used in cooking to create rich, caramelised sauces. It’s also served straight up as an aperitif between first and second courses, or drunk chilled with an accompaniment of cheeses.
For superb views of Palermo, hike up Monte Pellegrino, which towers above the city. It’s a fairly steep climb along a paved path. At the top is a cave containing the unusual Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia, the city’s patron saint. The locals only make the walk up here on 4th September, to pay homage to ‘La Santuzza’. The ancient saltpans between Trapani and Marsala make for a fascinating visit. Producing salt since Phoenician times, the lagoons here are still dotted with the windmills that were used during medieval times. The area is also an important nature reserve and, if you stick around until evening, you may be treated to a spectacular sunset. The archaeological site in Syracuse, complete with Greek theatre and Roman amphitheatre, will satisfy history buffs while just a little further south is the beautiful baroque town of Noto. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, it was rebuilt in a stunning honey-coloured stone with all the elaborate flourishes of the baroque style.
The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa is a classic. This colourful yet melancholy tale chronicles the changes in Sicilian society as the Risorgimento swept across Italy. Made in Sicily by Giorgio Locatelli is the perfect buy for those in love with Sicilian cuisine, although the ingredients you find back home won’t be quite as good!
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