We’ll let you in on a little secret: summer isn’t the best time to visit Italy. It’s hot, crowded, and more expensive. Italians know this too, which is why there’s often a mass exodus of locals for the entire month of August; meaning plenty of stores don’t even open their doors. Come September, however, the crowds have died down, but the rainy winter season hasn’t yet set in. September to November —during Italy’s “shoulder season”— is exactly when you should take advantage of traveling to this country, especially to the areas, which are too hot for some during summer, like Sicily.
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In Sicily, everything is done from the heart. The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is full of history, with friendly locals, amazing food and wine, and breathtaking landscapes. It’s no surprise it made our list of honeymoon destinations in Europe for millennials. Sicily has something for every type of traveler: from the hopeless romantic to the solo adventurer. It’s also surprisingly easy to get to—thanks to its four convenient airports. So what is there to do in this traveler’s paradise? We’ll get you started with five must-sees in Sicily to help you plan your next getaway.
1. Get lost in historic Palermo
The capital of Sicily, Palermo is also one of the largest cities in Italy. Packed with museums, Palermo boasts a rich history that’s left its mark on the city. The preserved churches and palaces in the historic center feature an impressive blend of Byzantine, Norman, and Arabic architecture hard to find anywhere else in the world. To really get the Sicilian experience, make sure to spend some time in its markets: Vucciria, Ballarò, Capo, and Borgo Vecchio. The Riserva Naturale di Capo Gallo nearby is a nature reserve with amazing views, plenty of trails, and impressive coastlines.
2. Enjoy pure luxury in Cefalù
A train ride away from Palermo is the small historic coastal town of Cefalù. With one of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily, the Lungomare di Cefalù, this town is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Relax on the beach or enjoy the sunset from the vantage point of one of its countless top-tier restaurants with world-class seafood.
3. Eat everything—we mean it!
Our next must-see is more of a must-do: eat everything! Sicilian cuisine is as varied as its landscapes. So don’t shy away from dishes you’ve never tried before. Sicily has more to offer than gelato. And while arancini, deep-fried filled rice balls, make for a great snack, don’t fill up too much on those. Sicily’s diverse history can be tasted through the Arabic, Norman, and Greek influences in its fusion cuisine. But perhaps the most important feature of Sicilian cuisine is its reliance on fresh and primarily local ingredients. If you see seafood on the menu, go for it. As you travel throughout the island, you’ll notice the differences in the cuisine as well. There’s something to suit all palates.
4. Explore Mount Etna
We already mentioned that Sicily’s landscapes are diverse, but you won’t really understand that until your head away from its beaches and up to Mount Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. The biodiversity here and its importance for research landed it on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2013. The hiking trails range from relaxing paths for beginners to multi-day treks for experts. While a visit to the main crater is possible, make sure you’re doing this with the help of expert guides, that you’re fit enough, and have the right equipment to do it safely. More alternative ways of exploring the volcano include bike tours, donkey rides, on horseback, or train.
5. Getaway from it all on the Egadi Islands
Just off the coast of Trapani on Sicily’s west coast are the Egadi Islands, an archipelago made up of three main islands: Favignana, Levanzo, and Marettimo. The islands are easy to get to via hydrofoil from Trapani or Marsala, and well worth the trip. Favignana, the largest of the islands, boasts crystal-clear bays, coves, and grottos that are a treat for any scuba diving or snorkeling enthusiast. Levanzo, on the other hand, is the smallest of the islands. Its main attraction is the cave paintings at the Grotta dei Genovesi. Mostly, however, Levanzo is a great place to do what many of us should do more of absolutely nothing. This island makes it easy. Marettimo is the farthest of the three islands and is characterized by its whitewashed houses with blue windows and doors—which make it a charming getaway.
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