Planning a trip to one of the Italian islands and is a visit to Sicily on your to-do list? You probably want to know more about Sicily before completing your next itinerary. We’re here to help you and tell you all about the things that make Sicily so famous.
So, What is Sicily Famous For? Sicily is famous for the following things:
- Renowned Greek Temples in ‘The Valley of Temples’
- Mount Etna, the biggest active volcano in Europe
- Birthplace of Archimedes
- The biggest island of Italy and the Mediterranean Sea
- Sicilian Cuisine
- Where the Italian Mafia was originated
- The famous coastline, sandy beaches, and crystal clear water
Let’s find out more about the things that make Sicily so famous.
Sicily is influenced by many civilizations. The history is ages-long, walking around Sicily is like walking in an open-air museum. Many landmarks are some of the best-preserved you’ll find in the world. The most famous landmarks in Sicily are;
Valley of Temples
This area is known as one of the best-preserved archeological sites worldwide. This renowned Unesco World Heritage site is over 1300 hectares and consist of 20 individual sites. The city of Akragas (what we now call the Valley of Temples) was built around 580BC. The Greek poet Pindar referred to the city as ‘Most beautiful city of those inhabited by man’.
It’s extra special to know that over the ages many civilizations reigned over Sicily, but they all kept the important buildings and most part of the city intact. Some of the famous eye-catching buildings in the Valley of Temples are;
- Temple of Juno
- Temple of Concordia
- Paleo Christian Necropolis
- Temple of Heracles
Ancient Theatre of Taormina
The town Taormina is a little hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily. Great to spend a few days on the beach, but widely known of its beautiful landmarks. The most eye-catching is the Ancient Greek Theatre, 50 meters wide and 20 meters high.
It’s not clear how old this theatre is. Some people say the Greeks built is around the 3rd century BC. Others think it was built by the Romans a few hundred years later, exclusively to be used by the Greek citizens.
It is, however, a stunning theatre to visit, overlooking the coastline and the Mediterranean Sea.
Theatre of Syracuse
The biggest ancient theatre on the island is the theatre of Syracuse. Built by the Greeks in the 5th century BC. But rebuilt around the 3rd century BC by the Romans, they made some big changes to the theatre. Today it still feels like a Roman Amphitheatre.
It is part of a Unesco World Heritage site, along with the Necropolis of Pantalica, a collection of ancient cemeteries dating back to the 13th century BC!
Mount Etna, or simply Etna, is one of the most active volcanoes worldwide. It is the highest volcano in Europe with a height more than 3300 meters above sea level. The volcano erupts several times a year. The eruptions are very common and not dangerous for the inhabitants of Sicily.
Mount Etna is a favorite place for adventure seekers. You can hike up the mountain with a local guide all the way up to the craters. Of course, when there’s no change for immediate eruptions.
In winter months it is even possible to go skiing on the mountain slopes!
Best Sicilian Beaches
Sicily is known for its white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and great snorkeling places. A trip to Sicily is a trip where you can enjoy the amazing history but most of all, relax on the beach.
The best beaches you’ll find in Sicily are;
A white sandy beach close to Palermo city. Great to hang out for a day and explore the splendid waters.
- Fontano Bianche
Maybe the busiest beach on Sicily, but with a good reason. You can find everything you want here, many facilities, restaurants and beach bars are closeby. And the water is crystal clear and great for relaxing swim!
- San Vito Lo Capo (Must-Visit)
It can be crowded here, but this beach is a must-visit while you’re in Sicily. The views are amazing, overlooking the sea and the mountainous coastline. Stunning white beaches and turquoise water like you’ve never seen before.
- Calamosche (Hidden Gem)
Located in a national nature park Vendicari, you’ll find Spiaggia di Calamosche. This secluded beach is one of the quietest beaches you’ll find in Sicily because not many people go here. You’ll need to put in some effort to reach it, but once you’re there, there’s a good chance that you can enjoy the crystal clear sea and sandy beach in all peace and quiet.
Famous Sicilian Cuisine
Sicily is known for its refined cuisine. Influenced by the many cultures that played a part in the island’s history. The food is different than typical Italian cuisine, but also greatly influenced by the Italians as well.
The Sicilians are masters in the kitchen and they now the art of making Italian pasta and pizza, but they’re the best in typical Sicilian dishes.
Make sure to try these dishes when you’re in Sicily;
Crispy fried potato-risotto balls. It is the perfect snack which you can combine with afternoon drinks. The traditional filling contains vegetables, cheese, beef, and several spices.
Crispy tubes, like a taco, filled with ricotta cheese. Simple but delicious. When you order this, make sure it is freshly made. That’s the Sicilian way and keeps the tube crunchy 😉
- Frutta Martorana
Marzipan sweets in the form of fruits. A typical sweet influenced by the Arabs. They are not as healthy as they look, these sweets are full of sugar. But you’re in for a treat when you taste one!
- Brioche con Gelato
It’s a typical Sicilian breakfast or dessert. A brioche filled with vanilla ice cream. Great treat in the hot summer months!
Sicilian pizza. And it’s completely different than a traditional Italian pizza. A thick crust with layers of tomato sauce and fresh vegetables. It feels more like a sandwich than a traditional pizza.
Sicilian wine country belongs to one the oldest in Europe. The most famous wine is Masala. Masala is more like a port. A strong wine, around twenty percent of alcohol.
You can find many vineyards in the countryside in Sicily. Some with amazing views overlooking the coastline and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s great to visit a few of them and experience the traditional wines and more common whites and reds during a tour.
The Mafia or Sicilian Mafia is originated in Sicily. Cosa Nostra is an organized crime group with a specific set of rules. Known for their violent behavior, often referred to as outlaws.
The mafia developed quickly in the 19th century when Sicily became an official part of Italy. When large shares of land were distributed to Sicilian citizens, resulting in an increase of landowners. The government also experienced a lack of manpower at that time and weren’t able to enforce the law. Soon the new landowners organized themselves as their own protectors and this is how the first form of Mafia was born.
The mafia became very violent and involved in many criminal activities.
History of Sicily
We describe a few of the most important events in the history of Sicily. This part is not a complete description of the Sicilian history, but it gives an impression of important events and how the island and its culture was formed.
First settlements in Sicily dating back from the 13th century BC. But from the 11th century BC, the first civilization started to develop on the island. The Phoenicians, a civilization coming from Isreal and Lebanon, who spread across the Mediterranean Sea. Sicily became an important settlement in terms of trade with their colonies in Spain and Tunisia.
The Greeks colonized Sicily in the 8th century BC but only stayed at the eastern and southern part of the island. The Phoenicians stayed at the other parts of Sicily. The Greek and Phoenician communities grew rapidly but were also in constant conflict with each other. Because of this growth Syracuse, became the most populated Greek city world-wide.
Constant warfare and conflict between the Greeks and Phoenicians let to an intervention by the Roman Empire around the 3rd-century BC. Which resulted in the Punic Wars, won by the Romans. The following 600 years Sicily was a province of the Roman Empire.
When the Roman Empire was following apart Sicily became important for many civilizations. The island was taken over by Germans, the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), Arabs, Vikings, Catalan, and Spanish.
Around 1860 Sicily became an official part of Italy, but it took years to adapt to this unification.
Today the influence of the different civilizations and cultures are still visible. Sicily feels different than the Italian mainland. They even speak their own language! Sicilians are more a melting pot of different cultures than classical Italians.