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Architectural adventure, and Italian cuisine with a Sicilian twist, awaits you on this Mediterranean island…

From a distance, the Italian island of Sicily looks like an intricate patchwork quilt with its buildings of varying sizes, styles and colours. On your holidays to Sicily, you’ll encounter hidden cities, indulge in Italian cuisine with a Sicilian twist and take in inspiring views of the island’s sun-bleached houses.

One of Sicily’s main attractions is its intriguing architecture. The blend of Roman, Greek and Italian influences has given Sicily’s domestic and religious buildings a truly special quality. Noto will take you aback with its beauty, and the ruins of Syracuse will captivate you with their charm from the ancient world. 

Palermo, the island’s capital, sits in the north-west of Sicily and is metropolitan while displaying the influences of times past, and also boasts the second largest opera house in Europe. In the south of Sicily, the beaches steal the show, while the volcanic Mount Etna draws the crowds on the east coast. To take your holidays in Sicily is to experience Italy at its finest.

 

Culture and history

Sicily has been subject to a wide range of cultural influences. The island has been ruled by Romans, Greeks, Italians (and more!), and each period of rule has exerted an impact on the island and its culture. This has blessed Sicily with a range of interesting architecture, from Roman amphitheatres to Greek temples. Most Sicilians follow Italian tradition and practice Catholicism. Religion has a huge influence on Sicilians’ way of life, and many Sicilian churches still have dress codes that restrict people from showing their shoulders or legs.

Sicilians are very proud of their food. The island holds many different food festivals over the course of the year to celebrate Sicilian produce. The seaside town of San Vito Lo Capo hosts the annual Cous Cous Fest which takes place every September. Cooking classes, cous cous tastings and cook offs between international chefs take place during the festival in celebration of this humble dish.

Other famous Sicilian dishes include arancine – Sicilian rice balls – which are deep fried balls of risotto rice stuffed with meats of cheese. There are also cannoli, of course. These classic desserts are crispy tubes that are filled with sweetened ricotta and topped with icing sugar. Sicilian cannoli differ from traditional Italian cannoli slightly because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk, which gives it a distinct taste.

Things to do

Whether you book a week-long holiday or just stop off at the island for the day on a cruise, a Saga holiday lets you use the time to your full advantage on this wonderful island. Choose from one of our guided tours, full-day excursions and wine tasting afternoons, or explore Sicily at your own pace. Craft your holiday around your interests and you’ll leave with fond memories of beautiful Sicily.

Noto

Noto is a UNESCO-protected town that was rebuilt following an earthquake which occurred in 1693. The town’s uniform Sicilian Baroque style is a result of the rebuilding efforts. This style of architecture is also one of the main reasons that so many people visit the area today.

The best way to see Noto is by walking around the town. Keep your eye open for the balconies of Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata. This 18th-century palace is renowned for the spectacular wrought iron balconies from which statues of lions, cherubs and sirens look down on passers-by.

Palermo city cathedral

Palermo city cathedral lies in the heart of Sicily’s capital and stands as a perfect example of the island’s multicultural history. The cathedral was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status because, alongside other buildings in Sicily, the building is an example of a social and cultural fusion between Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures.

The seventh-century cathedral was converted into a mosque by the Saracens, but was later returned back to a place of Christian worship by the Normans in the 12th century. The building itself bears signs of Norman-Arab architecture, as well as Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance influences, but doesn’t fully fit one single period or movement. Both inside and out, the building is stunning, and visitors get the bonus of panoramic views over Sicily from the cathedral’s rooftop. 

Syracuse

The city of Syracuse lies in south-east Sicily on the coast of the Ionian Sea and was once described by Cicero as ‘the greatest Greek city of them all’. The heart of the city is Ortygia and on the western side you’ll encounter the fountain of Arethusa. According to legend, Arethusa fled to Syracuse to escape the advances of the river god Alpheios and the goddess Artemis transformed her into the fountain that visitors have the good fortune to see today.

Ortygia’s main attraction, however, is the Neapolis Archaeological Park. Here you’ll see a Greek theatre that holds a capacity of 16,000 people and where the final tragedies of Aeschylus were performed in his presence. In spring, the venue comes to life with an annual season of theatre. Beside the theatre, you’ll view the limestone quarry which provide stone for the ancient city. There are lots of catacombs in the quarry and also many citrus and magnolia trees growing there, creating a curious blend of archaeological remains and natural beauty.

Flight time

Direct flights from Sicily to London take around 3 hours. Get started on a new book or make the most of your time to finalise your holiday schedule.

Currency

Euro - Sicily uses the euro, which is divided into 100 cents.

Passports and visas

British citizens don’t need a special visa to visit Sicily, or the rest of Italy. All you need to do is make sure that your passport is valid for the duration of your trip and enjoy your Sicily holiday!

Phrases

Italian is widely spoken in Sicily, although the main language is Sicilian. The following phrases will help you get by

Hello – Ciao!

Goodbye – Ciao!

Please – Per favore

Thank you – Grazie

Excuse me – Scusi

How much is this? – Quanto costa?

Yes – Sì

No – No

Cheers! – Saluti!

Timezone

Sicily is in the Central European Time (CET) time zone, just one hour ahead of the UK!

Electricity

Sicily uses the standard European 2-pin plugs and also round 3-pin plugs, so you’ll need to pack an adaptor for your Italy holidays.

Language

Sicilian -

Sicilian is the main language that’s used in Sicily, although most Sicilians will also know Italian.

Most tourist areas will have English-speaking staff, so you’ll be able to get by even if you have a limited understanding of either Sicilian or Italian.

Tipping

Italy is quite unique in its approach to tipping, and Sicily is no different. Restaurants will charge a ‘coperto’ – a cover charge – to cover the costs of cleaning cutlery, changing tablecloths and serving bread. This charge is usually €2 to €3 per person, but isn’t considered a tip.

Although locals tend not to tip, tourists should leave a tip of around 10% of the bill if they are happy with the service they’ve received. For taxi drivers, you can simply round up your fare to the nearest euro if you’d like to tip.

Climate

Long, hot summers are to be expected in Sicily, and the warmer temperatures begin around May and often last through till October. An average temperature of between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius is normal during these months, and the high temperature can reach up to 26 degrees Celsius. Naturally, summer is the best time to visit if you like to go to the beach, with August being the hottest month. 

To make the most of the island when the climate is cooler, March, April or November are ideal times to take a holiday in Sicily and explore the island on foot. The days continue to be dry but have lower average temperatures of 10 to 13 degrees Celsius.

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Sicily is one of the largest Mediterranean islands and is over 25,000 square kilometres in size. The island has a population in excess of 5 million people – about 8% of Italy’s total population!

Smoking

Smoking is banned inside public places in Sicily, and if you wish to smoke in outdoor bars and restaurants, you should check with those around you if they mind first.



Climate