48 hours in Sicily: Discover the delights of northern Sicily
The largest island in the Mediterranean with a rich and colourful heritage, the varied landscape of Sicily offers up natural and manmade treasures aplenty.
At various points in its history, Sicily has been ruled by all the major colonisers such as the Greeks, Normans, Byzantines, Romans, Arabs and Spanish. Each has left a lasting and visible influence on the island’s architecture, cuisine and traditions, providing a charming experience quite different from any other.
With such a wide range of places to visit, Sun-hat Villas, specialists in villas in Sicily, share their favourite tourist destinations on this beautiful and temperate isle, as well as some of the less well-known jewels in its crown.
The following is their guide to the essential experiences and sights with which to fill a weekend spent on the Mediterranean’s most alluring island.
Breakfast like a local
Submerge yourself in the Sicilian scene by taking a stroll through one of its beautiful outdoor markets. Our favourite is La Vucciria, in the heart of Palermo, a city famed for its street food. Easy introductions to the somewhat colourful culinary scene include arancini, the famous deep fried risotto balls, or sfincione, a tomato or cheese-topped pizza with a spongy, oily base.
Sicily’s hidden sculptures
Thought to be self-taught, Giacomo Serpotta was paid by the rich philanthropists of 18th century Palermo to create breathtaking stucchi in churches and oratories in the city. Somewhat of a well-kept secret, you can enjoy these beautiful sculptures in relative peace in the city’s oratorios. The Oratorio di Santa Cita, Oratorio di San Lorenzo and Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenico all feature Serpotta’s skilful handiwork.
An evening of culture
Even if you’re not normally an opera fan, the Teatro Massimo cannot fail to impress you. The largest opera house in Italy, the neoclassical exterior may seem familiar to moviegoers, as the steps were the location for the final scene of The Godfather Part III. If sitting through a full performance does not appeal, guided tours of the breathtaking building take place until 6pm every day.
A morning in Cefalu
The quaint and often overlooked city of Cefalu has it all – winding medieval streets, ancient roman baths, a charming fishing port and soft sandy beaches lapped by crystal clear waters.
While you are there, be sure to check out the Cuticchio family puppet theatre, Opera dei Pupi. Telling stories of Sicilian folklore, the Norman-Saracen battle scenes featuring the three-foot-high wooden puppets in their glittering armour are magnificent.
Explore the Madonie Mountains
Just to the south of Cefalu lies Sicily’s highest mountain range, the Madonie Mountains. A nature reserve incorporating beautiful, historic hilltop towns, this region is also renowned for its gastronomy; producing outstanding meats, cheese and olives, amongst other delicacies.
The perfect way to explore this luscious landscape is by quad bike. Quadexcursions.com offers a four-hour package setting off from the pretty town of Castelbuono, including a tasting experience of the region’s famous fare.
Try a traditional trattoria
As dusk falls, head to the beautiful ancient town of Petralia Soprano, to the south of the Madonie Mountains. Nestled within the narrow, cobbled streets is Trattoria Pizzeria Da Salvatore, where you will find exceptional antipasti using the area’s finest meats and cheeses and locally grown vegetables and herbs, all prepared by Salvatore and his daughter. Make sure you leave room for the homemade cassata, a traditional Sicilian sponge cake.
If our tips have you daydreaming of a Sicilian adventure, then take a look at our luxury villas in Northern Sicily.