The small island of Sicily is becoming more and more popular for travelers looking to see the best of what Italy has to offer. Located at the bottom of Italy’s “boot”, Sicily boasts eternal sunshine, warm, colorful water, and a mountainous backdrop complete with a volcano that only adds to the splendor of this ancient place. What it lacks in size it makes up for in stunning scenery, mouthwatering cuisine, and rich history.
Whether you’re hoping to see the incredible views, hike among ancient ruins, get a taste of all the local delicacies, or simply soak up some sun, Sicily is a must visit while you’re in Italy.
Scroll down for a guide to the most beautiful cities in Sicily to make planning your trip a breeze.
Table of Contents
Start your trip at Sicily’s capital, the city that has seen empires rise and fall like the waves that crash along the shore.
Palermo’s past lives are obvious in the architecture, an eclectic mix of Baroque cathedrals, Arab influences, and Byzantine mosaics. Some of the city’s most beautiful buildings are the Palazzo dei Normanni, the Palazzo Abatellis, the Church of San Cataldo and the Church of Santa Maira dell’Ammiraglio.
Other sites that shouldn’t be missed include the Massimo Theatre, the Quattro Canti intersection, and the Praetorian Fountain. Palermo is also home to Italy’s largest opera house – which definitely warrants a visit.
The culture shows the city’s past as well as the buildings do, and you can see it in the exotic spice markets and street food for which Palmero is famed. There are also plenty of new, trendy restaurants that celebrate the many cultures of the city – so be sure to try as many local delicacies here as your stomach allows.
2. Castellammare del Golfo
Just outside of Palermo sits the town of Castellammare del Golfo. This ancient fishing village offers incredible views over the Tyrrhenian Sea, and a fortified castle from which the town got its name.
This little village is fairly popular amongst tourists, in part due to its close location to the capital. While it’s not as famous as some of the other cities on our list, it makes for ba great place to escape the crowds and experience authentic Sicily.
There isn’t a large host of things to do here, so a day trip or weekend getaway here should suffice. After you take in the beautiful harbor views, you can rent a boat, pop into one of the nearby bars or restaurants, or make the climb up to the ancient Castello Arabo Normanno.
There is a small museum inside this impressive structure, but it does lack the splendor that you might expect from a castle. The view alone is worth the trek, however, so even if you just make the journey for a photo-op, you won’t be disappointed.
Those looking for a beach day would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful backdrop in Sicily than the charming town of Cefalù. Known for its bright blue waters and soft, golden sand, you’ll have no trouble soaking up the sun and the views.
The Spiaggia Lungomare is the best place to get your tan on, thanks to the beautiful buildings and mountain views that surround it. It’s also fairly close to the old town area, so once you’ve had enough fun in the sun you can explore some of the other noteworthy areas of this small town. The Roman Catholic Cefalù Catherdral is a sight to be seen, and both the inside and the outside are stunning.
What was once considered “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, this historic town rivaled Athens in size and stature in 5th century B.C., and later became part of the Roman and Byzantine empires.
Much of the original architecture has been preserved and can be found inside the historic center, known locally as Ortygia. Here you’ll find ancient edifices like the Fountain of Arethusa and the Temple of Apollo. The most beautiful buildings are the churches, however, so make a beeline for the Cathedral of Syracuse and the Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia.
Once you’ve seen all the sites, you can meander through the ancient streets or rent a bike to explore the perimeter of the city and take in the breathtaking views of the coastline.
If you decide to spend some time in Syracuse, the nearby town of Noto is also worth a visit. Known for its Sicilian Baroque architecture, the city is particularly photogenic in the late afternoon – also known as “the golden hour”.
Be sure to check out the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and the Palazzo Ducezio. If you’re curious about Sicilian nobles, head to the 90-room Palazzo Nicolaci di Valldorata. Those who are more interested in theatre can stick around for a show at the famous Teatro Tina Di Lorenzo.
If you’re visiting Noto during the month of May, you’ll be treated to the sight of floral carpets in the Via Nicolaci during the annual flower festival.
Some of Sicily’s most impressive architecture awaits in the city of Catania, located on the island’s east coast. The city sits at the base of Mount Etna and adds sweeping views to its resume of reasons to visit.
Although the town was mostly destroyed in 1669 by the volcano, some of its original edifices remain – and the parts that have been rebuilt are equally as charming.
Dating back to the 2nd century, the Teatro Romano was spared by the lava and is a must-see, as are the St. Agatha Cathedral and the Piazza del Duomo.
If you’re looking to soak up some sun while in the area, you can head north to La Playa Beach or the Riviera Dei Ciclopi, both of which offer stunning spots to cool off in.
Often considered the most idyllic city in Sicily, another hilltop beauty can be found about an hour north of Catania. The city of Taormina is a summer hotspot, and has been for thousands of years.
This ancient town was spared from the conflict that toppled other cities on this island, and there are some impressive ruins that will capture the hearts of history buffs and photographers alike.
The ancient Greek amphitheater and its incredible backdrop are the main draws here, with distant views of Mount Etna and the turquoise blue coastline.
After you’ve spent some time wandering the ruins, wind your way through the narrow cobblestone streets to explore the town’s various gift shops, gelaterias, and restaurants.
Sitting upon a limestone hill surrounded by deep valleys, the city of Ragusa is one of Sicily’s most beautiful.
Split into two sections, Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla (old and new town, respectively), this ancient village is home to some seriously stunning architecture. The new town sits atop the hill while the old town can be found at the bottom.
Although much of Ragusa Ibla was destroyed by an earthquake in the late 1600s, some of its original splendor remains. Don’t miss the Duomo di San Giorgio Cathedral and Palazzo Cosentini.
Ragusa Superiore is also home to some impressive structures, including the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista and Piazzi Duomo.
Famed for its chocolate, the small town of Modica is one of Sicily’s most beautiful. The chocolate produced here still utilizes the ancient Aztec methods, introduced when the city was under Spanish rule, and sampling some of this dark treat is a rite of passage for anyone visiting this town.
This ancient city is also known for its distinctive Baroque architecture and the impressive 100 churches that dot the streets. The most remarkable is the stunning Duomo di San Giorgio, which has even been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town also boasts a castle, the Castello dei Conti, that doubles as a vista point for the city below.
The northwestern town of Trapani has easily earned a spot among the most beautiful cities in Sicily, thanks to its stunning scenery and impressive architecture.
The most noteworthy structures include the Sant’agostino Church, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo Martire, and the clock tower at the oldest city gate. There are some beautiful beaches sprinkled along the coast as well, so you can spend some time relaxing on the sandy shores or cooling off in the turquoise waters.
The city is also known for its salt fields, which has been a key item of trade for Trapani since the 13th century. Fish and wine were also chief money makers, so the food scene in this region is especially tantalizing. Some of the most popular dishes include red shrimp fresh from the Mediterranean, vastedda (a light cheese, not to be confused with the bread of the same name), and the classic black bread that is baked in a wood oven.
Many people who pass through Trapani are here to catch a boat to the Egadi Islands or Pantelleria, but the city itself is worth spending some time in.
11. Zingaro Natural Reserve
Although not technically a city, the Zingaro Nature Reserve is one of the most beautiful places in Sicily. It was once an area for smugglers to hide their booty, and has since been converted into the island’s first protected area. The area can still be considered full of treasures, thanks to the incredible panoramic views, beautiful coves, and verdant natural scenery.
Those who decide to visit the reserve will find some of the best hiking trails on the island, and you’ll have plenty of chances to stop at the 7 coves and take a dip in the crystal clear waters.
Those who aren’t interested in working up a sweat before hitting the beach won’t have to go far to access La Punta della Capreria, though during the summer months you’ll find that many people have the same idea. There are also various museums along the trail where you can pop in and learn a little bit about the reserve’s history and the flora and fauna that inhabit it.
Plan for about 4-5 hours to complete the hike at a leisurely pace, and don’t forget to pack some snacks and lots of water.
The city of Erice is especially beautiful, complete with two hilltop castles and some epic history. This walled town was once home to a temple of Venus, and it still has ruins from the Elymian and Phoenician periods.
The Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle are the main draws to Erice, though some would argue that the pastries from the famous Maria Grammatico Pasticceria are worth a trip here all by themselves.
The beautiful city of Agrigento is home to many ruins that attract history buffs, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Valle dei Templi, or Valley of Temples. Here you can see some incredibly well-preserved temples and columns, which are some of the best examples of ancient Greek architecture in the world – even rivaling the ones in Athens!
Agrigento was a major city during the ancient Greek golden age, and today it hosts restaurants, shops, and bars for tourists passing through. You can still see some of the ancient wealth in the mansions that crowd the city center along Via Atenea.
Like most cities in Sicily, Marsala is full of ancient ruins and a long, illustrious history – and some amazikng features that set it apart from the rest.
For one, the main streets are paved in marble, giving the city a seriously glamorous vibe. Marsala is also known for its super-sweet wines, and tasting some while you’re in town is basically compulsory.
Other noteworthy areas include the Stagnone Nature Reserve, where you can see a wide variety of migrating birds and some of the beautiful salt pans that this side of the island is famous for.
The history is truly the most incredible part of this ancient city. You really need a decent-sized book to go into all the details about Marsala’s history, but it’s enough to know that the city has been an important stronghold for thousands of years. There are various museums around the city that go more in-depth about bygone areas.
The city has gone through some understandable changes and destruction since its inception, but there are still a number of impressive Baroque-style buildings to be seen here, the most notable of these structures being the Piazza Loggia.
The city of Caltagirone is most famous for its intricately designed pottery. You’ll be able to see these detailed ceramics at various points across the city. If you want to learn more about these breathtaking designs, you can head to the ceramics museum, Museo Regionale della Ceramica.
The most famous structure is the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, which is perhaps the most famous staircase in the world – and it might feel like the longest if you take the time to walk up the 142 steps. The risers depict Caltagirone’s history from ancient times up to the year 1606, when the staircase was built.
Drawing in day-trippers from Palermo, the small town of Monreale is yet another gorgeous Sicilian city -and also happens to be located on a hill, with lots of ancient history to be discovered.
The main point of interest here is the Monreale Cathedral, built with a Normal-Byzantine style architecture and bedecked in stunning gold mosaics.
Although most choose to only spend a few hours here, a longer stay will allow you to sample some of the local delicacies and soak up the spectacular views that can be found from climbing up to the Belvedere di Monreale.