The 13 most stunning villages and cities in Sicily

If you find yourself dreaming of a trip to Sicily this year, you’re not alone. The island’s popularity has soared this year thanks to its appearance in the popular HBO series The White Lotus, as has one of its most luxurious platforms. San Domenico Palace, Four Seasons Hotel, Where the show was filmed.

Part of a larger trend toward “flight travel” — the phenomenon that inspires movies and TV shows to travel itineraries — Sicily has dominated social media and Google searches this year. Hopir reported that Palermo was one of the top trending destinations for flight ticket searches this summer, with interest up 90%.

While many travelers flocked to Sicily this year to indulge their white lotus fantasies – facilitated by… New luxury resorts Such as Rocco Forte’s Ville Igiea in Palermo, and of course the aforementioned San Domenico Palace in Taormina – Sicily’s distinctive culture and traditions go far beyond its moment in the media spotlight.

The largest island in the Mediterranean has long been a hidden gem, drawing European jet-setters in the know. It’s home to picturesque UNESCO-listed villages, dazzling beaches, a wine and food scene that easily rivals mainland Italy, and even the volcano Mount Etna. Sicily is one of the best places in Europe to rent a car and explore without any specific agenda.

From the baroque towns of Val di Noto to villages with medieval castles and quaint seaside fishing communities, the sheer diversity of Sicily’s cultural and natural treasures attracts travelers who want to experience the more authentic side of one of Europe’s most important destinations.


Scicli, Sicily, Italy.
Scicli, Sicily, Italy. Photos by Peter Adams/Getty Images

Scicli is nestled dramatically in a valley nestled between rocky cliffs. Located in the southeastern region of the island, it is one of the seven famous Baroque towns of Val di Noto.

Like many towns in Val di Noto, it was badly damaged by the earthquake of 1693 and was rebuilt in the Baroque style. This place is affectionately known as the filming location of the famous Italian TV series “Commissario Montalbano”.

Plan to explore the city on foot, starting on Via Francisco Mormino Penna, a street with many baroque palaces and churches all built with local white stone. Don’t miss the emblematic Baroque Palazzo Beneventano, an ornate 18th-century palace (the original building dates back to the Middle Ages) with a courtyard considered the most beautiful in Sicily.

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Gangi, Sicily, Italy.
Gangi, Sicily, Italy. Sandro Pisaro/Getty Images

Situated atop Mount Marrone and largely surrounded by Mount Etna, Gangi is often called the most beautiful village in Italy. Crowned by the 14th-century Ventimiglia Castle, the city’s charm lies in its authentic Sicilian atmosphere and evocative medieval alleys lined with two- and three-storey stone houses.

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In the church of San Niccolò, you can visit the rather macabre “Tomb of the Dead Priests” (or Parini Pit), where a crypt contains niches containing around 100 mummified priests believed to have lived in Gangi from around 1720 to 1850.


Cefalu, Sicily, Italy.
Cefalu, Sicily, Italy. Ziontar Images/Getty Images

One of the most famous regions of Sicily Beach townsCefalu has more than just golden sand and blue water.

Visit the 12th-century cathedral featuring Renaissance sculptures and Byzantine mosaics. If you have some extra energy, you can hike the massive Roca Mountain that rises above the city until you reach the remains of the ancient castle. If it looks vaguely familiar, this former fishing village was the setting for the Oscar-winning film “Cinema Paradiso.”


Ortigia, Cicracosa, Sicily, Italy.
Ortigia, Cicracosa, Sicily, Italy. West End 61/Getty Images

This stunning island, once inhabited by Greeks, is full of ancient ruins and historic churches. Its picturesque squares are lined with elaborate palaces, and its labyrinthine streets are dotted with shops, cafes, restaurants and bars.

Connected to mainland Sicily by two bridges, it is best to park your car in Siracusa and walk to the ancient city of Ortigia. Don’t miss a visit to Piazza del Duomo, home to the magnificent Duomo Cathedral, the oldest church in Europe.

Another highlight is the city’s vibrant food markets (pick up some pistachios – Sicily has thousands of acres of pistachio trees). Fresh swordfish is one of the local delicacies you’ll find on chalkboard menus in many restaurants.


Erice, Sicily, Italy.
Erice, Sicily, Italy. Photos by Alexey Oblov/Getty Images

Ertz’s claim to fame is Venere Castle, which sits atop the legendary Mount Ertz peak and boasts expansive views of the Sicilian countryside and sea.

Within the city’s 12th-century walls you’ll find a collection of churches – its nickname is the ‘City of 100 Churches’. The most famous is the imposing Norman Cathedral of Erice, built with stones from the Temple of Venus in Rome; It is notable for its free-standing bell tower and intricately carved domed roof. The church dates from 1314 but was rebuilt in the current Gothic style in 1865.

You’ll find the city’s greatest joys wandering its streets, which feature antique shops, craft shops, restaurants, cafés and bakeries (almond pastries are popular here).


Modica, Sicily, Italy.
Modica, Sicily, Italy. Photos by Peter Adams/Getty Images

The second of a few famous UNESCO-designated Val di Noto Baroque villages on this list, Modica’s endless rooftops rise along the surrounding hills. Before the earthquake of 1693, the medieval old town was carved into the rock face. Now built on top of the hills, it is an evocative maze of stunning Baroque facades, stately churches and beautiful palaces connected by stairs.

Be sure to see the Cathedral of San Giorgio and have an afternoon snack. Sample some chocolate. The ancient recipe uses special grinding methods at extremely cold temperatures without cocoa butter for a grainy, bold taste.


Savoca, Sicily, Italy.
Savoca, Sicily, Italy. Still Life Images/Getty Images

North of Taormina in the province of Messina, Savoca lies between the waters of Sicily and the Peloritani mountain range. It is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.

Other cinematic backdrops and iconic scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather were filmed – most notably the wedding of Michael Corleone and Apollonia in the church of San Niccolò. Film fans should also stop into Bar Vitelli (another popular filming location) for a glass of local wine.

Ragusa Ebla

Ragusa Ibla, Sicily, Italy.
Ragusa Ibla, Sicily, Italy. SBC#jayjay/Getty Images

Nestled among rocky peaks, the ancient city of Ragusa (Ragusa Ebla) is one of the most stunning sites to see from a distance.

The stunning city sits atop a hill, complete with blue-domed churches and crumbling pink-and-yellow Baroque buildings. With its tangle of charming streets and elegant squares lined with gray stone houses and palaces, Ragusa is one of the best places on the island to relax and watch Sicilian life.

The city is divided into two distinct parts: Ragusa Superior is the more modern enclave of the city with a more down-to-earth atmosphere, while Ragusa Ibla is the city’s beautifully preserved historic center that runs down the hill. Don’t miss the sites, which include the Basilica of San Giorgio and the Cathedral of San Giovanni.


Sperlinga, Sicily, Italy.
Sperlinga, Sicily, Italy. Lucky Lisp/Getty Images

The Sperlinga is built directly into the rocks of the surrounding mountains, and looks suspiciously similar to spelunking – caves. As you might imagine, there are many caves carved into stone throughout the village, and you can explore them all. You can find the best views by hiking up to Sperlinga Castle, which overlooks the village.

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Novara Sicily

Novara di Sicily, Italy.
Novara di Sicily, Italy. 4 Zoom/Getty Images

Located between the Nebrodi and Peloritani mountain ranges, Novara di Sicilia offers stunning views from almost any angle. Built of local sandstone beneath the remains of an ancient castle, most of the village dates back to the 17th century. The oldest building is the small and modest 13th-century Church of St. Francis.

If you’re lucky, you’ll visit during one of the… Many food festivals This village is dedicated year-round to local products such as hazelnuts, Maiorschino cheese and bread. If not, you can simply wander the streets of the Magic Village.

The city is steeped in legend – legend has it that a giant once lived in Novara di Sicilia.

San Vito lo Capo

San Vito lo Capo, Sicily.
San Vito lo Capo, Sicily. Silvio Bongianino/Eyes/Getty Images

The shoulder season (May-June and September-October) is the best time to visit San Vito lo Capo, one of Sicily’s towns. The most beautiful beach villages, to beat the crowds but still have perfect weather. You may not associate couscous as a Sicilian specialty, but the village has an entire festival dedicated to the food every September.

Castiglione di Sicily

Castiglione di Sicily, Italy.
Castiglione di Sicily, Italy. Sandro Cugno / EyeEm / Getty Images

With views of Mount Etna volcano, this village is similar to many other Sicilian towns in that it has a distinctive 12th-century castle and several churches. One of the most distinctive is the Church of Santa Domenica, a small stone structure built by Byzantine monks.


Marzamemi, Sicily, Italy.
Marzamemi, Sicily, Italy. Federica Gentile/Getty Images

This small fishing village is famous for its tonara, or tuna. It is also a popular beach area Tourists And locals alike in the summer when the population increases dramatically. People-watching while drinking in the main square, Piazza Regina Margherita, is a favorite activity for a warm summer evening.


Charming street in Modica, Sicily.
Charming street in Modica, Sicily. E55EVU/Getty Images

With so much to see and do in a beautiful country like Italy, it can be difficult to know where to start. But if you end up in… SicilyThe best way to explore the island is by car.

Taormina may have stolen the show this year thanks to its ‘white lotus’ effect, but once you get off the beaten path, you’ll find stunning villages with timeless cultural traditions at every turn. Be sure to add some to your Sicilian vacation itinerary.

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