Secrets of Sicily - Part 1
8 places to visit
So much of the focus for travellers in Sicily is on the eastern side of the island near Taormina, Catania and Palermo and down to Siracusa. If you only have a few days in Sicily as part of your bigger Italy travels, then they really do have lots of the best things to do and see in Sicily - so I get why the focus is there.
AND if you have longer, like a week or more, you can really check out some of the amazing places that are not mainstream tourist locations and sooooo worth seeing!
Of course, where you go and what you want to do is guided by your interests and passions in life and travel, so base your research and trip around that. Planning your trip can be just as much fun as the actual trip and ohhhh I love the anticipation in the planning of it all!
Anyhow, if you are coming to Sicily to really experience the ‘land of the mezzorgiorno’ fully and authentically, and have more time than just a couple of days, check out these wonderful places too!
Discover a few of our top suggestions below.
1. Punta Secca
Punta Secca is a small town situated on the southeastern coast of Sicily, Italy. With its pristine beaches, quaint fishing village, and stunning Baroque architecture, Punta Secca is a hidden gem that offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of bigger cities.
Visitors can take a stroll along the sandy shorelines, explore the charming streets and alleyways of the historic center, or indulge in delicious seafood dishes at local restaurants. The town is also famous for its picturesque lighthouse, which offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea.
With its laid-back vibe, friendly locals, and natural beauty, Punta Secca is an idyllic destination for anyone seeking relaxation and tranquility in Sicily. Punta Secca is also known for being the filming location of the popular Italian television series, "Inspector Montalbano," which has helped to put the town on the map for tourists.
P.S. Punta Secca is also close (about 40 minutes drive) to the town of Pozallo where you can get the ferry to Malta. But make sure you book in advance or you won’t get a ticket and the price will be sky high.
Caltagirone is a picturesque city located in the heart of Sicily, Italy and famous for its production of stunning ceramics and pottery. The city is a haven for art enthusiasts and collectors. Caltagirone boasts an impressive historic center, complete with Baroque architecture, winding streets, and lively piazzas. The city is also home to the famous Santa Maria del Monte staircase, a grand staircase decorated with vibrant, hand-painted tiles.
You can enjoy delicious local cuisine, such as arancini and cannoli, while taking in the breathtaking views of the city and surrounding countryside.
You will see a ceramic artisan workshop on every corner artistic charming 'citta' and can watch them do their craft and have a chat. Caltagirone is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Sicily off the beaten track who loves ceramics!
PS - They can arrange shipping back to your home country for bigger items, so shop away!
I love Trapani – it has specials memories for me as we lived there in 2021 whilst Nino worked on a movie being made in that part of Sicily.
It is a charming coastal town located on the western tip of Sicily, Italy. With its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and rich history, Trapani offers something for everyone. You can explore the town's historic center, which is home to magnificent Baroque architecture, quaint alleys, and lively piazzas.
I love the morning fish markets and the harbour. It was my favourite place to have a coffee, buy some fresh seafood straight off the boat and seasonal vegies from the farmers. It was a great place to experience the local culture.
Trapani is a wonderful destination for those seeking an authentic Sicilian food experience too. This area has its own type of pasta called Busiata and seafood to die for, especially the seafood tartare – tuna, prawns and calamari. There is a specific type of red prawn in Sicily that is perfect to eat raw!
4. Salina (an Aeolian Island)
The island of Salina is the second largest in the Aeolian archipelago and it is the only one to enjoy natural freshwater springs and it’s these, combined with the volcanic soil, that make it so fertile.
The Aeolians’ famous Malvasia wine is produced here, and Salina’a fat, juicy capers flavour many local dishes.
It has jaw-dropping views, crystal blue waters which makes Salina a great island to spend a few days on. It is not as busy or commercial as the biggest island of Lipari.
Some scenes out of the famous Italian movie ‘Il Postino’ were filmed on Salina and you can hire a scooter or car and go right around the island then down to the little cove where the filming was done and have an appertivo or a bite to eat there.
The island of Favignana, situated off the coast of Trapani, has a rich and very fascinating history. The island was originally settled by the Phoenicians, who were attracted by its abundance of tuna and established a thriving tuna fishing industry on the island. Over the centuries, Favignana was occupied by various civilizations, including the Romans, the Arabs, and the Normans.
In more recent times, the island played an important role during World War II, serving as a strategic location for both Allied and Axis forces. Today, Favignana is a popular destination for tourists seeking a glimpse into the island's rich history and stunning natural beauty, which includes turquoise waters, rocky coves, and pristine beaches.
You can explore the island's archaeological sites, including a Roman-era tuna processing plant, and enjoy delicious seafood dishes that celebrate Favignana's storied past.
The best way to get around the island is to hire a scooter. You can hire a push bike too if you are energetic kind, but in the heat of the day, I reckon you will be much happier you got the scooter when you are zipping past beetroot faced travelers on their pushies!
Another way to see the island is to hire a boat, just like a dingy boat and zip around the island stopping to swim and explore coves and beaches along the way. Watch out for the strong currents though when swimming off the coastline around the island – I thought Nino was going to float away forever until some people on another boat he drifted to helped us out!
Perched atop a mountain overlooking the city of Trapani, Erice is a medieval town that seems to have emerged straight out of a fairy tale.
The town is home to stunning examples of Gothic, Norman, and Baroque architecture, narrow streets, and charming squares. Visitors can explore the Castle of Venus, a 12th-century Norman castle, and the ancient Temple of Venus, which dates back to the 8th century BC. So much history!
The town is also renowned for its delicious almond-based pastries and sweets, which are sold in traditional bakeries throughout the town. You gotta try the local pasta up there too! It's called Busiate and all the ristorantes have it on the menu!
With its breathtaking views, rich history, and delicious cuisine, Erice is a must-visit destination for anyone coming to the western side of Sicily. In my view, the best way to get there is to enjoy the cable car ride up the hill from Trapani because the drive up the hill is scary!
7. Castelmare del Golfo
We discovered this beautiful little harbour town when Nino was working with a movie crew in 2021 and we’ve been back quite a few times since.
Castelmare del Golfo is a stunning coastal town located on the northwestern coast of Sicily, Italy. The town boasts a rich history that is reflected in its charming historic center, which is dominated by a magnificent Norman castle. You can explore the town's narrow streets and alleys, which are lined with traditional houses, shops, and restaurants.
The town's little harbor is a popular spot for boating and fishing enthusiasts, while its beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
Castelmare del Golfo is also famous for its delicious seafood cuisine, which can be enjoyed in the town's many traditional restaurants. Nino says you can't really go wrong to fins a great meal there along the harbour waterfront. They are all good!
Want to be close to the famous city of Taormina but don't want to pay the high prices for accommodation? Want to be close to the restaurants, shops and entertainment too?
Well, here is the best kept secret spot - Mastrissa! It is the next mountain to Taormina in the direction of Mt Etna.
I must admit I am a little biased about this one because it’s where Nino’s family home is and I never cease to get tired of waking up to 180 degree views of the ocean and Mount Etna. It is food for the soul!
Mastrissa has many Airbnb and apartments to die for and you get to experience real Sicilian life with the goats and locals going up and down the mountain each day. There are all levels of accommodation available. You can just roll down the hill to Giardini-Naxos to great beach clubs and local shops and cafes and then it’s a 5 minute trip up the next hill to Taormina in all it’s glory. You really can have the best of both worlds – town and country!
Anyway, I hope this info was useful to you and we will share some more places with you soon. After 14 years of visiting this amazing island of Sicily every year, I never get tired of its crazy beauty and so many hidden gems to visit.
Yours in travel,