Welcome to my Sicily Italy Travel series, the best of the island’s most beautiful and elegant destinations. In a Modern Ladylike manner, I will be uncovering some of the hidden gems and the luxurious experiences from our 14 days itinerary around Sicily. This means slow travel, immersing yourself in the sites and soaking up all the local culture. You will not find me trying to cram my itinerary with a tonne of things to do just to tick them off of a bucket list. We’re all about poise and composure here. It’s not a very elegant experience rushing from one tourist hotspot to another. In my opinion anyway. We’re all about quality over quantity here.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea often referred to as the “toes” of the “boot” of Italy. It is rich in history and UNESCO Sites. The island is famous for its cathedrals, vineyards, and island beaches and is home to world-renowned Sicilian architecture and heritage sites.
Having said that, before my trip, I didn’t necessarily associate Sicily with elegance and luxury. In fact, I thought there were a lot of connotations towards mafias and gangs. Thanks for The Godfather and its shady history. Not to mention, when our friends found out we were spending Christmas in Sicily, “ooh be careful”, “we got jacked in our car” (you got what?!), and “don’t say the ‘m’ word on the streets” were some of the most common of the things they told us. So as you can imagine, I naturally went there with heightened alerts and vigilance!
However, after spending two remarkable weeks travelling around Sicily, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Sure, the major cities like Palermo and Catania looked tired, grubby at times, and a bit rough on the edges where you can see traces of their tumultuous past. But these cities went through years of degentrification and cleanup. There were certainly a lot of classy and elegant places to visit. We were vigilant of course, but that’s no different to anywhere else we’ve been.
Visiting Sicily in December
Sicily has become one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in recent years. And with a plethora of beautiful island beaches to choose from, it’s not hard to understand why! However, it will no doubt be crowded. I wasn’t sure what to expect for a December holiday in Sicily. But it turned out to wonderful time to visit! There were significantly fewer tourists. We often had the sites to ourselves. We didn’t have to fight for Instagramable hot spots! 😉 I also noticed a fair few Italian tourists (from mainland Italy) holidaying in Sicily during this time. That’s when you know you’re in for a treat!
Have I mentioned the most perfect weather (e.g. high 10Cs to low 20Cs during the day) the whole time we were there?! This was also the first time I spent Christmas in Italy and it was just magical – more on this later)! The downside though, some restaurants and shops were closed for the holiday season, particularly in the smaller towns such as Noto and Cefalu. However, there were enough places open and we had plenty to choose from. But it’s worth keeping that in mind if you are planning to visit during the Christmas season.
Elegantly paced 14 days Sicily Italy travel itinerary for the modern lady (and gentleman)
Alan and I spent incredible 14 days uncovering some of the best-hidden gems and the most luxurious experiences in Sicily. From a wine cellar dining experience in Catania to exploring a UNESCO World Heritage site in Noto. We relaxed in the elegant coastal town of Syracuse, luxury shopping in Taormina, and watched a concert in the most beautiful Opera House I’ve ever seen in Palermo, not to mention their breathtaking cathedrals. How about an exclusive tour of an active volcano in Mt Etna? Have I tempted you to look at flights to Sicily already?
If you’ve been to mainland Italy, you would be familiar with their laid-back culture. And the Sicilians, slow it down by a notch, and then the Christmas holiday takes it down by another. So be prepared to practise your patience if you’re not used to travelling at this pace. I absolutely embraced it. My day job is pretty high-pressure and fast-paced, so I like thoroughly enjoyed this relaxed approach and leisurely style to my holidays.
In this post, I am just sharing our 14 days itinerary in Sicily and some highlights. In the coming posts, I will be sharing all the things we did at each destination, as part of this Sicily Italy travel series.
As I mentioned earlier, this itinerary is designed for elegantly (leisurely) paced travel. If you prefer a more packed agenda, then you can cover these destinations in 10 days or add more destinations, such as Ragusa, Modica or Erice. But I like to give myself reasons to go back!
Our first stop was in Catania, the second-largest city in Sicily. It is on the east coast of the island. In all honesty, I was least excited about Catania because of its past association with mafias. But it turned out to be one of my favourite destinations in Sicily.
Contrary to what I was expecting, this charming city is full of life. Everyone was super chilled and friendly. The best way to explore Catania is on foot and admiring a plethora of baroque architecture along Via Crociferi. We sat in the ancient Greek-Roman theatre from the 2nd century AD. We had exceptionally fresh seafood from the Catania Fish market and enjoyed a lovely meal inside a wine cellar. I discovered cannoli, pistachio cannoli. And the rest is history, said my waistline! haha…
We also took a small group private day tour to Mt Etna to see the active volcano. We hiked inside the craters and saw a strip of red lava flowing from the mountain on our way back!
3 days relaxing in Otigia, Syracuse
Next, we moved to Syracuse and spent 3 nights relaxing on the tiny island, Otigia, which is connected to mainland Syracuse by three bridges. This is also known as the ‘Old Town’ of Syracuse. We walked around the island under the Sicilian sun and ate the biggest sandwich I’d ever seen in my life! This is a true seaside town with a beach just a minute’s walk away. I can just imagine how popular it is in summer! But I really enjoyed the tranquillity the town offers in December.
I highly highly recommend taking a day trip out to another majestic little town, Noto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Noto is the epitome of Baroque architecture. So a must-visit!
3 days in Taormina, the most elegant city of Sicily
This is my favourite city of our entire Sicily Italy travel! It is on a hilltop town with stunning views everywhere. This is the most elegant city in Sicily and very quickly became my top destination! It’s much closer to Mount Etna than Catania. So close that we could see its red lava stream from our room’s balcony! We spent Christmas here, our first Italian Christmas! They have this tradition where they set a campfire around the town on Christmas Eve. That’s pretty special!
There was so much to do for a small town. Get lost in the panoramic view of the Ionian Sea from Piazza IX Aprile. Admire the Teatro Antico di Taormina. Hike up to another elegant town Castalmola and have a meal there. We also had the BEST Sicilian cuisine here!
5 days in Palermo, a street food heaven
Finally, 5 days in Palermo, Sicily’s capital city. Whilst the city itself is charming, it was my least favourite time. Mainly because I broke out in rashes by our third day! But that’s a story for another post!
Palermo is a street food heaven! So don’t bother looking for restaurants. They also have a tonne of beautiful cathedrals. But my favourite moment was watching the New Year’s Eve concert in Massimo Theatro, Europe’s third biggest Opera House.
You really only need 2 days, 3 max here. But we wanted to base yourselves and do day trips to explore the surrounding towns and villages. Sadly we only managed to do one day trip to the famous seaside town, Cefalu though.
How to get around without a car
So the most popular question… how did we get around to all these places? You will find a lot of people and other blog posts say the best way to see Sicily is to hire a car and just drive. You have full flexibility and are entirely in control of your own schedule. But I say, have you seen how Sicilians drive?! No thanks!
The thought of driving on the other side of the road AND in Italy, where road rules are merely recommendations, already stressed me out. I am already stressed enough at work, I don’t need any more during my holidays. So opted for public transport. We travelled around on buses, trains or taxis and it was super easy!
I genuinely think it’s the safest and most relaxing way to get around. It is certainly the most economical way. Sure, the trains and buses are not as frequent as you’d expect in the UK but you just need to plan and time your travels accordingly. We didn’t have any issues with delays or cancellations nor stressing about finding a carpark!
Sicily is a perfect destination for an elegant holiday experience for the modern lady (and gentleman). Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a girls’ trip, or simply a way to indulge in the finer things in life, Sicily has it all.
Hope you found this 14 day itinerary for Sicily Italy travel informative. In the upcoming posts, I will get into the details of all the elegant things you can do and hidden gems in each Sicilian destination.
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