Secret Sicily: Unlocking 5 Destinations Off the Beaten Path
It is no secret that Italy boasts some of the most breathtaking destinations in the world, with a wonderful mix of culture, seaside, nature and of course, decadent cuisine. If you manage to make your way to this country rich in traveling options, you will find yourself faced with one nagging question: where to go. Many make the mistake of trying to fit in too much in too little time. If you’re a seasoned Italian traveler, and you’ve already got Rome, Florence and Venice under your belt, it may be in your interest to try out a place you won’t find as many tourists: Sicily.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, offering magnificent coastlines and historical treasures waiting to be discovered. But if you’re looking for the best places to visit in Sicily that are virtually unscathed by hoards of tourists, here is an in-depth guide of what to see:
Alcantara Gorge: Nature's Mesmerizing Beauty
If you’re heading to Sicily, a visit to the famous Mt. Etna may well be at the top of the list, but the Alcantara Gorge is not to miss. A curious mix of natural beauty, this canyon was formed by the erosional process of the river and flows of lava from Etna, which dates back to prehistoric times. This sight is located close to the picturesque town of Taormina, set atop a cliff that overlooks the Ionian Sea. The gorge can be reached by lift, but for those curious and adventurous travelers, it's recommended to descend on foot, wading through the mystical river surrounded by majestic cliffs. Remember the proper water shoes, however, for a comfortable walk!
Ragusa: A Tale of Two Cities
Split into what is called the “upper” and “lower” town, Ragusa has quite the interesting history behind its buildings. After an earthquake which destroyed most of the city in 1693, it was decided to rebuild Ragusa on a higher, more level surface. The local aristocrats, however, refused to move, and instead rebuilt the town atop the old ruins. Now you can see the particular distinction between the upper more modern part of the town and the historical remnants of the old. For those culture vultures particularly crazy about architecture, the older part of Ragusa can be enjoyed for its Baroque style. One should never come to Italy without indulging in the local cuisine, and in Sicily, especially, we see a recurring theme of dishes that adhere to tradition: generations-old recipes handed down from grandmothers to grandchildren. Here you can taste the local cuisine like cavati and ravioli alla ragusana, best served in a hearty meat sauce.
Scopello: A small town tucked between seaside and nature
With a rocky coastline and small, quaint center, Scopello promises tranquil relaxation and translucent waters. Its elevated position also gives it something most people usually come to Sicily for: an incredible view. Dotted with just a few restaurants and cosy villas, it also holds a little piece of history that people from far and wide come to see: an old tuna fishery. Although it has been closed since the 1980s, it has remained perfectly intact and is quite a unique characteristic to the small town in addition to the majestic rock towers that can be found in the middle of the sea. These rock towers called faraglioni, may be something you've only seen in films, but in person are another story. For a little entertainment that is not just sun and sand, Scopello also lies next to the Zingaro Nature Reserve, where you can find several varieties of Flora in addition to wild flowers and over 650 species living there. Find a spot on a virtually deserted beach and enjoy the beautiful isolation.
Discover the islands of Sicily in Ustica
True, Sicily is itself an island, but it also boasts countless mini islands that are worth enjoying, whether it be for a day trip, or for a week of peace and relaxation? Unlike the Aeolian or Egadi islands, however, which tend to be more populated in the summer months, Ustica offers a great mix of beauty and peaceful seaside, and very few travelers and inhabitants in general. Located in the province of Palermo, its natural bays like Cala Santa Maria and Cala del Camposanto are excellent for diving aficionados, with crystalline waters and exotic sea life to explore. Known for being a volcanic island barely touched by tourism, its houses are covered with artistic murals and tiles that portray local scenes, something that is completely mesmerizing, even for Sicilians themselves.
Return to Ancient times in Erice
This mystical Medieval town on the harbor of Trapani has quite a particular history and is the place to go if you want to find yourself enveloped in a time warp. But in fact, this is a city that goes way back, even beyond the Middle Ages. Perched atop Mt. Erice, 750 meters above sea level, here you can find the remnants of the ancient Elymian and Phoenician walls surrounding the city that overlooks Trapani. From an aerial view, the most incredible sights are the two castle still standing: Pepoli Castle from the Saracen Times and Venus Castle from the Norman period. With a location so close to Trapani, the cuisine of Erice finds its roots in its Trapanese neighbors. Here you will find many dishes with their base specialty, red tuna. Try the busiate, the typical pasta similar to fusilli, with the Trapanese pesto, a variation of the original that is made with basil, olive oil, garlic, crushed raw almonds, tomatoes and grated Pecorino cheese.
Start planning your Sicily trip itinerary
There is no shortage of jaw dropping sights to see in Sicily, and seeing everything would take more than a vacation. But exploring some of the less known points of interest will guarantee the most authentic Italian experience where you will come face to face with locals, their way of life, food and tradition.