Cobblestone streets, the sea and hilltop towns.. there is nothing like it. For those long summer evenings and a sunny destination, Sicily is perfect for a kids-free getaway or a family holiday.
Here are five reasons why Sicily, Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2018, should be on everyone’s bucket list:
1. It is budget friendly
I know, it doesn’t seem possible, but Sicily is not actually very expensive! You can plan your holiday in a way where you enjoy the simple life on the island and still experience it to its fullest! There are plenty of free beaches, open spaces to play and enjoy quality time as a family. I find that the biggest expense while traveling is accommodation, although there are many budget-friendly options one may resort to. For example, useful websites like wishsicily.com let you rent villas in Sicily or even a palazzo without spending a fortune. This is also a great way to avoid splitting the family into two rooms in a traditional hotel, plus an extra bonus: this way, you have a kitchen so you can eat in for some meals, save money, and maintain some routines for the kids. Another budget-eater is dining out. I love going out as a family, but I don’t always feel the need to splurge. There are so many local spots where you can eat extremely well and are also budget-friendly and kid-friendly.
…speaking of dining:
2. The food is delicious
When I think of Italian food, I think of Italian classics like pizza, pasta and gelato. Sicily has its own culinary landscape with Arab, Greek and Spanish influences and food that you’ll dream about for years to come. Some local staples are: arancini (stuffed rice balls), granita (a semi-frozen dessert), and cannoli (pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta filling) that are sure to be kid-favorites. On many menus, you’ll see the seafood shine with offerings for: clams, involtini di pesce spada (Sicilian swordfish rolls) and pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines).
2. There are incredible beaches
Not only are there are incredible beaches, there are over 280 of them along the 1,000 kilometres of Sicilian coastline. You can choose between white sandy beaches, secluded coves or beaches with dramatic rock formations that all lead to the azure waters. Near Agrigento there is the Scala dei Turchi that has unforgettable cliffs of limestone and marl. Isola Bella, near Taormina, is a nature reserve with a small and pebbly beach and is called the “pearl of the Ionian Sea”.
4. Historical sites
Several locations around Sicily are UNESCO World Heritage sites. There is the Temple of Apollo (6th century BC) in Siracusa, the Greek Theatre in Taormina that dates from the third century BC, Valley of Temples in Agrigento, and so many more. Due to the Arab, Greek and Spanish invaders and influences, the history and its sites tell the tale of how rich and unique the Sicilian culture and its land is.
5. Mount Etna
Mount Etna is on the eastern side of Sicily and is Europe’s tallest active volcano. There is a cable car that can bring you up to the halfway point, ideal with small kids, where you can enjoy the views from there or continue up on a bus to the top. You can always hike, bike or ATV up, too! A picnic with the panoramic view at sunset is on my list of favourite things to do.
Italy will always be a holiday destination of my dreams, but Sicily in particular just has something extra special to it. Its authenticity is evident as you wander the streets and get to know locals, as you feel that this part of Italy has been preserved and not overly developed. There is always a time and place for certain types of travel, but authentic travel is my favourite. I love to see mom-and-pop shops win out over huge international companies, local goods shine and be preferred, and see a place and culture for what is truly is.