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What to see in Eastern Sicily: Seven must-visit places

Discovering Eastern Sicily and its Beauties: Let's explore 7 must-see destinations for a trip or vacation in Eastern Sicily.

Written by Monica Meschis
Reading time: 9'

Exploring Eastern Sicily - the Beauties to Visit

Discover the wonders of eastern Sicily, where enchanting nature meets centuries of history and vibrant culture. From breathtaking Taormina with its ancient ruins to lively Catania and the majestic slopes of Mount Etna, every corner of this region is a treasure waiting to be explored.

The unique blend of culture and history, along with stunning natural landscapes, creates unforgettable experiences. From tasting renowned wines produced on fertile volcanic soil to diving into the crystal-clear waters of the Riviera dei Ciclopi, Eastern Sicily is not just a destination but a journey through flavours, colours, and stories that will leave a lasting impression on every visitor.

Here are seven must-visit places during your stay in eastern Sicily.

1. The Charm of Taormina and Isola Bella

Taormina, nestled on a hill overlooking the azure sea, is one of eastern Sicily's most beautiful towns. Known for its timeless charm, the city has captivated visitors for centuries. Its symbol, the Greek Theatre, stands as an imposing testament to the city's cultural history — an ancient amphitheatre with extraordinary acoustics and views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. Walking through Taormina reveals historical palaces, elegant boutiques, and breathtaking panoramas, with each corner telling a story.

Isola Bella - a small islet is connected to the mainland by a thin strip of sand - is on Taormina’s coast. This nature reserve is a paradise for nature and sea lovers, with its inviting crystal-clear waters ideal for moments of relaxation or diving. Surrounded by lush Mediterranean flora and marine caves, Isola Bella perfectly sums up the natural beauty of eastern Sicily. Its tranquility and almost magical atmosphere offer an escape from the hustle-bustle of everyday life.

2. Catania: A Mix of History, Culture, and Cuisine

Vibrant and full of energy, Catania lies at the foot of Mount Etna, providing an exciting mix of history, culture, and culinary traditions. The heart of the city is its cathedral, dedicated to St. Agatha, the patron saint of Catania. This imposing cathedral, located in the picturesque Piazza del Duomo, is a jewel of Baroque architecture, showcasing the city's historical and artistic heritage. Strolling through Catania's streets reveals a succession of historical palaces, Baroque churches, and lively squares, telling the story of a city that has constantly been in motion.

Another unmissable part of the Catania experience is its culinary culture. Historical markets, such as the famous Pescheria market, are a celebration of colours, scents, and flavours, where you can discover and taste local products. Along Catania's streets, you must try dishes like pasta alla Norma or the delicious arancini, a true institution throughout Sicily. Catania's cuisine, with its intense and genuine flavours, is a sensory journey that perfectly demonstrates the city's rich cultural and historical tapestry. To fully experience this, don't miss our exclusive street food tour in Catania!

3. The Natural Wonders of Mount Etna

Mount Etna, Europe's highest active volcano, is one of the most fascinating natural wonders of eastern Sicily. Its slopes offer an extraordinary variety of landscapes, from lush vegetation to lava fields, that can be explored through a wide range of activities. Excursions like our Etna Jeep tour allow visitors to venture safely up the volcano, discovering hidden trails and panoramic viewpoints with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean and the Sicilian coast, as well as craters and recent or ancient lava flows. Each excursion is an unforgettable experience.

Visiting Etna also means discovering the volcano's influence on local life and agriculture. The slopes of Etna are home to many vineyards that produce some of Sicily's finest wines, thanks to the unique volcanic fertile soil. Many tours include a tasting of wine and local products, combining nature exploration with the pleasure of authentic Sicilian cuisine.

4. The Riviera dei Ciclopi and Its Legends

The Riviera dei Ciclopi, a stretch of Sicilian coast from Catania to Acireale, is a place where myth and reality come together with a rare beauty. This area owes its name to the legend of Polyphemus, the Cyclops from The Odyssey, who, according to myth, threw massive boulders at the fleeing Odysseus - boulders that now emerge from the sea as the evocative Cyclops' Faraglioni of Acitrezza.

Acitrezza, a small and picturesque fishing village, is the pulsating heart of this riviera. Its Faraglioni, along with Isola Lachea, form one of the most fascinating natural scenes in eastern Sicily. Besides its scenic beauty, Acitrezza offers the opportunity to explore local culture and traditions, including fishing and local food based on the freshest fish around.

Acireale, located just north of Acitrezza, is famous for its splendid Baroque architecture and some of the best thermal baths in all Sicily. The city, overlooking the sea, offers a unique combination of art, history, and nature. Along the riviera, you can take pleasant walks, savour fresh fish in seaside restaurants, and go diving and explore the rich marine life.

For an unforgettable trip between Catania and Acireale, enjoy one of our guided tours. 

The Riviera dei Ciclopi offers multiple activities for visitors: from simple coastal walks to admire the panorama, to boat excursions to get up close to the Faraglioni and Isola Lachea, and much more. For nature lovers, the surrounding nature reserves have hiking trails as well as opportunities to observe local flora and fauna.

5. Messina: The Gateway to Eastern Sicily

Messina, overlooking the strait that bears its name, serves as the majestic gateway to eastern Sicily. This lively and historic city offers a mix of art, culture, and natural beauty. At its heart is the majestic Messina Cathedral, famous for its astronomical clock tower; one of the largest and most complex in the world. Every day at noon you can witness the spectacle of mechanical figures coming to life - a tradition that has fascinated residents and tourists for generations.

Another place that shouldn’t be missed is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montalto, which provides a panoramic view of the city and the strait as well as a place of peace and spirituality.

Messina and its surroundings offer unique experiences: from walks along the promenade where you can admire the famous Neptune Fountain, to excursions in the picturesque hillside villages. The city is also an ideal starting point to explore the Aeolian Islands, among the seven UNESCO heritage sites in Sicily. They are only a short ferry ride away! 

6. Alcantara Gorges: Natural Spectacle

The Alcantara Gorges, located in the valley of the Alcantara River, are one of the most spectacular geological phenomena in eastern Sicily. These impressive rock formations were created by the erosion of the river's waters on basaltic lava flows originating from Mount Etna. The result is a majestic canyon, with walls rising for tens of metres, creating an almost lunar landscape accentuated by the contrast between the glossy black rock and the lush greenery of the surrounding vegetation.

The Alcantara Gorges offer a wide range of activities for visitors, including trekking and rafting. However, one of the most fun and adrenaline-pumping experience is undoubtedly our quad tour of the gorges. A visit to the Alcantara Gorges is an unforgettable experience, a journey into the beauty of Sicilian nature that captivates and inspires anyone fortunate enough to explore it.

7. Castelmola: A Balcony Over the Mediterranean

Castelmola, a small village perched above Taormina, is a true window above the Mediterranean. Known as one of Italy's most beautiful villages, Castelmola captivates visitors with its narrow cobblestone streets, stone houses, and charming squares where time seems to stand still. However, Castelmola’s real magic lies in its panoramic views. from here, you can gaze across the entire Ionian coast, from the beaches of Giardini Naxos to the majestic silhouette of Mount Etna. It’s one of the most spectacular scenes in all Sicily.

A stroll through the village's streets allows you to discover small treasures, such as the Church of San Nicola di Bari. A taste of the famous "almond wine" is a must. The medieval fortress at the top of the village, now in ruins, is the perfect place to admire the sunset over the sea. For this alone, visiting this picturesque village is worth the trip. With its breathtaking views and authentic charm, Castelmola is an unmissable stop for anyone visiting eastern Sicily.

Eastern Sicily, An Unforgettable Journey

Eastern Sicily is much more than a tourist destination; it is a land that enchants and surprises, rich in history, culture, nature, and art. Every town, village and beach in this fascinating part of the island tells a unique story, offers breathtaking panoramas, and holds unparalleled treasures.

Get to know Eastern Sicily in all its forms: immerse yourself in ancient history, be amazed by nature, savour local cuisine, and enjoy the traditions that make this part of the island so special. Whether it's a short visit or an extended stay, a journey in eastern Sicily offers experiences that will leave an indelible mark on the memory of every traveler. To make it all the more unique, you can stay in one of the splendid rental villas selected by Villatravellers. Your dream holiday in Sicily awaits!

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