Sicily and Parma, two awesome destinations in Italy promise to satisfy desires of tourists seeking varied tourism experiences. An hour and thirty minutes duration of travel by air makes it possible to move from Sicily to Parma or vice versa. Sicilian dishes like pastas, pizzas and parmigiana get the most important ingredient, the Parmesan cheese from Parma. Beyond this unifying factor, Sicily and Parma are cities of delights with distinct tourist attractions.
Know before you go – Sicily
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. Sicily also includes the Aeolian Islands, the Egadi Islands, the Lipari Islands, the Pelagie Islands, the Pantelleria Island, and Ustica Island. There are many ways to reach Sicily, but cruising through the sea is the best.
Sicily is separated from the mainland region of Calabaria by the Strait of Messina. Construction work of Messina Bridge across the Messina strait is currently underway and is expected to be completed by 2017. On completion, the Strait of Messina Bridge will overtake the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan as the longest suspension bridge in the world.
Best time to visit Sicily
Climate of an area influences people's choice of destination. Sicily enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate. Tourists looking for plenty of sunshine would love Sicily for the Island receives more than 2,000 hours of sunshine annually. All the twelve months has something special that makes Sicily even more enjoyable.
For general sightseeing: October through December and March through June.
For skiing to Mount Etna: Late January and early February.
Extremely cold weather: December to February.
Extremely hot weather: July, August till mid-September.
Tourist attractions in Sicily
The island of Sicily has a very diverse geography and is mostly covered by hills, mountains, active volcanoes, and beautiful beaches. Check out the multiple features of this incredible land.
Archeology rich Palermo: The capital city of Sicily is the also the largest city in the Island. The mild Mediterranean temperature that lasts throughout the year favors tourists to visit the beach or wander the winding streets of the city anytime with unceasing enthusiasm.
A visit to one of the two main streets, Via Vittoria Emmanuele in Palermo will take tourists back to the times of Phoenicians, Romans, Saracens and Normans for there are imprints left behind on the City's archaeological history.
If you are keen on checking it, visit the Museo Archeologico Regionale that showcases history of Western Sicily from prehistoric times through to the Roman era. The museum houses the Phoenician sarcophagi dating from 5 BC and the Pietra di Palermo, a black slab discovered in Egypt containing hieroglyphics that is known as the Rosetta Stone of Sicily. A room in the museum is devoted to the antique finds unearthed at the temples of Selinunte. The underwater archeology is another unique feature of the museum.
If you are looking for a spiritual experience or just want to appreciate the beautiful architecture, the Cathedral of Palermo, built in the 12th century is worth a visit. To fully appreciate its beauty, consider taking a guided tour of the cathedral.
Via Vittoria Emanuele has other attractions too. The street markets sell fresh produce and antiques. Many festivals are held during July and November. There are numerous piazzas and palaces that are positioned along the street, most famous being the Palazzo Riso-Belmonte of the 18th century. Most of Palermo's attractions line Via Vittoria Emmanuele.
All through the year fairs, feasts, festivals and other events are held to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Palermo. Dance, music and theatre events, art exhibition, religious processions, nature walks, windsurfing competition offer tourists a wonderful opportunity to be part of the festive atmosphere.
Historic treasures in Catania: Catania is the second most important city in Sicily. Most of Catania's wide streets and majestic palaces were built during the eighteenth century. Catania has historic treasures like the Ursino Castle. Built in the first half of the 13th century, the castle served as a coastal fortress which has not been converted into a museum.
Active volcano in Mount Etna: Mt. Etna is an active volcanic peak 18 miles from Catania. Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe at 3,295 metres (10,810 feet). The last two eruptions were in May and July 2011. The volcano, currently does not present any risk to local residents.
It's a typical volcanic landscape with solidified 'rivers of lava'. Parts of the mountain are also lushly vegetated, boasting deep green forests. It can be an exhilarating experience to go to the top and look in the crater. You can hire guides or join tours to go to the top. If going to the top isn't feasible, explore other lower craters that are formed from previous eruptions. Skiing, country side walks, camping, cycling and horse back riding are some popular tourist activities during the winter season.
Beaches in Sicily
Beaches of Sicily are a major attraction with tourists who like to bask in the sunshine, sunbathe or don a mask and snorkel or just enjoy the beautiful white sandy beaches. The beach season formally begins in June.
Sicily's beaches are considered to be the best beaches in the whole of Italy. The most popular is San Vito lo Capo; backed by high mountains. Marina di Ragusa is a popular beach resort destination with its clear azure waters and golden sands. There is a beach inside the Natural Reserve at Vendicari. Giardini Naxos is under the hill of Toarmina. Fiumefreddo di Sicilia beach is another popular beach. If you wish to find accommodation right on the sand and enjoy fantastic views of the crystal clear water and golden sand you can choose to stay in campgrounds, b & bs and other resorts.
Adventure sports in Sicily
Scuba diving and snorkeling is possible all around Sicily. Many tourists visit Ustica Island just for scuba diving. There are 18 dive sites in the eastern, southern and western coast of Ustica Island. Its coastline is made up of creeks, bays and caves which make scuba diving all the more exciting. On the southern tip of the island is Grotta del Gamberi, a very popular diving spot. There is also a Sub-Aqua Archeological trail. Take a dive to look at remains of many shipwrecks that are visible in the clear waters. There is another diving spot in Secca di Colobara and Scoglio del Medico. There is an amazing variety of marine life to see in both the diving spots. Part of Ustica Island is a national park. The clear waters and exotic marine life attract snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts from across the world. Ustica Island has many scuba schools that offer weekly lodging facilities to encourage tourists keen in learning scuba diving.
Cuisine of Sicily
Sicilian cuisine is not limited to pastas and cassatas. The specialty of Sicilian cooking is that it reflects 2,500 years of cross-cultural influences. The influence of the east and west, the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, French and English is evident in traditional Sicilian cuisine. An Arab influence is particularly noticeable. The food is hot and spicy, and eggplants, olives, pine nuts, and capers are widely used along with pasta and tomatoes.
Seafood plays a prominent role on the Sicilian table. Sicilians are experts in preparing fish recipes in a thousand different ways. Vegetables, fruits, meat or sea food, local specialties vary from region to region. If you get a chance, try these famous Sicilian dishes.
Tonno alla palermitana – Tuna marinated in white wine,garlic, lemon, rosemary and broiled. The dish is served with pan-seared sardines.
Il timballo del Gattopardo – Sicilian pie
Caponata – eggplants with tomatoes and olives
Maccu di San Giuseppe – Bean paste with fennel
Panelle – Chickpea fritter served with sandwich.
Sicilian wines: Marsala (sweetest wine), Nero d'Avola, Etna, Noto, Passito di Pantelleria
Sicilian desserts and cakes: Cannoli, Sicilian orange almond cake, cassata and ricotta ice creams, Carteddate with honey, Tiramisu, gorgonzola cheese with fruits and Florentine biscuits.
Sicilian cheese: Sicily produces a great variety of excellent quality cheeses. Sicilian cheeses are popular in U.S.
- Pecorino – Made from sheep's milk
- Caciocavallo - made from cow's milk
- Canestrato - made from whole cow's milk
- Provola, - made from whole cow's milk
- Tuma – Made from cow or sheep's milk
- Ricotta salata – Made from sheep's milk
- Ragusano DOP - uncooked cheese made from whole cow's milk
- Maiorchino- 70% raw sheep milk and 30% goat milk
- Vastedda del Belice - pasta filata (kneaded curd) sheep cheese
Interesting trivia about Sicily
Celebrities' connection:Eolia Islands are for the world celebrities. Isle of Salina is where Sir Thomas Sean Connery, King of Belgium Albert II spend their holidays.
Home to creative minds: Many poets, writers and artists were born on the island, making it one of the most artistic places in all of Italy.