Imagine: white, sandy, soft beaches; clean, blue, warm sea water; amazing dizzying views from exclusive venues, exotic wild nature in the outdoor; and to chill out at sunset, what about a glass of marsala sweet dessert wine with a ball of cinnamon gelato, almond parfait or fruit salad while overlooking some ancient remains such as the 2500 years old Phoenician island of Mozia? Welcome to Sicily, darlings, an authentic secret escape!
An Italian island with 3,000 years of history, Sicily was once home to a Greek colony, a Roman province, an Arab emirate, a Norman kingdom, and more. Traces of these ancient conquerors can still be found in Sicily’s rich and diverse variety of ancient ruins, elegant architecture, and gastronomic delights. Your vacation could start in the 2300 year old town of Palermo, the 1 million inhabitant capital of the region, founded by Phoenicians as Ziz (flower). The city’s strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean has led to a past filled with a regular succession of invaders, from Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Romans, to Normans, Swabians, French and Spanish Bourbons, and more. This helps to explain the city’s eclectic mix of architectural styles—although the 17th- and 18th-century Baroque period has left the most visible mark on Palermo’s civic and religious structures.
Intense rebuilding after heavy bombing during World War II has also contributed to the city’s chaotic beauty. Depending on your interests you’ll find interesting museums, medieval churches, Byzantine mosaics, or bustling street markets for an authentic taste of local life. Once there, why not move in the nearby town’s 12th-century Norman Cathedral, which sits in the hills overlooking Palermo. See Byzantine art come to life within the cathedral’s nave, where nearly every surface is covered with intricately detailed mosaics depicting biblical scenes in rich colors and gold filigree.
After just one hour of driving from the capital you could also move on to Castelbuono, a medieval town in the Madonie Mountains. Here, you’ll view the battlements and towers of the town’s imposing 14th century castle and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. We recommend Nangalluruni Restaurant, recently reviewed by the New York Times as one of the best in the all island with a wealthy selection of fresh, local veggie and meat, the crown goes to the black pork handmade pasta and the mushroom!
After a lunch like that what about an afternoon stroll on Cefalù, which takes its name from the Greek word meaning “cape.” This small town is situated between a natural bay and towering granite cliff called La Rocca. Built for the Norman King, Roger II, the picturesque historic town features a “Sicilian Romanesque” cathedral that began construction in 1131.
Along the southern coastal line of the island you’ll find the Valley of Temples: the largest archaeological park in the world, situated just outside the city of Agrigento. Agrigento was once the Greek city of Akragas, one of the most culturally advanced cities of the ancient world. In the Valley of Temples, you’ll view the stunning archaeological remains of eight Greek temples, built between 510 and 430 BC.
Once there, moving north-east you can’t miss the Villa Romana del Casale, home to the ruins of an extraordinary Roman villa. Constructed in the middle of the 4th century AD as a hunting lodge, the villa was covered by a landslide in the 12th century. Twentieth-century excavations have revealed some of the finest examples of Roman mosaics in all of Europe, with scenes ranging from Homeric escapades to depictions of daily life. The villa is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.