When people ask me where to go in Sicily, I normally start talking for hours… There is so much to see and to do that is really hard to answer this question straightaway. After my blog about places to see in the West coast of Sicily, here’s my list of favourite spots in the East coast, Enjoy!
Let’s start with an obvious one: Taormina. Settled on a hill overlooking the Ionian sea and Mount Etna, this town has everything a traveller could possibly look for; history, nature, and entertainment.
Things to do in Taormina
Taormina’s premier sight is the Antico Teatro Greco (Ancient Greek Theatre), where you can literally travel back in time while enjoying a stunning view. In the summer, the theatre hosts international arts and film festivals.
If you’re looking for a relaxing day and more history, i Giardini della Villa Comunale is the perfect place to chill out and enjoy yet another beautiful sea view. From there, you can walk down Corso Umberto and a look at the local shops.
A stone’s throw away from Taormina, Giardini Naxos is the best place for some relaxing beach-time. The coastline id 4 km long and there are plenty of beaches to enjoy!
If you are more into hiking and nature, then Gole dell’Alcantara is your place. The volcanic gorges, up to 50 metres deep, will take your breath away. You can either lie down in the sun and enjoy the view, or take it to the next level with a walk in the river all the way through the amazing gorges. Check out the official website for more information.
If you are travelling in East Sicily, you can’t possibly miss the opportunity of hiking mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe! Pack your trekking boots, bring plenty of water and don’t forget to put sunscreen on – believe me, it might be that hot up there, but the Sicilian sun will still burn you! If you’re lucky enough, you might even see the volcano erupt. Check this website for information of Etna’s eruptive activity.
At the slopes of Mount Etna sits the second biggest city in Sicily (hence it’s smokey dark buildings…). Catania, like many other places in Sicily, is full of history and great food! If you want to explore both at once, I’d recommend you join the Streat Catania Tour – a 4 hour walking (and eating) tour through the main squares are markets of the city centre.
Siracusa and Ortigia
Syracuse once was the most important city of Magna Grecia (the area of Southern Italy once populated by Greek settlers). If you decide to stop in this beautiful city, there are two things you can’t possibly miss:
The archeological site
Syracuse’s archeological site is home to a staggering number of well-preserved Greek (and Roman) remains, such as the beautiful Greek theatre, which dates back at least until the 5th Century BC. The theatre is now used to host the annual Greek theatre festival, running from the middle of May to the end of June. Another unmissable attraction is the so called ‘Ear of Dionysius‘, a 20m-high, slender pointed arch cut into the rock, which develops inwards for about 65m. The name was given by Caravaggio during his visit in 1608 and legend goes that it was used by Dionysius the Tyrant as a prison for political dissidents. By means of the perfect acoustics he could overhear the plans and secrets of his captives.
The Island of Ortigia
Ortigia is joined to the mainland by three bridges. As you reach the island, you’ll come to the majestic ruins of the Greek Temple of Apollo. Going right up Corso Matteotti you’ll pass a stream of clothes and shoe shops, before arriving in Piazza Archimede. My favourite spot in Ortigia is the fountain of Arethusa. According to mythology, the fresh-water spring is an embodiment of the nymph Arethusa, changed into a watercourse by the goddess Artemis/Diana in order to escape the unwanted attentions of Alpheus (Alfeo).
Nature reserve of Pantalica
Not far from Syracusa you’ll find the biggest nature reserve is Sicily and one of the most beautiful places in the entire Island. Some of the main highlights include the Necropolis of Pantalica – a collection of rock-cut chamber tombs dating from the 13th to the 7th centuries BC; Valle dell’Anapo -a beautiful canyon full of water streams and caves to explore, and Cava Grande del Cassibile – another hidden gems full of small lakes and waterfalls. Here’s a little taste of the beauty of these places:
The baroque towns of Val di Noto
Last but not least, Ragusa, Noto and Modica are a must see for people who enjoy their dose of good architecture. Check out my blog about events and festivals to find out what’s going on in this area.
Featured picture by Mario Cutroneo