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The gems of Sicily

Baroque cities, secluded beaches, Greek ruins and Mount Etna. Some of Sicily’s most stunning surprises are found on the island’s east side. The city of Catania is a convenient starting point to begin your discovery of the sunniest part of Italy.

Andiamo! Let's go!
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Catania, Taormina, Syracuse, Noto

The landscape teems with flowering cacti, citrus trees, deep-blue creeks and occasionally a smoking and rumbling volcano: Sicily has everything for a perfect holiday. At almost every street corner you can sample the sun-drenched local cuisine of fresh fish, pasta and risotto dumplings. Many civilizations have made their mark on the island, leaving a legacy of charming cities and villages. Three or four days are plenty of time to tour the provinces of Catania and Syracuse, which cover most of the east coast. Join us on this road trip!

320 km – 4 historic cities – 3 unique nature destinations

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Catania

A hot-blooded seaside town

The second largest city on Sicily is sometimes overshadowed by sophisticated Palermo on the north coast, which gets all the attention. But connoisseurs all agree that Catania exudes authentic Sicilian charm and a dynamic atmosphere. Soak up the ambiance as you explore the old fish market (great theatrics!) or tuck into a plate of pasta alla Norma on a patio at the Piazzo Duomo. 

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The baroque city centre is packed with countless churches, palaces, museum, patios and shops. The city also treats visitors with sights of the mighty Mount Etna, towering majestically above the city. Want to take a closer look at the volcano? Hop in your car and drive north!

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Mount Etna, Europe's highest volcano

The 3,330-metre-high Mount Etna volcano dominates the Catania hinterland. Although the top of the volcano is barren, the lower slopes form a lush nature reserve with beech trees, pistachio trees and vineyards. From the town of Nicolosi, a road meanders up to the highest point accessible by car at Rifugio Sapienza. 

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From here you can continue by cable car up the mountain to an elevation of approximately 2,600 metres. The highest part of the volcano can only be reached by four-wheel drive or on foot. It is a unique experience to walk through the red and black lunar landscape against the backdrop of the Ionian Sea.

Tip!

Book a room at an agriturismo

Along the way, book a room in an agriturismo, a B&B on a farm or a country estate. The owners can often tell you more about the local products and some may even produce these. Around Mount Etna, you will find local producers of honey, wine, lemons, oranges, pistachio and hazelnuts. 

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Taormina

The Saint-Tropez of Sicily

Northeast of Mount Etna lies the gorgeous town of Taormina, perched on a natural balcony carved into the rocks, 200 metres above the sea. Few places are as photogenic as this upscale town, a former Greek settlement. The lovely Greek-Roman theatre from the 3rd century B.C. attests to Taormina’s Greek heritage.

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Stroll along the Corso Umberto and enjoy the ocean. A cable car whisks visitors from Taormina to the sandy beach below on the crystal-clear bay of Giardini-Naxos.

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Syracuse, the white-pink city

To visit the next attraction, drive back along the coast to Catania and then continue south towards Syracuse. The oldest part of the city is nestled on the Ortigia peninsula. Charming small streets, white buildings and a baroque cathedral constructed around the pillars of a Greek temple define the urban landscape. With its air of sophistication, it’s not hard to believe that 2,500 years ago this was one of the richest cities on the Mediterranean. Take a peek at the small beaches below the city walls, drink an espresso standing up at the counter, and visit the market street Via Emanuele to blend in with the locals. 

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Cavagrande del Cassibile

Spectacular river gorge

Further south you will pass this beautiful gorge on the Cassibile river. A challenging hike leads to the valley, 300 metres below. Cool off with a swim in the river or in the small lakes with waterfalls.

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Noto

The baroque city

In 1693, the eastern part of Sicily was hit by a strong earthquake that practically levelled six cities. Like Catania, Noto was rebuilt in the 18th century in Sicilian baroque style. The result is a beautiful uniformity in the architecture of the many convents and churches in the honey-coloured city centre. 

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Noto is built against a mountainside and many streets are challengingly steep. To take a break, pause at one of the many gelateria in town. A fun fact is that in Sicily you can order your old-fashioned ice cream in a cone or on a sweet bun!

Tip!

Secluded beaches

Just south of Noto lies the nature reserve of Vendicari with hard to reach beaches that remain unspoiled and secluded.