Sicily is a destination unlike any other. It is infused with rich culture, incredible cuisine and gorgeous sites including 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
To get to Sicily from the UK, the most convenient mode of transport is via plane. Sicily has three main airports (Palermo Falcone-Borsellino, Trapani Vincenzo Florio, and Catania Vicenzo Bellini). There are direct flights, for example, from London Gatwick to Catania via British Airways as well as from Dublin to Trapani via Ryan Air. For accommodation, it is common and highly recommended to stay locally in private houses in fact there are sites like Wishsicily for example, where you can see and book the villas in Sicily available for rent during your stay. This way, you get privacy and space in a location of your choosing.
Here is a list of the 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sicily (in order of when they were listed) that are each a must-see:
1. Archaeological Area of Agrigento, listed in 1997
Agrigento, previously known as Akagras, was a Greek city home to religious constructions. It is also home to the Valley of the Temples, which as stated by UNESCO “is one of the most outstanding monuments of Greek art and culture”.
2. Villa Romana del Casale, listed in 1997
The Villa Romana del Casale is an example of a luxurious Roman 4th century AD villa. It was discovered in the 20th century.
3. Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands), listed in 2000
The islands are found 30km to the north of Sicily. UNESCO states the islands, “have provided the science of volcanology with examples of two types of eruption (Vulcanian and Strombolian) and thus have featured prominently in the education of geologists for more than 200 years.”
4. Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, listed in 2002
According to UNESCO, “the Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto in southeastern Sicily provide outstanding testimony to the exuberant genius of late Baroque art and architecture… and represent the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe.” The disastrous 1693 earthquake in Sicily sparked the late Baroque renaissance, as we see now throughout the late Baroque towns.
5. Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica, listed in 2005
UNESCO explained the importance of Syracuse, stating, “the group of monuments and archaeological sites situated in Syracuse… is the finest example of outstanding architectural creation encompassing several cultural influences (Greek, Roman and Baroque).” Visitors can explore the Greek theatre, ruins, markets, and Piazza Duomo. The Necropolis of Pantalica is tucked away in the Iblei Mountains, home to 5,000 burial chambers.
6. Mount Etna, listed in 2013
Mount Etna, found on the east of Sicily, is Europe’s highest active volcano. According to UNESCO, it was listed as a World Heritage site due to its “almost continuous eruptive activity (which) continues to influence volcanology, geophysics and other Earth science disciplines… The diverse and accessible range of volcanic features have made the site a prime destination for research and education.”
7. Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalú and Monreale, listed in 2015
This site is particularly special for art historians. It hosts nine constructions, including: the Norman Palace, the Palatine Chapel, the Zisa Palace, the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammaraglio, the Church of San Cataldo, the Admiral’s Bridge, and the cathedrals in Palermo, Monreale, and Cefalú. According to UNESCO, “Collectively, (these constructions) are an example of a social-cultural syncretism between Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures on the island which gave rise to new concepts of space, structure and decoration. They also bear testimony to the fruitful coexistence of people of different origins and religions (Muslim, Byzantine, Latin, Jewish, Lombard and French).”
As we can see, for a culturally rich holiday, Sicily is the perfect place.