Has your holiday wish list for the first half of 2020 gone out the window due to the unexpected coronavirus pandemic? Are you looking ahead to your first post-lockdown vacation? Book your getaway to the Mediterranean island of Sicily, just off the southern coast of Italy.
The largest and most exotic island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily, is bursting with culture, history, character, exceptional food and wine, and a warm, welcoming approach to hospitality. And yet, it is still far from being a mainstream destination.
Sicily reacted promptly to the Covid-19 pandemic and has escaped relatively unscathed, along with other southern regions. The south of Italy seems to have managed to avoid a lot of the pain and suffering experienced in other parts of the country. The good news is that Sicily has already reopened its borders to international tourism.
If you want your first post-COVID-19 holiday to be truly memorable, choose Sicily and get ready to enjoy a sun-splashed, flavor-filled, history-steeped getaway, while staying safe coronavirus. Here are five great reasons why Italy’s largest and most captivating island should be at the top of your bucket list for the second half of 2020.
1. Splendid beaches
This balmy island at the very south of boot-shaped Italy is a paradise for beachcombers and sun-worshippers. Sicily’s 900-mile coast is simply stupendous. The pretty much-deserted beaches and translucent waters are what you would expect in certain blessed parts of the Caribbean.
The sea has dozens of different shades of turquoise, cobalt blue, sapphire, and iridescent blue-green depending on the depth of the water, and the postcard-worthy beaches, hidden bays, secluded coves and marine reserves that run all along the coast are to die for.
Just off the toe of Italy’s boot, Sicily is also a year-round hub for watersports enthusiasts, whether it’s below the surface for scuba divers, on the surface for snorkelers or above the water for windsurfers, kayakers, and paddleboarders.
One of the most iconic and picturesque beach towns in the Mediterranean, Scopello, pictured above, lies close to an expansive nature park called Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve, a 5-mile strip of shimmering sand flanked by rocky outcrops and leafy vegetation.
2. A treasure trove of art, history, and culture
The perfect place to soak up some culture, this big, triangle-shaped island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea has been home to Romans, Greeks, Saracens, Goths, Carthaginians, Arabs, Venetians, Byzantines, Phoenicians, Islamic Moors, Bourbons, Spaniards, Normans, French, Swabians, and British, among significant others. No other place in the world has seen such an extraordinary parade of cultures leave their stamp.
Admirers of ancient Greek ruins will hit the jackpot with the impressive archaeological site of Selinunte, on Sicily’s south-western coast. An absolute must-see on the Ionian coast is the hilltop town of Taormina with its beautifully preserved Greek Theatre dating back to the 3rd century BC, and the ancient city of Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian), the birthplace of the eccentric inventor Archimedes.
No visit to Sicily would be complete without visiting the impossibly picturesque town of Cefalù, about 40 miles east of Palermo, listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites for its syncretic Arab-Norman architecture.
3. Eclectic, delicious food
With vineyards aplenty, and excellent restaurants serving freshly caught seafood, fish couscous, and pasta Alla Norma, named after the tragic opera by Catania-born composer Vincenzo Bellini, born viveurs love Sicily.
Thanks to influxes of different peoples over the centuries, Sicilian food is a real mixed bag – a sumptuous, varied, delicious and truly unique cuisine influenced by Greek, Spanish, Arab, Norman, French, Turkish and North African settlers. Get ready to enjoy delightful meals, filled with local seasonal produce infused with the taste of this Mediterranean island’s fascinating history.
Inspector Montalbano, arguably Italy’s most famous fictional detective, has introduced the world to some of the most delicious creations of Sicilian gastronomy, from flavorful pasta con le sarde with sardines, raisins and wild fennel, and fried arancini di riso to typical cheeses like primo sale and tuma, and pasta ‘ncaciata, a kind of eggplant bake.
Add all the authentic island dishes described in the best-selling detective novels by the recently-deceased Italian crime writer Andrea Camilleri to your must-eat list. You should also try the quintessentially Sicilian caponata, sfincione, artisanal granita, mouthwatering cannoli, chickpea flour fritters called panelle, and the grainy, bittersweet chocolate produced in the small town of Modica.
4. World-class wines
Sicily’s warm, dry climate and varied soils make it a superb environment in which to grow grapes and produce wine. This sunny island below the tip of Italy’s boot has different grape growing areas with their own characteristics and has become one of the most exciting wine regions in the world.
Of course, no visit to Sicily would be complete without tasting the quality wines produced in this area and visiting the wineries and luscious vineyards. The undiscovered territory of Menfishire, in south-western Sicily, is a real Mecca for savvy wine lovers. The rolling, verdant hills overlooking the glistening Mediterranean Sea with Tunisia in the distance are cloaked in lush vineyards, yielding some of Sicily’s best wines.
5. Luxury accommodation
Sicily has been luring affluent visitors to its sand-fringed shores since the days of the Grand Tour and is now on the cusp of becoming a hot luxury travel spot. The island offers a deliciously large number of super-luxe sea-view villas with private pool, elegant city-center apartments, and luxury beach villas with direct access to the sea, some of which are available exclusively through Select Sicily, a long-established vacation-rental company based in Castelvetrano, in the province of Trapani.