Ever wondered why the Mediterranean isle of Sicily is such a memorable destination? Sure, there’s Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, but did you know there are many other ancient sites, ever-changing countrysides, stunning coastlines and tranquil vineyards, just yearning to be explored?
Enhance your vacation in Italy by adding some day tours of Sicily to your visit, where you can discover the beautiful secrets of this island for yourself.
You’ll see scenes straight out of the movies (no really, many movies were filmed here, like The Godfather) as well as wine and dine like royalty. Uncover a region steeped in ancient history, whilst getting up close and personal with a geological wonder.
Here are 10 incredible day tours in Sicily that are sure to complement any trip to Italy:
1. Forget Barbecue—Sicily’s version of Southeastern cuisine includes cheese and wine!
Welcome to Syracuse, Sicily’s coastal city on the southeastern side of the island. Just an hour’s ride south will bring you into Noto valley, where you’ll enjoy tastings, demonstrations and meet the locals at an ancient Sicilian farm.
Food-lovers rejoice as you sample the many varieties of cheese, including pecorino made from sheep milk, ricotta and caciocavallo. Learn how Sicily’s famous almonds are worked to produce almond milk. There’s always time to relax as you wander among the lemon trees, taking in their fresh citrus scent.
Sicilians are passionate about food, so lunch is a celebration of the goods grown or made on the farm. Add a glass of Sicilian wine, and you’re in pastoral paradise!
2. Learn to cook Sicilian-style in an old Water Mill.
Starting in Syracuse, drive inland to a local grocery farm to pick out some fresh produce for a countryside cooking class in an old Water Mill. Imagine this idyllic scene—the old mill is surrounded by streams, small lakes, and waterfalls with breathtaking colors. It’s straight out of a fairytale.
Learn how to cook just like a Sicilian— even if you’ve never cooked before. Our chef will teach you the art of preparing fresh pasta, filled with tasty local cheeses and the crisp veggies you purchased earlier. Top off your hard work with a glass of vino, and you’re good to go!
Just west of Syracuse is the small village of Palazzolo Acreide. This tiny town holds a lot of history as it dates back to the Corinthians in 664-663 B.C. Leisurely stroll through the old town, appreciating the ancient architecture or maybe stop in a gelato shop for a refreshing treat, Sicilian style! After your hard day’s work in the kitchen, you deserve it!
3. Venture to Europe’s largest active volcano—Mount Etna.
Just because there’s more to see in Sicily than Mount Etna, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit the vast volcano. The southern slopes are rather new—Mount Etna most recently erupted in 2002, leaving behind the noticeable remnants of turbulent volcanic activity.
The volcanic mountain is not only known for its eruptions. Many vineyards lie on the slopes of the volcano, and in fact, after touring the lava fields, why not chill out with a refreshing glass from a nearby winery.
Are you cruising around the Mediterranean seas? If you’re stopping in Messina, Catania or Taormina, this trip to Mount Etna is a perfect choice!
4. Feast on a traditional farmhouse lunch after exploring Etna’s craters.
Jump in a comfortable, air-conditioned jeep (or other 4×4 vehicle) for a full day of adventure. You’ll see natural caves, solidified lava (from the recent 2002 eruption which lasted almost 3 months!), and Etna’s crater.
After exploring the mountain, you’ll stop at a nearby farmhouse for a tasty three-course meal. Begin pranzo (that’s lunch) with an appetizer of salami, cheese, and seasonal vegetables. The main course of two different pasta dishes is sure to satisfy – remember to leave room for a delicious dessert. And as with all things in life, adding a glass of wine is a great idea!
5. Or perhaps you’d rather explore the volcano’s vineyards?
Speaking of wine, maybe you’d prefer to enjoy Etna’s beauty through her vineyards? The soil surrounding the volcano is full of nutrients, minerals, and aromatic elements for the perfect production of grapes, and subsequently, wine. You really shouldn’t miss pairing your wine of choice with local delicacies for a truly delicious tasting.
Combine a gastronomic journey with insight into the breathtaking Sicilian countryside. Stunning views of the vineyards hug the mountain sides, and rolling fields beyond contrast with the rugged remains of Etna’s past eruptions.
6. Take a sip of one of Sicily’s major exports—no, not wine—olive oil!
Today you’ll be sampling some smooth olive oil, but first—marzipan! That’s right, your day begins in the medieval town of Erice for an introduction to the world of Sicily’s pastry shops and their famous marzipan candies. Foodies will go nuts for the almond and pistachio flavored pastries!
Moving southwards, marvel at the Sicilian Saltpans, where the process of removing salt from the sea still occurs today. Sea salt is a must for any aspiring chef!
We’ve saved the best for last, with a visit to a local olive-oil producer for a one-of-a-kind afternoon. Discover how this silky oil is made and sample some for yourself – always take small sips to appreciate its fresh flavors. Eat like the locals as you savor a full lunch complete with olives, cheeses, salami, breads, and pasta to complement the local olive oil.
7. It’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – Roman Villa style in Piazza Armerina.
Remember that show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? Well, if it existed back in the 4th Century A.D, the Villa Romana del Casale would be featured. This extravagant edifice exemplifies the epitome of luxury—just take a look at the meticulously-crafted mosaics that can be seen throughout the villa.
This UNESCO World Heritage site exists in Piazza Armerina, which is less than a 3-hour drive from Palermo. Learn what is known about the estate and its original owner as you wander around the astounding 60 rooms and see an incredible 3500 square meters of floor mosaics.
Guess what? You can see another UNESCO World Heritage site on the same day! The Valley of Temples in Agrigento, circa the 5th Century B.C., is still very intact considering the age of these buildings. Exploring the Doric temples here will transport you back in time to an age when the Greeks ruled the world and gods and goddesses ruled the Greeks.
8. Seeing the Corleone countryside is “an offer you can’t refuse.”
There’s a reason “Corleone” is the last name of the famous (or maybe infamous) mafia family in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. In the novel (on which the movie is based), Don Vito Corleone immigrates to America from the town of Corleone, Sicily. At Ellis Island, his surname is changed to the town of his birth—Corleone.
In real life, Corleone was a major-mafia-hub in the 1960s. But beginning in the 1990s, a push was made to eradicate any gang activity from the rural town. In 2000, the anti-mafia museum opened to increase awareness and educate people of those who have risked and lost their lives while working against the mob.
Besides its mafia connection, Corleone is splendidly Sicilian, featuring baroque architecture and cobblestone streets in the old town. Spend your afternoon wandering its ancient avenues and exploring the many historical sites.
9. Indulge all five of your senses at a Marsala Winery.
You remember the five senses, right? Taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell? Well, you’ll need to use all of them to fully appreciate your day, beginning in Marsala. Taste these famous Marsala wines, which can be dry or sweet. Smell the vino’s aroma derived from different earthen elements surrounding the vines. Marsala is a coastal town, creating a beautiful backdrop for the vineyard – feel the light ocean breeze as you explore.
We’ll continue through the Nature Reserve of the Stagnone, meaning “large pool.” Find out why this salty lagoon is perfect for sea salt production, as you gaze upon the many pools of mirror-like water scattered with white windmills.
Head to an Olive Oil Producer for a light lunch where you can taste the freshness of the local produce, including cheese, olives and bread, intensified by the distinct flavors of their extra-virgin olive oil.
Visit Segesta where you can admire the archaeological wonders of the ancient Doric temples. You’ll realize that wherever you choose to go on the island, Sicily will always stimulate your senses.
10. Live as the locals do for a day in the Sikans Mountains.
Ever wish you could fully immerse yourself in the culture of the country you are visiting? In Sicily, that experience is possible in the Sikans Mountains. This “off the beaten track” territory of the Platani River Valley was once home to the Sikanin Kingdom.
As you come around the mountain bend, a lonely hill in the middle of the valley comes into view. Surrounded by wild and harsh vegetation, a handful of houses rest on that hill – that’s where your unforgettable Sicilian food experience begins!
Get to know the local farmer who will host you today. Watch as he demonstrates how various cheeses are produced and explains the importance of their aging process.
Is there anything more Italian than pizza? You’ll find out how the Sicilians make this classic dish. Appreciate the authenticity of a rural village free from the crowds, as you enjoy a pizza presentation in the local bakery. Heavy bricks are used to construct a wood-fired oven for all pizza and bread baking. Feel free to snack on some delicious samples before heading back to your vehicle.
You can’t go wrong picking a Sicilian day tour (or two!). From Sicily’s coast to the countryside, from Mt. Etna to the Valley of Temples, there is something for everyone on this idyllic island. Ready to book your trip? Get in touch today—or sign up for our free email course to learn more about planning your Sicilian vacation.