Travel is just plain better when you’re an empty nester.
If your children have flown the nest, the desire to fly away somewhere magical may be growing for you too. Somewhere hot, with a beautiful sparkling coastline and delicious food…
There’s a sense of control—over your time, over your itinerary, over your entire experience. After all, you’re not at the mercy of your children’s school holidays, the demands of your job or even your budget that in years past was much more in bondage to mortgage payments, college tuition, and all the other expenses that go along with raising a family.
Now it’s about going places and seeing things that you’ve always wanted to do and see—about the experiences that matter to you. And that’s why Sicily is the ideal destination for this time in your life. It’s not just the forgiving pace of life on this lovely Mediterranean island, it’s the fragrance of the lemon trees, the pure Sicilian light, and the poetic imagery of the timeless landscape.
If you’re looking for the ultimate bucket list adventure, here are eight reasons Sicily is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for the empty nester.
1. The ancient world truly comes alive in Sicily.
If you’re devoted to classical studies—or even if you’ve just a passing interest—you won’t fail to be amazed at the remains of the ancient world in Sicily. Once considered the shining star of Magna Graecia, Sicily’s major cities contain some of the most important archaeological sites in the world; there are seven UNESCO World Heritage sites on the island.
You won’t want to miss the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, where specimens like the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Concordia (the biggest and best preserved Greek Temple in the world) the Temple of Heracles, and the Temple of Castor and Pollux dating back to the 5th century B.C. stand proudly atop a rocky crest.
Siracusa, called the greatest and most beautiful Greek city by Cicero himself, is home to the massive 5th century B.C. Greek theatre—which is still used for the annual Greek Theatre festival each spring. There are also incredible Roman remains, including a Roman amphitheatre.
Wandering the tiny island of Ortygia is like stepping back in time, where Greek and Roman remains stand shoulder to shoulder with medieval Norman structures and exquisite Baroque architecture.
Travel along the incredible west coast to experience these historic gems and more.
2. You will never experience anything like the views in Taormina.
Taormina is perched atop a hill overlooking the sea and Mount Etna in the distance appears so close you could reach out and touch it. The Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast have nothing on the views from Taormina’s splendid heights.
When you tire of the stunning views, don’t miss the Teatro Greco, the Duomo, a short visit of Castelmola, located just few minutes on top of Taormina, and the cable car ride to lovely Isola Bella. The volcanic formations at Alcantara Gorge, the stunning public gardens, and the baroque fountain at the Piazza Duomo round out a day in Taormina.
3. Put on your hiking boots and walk up Europe’s most active volcano.
Feeling a little more intrepid? Hike up mount Etna, reaching heights of up to around 3,000 metres, exploring the incredible topography of the area. Wander past summit craters, cinder cones, lava fields and the great valle del bove, a horseshoe shaped depression 5 kilometers in diameter and 1 kilometer deep. Don’t forget to look down, for unbeatable panoramic views of the entire island.
You won’t be short of photo opportunities atop a volcano! Apart from a camera, you should also bring a sturdy pair of walking boots, sun cream, a waterproof shell jacket and dress in layers, as weather can sometimes be unpredictable.
4. Palermo is the beating heart of Sicily’s fabulous gastronomic heritage.
Palermo is a giant melting pot of cultures—Phoenician, Norman, Moorish, Spanish—and the food scene reflects all of Sicily’s varied heritage. The vibrant markets, especially the Ballaro and Capo, are truly overwhelming, but the street food vendors are absolutely divine.
Arancina (crispy fried rice balls), sfincione (thick Sicilian pizza), babbaluci (tiny garlicky snails), pane, panelle e crocche (North African sandwiches of chickpea fritters and potato croquettes), cannoli (tubes of fried pastry filled with sweet cream), and gelato con brioche (a sweet roll stuffed with your favorite gelato) are must-try experiences in Palermo.
Local dishes to taste include the singular pasta alla Norma, pasta with sardines, caponata, sweet cannoli and cassata—and of course Modica chocolates and pistachios.
Fun fact: The movie Godfather III was partially filmed at the Teatro Massimo, another highlight of Palermo.
Be sure to make time between courses for the incredible mosaics in the Palatine chapel and Monreale cathedrals.
5. You can taste for yourself why Sicilian wines are skyrocketing in popularity all over the world.
Would it surprise you to know that Sicily plants more grapes than any other region in Italy? Sure, many go to production of Marsala, but the emphasis is slowly shifting to Sicily’s lush red and white wines.
In the 1990s, only about three dozen wineries were on the island; now there are more than 300. There is a genuine Nero d’Avola renaissance, as well as renewed interest in Frappato and the yeasty white Carricante. When you visit Sicily, you can be the first among your friends to sample these wines and bring home some of the best.
6. Experience some of the finest Baroque art and architecture in the world.
The eight towns of the Val di Noto heritage area of south eastern Sicily (Catania, Modica, Militello val di Catania, Caltagirone, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Scicli, Ragusa) represent the highest quality late Baroque art and architecture. See for yourself how the towns were all rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1693 and the soaring structures typify the grandeur and drama of Baroque style.
The Church of San Giorgio in Ragusa and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Noto are two striking examples of the curving lines, jutting cornices, and scrolled and ribboned buttresses that exemplify the Sicilian Baroque identity.
7. Immerse yourself in the medieval history of Erice.
The Elymians settled in Erice (Eryx as it was originally called) before the Greeks ever discovered Sicily. In fact, it is said that Hercules and Aeneas both were attracted by this city upon a hill, some 750 meters above sea level, so high it has its own personal cloud.
Over the years, as with other Sicilian towns, other cultures inhabited the place, but the medieval influence is the most pronounced. See some of the 60 churches including Chiesa Madre and the Church of Saint John the Baptist, as well as the much-visited Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle.
For a gorgeous adventure, take the cable car from Trapani to Erice for magnificent views of the Egadi Islands.
8. Get a firsthand look at the 4th century Roman mosaics in Piazza Armerina at the Villa Romana del Casale.
The Villa Romana del Casale is a luxurious villa dating back to the 4th century, commissioned by a Roman nobleman. While the lodge is beautiful as an example of the genre, its true value lies in the nearly 3,500 square meters of well preserved mosaics, most likely crafted by North African artisans.
These extraordinary mosaics cover a wide range of scenes and subjects, including simple portrayals of daily life to Homeric escapades and most memorably the “Bikini girls” tableau, a delicate scene of young woman exercising in two-piece costumes resembling the modern-day bikini.
The villa was nearly obliterated in a 12th century landslide, but excavations in the 20th century ultimately revealed the magnitude of the structure. Villa Romana del Casale is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you do visit Piazza Armerina, make time to explore the 14th century Aragonese castle and the impressive duomo dating to the 18th century.
Should you be in Sicily during the month of August, another must-see experience is held in Piazza Armerina—the Palio dei Normanni, a horsemanship competition dating back to Norman times.
Empty nesters are uniquely positioned to enjoy a visit to Sicily. Imagine how nice it would be to take all the time you want to explore its ancient ruins and archaeological treasures…its important art and architecture…its beautiful landscapes and coastlines.
And of course, what can compare to leisurely afternoons at intimate cafes enjoying Sicilian cuisine and exquisite wines?
If there’s something above that speaks to your soul, get in touch today to start planning your Sicilian Adventure. Or if you’d like some more information on how to plan your vacation, sign up to our free email course.