What to visit and eat in Sicily

Sicily enchanted us with its hospitable people, natural beauty, architecture, and fantastic food. In this blog post, I’ll suggest a couple of places which are worth visiting and the food you should try if you go to the eastern side of this beautiful Italian island. To be honest, when I look at the content of this blog post, there are more photos of food than anything else, but this is what I like most about travelling – eating traditional and local food! There’s one important thing you need to remember in order to enjoy Sicily – you need to rent a car!

We landed in Catania, one of the biggest cities in Sicily, so we decided to spend two nights there. Unfortunately, the city did not make a good impression on me. Apart from having an apartment with a view of Etna, trying very good food at Al Gabbiano 2, and experiencing the buzzing night life, I will remember Catania as loud, crowded, and full of graffiti and dirty streets. I spent only one day there so my opinion may be unfair, but I would avoid spending too much time in this city. If you are interested in its architecture and sights, visit this website.

The view of Catania from our apartment and the Etna volcano in the background
Pasta with anchovies, bread crumbs and small grapes…I know, a surprising combination, but very tasty

Not far from Catania (about 45 minutes away) there is a picturesque seaside town called Taormina – click the link to see ten things you can do there. Its beautiful pebbly beach, the Issola Bella island in the middle of the sea, and the spectacular views you can admire from the top of Taormina’s hill will impress even the most demanding tourists.

The pebbly beach at Isolla Bella in Taormina. Beautiful, but walking into the sea is a bit painful…I had a few scratches on my feet!
Isolla Bella in Taormina - translated as a Beautiful Island
Isolla Bella in Taormina – translated as ‘Beautiful Island’
Arancini
Arancini is deep-fried rice stuffed with different fillings like mozzarella or ragu sauce

While walking around the centre of Taormina, you’ll experience lively music performances, an abundance of little trattorias with authentic Sicilian food, and posh boutiques. Taormina definitely deserves the title of the ‘Sicilian Saint-Tropez’! We ate a seafood platter at Osteria da Rita and we highly recommend it!

A seafood platter at Osteria da Rita
A seafood platter with tuna, shrimps and mussels at Osteria da Rita

If you like peacefulness and tranquility and want to avoid crowds, I’d suggest renting out a room at a farmhouse called Pantanelli Di Vendicari. It’s located near to the touristic town of Noto, but far away from its crowds. If you stay at this charming guesthouse, you’ll eat delicious food made from their home-grown produce (aubergines, peppers, almonds etc.), hear crickets in the evening, birds in the morning and simply be far away from noise of everyday life.

Pantanelli Di Vendicari.
These rosemary bushes smelt amazing!
Bruschetta – grilled bread with tomatoes and olive oil. A classic Italian starter – it tasted heavenly!

The farmhouse is located close to the Vendicari Natural Reserve which is a great place to walk around and admire its wildlife. The sea there is crystal clear and the wilderness of the place will release you from the everyday busy-ness of your life.

The beach at Vendicari Natural Reserve
The beach at Vendicari Natural Reserve
the ruins of the ancient tonnara
The ruins of the ancient Tonnara, part of the Natural Reserve

Ten minutes away from the farmhouse, there is the fishing village of Marzamemi, where you should definitely spend a couple of hours. You’ll love its cute little restaurants in the square and the harbour. Be careful though – if you want to buy lunch or dinner in the square, be prepared to empty your whole pocket and still feel hungry. The seafood we had at the restaurant Principino was delicious and fresh but the portions were not generous and the prices high.

Marzamemi, a beautiful fishing village
Gnocchi with seafood
Gnocchi with seafood and ricotta cheese. Tasted heavenly…and expensive!

The beaches in San Lorenzo (the town very close to our farmhouse) are simply stunning. The beach was empty, probably because it was late September so off-peak season, and we felt as if the beach was just for us. Don’t forget your snorkeling equipment as the crystal clear water will allow you to see plenty of sea life.

San Lorenzo beach and its crystal clear water
The beach in San Lorenzo and its crystal-clear water

If you are a history and architecture lover, take a trip to Noto – a town which will stun you with its beautiful baroque-style architecture. It’s know as the ‘Stone Garden’ and in the pictures below you’ll see why.

Noto
Noto, Sicily
The buildings in Noto have a characteristic creamy colour. How monumental does this building looks compared to little me?
Noto, baroque town in Sicily
A beautiful combination of beige and green can be seen all over Noto

On your way back to Catania’s airport, stop at Syracuse. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit the historical centre, but we managed to pop in to the Ortygia market, where charismatic fishermen sell fresh seafood and other Sicilian delicacies.

Tuna, Ortygia Market, Syracuse
I had never seen a whole sword fish before. It’s actually massive!
Fish at Ortgia Market, Syracuse
Fish at the Ortgia Market, Syracuse
Spices at Ortgia Market, Syracuse
I mean, just look at the colours of those spices…
Olives at the Ortygia Market

I hope my blog post about what to visit on the eastern side of Sicily will encourage you to visit some of the places and try some of the dishes I have included in this article. Below I will write some pieces of advice you may find useful when going to Sicily:

  • If you plan to rent a car, take your credit card with you. The rental companies do not accept debit cards to take a deposit and you’ll end up paying a lot of money for insurance.
  • Be extremely careful while driving – some Sicilian drivers don’t respect any road rules!
  • Avoid renting out accommodation in busy places like Catania. It’s better to search for so-called ‘Agroturismo’ run by families. It’s more relaxing to stay there and they will feed you with local food at a much cheaper price than in the centre of touristic towns.
  • Don’t be surprised to see the sides of streets and motorways full of rubbish bags. It is apparently a consequence of new recycling requirements which some Sicilian people are not used to following. They prefer to leave their bags on the motorways!

A quick reminder of what Sicilian food you should try:

  • Pasta Siciliana (pasta with almond pesto which is so creamy and delicious)
  • Pasta alla Norma (pasta with grilled aubergines, tomatoes and grated ricotta cheese)
  • Local wine (any type really; it is delicious) and Messina beer
  • Cannoli (an Italian dessert with pistachio or ricotta filling)
  • Arancini (fried rice covered with breadcrumbs, most commonly with a mozarella or ragu filling)
  • Seafood (especially tuna)
  • Bruschetta
  • Gelato (I recommend almond flavour)

Sicilian ceramic Moorish heads- the story behind the head here
A very common sight at Sicilian shops with souvenirs – ceramic Moorish heads. The story behind the heads can be read here

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Magdalena Rasmus

Lifestyle and travel blog about Bournemouth. Places to see.Things to do. Food to eat. Slow and local life by Magdalena

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