For the perfect northern Sicily itinerary, it’s best to start high in the North, in Palermo. The Italian city is the capital of Sicily and lies right on the coast. As there are some fascinating historical sights to visit here, I recommend to allow enough time for this wonderful, edgy city. Here’s which other places to visit in Sicily:
Scopello - a Sicilian insider tip
The coastal town is the perfect place for a dip in the cold water. The beach west of Castellammare del Golfo is a white pebble beach facing beautiful turquoise waters. As it is rather small and unknown, it is not overrun by tourists. Or just because of that it is one of the most beautiful and cleanest beaches in Sicily. Scopello is a kind of small fishing village. This one is charming and idyllic. You can also visit the old tuna fishing station (Tonnara di Scopello), which now houses a museum and a small guesthouse.
Erice - a small town right on top of the hill
The medieval town Erice is located in the western part of Sicily, high on Monte Erice and a must see Spot in Sicily. At about 750 meters above sea level, you have a wonderful view of the surrounding towns, the Mediterranean Sea, and the beautiful beach of San Vito Lo Capo. In the distance, you can even see the Aegades, a group of islands.
To reach the impressive viewpoint, you can either take the narrow mountain road or the cable car.
Cornino & Monte Cofanino
Close to Erice lies the small village of Cornino right at the Mediterranean coast. It is best to bring your diving goggles, because you’ll find an impressive underwater world. The clean and sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing and a walk.
For hikers, it is well worth visiting Monte Cofanino. The hiking route surrounding the 315-meter peak is about 8 km and takes about 3 hours. However, there is no shady spot and no possibility for an early pit stop, so the best time for this activity is in the early mornings and late afternoons. Do not forget water and a hat!
Castellammare del Golfo - a place to relax, stroll and enjoy
This Italian village is located on the north-west coast of Sicily at the Gulf of Sicily. You can stroll through the atmospheric old town and to the harbour at this famous tourist town. You can book various excursions by boat from there.
In the late evening hours, i.e. at the blue hour, grab your camera and take some shots from above the village. The colorful sky and the surrounding mountains are wonderful scenery to capture.
The Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro - hiking in Sicily
For sure, there is one thing not to be missed on your Sicily itinerary: a hike through the nature reserve Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro. It covers an area of 1,600 ha, including an 8 km long coastal strip. You can easily drive to the end of the avenue and park your car there. Within the area, it will amaze you at how beautiful nature is.
On the hiking route, you will have a fantastic view of the wide, bright blue sea all the time.
Dinner by the sea
After an exhausting day of hiking and other activities, a dinner by the sea is the perfect retreat. Tonnara di Bonagia in Valderice with the old tuna fishing station is the perfect place to do this. In one of the restaurants, you can finish the day with delicious food and a perfect view.
Marsala - salt & sunset
The harbour town is located on the west coast of Sicily and is known above all for its salt production in the salt mines. In the past, the extraction of salt from Marsala was one of the most important sources of income. Today, they also allow tourists to enter the salt mines.
Beside that, Marsala is also known for the Marsala wine. You can treat yourself with a glass in one of many beach bars. From there, you have a perfect view of the sun setting behind the salt lagoons in the evening.
A day trip from Trapani
You should plan a whole day for a boat trip to Levanzo and Favignana. These two islands are surrounded by beautiful bays and turquoise sea. At the port of Favignana, you have the possibility to rent a bike and explore the small, manageable island.
Learn a couple of Italian phrases, because you might not find many people speaking English. This is mainly because there are not too many tourists in the area.
Selinunte - Excavations of the Greeks
A Sicilian highlight is this archaeological site on the south coast: Selinunte. Mainly you will see the last remains of the Greek city Selinus. These include two necropolises and extensive temples. You can visit the archaeological finds until 1 hour before sunset. My tip: In the evening at the golden hour, the place is magical.
Where to stay for your Northern Sicily itinerary?
Let's talk history
Sicily has been influenced by many cultures, countries and organizations. The Mafia also plays a role, but not half as important as you might think.
In the early days of 750 B.C. – 215 B.C. Sicily still belonged to Greece. The Greeks built a lot of towers and other buildings, which you can still visit today. They concentrated on agriculture and the profitable export of various goods. The famous scientist Archimedes, however, provided more understanding of science and art and culture. One might think this period had a very peaceful atmosphere. Well, the exact opposite was the truth. There was a war between the two great powers of the Romans and the Carthaginians. Today we know it as the Punic War.
The Roman people triumphed and long-lasting peace returned. After about 500 years, however, Christianity spread and Sicily split. In the eastern part, the Byzantine Empire and its capital Constantinople came into existence. While this became stronger and stronger and spread, the great power of the Arabs and Islam arose in the south.
Another war followed, from which the Arabs emerged victorious in 831 AD. They achieved great progress in agriculture through new irrigation methods and gave Sicily an Arab touch. Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived together peacefully until 1300 AD. Meanwhile, the Normans and then the Staufers roamed the country. During the Anjou period, there was a historical popular uprising against foreign occupiers. This became known under the name Sicilian Vespers. When it became peaceful then, the Sicilians did not really know what to do, so they asked a Spanish foreign ruler to rule the province.
The predominantly Spanish rule of the next 600 years was broken in the meantime mainly by the land barons. They lawfully took over Sicilian domestic politics and thus gained more power. From this, the Mafia arose, which celebrated its rise particularly in the 19th century and displaced the Spanish aristocracy.
Around the year 1860, Sicily was liberated from all occupation by the guerrilla fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi within the framework of the so-called Risorgimento. With the foundation of the Italian nation state, Sicily was now officially part of Italy. The changes brought by the liberators did not please the population in favour of the Mafia. After the 2nd World War, the land barons regained power.
Since 1970, the Mafia has been actively fought. In 1985, the first Antimafia Mayor was elected and in 2012 Sicily received an Antimafia Prime Minister.
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