This sizable island (about 175 miles wide) is famous for its Greco-Roman remains, the Baroque architecture of Palermo and 10,991-foot Mount Etna. The two principal attractions, Taormina and Syracuse, are picturesque and historically fascinating. However, both see large numbers of tourists during the summer season. Less frequented are the Baroque towns of Modica, Ragusa and Noto.
Cook Like a Sicilian
The island’s best and friendliest cooking school is Anna Tasca Lanza, on a magnificent estate in central Sicily. The half-day program, which includes a cooking lesson and lunch with wines from the surrounding Tasca d’Almerita vineyards, makes a memorable excursion from Palermo.
Palermo's Cultural Charms
Palermo rewards curious travelers with a rich, charming and idiosyncratic local culture. If you do nothing else, visit the open-air Ballarò street market, one of the great gastronomic spectacles of the Mediterranean. I also recommend seeing the sensational Byzantine mosaics in the Cappella Palatina and, just outside the city, the Cathedral of Monreale. Connoisseurs of the macabre should also not miss the Catacombe dei Cappuccini (Piazza Cappuccini 1), where more than 1,000 mummified bodies stand along the walls.
A Volcanic Wonderland
“There are few places in the world that empty your head and make you slow down better than Pantelleria,” a friend in Rome assured me. The craggy and volcanic island lies about 120 miles southwest of Sicily, a 45-minute flight from Palermo. Known for its capers and wines, Pantelleria has an area of 32 square miles, a bit larger than Manhattan. Although there are now two or three pleasant hotels in which to stay, I recommend renting a villa. The island’s best agent is the charming, English-speaking Giovanni Matta, who lived in New York for five years before returning to Italy and starting his company. Seven-night stays are generally required during high season.