Sicily is a total contrast full of history, art, and natural beauty. Cruise holiday makers get to experience some of its secrets whether in port or out on an excursion. There are three main ports (Catania, Messina and Palermo) which service the largest island in the Mediterranean.
However, if that’s not enough, then you can arrange a prearranged excursion from the ship’s tour desk. Here’s a sampling of what’s available in Sicily.
Located on the eastern side of Sicily, Catania is the city closest to Mount Etna.
Its landmark is the Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, also known as Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Catania. The cathedral was built in the 11th century and is designed in an appealing Sicilian baroque style. The cathedral’s Italian namesake is Saint Agatha of Sicily, the Patron Saint of the city and Sicily as a whole.
Another icon of the city is the Palazzo Biscari, a 16th century palace constructed on behalf of the will of the princes of Biscari after the 11th of January 1693 earthquake. Each room within contains their own unique items but the best place to view is the Princess Apartments which has remains of the Roman pavement.
Other things to see in the city include the Amphitheatre of Catania, which was built by the Romans in the second century and the Castello Ursino, which was built in the 1240s and serves as a location for the Museo Civico.
Messina was well known as being a hub for both trade and transportation, but the city’s fortunes sadly changed after a disastrous tsunami and earthquake hit in the early 1900s. Located on the northeast portion of Sicily, the town has been rebuilt.
The Duomo of Messina is a 12th century cathedral that is a testament to the longevity of the city. The cathedral was originally designed in the Norman style where it persisted for many years until the aforementioned tsunami and earthquake, the façade of which can still be seen. The bell tower of the church contains one of the largest mechanical clocks in the world and its statues depict scenes from the history of the city every day at 12:00 noon.
The Fountain of Orion was completed in the year 1553 and was built by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, a former student of Michelangelo. It served not only as an embellishment to the plaza but also as a way to transport water. The fountain is designed in an appealing Renaissance style and depicts scenes from mythology.
The Lighthouse of Messina, also known as the San Ranieri Lighthouse is another symbol of Messina. It was finished in 1555 by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli and guided ships to the sickle shaped harbour for years.
Palermo is a melting pot port city that dates back to the 8th century BC. Inhabitants who left their mark include the Persians, Romans, Normans and the Byzantines amongst others.
The Palermo Cathedral, also known as the Cattedrale della Santa Vergine Maria Assunta, built in the 12th century is the main cathedral in Palermo. This cathedral is known for its potpourri of architectural styles that give it an iconic look.
Another noteworthy church to visit here is the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi built in a very appealing Romanesque-Gothic style. It was built as a tribute to St. Francis of Assisi and hails from the 13th century.
The Fontana Pretoria is located in the middle of the Piazza Pretoria. Depicting mythological creatures, such as nymphs and river goddesses, the Renaissance style fountain was constructed in the 1500s by Francesco Camilliani.
For history buffs, the best place to visit is the local archaeological museum. This museum is arguably one of the most significant museums in Sicily and houses a huge array of historical artefacts, with some pieces dating back to prehistoric times.
- Agrigento – This 580 BC village, known as the “Valley of the Temples” is a Greek archaeological site. There are eight temples within the impressive Temple of Concordia’s Doric columns.
- Etna Volcano – Rise from summer to spring or from autumn to winter along the summit of the highest active volcano in Europe.
- Savoca – Walk the steps of Michael Corleone in this Sicilian town used for the film, “The Godfather”. Nothing has changed since the filming except its name.
- Siracusa (Syracuse) – This World Heritage Site located near the south eastern corner of Sicily is filled to the hilt with antiquities that rivals Athens and Rome. The ancient Greek settlement dates from 8th century B.C.
- Taormina – The very impressive Greek-Roman Theatre is perched up high with open views of Mt. Etna and the crystal clear Giardi Sea. Meander through the cobblestone streets in this artists village.
No matter where your ship stops in Sicily, you will always have a lot of shore excursions to choose from.
Written by Veronica Shine