Top 5 Historical Sites you shouldn’t leave Sicily without seeing
With a rich and complex history of invasions with the Greeks, Romans, Normans, Carthaginians, Arabs and Spanish all going their imprint, Sicily is awash with historical sites. Indeed Sicily boasts more ancient Greek temples than Greece itself.
Once a thriving city, home to the Elymians, this beautifully situated site comprises the well-preserved Doric temple and the remains of an amphitheatre set high up on the mountainside. Both built around 420BC, the sheer scale of the temple is sure to impress, measuring approx 56 metres by 21 metres, or 14 pillars by six pillars. From the isolated hilltop setting, visitors can enjoy panoramic views across the countryside to the sea, and we recommend the walk up to the amphitheatre, though there is a shuttle bus available.
Another idyllically set site, overlooking the coast, the Greek temples of Selinunte is one of the most impressive ancient Greek places. Formerly one of the most influential cities in the world, it had many conflicts with its neighbour Segesta who called for Carthaginian help to destroy Selinunte in 409BC. The Romans and an earthquake destroyed much more, but the fascinating remains include the Acropolis, eight temples and the Sanctuary of Malophorus, much of which dates back to the 6th century. Also, don’t miss the pretty walk along the beach below Selinunte for a different viewpoint of the cliff-top temples.
Valley of the Temples
Overlooking the coast at Agrigento, the UNESCO- recognised Valley of the Temples is one of the most magnificent archaeological sites in Sicily and is home to one of the world’s best preserved Greek temples, outside of Greece. Hidden below modern Agrigento, the 13 square km site encompasses seven Doric-style temples, all of which are standing to some degree, including the Temple of Concordia, the best-preserved example visitors will see in the valley. While here, visit the Museo Archeologico and the city’s 11th-century cathedral.
Teatro Greco, Taormina
Enjoying a dramatic setting, sitting high above Taormina, the horse-shoe shaped Teatro Greco dates back to the 3rd century, though was later modified by the Romans. It is one of the most excellent and most popular attractions Taormina has to offer, so we advise visiting either first thing or last thing to bypass the crowds. The theatre is still in use, so for a special treat visit during a performance. The site also offers a fabulous viewpoint over Sicily, standing among the ruins, look down over the coastline or across towards majestic Mount Etna.
A perfect example of Sicily’s rich architectural history, the construction of Palermo’s Cathedral began in 1185 under the orders of the city’s archbishop, Englishman Walter Ophamil, to compete with Monreale’s imposing cathedral. Over the centuries, it has undergone multiple re-workings and additions, leaving the hybrid we see today – the towers are Norman, the façade and entrance are both Gothic, and the interior is Neo-Classical. The Cathedral also houses the Norman royal tombs of Roger II and Frederick II as well as a treasury containing a collection of interesting relics and jewels.