Step away from the beach for a day or two during your Sicily holidays and explore some of the incredible historical sites in Sicily.
For those embarking on holidays to Sicily, you’d be forgiven for fantasising about soft, golden sand and clear blue water awaiting you. Then there’s the magnificent Sicilian cuisine, with the likes of pasta with sardines and sweet and sticky cannoli a common feature on the plates of tourists. While this world of indulgence, rest and relaxation is easy to absorb, one of the most fascinating features of a trip to Sicily is the opportunity to explore the island’s ancient and historical identity. From Greek temples to marvellous mosaics, there are a plethora of awe-inspiring archaeological sites and ruins to be discovered across the island. And with that in mind, here’s our top 10 historical sites in Sicily guide…
1. Temples of Selinunte
An ancient Greek city on Sicily’s south-western coast, left abandoned for over 2,000 years, the Temples of Selinunte are the remains of a once thriving city. Five temples are on show here, centred amid a vast acropolis. The most famous is the Temple of Hera, dating back to 460 BC and recognised for its towering columns.
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2. Ancient theatre of Taormina
Set high above the beautiful sweeping coastline below, Taormina’s theatre is the jewel in the crown of this picturesque old town. The panoramic views are reason enough to visit the theatre, reinforced by the detailed architecture and large viewing area. In fact, theatrical and operatic performances are still hosted here today, continuing a tradition of over 2,000 years.
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3. The Valley of the Temples, Agrigento
The first of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this list, Agrigento’s incredible Valley of the Temples provides the perfect introduction to Sicily’s past. This is the world’s largest archaeological site, with the seven Doric temples the key attractions, particularly the marvellous Temple of Concordia, considered one of the most notable structures of the Greek civilisation remaining today.
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4. Ruins of Segesta
Fantastic examples of Doric architecture continue to flourish in the form of the archaeological park of Segesta. Discovered on the western tip of the island, the park’s remarkable main temple dates back to the 5th century BC, while a nearby ancient theatre is also brilliantly preserved, dating from the 4th century BC.
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5. Neapolis Archaeological Park
Another of Sicily’s fascinating archaeological parks and part of Syracuse’s extended UNESCO World Heritage Site listing, this complex dates from as far back as the 5th century BC and is divided into three sections. The first explores the city’s ancient quarry, while the second showcases the park’s spectacular Greek Theatre, one of largest in the world. The final section is that of the Roman Amphitheatre, once the host of gladiatorial battles.
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6. Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
These unique rock-cut chamber tombs populate a collection of cemeteries which operated over 3,000 years ago. Today recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with much of Syracuse, there are up to 4,000 of these fascinating tombs, 1,000 of which are encountered in the necropolis of Filiporto and another 1,000 at the North necropolis.
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7. Regional Archaeological Museum, Palermo
For an all-rounded insight into the ancient history of Sicily, the Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo is an ideal visit. Home to a comprehensive collection of Ancient Greek art, as well as several treasures from the Valley of the Temples and Selinunte, the museum will fascinate culture vultures and history buffs hoping to learn more about the top ancient sites in Sicily.
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8. Solunto Archaeological Park
Perched above the fishing town of Porticello at the foot Mount Catalfamo is Solunto, first established as far back as 700 BC. The gymnasium remains in the form of its standing columns, joined by several cisterns and civilian homes; the latter decorated with paintings on both the walls and floors.
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9. Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina
A Roman villa built in the early 4th century and today awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the Villa Romana del Casale boasts one of the world’s largest and most ornate collections of Roman mosaics. Among the most famous of the mosaics are the ‘Bikini Girls’ found on the floor of the Chamber of the Ten Maidens, and the ‘Little Hunt’ showing hunters using dogs to capture game.
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10. Ancient Fortress of Cefalu
Set above the glorious beaches and attractive old town, Cefalu’s fortress ruins are centred round the Temple of Diana, considered among the oldest structures still standing in Sicily. The walls and battlements of the fortress were reinstated during the 11th and 12th centuries when the Normans ruled the island. While the ruins here are of great interest, the view across the town below is unbeatable.
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Fancy exploring some of these ancient sites for yourself? Plan your 2018 holiday to Sicily now and prepare yourself for some history and culture.