Archeological site at Agrigento: Valley of the Temples, Sicily, Italy

Agrigento: Valley of the Temples

This world-renowned archeological site is a must for travelers interested in Greek history. Divided into an eastern and western zone, the 3,000-acre park boasts eight temples, including the stunning Concordia Temple (the model for the UNSECO logo), which has survived largely intact since 430BC. Fascinatingly, the structure was built on a layer of clay, probably purposefully chosen by its Greek builders, which made it resilient to the earthquakes that felled most of the surrounding temples. These were restructured piece by piece and now frame Concordia as glowing examples of Greek architectural and engineering feats.

The setting is spectacular, and, unlike many archeological sites elsewhere in Europe, Agrigento is practically unguarded, allowing visitors free access to roam among the temples. If you bring a picnic, you can have lunch in the lush the beautiful Garden of Kolymbetra. For a more glamorous meal, reserve on the terrace of the Villa Athena with dead-on temple views.

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view from inside contemporary white building with wine bottles on shelf and windows looking to greenery outside

Baglio Occhipinti Winery

This is a special winery of the region that is known for its female winemakers and its natural wines.
Aerial View - Baroque Towns: Noto, Modica, Ragusa , Sicily, Italy

Baroque Towns: Noto, Modica, Ragusa

There are eight late Baroque towns in Sicily’s southeast, but the main ones to visit are Noto, Ragusa and Modica. After an earthquake practically leveled these towns in 1693, they were rebuilt in a style that mimics the late Baroque of mainland Italy and yet mostly features a completely unique expression of Sicilian tastes and sensibilities. Most impressive are the cathedrals at the heart of these cities, built like the rest of the towns with tufa stone, which glows like honey in the afternoon light. The towns can be toured in a day (the drives between each is about 30 minutes).

Noto is a lovely little spot for lunch or a late afternoon passeggiata (don’t miss a coffee, gelato or granite at Caffè Sicilia), while Modica and Ragusa are good places for dinner (Ragusa has an acclaimed two-Michelin star restaurant, while Modica’s restaurants are rustic trattorias).

Driving Times

  • Noto — Modica: 45 minutes
  • Modica — Ragusa: 25 minutes
  • Ragusa — Noto: 1 hour
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Design at Caltagirone ,Sicily, Italy


The epicenter of ceramics in southeastern Sicily, Caltagirone can be visited en route to Palazzo Amerina. The piece de resistance is a massive staircase whose steps are all lined in the region’s ceramics, done traditionally in swirls of blues, greens and yellows. If you can’t make it to Caltagirone, there’s a very good shop in Taormina (Managò), which works with twenty or so of Caltagirone’s best artists.

Driving Times

  • Modica — Caltagirone: 1 hour
  • Noto — Caltagirone: 1h40min
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Interior View - Cappella Palatina (Palazzo dei Normanni),Sicily, Italy

Cappella Palatina (Palazzo dei Normanni)

One of Sicily's most-visited sights is the intimate chapel at Palermo's Norman Palace. Commissioned by Roger II in 1130 (but recently restored), the chapel is a breathtaking, multi-tired room of floor-to-ceiling mosaics, inlaid marble floors and a stunning, painted wooden ceiling. It truly feels like walking into a precious jewel box and should not be missed on a trip to Palermo.

The rest of the palazzo is also worth a visit (when it's not used by the Sicilian Parliament, it's open to the public), as are the ancient Phoenician walls on view in the cellar. But the gilded star is, undoubtedly the cappella, the brilliant work of Byzantine Greek craftsmen brought to Palermo by Roger II in a forward-thinking way of collaborative interior design.

Indagare Tip: Since it is the city's prime attraction, it pays to come right when the palace opens, especially since only a limited amount of people are allowed in at a time. Alternatively, come around lunchtime when the crowds thin out.

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Exterior View - Chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (La Martorana),Sicily, Italy

Chiesa di Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio (La Martorana)

Another one of Palermo's Byzantine extravaganzas, this centrally located church was originally conceived as a mosque. The gilded mosaics, created by Greek craftsmen in the 12th century, are devastatingly beautiful, making the fact that half the church was turned in a Baroque showpiece in the 15th century even more criminal (many of the original mosaics were destroyed in the process).

Before entering the church, spend some time taking in Piazza Bellini as a whole: the churches and palazzi lining it hint at Palermo's complex history: the Chiesa Capitolare (on the right) has pink bijou domes that hail back to Arab-Norman times, while the Teatro Bellini is a crumbling but beautiful example of late 19th-century architecture.

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Exterior View - Chiesa Immacolata Concezione,Sicily, Italy

Chiesa Immacolata Concezione

The interiors of this unassuming church, smack in the middle of the Capo market between vegetable and seafood stalls, are a prime example of the Sicilian Baroque style. Barely an inch has been left uncovered. It's adorned floor-to-ceiling with marble in various colors, with bas-reliefs and ornate sculptures and statues. It's all over-the-top Baroque, which may not be everyone's cup of tea, but even minimalists have to admire the incredibly detailed craftsmanship of marble columns that are twisted like fussili, of the expressive faces of the statues and of the intricate floor patterns. Note that the church keeps sporadic opening hours, so a successful visit is a combination of luck and timing.

Exterior View - Indagare Tours: Baroque Towns,Sicily, Italy

Indagare Tours: Baroque Towns

While you can easily explore the late Baroque towns of Sicily's southeastern part by yourself, driving in these hilltop villages can be a bit daunting. Those who just want to enjoy the views, as opposed to white-knuckle along tiny hairpin turns that wind up and up and up, should plan a day-long outing with one of Indagare's preferred guides.

The towns can be toured in a day (the drives between each is about 30 minutes). Noto is a lovely little spot for lunch or a late afternoon passeggiata (don’t miss a coffee, gelato or granite at Caffè Sicilia), while Modica and Ragusa are good places for dinner (Ragusa has an acclaimed two-Michelin star restaurant, while Modica’s eateries are rustic trattorias).

Exterioor View - Indagare Tours: Cooking Classes, Sicily, Italy

Indagare Tours: Cooking Classes

Sicilian food has a wealth of influences, from Greek to Arabic, and its culinary scene is an absolute delight to explore. Visitors who want to learn how to prepare the deceptively simple, flavorful dishes can sign up for a one- or multi-day cooking program at the estate of one of Sicily's premier wine-making families. Set in a glorious 900 acres of vineyards, fields of wheat and olive groves, the classic estate is located a 1.5-hour drive from Palermo and offers a true immersion into Sicilian food and wine. Eight rooms have been restored to house students who sign up for more in-depth culinary programs.

Aerial View - Indagare Tours: Etna Hiking,Sicily, Italy

Indagare Tours: Etna Hiking

Brooding, smoldering Mount Etna dominates the entire northeastern region of Sicily. Driving from Taormina towards the south, the recognizable crater seems to follow you, appearing in your rearview mirror like an imposing character from a fairy tale. Outdoor enthusiasts should reserve a half- or full day for exploring Mount Etna regional park, about a 30-45 minute drive from Taormina. At a certain altitude, you are required to go with a guide, but it's worth hiring someone for the entire journey, as Etna guides double as naturalists who can explain the flora of this region (I have never seen as expansive a birch tree forest as the one that rises out of Etna's black ash in the north of the park.)

There are two approaches: the south flank, kicking off in Rifugio Sapienza (near the town of Zafferana) has a fun funicular and Jeep-off-roading option, a must for families. The less explored northern part is great for serious hikers (you have to walk for a good 2-3 hours before you see the craters). Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team to set up a tour.

Fruit - Indagare Tours: Etna Wineries,Sicily, Italy

Indagare Tours: Etna Wineries

Mount Etna's lava-black slopes are rich in minerals, and its verdant landscapes produce top-rated wines.  Winery visits are normally by-appointment-only and should be organized well in advance. If you don't speak Italian, it helps to have a guide who can translate. Many of the owners will also serve a light lunch as part of a visit. Some of the most well-known wineries are: La Planeta, Monaci Terre Nere and Benanti, but there are many smaller ones as well. Contact Indagare's Bookings Team to plan a customized wine tour.

Exterior View - Indagare Tours: Palermo,Sicily, Italy

Indagare Tours: Palermo

What's true in most urban centers is doubly so in Palermo: the city is best explored with a guide who can take you off the beaten path and point out the glorious details that make up this hodge-podge of a place. It's good to know and accept early on that it's best to just go with the city's laissez-faire attitude. A church that was open yesterday will be mysteriously closed today or tomorrow. An opera performance may be cancelled due to an unforeseen strike. And yes, the traffic is as horrible as you have heard.

But…for travelers who are happy to go with the flow while they treasure hunt, and, especially, for lovers of history—the city is a trove. Its historic center can easily be explored on foot, and every corner reveals more layers of history and culture. Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team for an introduction to the city's best guides.

Aerial View - Indagare Tours: Temple Tour,Sicily, Italy

Indagare Tours: Temple Tour

Sicily's western trio of Greek cities (today, incredible archeological sites) is made up of Agrigento and Selinunte (both on the southern coast) as well as Segesta, further north and a 1-hour drive from Palermo. With its Concordia Temple, which has survived practically unaltered since 430 BC, Agrigento is the most famous and should be on anyone's first-time Sicily itinerary. But insiders also rave about Segesta and, especially, Selinunte. The latter was settled around 628 BC (compared to Syracuse in 733BC) and was one of the richest Greek settlements of the ancient world with a population well over 100,000 people. The city was destroyed by wars and an earthquake during the middle ages, and Selinunte lay underneath layers of dirt and earth for centuries before excavations began in the 1820s. Todays Selinunte is incredibly impressive and sprawling: there are electric carts that visitors can use to explore. After a visit, head to the Marinella di Selinunte for a seaside lunch at La Pineta.

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Interior View - Monreale Cathedral,Sicily, Italy

Monreale Cathedral

Anyone staying in or passing through Palermo should stop at Monreale. The town's massive cathedral is one of the world's best examples of Norman architecture, and its interiors—the entire interior surface save for a few small marble areas—are decorated with mosaics. The tiny pieces, painted on a gilded background, come together to depict recognizable scenes from the Old Testament. I could have spent hours looking at the detailed scenes, down to incredibly precise facial expressions (particularly striking: Adam and Eve's look of shocked dismay when they are banished from the Garden of Eden). Considering the size of the cathedral and the tools (and scaffolding!) available to 12th-century artisans, Monreale is simply mind-blowing.

Driving Time

Palermo — Monreale: 20 minutes
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historic map in a gilded frame inside an art gallery with baroque vaulted ceiling

Palazzo Butera

This massive palazzo on Palermo’s harbor has been restored and turned into an incredible museum with a pieces from across eras and styles.
exterior of a palazzo with palm trees in front of tan colored building

Palazzo Castelluccio

Palazzo Castellucci is an amazing 18th-century Sicilian palazzo converted into an art gallery by French filmmaker Jean-Louis Remilleux.
Vegitable At Palermo Markets,Sicily, Italy

Palermo Markets

Though not as famous as Catania's fish market, the three Palermo mercati are nonetheless worth a visit. Vucciria used to be the biggest, but nowadays, the neighborhood is crumbling and the market has folded depressingly in on itself, with just one street of vendors left. The most fun to visit is Mercato del Capo, near the Palermo Cathedral. Wander the narrow alleys and marvel at the incredible seafood (tuna, thick as a tree trunk), produce and spices that remind of Sicily's multi-cultural history. The vendors try to draw attention to their wares by sing-shouting in Sicilian. Overall a visit here is a truly local, atmospheric experience. (The third market, Mercato del Ballarò is the most touristy and can be skipped.)

Crafting At Syracuse & Ortygia ,Sicily, Italy

Syracuse & Ortygia

A one-hour drive south from the Catania International Airport, historic Syracuse was the first city settled by the Greeks in 733 BC. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has one of the world's best-preserved Greek theaters, as well as an impressive Roman amphitheater. Close to the Greek Theater, don't miss the Latomie del Paradiso (stone quarries), which is where the limestone used to build the city was extracted and which were also used as prisons in ancient times. The quarries are surrounded by incredibly beautiful gardens of magnolia and citrus trees, and the temperature here is a fraction of that the sun-exposed Greek theater, making it a nice conclusion to a visit. Don't miss the enormous cave called Orecchio di Dionisio (Dionysius's ear) with its cool echo.

The small island of Ortygia, the starting point of the ancient city, is one of Sicily's most picturesque places, especially its car-free Piazza del Duomo, sculpted entirely out of the white sandstone that the region is famous for. If you're staying here, either at the Gutkowski or Agila, you can reach all restaurants and shops in the city on foot. From Taormina, Syracuse can be done as a day trip, albeit one with a lot of time spent in the car.

Driving Time

  • Catania International Airport to Syracuse: 1 hour
  • Taormina to Syracuse: 1h30min
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Auditorium At Teatro Massimo,Sicily, Italy

Teatro Massimo

This sprawling neoclassical opera house is one of Europe's largest (clocking in after Vienna's and Paris'). Naturally its history is full of drama and strife: it originally took more than twenty years to build, and between 1974 and 1997, it was shuttered for ongoing renovations that were stalled due to a mess of political infighting and Mafia-influenced corruption. Today, this marvel of neoclassical style has an auditorium lined with velvet-clad boxes. You can take guided tours of the theater but best to get tickets for an opera or ballet to get the full effect. Anyone who has seen The Godfather III will remember the final scenes filmed here, including poisoned cannolis and a dying Sofia Coppola.

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Forest Exterior at Capofaro Malvasia and Resort, Aeolian Islands, Italy

Trip Extension: Aeolian Islands

Visitors to Sicily can easily escape to the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago that is made up of seven islands of varying size. Most popular are Panarea and Salina, though the imposing Stromboli volcano also beckons with its cone shape rising out of the sea. Many travelers opt for exploring these islands, with idyllic small coves and the gorgeous Tyrrhenian Sea via yacht charter, though Salina and Panarea also have two good hotels. Indagare members can contact our Bookings Team for help planning a trip here.

Aerial  View - Vendicari Nature Reserve,Sicily, Italy

Vendicari Nature Reserve

Located in a prime location between Syracuse and Marzamemi, in easy driving distance to Noto, this stunning nature reserve is a good spot for spending a day by the sea. Imagine 3,700-plus acres of rolling dunes, lagoons, sandy beaches and bright-turquoise water. You can lounge on the beach or explore via one of the many trails. There are tons of birds to spot, but the luckiest visitors will see flamingos, which pass through Vendicari en route to and from Africa. Don't miss a lunch at Il Baglietto, right outside the entrance of the park.

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Statue At Villa Romana del Casale,Sicily, Italy

Villa Romana del Casale

Located in the town of Piazza Armerina, this Roman villa has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2002. It’s known for expansive mosaics that were buried for centuries and are therefore among the world's best-preserved. The villa is believed to have been a country retreat for either a senator or even an emperor (there are theories it was owned by Diocletian co-emperor Marcus Aurelius Maximianus). Whoever the owner, the mosaics tell the story of a man with a fondness for mythology , hunting, his family and women (as seen in several erotic mosaics and a duo of bikini-clad ladies working out with weights, in a remarkably modern depiction). The colors are so vivid, they border on looking fake. The villa only reopened in 2013 after years of renovation and is a site not to be missed if you’re based in the Val di Noto or at Agrigento.

Driving Times

  • Modica — Villa Romana: 1h45 min
  • Noto — Villa Romana: 2h15 min
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