If you are interested in art, architecture and history, there are new discoveries to be made every day of your holiday, regardless of which part of the island you stay in. Norman churches and Greek temples sit side by side with elaborate Baroque architecture, and Roman mosaics contrast with contemporary art. Several of the towns are best explored simply by wandering but booking on to a private tour can be an excellent way of getting the inside track from an expert.
In and around Palermo, a selection of Mafia walking tours provides an insight into the organisation. A 3-hour No Mafia Walking Tour through the historic centre of Palermo is led by a member of the Addiopizzo movement, finishing up at the Antica Focacceria San Francesco, a street food restaurant whose owners have stood up to Mafia demands. Alternatively, find out more about the Mafia massacres of 1992 on a Falcone and Borsellino Walking Tour, still in Palermo. Excursions can also be booked to Corleone, the birthplace of the Mafia, where there is an anti-Mafia museum.
If you’re planning a day trip that involves several locations, handing over the driving to someone else means that directions and parking are someone else’s responsibility and all you need to do is enjoy the view. If you are staying in western Sicily and prefer not to drive, a full day private excursion to Monreale, Palermo and Cefalù is an excellent introduction to the highpoint of each location, with visits to the Duomo at Monreale, the Norman Cathedral in Cefalù and to several of the key sights in Palermo.
There are also excursions available from Palermo to the medieval hilltop town of Erice and the temple at Segesta, to the Greek site at Selinunte, and to Agrigento and the extraordinary Valley of the Temples.
If the kids are less than smitten by the idea of sightseeing, why not add a touch of fun? We don’t know many children who wouldn’t be excited at the prospect of whizzing through a city in an iconic open-sided Ape Calessino – the perfect way to explore the narrow alleyways of Catania’s historic centre! The self-drive vehicles can be rented for a half or full day in Catania.
Alternatively, you can get a brilliant introduction to the baroque treasures and trophies of Modica in south east Sicily on a guided tour in a classic Fiat 500.