Sicily is actually quite a large island with a lot of towns to visit. I have visited this beautiful Italian island twice. My first trip was to the eastern side of the island, where I visited Taormina, Syracuse and the Aeolian Islands. My second trip was to Western Sicily, where I stayed in Trapani, Favignana, Custonacci and Scopello. I found gorgeous boutique hotels in each area as well as some great things to do.
So here is where to stay in Sicily and how to have the best possible experience on this stunning Italian island.
Where to Stay in Sicily
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Taormina is a ridiculously gorgeous town. The town itself is pedestrianized and filled with cute backstreets and lovely architecture. Taormina, Sicily is full of great restaurants, cafes and fantastic shops.
This city in Sicily is everything you want Italy to be and more. However, most of the accommodation in Taormina is outside of the pedestrianized town.
Hotel Villa Angela is no exception – it is located up the hill from Taormina. It is a gorgeous Taormina hotel with the most amazing views. Every room has a stunning view.
This hotel in Taormina makes the most of its location with a lovely terrace near reception where you can have a sundowner and a lovely pool. The staff at Hotel Villa Angela Taormina is lovely – very friendly and helpful. They even organized my day trip to Mt Etna.
Italy, in general, isn’t fabulous on the hotel front. They are usually quite expensive, and the rooms tired – and often with kind of odd bathrooms that feature something halfway between a shower and a bath but not really either. Thank goodness Hotel Villa Angela is nothing like this.
The rooms at this hotel in Sicily aren’t massive but are a good size and beautifully decorated. And each has a lovely balcony.
The hotel has a shuttle bus that goes down to the city gates once an hour and does a regular pickup. This was fantastically convenient. You do need to book the Hotel Villa Angela shuttle during peak times.
And a final fun fact – one of the owners of Hotel Villa Angela Sicily is the lead singer of the Simple Minds Jim Kerr. Apparently, he occasionally visits, so watch out for him when you stay!
Things to do near Hotel Villa Angela:
- Go Shopping in Taormina
Taormina is definitely the place to go shopping in Sicily. It has a fantastic mix of classic Italian names you know like Furla and Coccinelle and super cute local stores filled with handmade shoes and handbags.
The Taormina main street is really the best place to go – I didn’t find as many good stores in the back streets. Handbags and purses are the things to buy here.
My favorite was Serapian, where I got a stunning matching handbag and purse. The upside of visiting Taormina in the heat of August was that there were quite a few sales on.
2. Climb Mt Etna
Mt Etna is stunning and visiting it is one of the best things to do in Sicily. If you are staying at Hotel Villa Angela, you will have a view of it from your room and be able to check the weather. I originally planned to climb Mt Etna – however, the August weather put me off.
Having said that, I had, of course, forgotten that you start the climb quite a bit above sea level where it was much cooler and this would have been fine to climb Mt Etna in summer. Indeed I saw many people climbing from the cable car.
However, the mountain looked very steep and the scenery quite same same so not sure how interesting a trek it would have been. Anyway, I had the hotel organize a day trip to Mount Etna for me.
The tour bus took us up to the base of Mt Etna, with a stop for Sicilian food products on the way. Once at the base of Mt Etna, you take a cable car and then a small bus up to the summit. From here, you can wander the summit of Mount Etna Sicily on your own.
Mount Etna is quite stunning. The summit itself is an unusual and very photogenic landscape. There are also some fantastic views over Sicily. It is very light physically – wear fairly sensible shoes.
After checking out the summit, you then head back down the same way. I was back at the main bus station in Taormina by mid-afternoon.
3. Have dinner at Al Saraceno
If you are after dinner with an amazing view, Al Saraceno is the place. And if you are staying at Hotel Villa Angela, it is only a 5 minute walk. I would recommend making a reservation – and asking for a table on the terrace at this Taormina restaurant so you can take advantage of the view.
The food is fabulous at this restaurant in Taormina – classically Italian. The key thing is it has a fantastic atmosphere and is a great way to really appreciate being in Taormina.
⇒ Check out my Post on 30 Unique Things to do in Sicily
Some other boutique hotel options in Taormina:
Stay in a turn-of-the-century villa carved into the cliffs at Villa Carlotta
For a more lavish experience in Taormina check out or the grand villa at The Ashbee Hotel
I loved Syracuse – it was a highlight of Sicily where to stay. It is such a cute and atmospheric city. The old town of Ortygia is the place to stay, eat and wander. It is at its most magic as the sunsets.
Hotel Gutkowski is a fantastic find. Very reasonably priced at 110 pounds for a double, it is beautifully minimalist. The location of this Syracuse hotel is fantastic – just on the edge of lovely Ortygia and across from the waterfront.
Hotel Gutkowski Sicily has a great restaurant where you can get dinner and a fab breakfast. Their breakfast was the highlight of the breakfasts on my Sicily trip. Super fresh local ingredients – tomatoes to die for, freshly boiled eggs, amazing juice, and great coffee.
The rooms at this hotel in Syracuse are lovely – minimalist and clean and as I was there in August I particularly appreciated the fantastic air conditioning. The hotel has a great terrace where they serve Granite in the afternoon.
I would highly recommend heading to some of the foodie/deli shops nearby and grabbing some local wine and cheese and meat and having pre-dinner drinks on the terrace – it is lovely.
The staff at Hotel Gutkowski Syracuse are very friendly and very helpful in organizing transfers and trips.
Things to do near Hotel Gutkowski
- Take a day trip to Noto
One of the best things to do in Syracuse, Sicily is head to the gorgeous Noto. This beautiful little town 40km from Syracuse is full of beautiful pale-colored buildings.
The best thing to do in Noto Sicily is to wander its lovely streets. Use the main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, as your kick-off point, and then wander the side streets.
There are many restaurants and bars and don’t miss the main cathedral. And make sure you pop into Caffe Sicilia for either ice cream or a Granite – for which they are justifiably famous.
If you’d like to stay the night in Noto, check out the lovely Gagliardi Boutique Hotel.
2. Early evening walk around Ortygia
Ortygia is the perfect Italian old town. It is full of little streets that are perfect for wandering. The best time to go is early evening – kick-off about 30 minutes before sunset.
This Sicilian town is at its busiest at this point, but this provides atmosphere rather than headaches. Don’t miss Ortygia’s famous fountain and the main square.
3. Go shopping in Ortygia
Ortygia has fantastic shopping. There are lots of Italian classics but a large number of unique and interesting boutiques. There are also some of the nicest souvenir shops I have ever seen. My hot tip is Ortigia.
This Italian company has grown beyond Sicily and has several stores in London. Ortigia is a fragrance company with lovely products – from perfumes to hand cream to shower gel in stunning scents. They also appear to be considerably cheaper here than in London, so stock up.
And don’t miss the food streets and market close to Hotel Gutkowski. This area is fantastic for buying produce and also extremely photogenic.
Another tip is that Catania airport has some fantastic food stalls where you can buy everything from cannoli to olive oil to take home easily. Make sure you get to the airport early.
4. Go to Le Vin De L’assassin Bistro for dinner
Le Vin De L’ assassin Bistro was one of my best meals in eastern Sicily. This highly recommended restaurant in Sicily is located in one of Syracuse’s back streets. We were in Syracuse in August and it was very hot so we took an outside table.
This Syracuse restaurant has a fantastic menu, great service, and a great wine list. I went with their signature tuna dish, and it was amazing! My recommendation would be not to have dessert here – wander back through the town and stop for some gelato or cannoli.
Another great boutique hotel option in Syracuse is Approdo Delle Sirene
3. The Aeolian Islands Salina
The Aeolian Islands are so beautiful. I had always wanted to visit. It wasn’t easy to decide which of the islands to choose. I decided on Salina due to its size and proximity to the mainland.
I had wonderful memories of watching the movie Il Postino which was shot in Salina. The island has a good range of restaurants and hotels without being too large. Malfa is the place to stay in Salina. It is rather hilly and you do want to be somewhere where you can walk to the main street and the beach.
I stayed at Hotel Santa Isabel in Salina. It was okay but not fantastic. The rooms were completely fine but quite basic and the air conditioning wasn’t very effective. Unfortunately, they don’t have a pool, so the best option is to head to one of the nearby beaches. However, that beach is very rocky, so do be careful.
Although I didn’t love my stay at Hotel Santa Isabel it does a great bar for sunset drinks. The view is stunning. It is a lovely outdoor bar with cocktails and a nice wine list. And best of all, they put on some very tasty snacks.
The bar at Hotel Santa Isabel is usually quite busy but you should still score a seat – definitely the place to go and watch the sun come down in the Aeolian Islands.
So I didn’t actually stay at Hotel Signum but I should have. I checked it out while I was in Salina and couldn’t believe my error! It has an almost colonial feel and is very stylish, with a great-looking spa.
I eat at Hotel Signum twice while staying on the island. Lunch was great but dinner was the highlight. The ambiance in the outdoor eating area is wonderful at night and we had an outstanding three-course dinner.
However, the highlight of the evening was tasting the area’s famous dessert wine Malvasia. The pouring of this wine is ceremonial in feel and it is delicious.
Things to do near Salina
- Take a Boat trip to Stromboli
There are A LOT of boat trip options available in Salina. You could visit all the other Aeolian islands, you could hop on the main ferry, you could pretty much go anywhere – again, spoilt for choice is the theme of these Italian islands.
I had recently made a full-day boat trip in Corsica, which was rather crowded so I was in the mood for something that wasn’t a 9-5 commitment with 100 other people. We wanted to go mid-afternoon, to go to Stromboli, and of course to have some wine.
We headed down to the Malfa port and just asked boat owners. It wasn’t cheap but we were in a group of 4 so we could split things (was about 280 euros). We headed out mid-afternoon.
Going to Stromboli means sailing past some of the other Aeolian islands. We stopped on the coast of Stromboli and jumped off the boat into some of the loveliest clearest water I have ever swum in.
The boat took us to Stromboli about one hour before sunset. We saw its startling black beaches, the home of Dolce and Gabbana was pointed out to us (very important) and we got to have a wander around Stromboli which is lovely.
Once back on the boat, dinner was served – very impressive to serve pasta on such a small boat. We then settled in to watch the volcano on Stromboli bubbling away. It was a bit difficult to see, but we did see something.
As we were there in August and it was very hot I had decided against climbing to the top of the volcano (there are many day trips that offer this from Salina). I was then quite jealous of the head torches I could see as we were in our boat.
If the weather was cooler, this would be a great thing to do. We were back in port and a quick stroll to the hotel by about 10 pm – a lovely lovely experience.
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2. Have a Granite in Lingua
Lingua is a tiny town on the island of Salina. There is a bus that goes around the island and leaves once an hour so we hopped on this for the scenic 30-minute trip to Lingua.
I have to say there isn’t a lot in Lingua Salina – a cute little waterfront that is worth a stroll. But we had heard all about the famous Granite. There were many flavor options and the granite was delicious.
If you want to feel like a local in Western Sicily, I highly recommend the Five Place Design Suite and Apartments. Located in the heart of Trapani, these modern apartments have a full kitchenette, separate bedroom, and separate bathroom. The living area is generous, with a large couch and a table for four. I loved my balcony, which faced the main street – a perfect place to watch life go by in Trapani.
The bedroom is huge, and it has a second balcony and a tv. The design aesthetic is very modern, with steel grey with splashes of yellow and blue. The kitchenette has a hot plate, crockery, and cutlery. The bathroom is also a good size and has a walk-in shower.
The staff is very friendly and keen to help. They also offer great suggestions at reception or through a list in the room of restaurants and local sites.
Breakfast is not provided, so guests can visit one of the many cute cafes in Trapani or do some grocery shopping and live like a local.
Things to do near Five Place
- Visit San Lorenzo Cathedral
Trapani’s main cathedral is located on one of the main streets of the old town. It’s an attractive baroque building in pale colors but the real wow is the inside. The high ceiling is ornately decorated and in excellent condition.
2. Eat Fish Couscous in Trapani
Trapani’s most famous dish is fish couscous. North Africa meets Sicilian seafood in this delicious dish. And the place to eat fish couscous is Cantina Siciliana which has won many awards and is best known for its fish couscous.
We were looking enough to experience a fish couscous cooking demonstration with Pino Maggiore, the owner of Cantina Siciliana since 1980. The fish couscous was as delicious as promised and even better washed down with a glass of Fondo Antico Sicilian Chardonnay.
3. Visit Trapani Salt Pans
Back in 1863, two years before Italian Unification, all of the town of Trapani was a salt pan. Today 1000 hectares of salt pans, a 15-minute drive from the heart of the city of Trapani, are now a nature reserve and home to 230 different bird species and 1100 flamingoes that appear in the afternoon.
Trapani still exports salt to 34 countries and it is collected by hand. They stopped using the beautiful windmills after World War Two as new technologies became available. However, they are still in place today to add to the unique landscape.
It is possible to drive and walk around the salt pans. The heart of the salt pans is the salt museum with a windmill on its roof – and some great views over the salt pans. The downstairs museum tells the history of salt in Trapani and also covers its famous red garlic production (red garlic is 3 times stronger than normal garlic).
Favignana is the largest of the Egadi Islands off the Western Coast of Sicily and one of the loveliest places to stay in Sicily. The Pretti hotel near the harbor is the perfect place to stay in Favignana. The hotel opened with 16 suites in 2010 in a building that was part of the Florio family’s tuna empire on Favignana.
Most rooms at The Pretti are 48 square meters and have entrances from the hotel’s garden. They are decorated in a simple seaside style in fresh and neutral colors. Each suite has a unique design. The hotel also has two larger suites.
The hotel also has a 2000 square meter Mediterranean garden courtyard, the Florio Lounge, and offers a wide range of massages.
Things to do on Favignana
- Visit the beautiful old tuna factory Ex Stabilimento Florio
I would never have thought of a tuna factory as an interesting place to visit, nor could I have imagined calling one beautiful, but Ex Stabilimento Florio Favignana is both fascinating and beautiful.
This is a factory made by Italians, and it is understandable why they sometimes hold weddings here. The first “room” to be visited on the tour stores the long, old tuna boats and has wrought iron gates made in Palermo, where it meets the sea.
The high ceilinged beautiful rooms exhibit boats, photography exhibitions, netting, and all things tuna. The nets for tuna fishing spread over a distance of 8 kilometers and there are many on display. If there were a church for tuna, this would be it.
2. Eat a tuna kebab at Tuna Fish City
You cannot miss having a tuna kebab from Tuna Fish City in Favignana’s main square. The tasty bread roll overflows with seared tuna, tomatoes, onions, peppers and lettuce and is absolutely fantastic.
3. Hit the Beach
Favignana is a protected area, so its beaches are pristine and oh so clean. The best way to explore the island is to hire an e-bike. There are few cars on the island, so bicycles are the main form of transport.
It would be hard to go wrong when choosing a beach on Favignana, but we visited Cala Azzurra. There is a café on the main road to look after all your snacking needs. I highly recommend the granites.
6. Buseto Palizzolo
If you’re interested in an agri-tourism place to stay in Sicily, I highly recommend Baglio Fontana. This four-star hotel has been an active farm for over two centuries. There are 14 rooms, two of which are superior, and all have preserved the characteristics of the original farm building.
The design is a mixture of ancient Sicily and modern comforts. Many rooms have the original stone walls and tiled floors. The colors are light and the rooms feel simple and airy. Plus, they have wifi and air conditioning.
Baglio Fontana has a spa, a large outdoor pool, and an outstanding restaurant. Even if you don’t stay at Baglio Fontana, I highly recommend visiting their fantastic restaurant and enjoying their homemade pasta and the amazing caponata.
Baglio Fontana is located between Trapani, Erice and Castellammare del Golfo.
Things to do near Baglio Fontana
1. Have an olive oil tour and tasting
Olive oil has been made in Sicily for centuries, so where better to take a tour and learn how it is made? I visited Oleificio Mazzara in Buseto Palizzolo. We began by “picking” the olives, which is basically just shaking a branch gently so that the olives fall off.
We then saw the olives be transported to the factory where they were sorted, pressed and then turned into an olive juice which tastes absolutely dreadful. We were given the juice to taste in a shot glass, and I didn’t finish mine.
The olive oil tasting that followed was far more pleasant.
2. Marvel at the Views from Custonaci Marble Quarry
I don’t think I have ever visited a quarry as a tourist attraction before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The quarry in Custonaci is the second biggest in Europe for marble. The quarry itself is 700 million years old.
Custonaci’s marble is exported worldwide and used for everything from buildings to sculptures. The quarry will celebrate 100 years in 2023, and it was started by the current owner’s great great grandfather.
Tours of the quarry can be organized through this local tour company. I recommend visiting the quarry in the late afternoon as the light is stunning on the rocks and it is a perfect time of day to capture the amazing views over the area.
3. Experience Sicilian life from the early 20th century at Mangiapane Caves in Custonaci
The Mangiapane caves in Custonaci offer the chance to see how Sicilian families lived and worked in another time. It has been created as a sort of folk museum but is also a working farm. Four core families lived in and around the caves before World War Two but the last full-time resident left in 1959.
In the early 1980s, a local church had the idea to hold its nativity play in the caves. As they had been overrun by nature and animals for 20 years, quite a lot of work needed to be done. The church still holds the nativity play every year at the caves, even though it is now a museum.
There are lots of cute animals around the cave, including donkeys, ducks, peacocks, roosters and goats. Visitors can see the old mills used to press olives for olive oil. Few things went to waste, and left over olive leaves were used to make things like brooms and seats.
Near the mouth of the cave are several old buildings which recreate the stores which would have been in that location at the time.
If you want to stay somewhere special when visiting Sicily, I highly recommend Tonnara di Scopello. Tonnara di Scopello is more like a little seaside village than a hotel. The spectacular stacks of Scopello rocks protect The Tonnara.
The Tonnara dates back to the 13th century. It was developed into a tiny seaside village between the 15th and 16th centuries. This is the base of the current hotel. In 1874 the Florio Family was awarded the Tonnara at a public auction and turned it into “Palazzina Florio.”
Tonnara di Scopello is made up of 15 apartments which all have sea views. Each has retained as much as possible of the original features. The interior design theme is fresh, simple and nautical.
The Tonnara is really 15 apartments rather than a hotel. There is no direct catering, but a small store with food on the beach. There is also an open-air museum on the site detailing the history of fishing in the area.
Things to do near Tonnara di Scopello
- Take a boat trip around the Zingaro Reserve
Out of all the beautiful places to visit in Sicily, and there are many, the coastline from San Vito Le Capo east to Castellammare del Golfo may be the most beautiful and is best experienced from a boat.
Start your boat trip in San Vito Le Capo and head past the Bay of Venus. I recommend taking your cruise with Hippocampus. The cruise will then continue along the Zingaro Reserve. This seven-mile strip became a protected area in the early 1980s. Visitors can only enter the reserve on foot.
The views become even more stunning as the boat heads east toward the Tonnaro di Scopello Resort. The stacks of Scopello emerge from the water and make for stunning photographs. They are similar to the rocks of Capri, but uniquely these rocks have prickly pears growing on them. The stacks of Scopello have been used in many Italian movies and tv shows.
Then I suggest spending the rest of your time enjoying the beautiful Tonnaro di Scopello. Why head out when you are staying at one of the most beautiful places in Sicily?
And if you are visiting Sicily why not make sure you see more of amazing Italy? One of my favorite places in Italy is Milan. Check out how to make the most of 24 hours in Milan.
Getting There and Getting Around
Check out cheap flights to both here:
If you need a hand putting together your plans, don’t miss my Sicily Itinerary 7 Days article.
Who Paid for What in this Where to Stay in Sicily Post
I covered the costs of my flights to and from Sicily. I covered all of the costs involved in visiting the eastern side of the island. West of Sicily tourism covered all of my on-the-ground costs when I visited their side of the island – thanks Daniela!
This things to do in Sicily post does contain affiliate links. That means if you click through on some of the links and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.