When you’re traveling through Italy, you can easily find hidden gems that make your trip unforgettable. Staying at a hotel in a large city, like Sicily, puts you close to nearby smaller towns perfect for exploring. About a dozen surrounding cities are approximately 21 miles from Sicily, so they’re great destinations for day trips. Most places are easily accessible by car or bus, except for the remotest of villages.
San Cataldo is a wonderfully relaxing seaside village with beautiful, sandy beaches. Packing a picnic lunch and spending some time here beachcombing gives you a chance to meditate while observing the local wildlife. The beaches of this town are a popular tourist attraction, and one look at the clear blue-green waters will tell you why. Snorkelers also are drawn to this awesome place, and once underwater you may be able to see submerged remains of mooring bollards from ancient galleys.
For a different experience, spend a day touring Enna and visiting some of the city’s castles and historic landmarks. Climbing to the top of the tower on the Castello di Lombardia gives a breathtaking view of the Italian landscape below. Visiting the temple of Olympian Zeus breathes life into all the Greek and Roman mythology you’ve ever read. Standing in the middle of this monumental edifice can evoke visions of the Acropolis from centuries past.
Mussolemi, with a population of about 10,000, is a small village tucked away at the bottom of a mountain. Travelers looking for an invigorating hike can pack a knapsack and experience authentic Italian countryside, remote and without tourists. The nearby Chiaramonte Castle, and the shrine honoring Madonna dei Miracoli, the city’s patron saint, are must-see stops along the way. Seen from a distance, the village itself is the epitome of rustic Italian architecture.
Piazza Armerina has a treasure trove of Roman villas and mosaics dating as far back as the early 4th century. Reading about world history in the textbooks can pale in comparison with the opportunity to see the remains of 40-room villas covered by more than 4,000 square yards of mosaics with various themes. This is a bustling, major metropolis, with restaurants serving up international cuisine and quaint narrow roads to explore. If you’re fortunate, the staff at the hotel where you’re staying will be familiar with the area and can point out particular areas of interest to see.
There are at least 15 villages surrounding Sicily, each with its own distinct flavor and culture. Be sure to dress for the season, pack a good pair of walking shoes, and bring a camera. Travelers who take the time to dig down into the history of this beautiful country won’t be disappointed.