Christina Baechle runs Sicily4u. She fell in love with the island upon her first visit, and has been building her portfolio of luxury properties for over 10 years. Here are here top tips:
There’s so much more to Sicily than sun worshipping. Take a winter trip to Italy’s little sister and you’ll dodge the hordes of summer crowds while experiencing its historic treasures at a more leisurely pace. Greek ruins, Roman remains and Moorish fortresses - Sicily’s 3,000-year cultural heritage is like an open book that still entices visitors to this day.
City visits and hidden gems
Leave behind the modern port of Trapani and hop aboard a cable car for a dizzying ride back in time to the unforgettable medieval hill town of Erice.
It’s hardly surprising that such a spectacular, fortified position has been occupied for millennia - the town was probably founded by the Elymians, who also built the stunning Doric Temple at nearby Segesta.
Soak up the atmosphere as you explore steep cobbled lanes on foot, winding your way up to the imposing Castle of Venus, then thrill at the views over Trapani and indulge your sweet tooth by savouring the local delicacy of almond biscuits and pastries.
A walking holiday in Sicily wouldn’t be complete with trekking the slopes of Mount Etna. Taormina - perhaps the island’s most captivating town - makes the ideal base.
In winter you’ll experience Europe’s highest active volcano, Mount Etna, in all its snow-capped glory - walking tour operators provide snowshoes and even crampons for the more adventurous!
While Taormina - the ‘Pearl of the Ionian Sea’ - is unashamedly touristy at the height of summer, a winter break promises a more laidback vibe. In any case, the setting is achingly beautiful, and you’d be a fool to miss out on the town’s stunning Greek theatre.
Movie buffs might head to the nearby towns of Savoca and Forza d’Agro, locations for key scenes in the Godfather Trilogy.
One of eight late Baroque towns in Sicily’s famed Val di Noto, which were almost completely destroyed and rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693. Today, they collectively make up a Unesco World Heritage site.
Caltagirone is famed for its artisan ceramic industry, the outward signs of which are visible at every turn. Ornate and brightly-painted ceramics adorn bridges, shop windows, balconies and balustrades.
The artistry on display is as old as the town itself, and nowhere is it more on show than the ‘stairway to heaven’, the 142-step Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte.
Emblazoned with colourful tiles, it uses geometric designs, floral patterns, and figurative pictures to tell Sicily’s history from Arab dominion to the modern day.
In peak season, it’s a bustling tourist town, but a winter visit to Syracuse allows you the head space to unravel its diverse cultural history.
The Ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Bourbons have all left their mark on its streets, and beneath them you’ll find the haunting burial chambers of the San Giovanni catacombs.
It’s also one of the best places in Sicily to experience some the island’s archaeological wonders. The Parco Archeologico della Neapolis features an astonishing 16,000-capacity Greek amphitheatre carved out of the rocky hillside.
Villa Romana del Casale
This Unesco Heritage site is home to the richest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics found anywhere in the world. Dating to the 4th century AD, 3500 square feet of ornate and brightly-coloured mosaics - restored at cost of over £14m - show startlingly vivid depictions of Roman life.
The villa itself - possibly a country retreat or hunting lodge for a well-to-do Roman - lay buried beneath a landslide for 700 years until an excavation in the 1950s unearthed the mosaics, shielded from the elements for centuries by their protective layer of mud.
The famed Valley of the Temples just outside Agrigento is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Sicily for history lovers.
Oddly enough this archaeological site, comprising eight temples dating back around 2,500 years, is not in a valley at all. Instead it clings to rocky crests overlooking the Med to the south of town.
The towering pillars of the Doric temple remains hint at Agrigento’s past as one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean world.
Nowadays it draws cruise ship tourists in their hundreds. A winter trip will help you beat the crowds, and if you visit in early February you’ll catch the annual almond blossom festival, when Agrigento comes alive with parades, shows and craft exhibits.