Ortygia was by far my favorite place in Sicily: much friendlier than Palermo and much less touristy than Taormina. If fact, it's one of my favorite places ever.
Once again, if you're unfamiliar with driving in Italy, beware: navigating the island is terrifying.
I loved staying at Approdo delle Sirene. The owner is sweet, the location is ideal, and the decor charming (plus you can't beat having your own personal netbook).
You are obligated to visit the Parco Archeologico if you go to Siracusa. I liked it -didn't think it was great - but would have kicked myself if I had missed it.
And as long as you're in the area, check-out the Santuario della Madonna: the contemporary, geometric design was a welcome departure from the multitudes of duomos.
Speaking of duomos, don't miss the Piazza del Duomo and surrounding buildings. I enjoyed perching on the steps and eating my weight in pistachio gelato while people-watching.
If you're in Ortygia on a Saturday, be sure to visit the market in the morning while everything is fresh.
Visit Noto: it's only about a one-hour drive away. Quaint town, interesting architecture.
My big regret was not eating at Il Duomo in Ragusa, approximately two hours from Siracusa. I was just too frazzled from the crazy driving to take on a four-hour adventure. It's the only two Michelin star rated restaurant in Sicily, and obviously the best. I'm truly an idiot for canceling my reservation.
This ancient Greek city is beautiful and atmospheric. It's quite extensive and has good information boards with English to help you with interpretation of the buildings. Around the agora you get a really good feel for how it must have been before it was abandoned 2000 years ago.
It was deserted when we were there, perhaps it's busier in the spring/autumn when it isn't so hot but I got the feeling they're never busy. Make sure you take plenty of water, there's nowhere to buy refreshments nearby. If you've got plenty of stamina you could combine this with the Villa del Casale mosaics for a heavy day's sightseeing.
It is well signposted from Aidone
This fourth century AD villa houses truly spectacular mosaics, mostly in suberb condition. Follow the trail of rooms and corridors to enjoy vivid hunting scenes of exotic beasties. Covered with a roof to protect the tiles from direct sunlight, it is worth avoiding the midday sun as the greenhouse effect can make for sweltering conditions!
Villa Romana, Casale, Piazza Armerina
Beautiful old town that's perfect for mooching around and seeing the sights. Grab a limoncello or three at one of a strip of waterside bars as the sun sets and go for a stroll amongst the locals. Clear your head the next day by exploring the ancient ampitheatre at the edge of town (catch a bus from the central station).
South-east Sicily. Rent a car for max flexibility when touring the island.
The old city of Noto was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. Which wasn't such a bad thing for the modern tourist, because the whole city was rebuilt in Sicilian baroque style. The creamy, fine local limestone glows warmly in the sun, or shines eerily white on a stormy day. If Bernini had lived in the Cotswolds, he would have built Noto-on-the-Water... Prepare to be impressed - or to fall in love.
40 minute bus ride from Siracusa
The bones of Santa Rosalia, patron of Palermo, are preserved in this cave. A network of metal bars and gutters directs the seeping water from the roof of the cave into little bottles; it's supposed to be miraculous. The whole place is slightly surreal - natural rock contrasting with baroque glittering furniture.
Monte Pellegrino - outside Palermo: you'll need to drive.
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