Italy is a popular travel destination. Every year, millions of visitors flock to Rome, Milan, Venice, Tuscany and Florence. No one would argue that Italy has an impressive lineup of attractions. It also boasts accessible and delicious cuisine and plenty of opportunities for sightseeing and shopping. A lot of visitors work their way down their to-visit list, but since there are so many headliners in this country, most people never make it to the lesser-known Italian destinations. That's good news for people who want to go straight off the beaten path.
Sicily is Italy's second-largest island. It has rugged landscapes, historic towns, ancient ruins and a sense of tradition that has disappeared from many other parts of the country. The major attraction here is Mount Etna. An active volcano, it towers over the island, dominating the scenery and serving as the starting point for almost all the tourists who come to visit Sicily.
Sicily is also home to a number of ancient ruins sites. The island has had a tumultuous history, with different groups ruling it over the centuries. Some of the world's most well-preserved ancient Greek ruins are not in Greece at all, but in Sicilian towns like Syracuse and Agrigento. Along with the island's other sites, these impressive ruins are best visited in the spring and fall. Sicily can get quite hot during the summer months. March and April and September and October are ideal for spending time outdoors on the island.
Many of the most popular Italian foods that have made their way around the world originated in Sicily. Tomato-based sauces are a staple on the island, and you can also find desert faves like canolli and slushy drinks like granitas (the precursor to the frappuccino). Sicily's towns and cities each have their own unique specialties. This makes exploring the different parts of Sicily a delight. There are always new flavors to taste and sights to see each time you stop somewhere new.
There is one boutique hotel, situated right on the slopes of Mount Etna, that illustrates the kind of uniqueness that can be found all over Sicily. Monaci della Terre Nere is housed on an historic estate surrounded by gardens, vineyards and olive groves. Plants grow extremely well in the volcanic soil, giving the whole property a lush and verdant feel. The 19th century structures house 19 different suites and villas. Extensive renovations have given the classic stone and brick walls a sense of luxury and style. Modern furnishings and contemporary art pieces can be seen all around the grounds and even in many of the rooms.
The sense of place that guests get to enjoy at Monaci is a perfect example of the modern Sicilian experience. The earthy sense of style and sense of history is easily noticeable all throughout Monaci's property. From the grounds, you can see the sun set over the sea and watch the iconic peak of Etna at any time of day. The real highlight here, just like everywhere else on Sicily, is the food. Olives, herbs and other produce are grown right onsite and offered to guests fresh each day. Often, these local specialties are paired with wines made right on the mountain.
What can you find beyond Sicily? Look at our other Italian venues to see more off-the-beaten path places to stay in one of Europe's most popular countries.
What is your favorite destination in Italy? Use the comments section to share your insights with us.