The Greeks were drawn to the island’s southern coast, the Sicily that faces Africa, and these days it attracts travelers who like to combine a morning of culture and an afternoon at the beach. In Agrigento, the ancient Greek temples overlooking the sea are the island’s leading archaeological site; for historical perspective, stop at the National Archaeology Museum downtown and look at the impressive collection of vases and statues found here. Then relax on the uncrowded sands of nearby Sciacca, a fishing port best known for its thermal spa and ceramic art.
Pick any month of the calendar and Sicilians will be celebrating a festival somewhere on the island, from Catholic feast days to carnivals to colorful folk festivals (your best bet to find traditional Sicilian music and dance). For a taste of the religious atmosphere, go during Holy Week in April, when men in hooded robes carry floats through village streets. Or go medieval in Piazza Armerina, a town in central Sicily, where the days of August bring a colorful jousting pageant.
Forget about thick-crust pizza. Instead, start a Sicilian meal to remember with an aperitif: a glass of marsala secco, a dry version of the port-like wine originally from the western part of the island. Ready? For an appetizer, try caponata, a classic salad of eggplant, olives, capers, celery capers, olives, celery, and tomatoes. Then sample the island’s most traditional dish, pasta con sarde, flavored with sardines, wild fennel, saffron, and pine nuts. Staying with seafood, savor some grilled swordfish (seasoned with olive oil, lemon, and oregano. Dessert? A light lemon granita, or crushed ice. Buon appetito.