How to take a World’s Best trip to Sicily.

By Anne Haney
July 29, 2011
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The Trip

A historical feast with 300 days of sun per year, spectacular landscapes, and a vibrant culinary scene, Sicily is becoming one of Italy’s buzziest destinations. There’s a new respect for heritage on an island that’s shaking off the yoke of the Mafia, and the once hidebound hotel sector is also enjoying a resurgence. The most trumpeted debut, the suave Verdura Golf & Spa Resort—part of the Rocco Forte Collection—has focused the spotlight on a handsome swath of the southern coast between the Greek temples at Agrigento and Selinunte. Orient-Express recently renovated two classic hotels in Taormina, the Grand Hotel Timeo and the Villa Sant’Andrea. Regional capital Palermo, in the northwest, is now a real destination, with restored nobleman’s residence Palazzo Riso hosting a contemporary art space, and beach clubs like AddauraReef relaunching the family-oriented Mondello area, just west of the city, as a fashionista hangout. Nearby, in Terrasini, young chef Giuseppe Costa is making waves at Il Bavaglino with his spin on Sicilian traditions, such as cuttlefish stuffed with rice on a bed of lentils and dried tuna. Over in Siracusa, the restoration of the old town, Ortygia, continues, with the new Moorish-style Musciara Siracusa Resort and Regina Lucia, a nouvelle-Sicilian restaurant, leading the style pack.

Sicily Affordable Tip: When it opened in 2006, the shabby-chic inn BB22 was a pioneer of the once run-down Vucciria area of Palermo’s centro storico. Now Vucciria is thrumming with upmarket galleries and wine bars, but BB22 is still a great value. 22 Largo Cavalieri di Malta, Palermo; 39-091/611-1610; doubles from $169.

Sicily Active Tip: Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe, still belches up ash and lava. A guide will bring you up close; Gruppo Guide Alpine Etna Sud covers the easier-to-access southern slope. 43 Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, Nicolosi; 39-095/791-4755; excursions from $78 per person.

Sicily, Italy: World’s Best Scorecard

No. 6 island overall
No. 2 island in Europe

Cruise Lines

AddauraReef 3021/3043 Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, Addaura, Palermo; 39-091/455-167; addaurareef.com.

Grand Hotel Timeo by Orient-Express 59 Via Teatro Greco, Taormina; 800/237-1236 or 39-0942/627-0200; grandhoteltimeo.com; doubles from $660.

Il Bavaglino 20 Via B. Saputo, Terrasini; 39-091/868-2285; giuseppecosta.com; dinner for two $110.

Musciara Siracusa Resort 42 Riviera Dionisio il Grande, Siracusa; 39-0931/463-613; siracusaresort.it; doubles from $260.

Regina Lucia 6 Piazza Duomo, Siracusa; 39-0931/22509; reginalucia.it; dinner for two $200.

Riso, Museum of Contemporary Sicilian Art 365 Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Palermo; 39-091/320-532; palazzoriso.it.

Verdura Golf & Spa Resort Km 131, SS 115, Sciacca; 888/667-9477 or 39-0925/998-180; verduraresort.com; doubles from $1,430.

Villa Sant’Andrea by Orient-Express 137 Via Nazionale, Taormina Mare; 800/237-1236 or 39-0942/627-1200; hotelvillasantandrea.com; doubles from $631.