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Sicily Travel Guide

So ‘The White Lotus’ Brought You to Sicily This Summer … Now What?

Live out your best Italian summer.

Sicily is a vibrant tapestry of culture that has enchanted travelers for centuries. From its sun-soaked coastal cities and charming Baroque villages to its well-preserved ancient wonders, this rustic Mediterranean island has so much to discover.

Beyond its remarkable history and idyllic landscapes, Sicily is often misunderstood and remains entrenched in mystery thanks to its mythical tales and periods of dynastic upheaval. You might hear a native say they’re “Sicilian, not Italian!” and the mercurial Mount Etna, which remains Europe’s highest and most active volcano, perfectly encapsulates the region’s majestic and fiery nature.

Sicily has always been a must-visit destination, but the second season of HBO’s White Lotus has fueled tourism beyond measure.

“Half of the travel inquiries we receive now are for Sicily, catching up to the demand of the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany, but prior to the show, it was barely mentioned,” said Clio Morichini, head of travel and events at the bespoke travel agency, Italy Segreta. “Some people don’t even realize it’s an island.”

Whether you’re an Italophile or hoping to vacation like the wealthy and chaotic romantics of Mike White’s infamous cast, there’s never been a more exciting time to visit Sicily. From five-star stays to quaint countryside farmhouses and a booming restaurant scene, here’s your hit list of Sicilian splendors sans the sordid affairs and murder plots.

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While it wasn’t given any airtime on the show, no trip to Sicily is complete without a brief visit to the fascinating capital city of Palermo. Dubbed the “Kingdom of the Sun” since the 12th century, the cosmopolitan melting pot is flecked with palm trees, lively street vendors luring you in for sfincione or arancini, and the whirring sounds of Vespas scooting around town. Its open-air street bazaars like Ballarò and Capo are reminiscent of souks, illustrating the traces of Arab influence which can be felt throughout the city, from its architecture to local snacks.

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1. Grand Hotel et Des Palmes, Palermo, SicilyMarco Frino; 2. Villa Igiea, Palermo, SicilyJanos Grapow; 3. Villa SantAndrea, Taormina, SicilyTyson Sadlo

Where to Stay

Grand Hotel et Des Palmes 

This historic icon by architect Ernesto Basile in the city center of Palermo encapsulates Italian glamour and tradition. Founded in 1874, its frescoed ceilings and Art Nouveau-styled stained glass windows scream Italian decadence and transport you to a different era. Stay here if you want to be right in the mix of Palermo’s city hustle with a short walk to the main sites.

Villa Igiea

Villa Igiea is a palatial, Belle Epoque sanctuary on the edge of the Tyrrhenian originally built for the influential Florio family in 1900, now owned by the Italian hospitality group Rocco Forte. It’s a sophisticated stay long favored by Hollywood luminaries and those who want the tranquility of sea life while only being a short 10-minute drive from the city center. The al fresco cocktail bar, pool scene, and an on-site spa make it hard to leave.

Palazzo Natoli

This Baroque townhouse dates back to 1756 and is intimately connected to the heyday of Palermo nobility and the city’s social scene. The charming property has eight room types and is the perfect stay for history buffs who want to feel like they’re staying in an ancient noble residence. It’s conveniently located just a few steps from the Palermo Cathedral and the famed Quattro Canti, and the property organizes city walking tours to hit all the nearby attractions.

Where to Eat

Bisso Bistrot

You might accidentally walk right past Bisso Bistrot as the façade still looks like the liberty-style bookshop it once was, with the words “Libreria Dante” still flanking the entrance. This restaurant is in the city’s heart, serving traditional Sicilian fare for a good price, with a simpatico and homey ambiance. The polpette di broccolo is a can’t-miss dish.

Osteria dei Vespri

Located in the Kalsa district, Osteria dei Vespri is a more creative take on traditional Sicilian cuisine by self-taught chef Alberto Rizzo, and it’s exactly what you’d picture when you visualize an Italian trattoria. It’s set inside the walls of Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi with indoor and outdoor seating and offers a number of tasting menus, special edition items, and a la carte dining. Wine lovers will be impressed by their cellar, which houses over 650 national and international labels, plus some super rare vintages.


Tucked behind the Cathedral of Palermo is A’Cuncuma, a small gourmet restaurant showcasing the “secrets” of Sicilian cuisine with modern culinary techniques. Locals will say their artful menu items are deserving of a Michelin star, and its value has everyone coming back for more.

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1. UNAHOTELS Capotaormina, Taormina, SicilyClaudia Venditti; 2. Ristorante Timeo, Taormina, SicilyMattia Aquila


Situated on the east coast of Sicily, Taormina is the coveted, high-end island getaway thanks to its cluster of five-star hotels, cobblestone alleys with trattorias bedecked in bougainvillea, and sites like the ancient Greek amphitheater, which still hosts shows today. It’s the hilltop city that had the starring role in The White Lotus, serving as the main backdrop for almost the entirety of the second season, and now has tourists flocking in droves hoping to retrace the glamourous stay (and misadventure) of their favorite characters from the award-winning dark comedy. Whether you’re a fan of the show or not, Taormina is the unrivaled upscale seaside getaway and has had its flag in the ground since 212 BC when wealthy members of the Roman Republic wanted a luxe retreat away from the big city.

Where to Stay

San Domenico Palace

San Domenico Palace will forever be cemented as the majestic setting for The White Lotus’s infamous second season, quickly recognized by the iconic candy-striped pool umbrellas. And because it was mostly unchanged for filming, fans will be pleasantly surprised to see that it’s just as decadent as you see on screen. Originally a 14th-century monastery standing tall over the Ionian Sea, the reimagined Four Seasons property is centrally located on the main street, Corso Umberto, making the hotel an easy home base for daily exploration around Taormina. Its original frescos inside the lavish suites, clifftop infinity pool, Italian gardens, and portfolio of decadent dining options make San Domenico Palace the ultimate stay for couples, friends, or family.

Villa Sant’Andrea

Once a private villa, now a luxury stay under the Belmond umbrella, Villa Sant’Andrea is a little cove of paradise peering over the Bay of Mazzarò. It’s secluded setting, surrounded by waves lapping against the pebbled edge of the property, has the charm of an aristocratic private residence exuding the Italian way of villeggiatura – the concept of slow, sumptuous summers. When you’re ready to explore, a three-minute cable car can shoot you into town.

Unahotels Capotaormina

Boasting a private beach and salt-water swimming pool built into the clifftop, this property is the beach holiday for those who don’t want something overly pretentious and plan to spend more time waterfront versus in town.

Where to Eat

Principe Cerami

Principe Cerami is the fine dining brainchild of Chef Massimo Mantarro, overlooking Taormina Bay. This is one of the restaurants where The White Lotus crew dined and was often the focal point of unraveling turmoil. Dinner is served a la carte or chef’s tasting menu featuring quintessential Sicilian dining al fresco with sprawling sea views or inside the grand dining room.

Tischi Toschi

Tischi Toschi is a cozy gourmet trattoria in Taormina operated by owner Luca Casablanca (a trained jeweler-turned-restauranteur), serving up local produce and secret family recipes. It’s a quirky, off-the-beaten-path restaurant adorned with whimsy local art, old photos, and strings of garlic bulbs making the eatery feel homey. Here, authentic Sicilian dishes like caponata and pasta con carciofi are served no-frills, but the food is simply delicious. You may find the owner, Luca strumming his guitar outside while his wife takes your order.

La Capinera

Helmed by Sicily’s most famous chef, Piero D’Agostino, this restaurant is for foodies who want to hit the best of Taormina. The dining room is simply dressed, letting the cuisine steal the show.

Ristorante Timeo

A dinner here is the ultimate consolation if you can’t snag a stay at Grand Hotel Timeo (another Belmond post in this neck of Sicily). This lush, atmospheric restaurant is arguably the most scenic in Taormina, with a smokey Mount Etna and Naxos Bay as the backdrop, where you can enjoy tastes of Sicily on their romantic, panoramic terrace.

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1. Principe Cerami, Taormina, SicilyCourtesy of Principe Cerami; 2. Il San Corrado di Noto, Noto, SicilyCourtesy of Il San Corrado di Noto; 3. Dammuso Baglieri, Noto, SicilySamuele Castiglione


On the southern tip of Sicily sits Noto, a province of Siracusa known as a stunning example of ornate Baroque architecture. It was a medieval village with a long history of cultural cross-pollination that was eventually destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt like a phoenix rising from the ashes by Sicilian architects Paolo Labisi, Vincenzo Sinatra, and Rosario Gagliardi. The entire city is clad in honey-toned buildings that make it look like the region is always smoldering at golden hour, with ancient ruins at every turn. Historical references aside, Noto is now truly on the map thanks to the little pitstop on The White Lotus by Daphne (Meghann Fahy) and Harper (Aubrey Plaza) to Villa Tasca, the 16th-century lavish manse once owned by the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy and Margaret of Savoy. For intrepid travelers, Noto can easily be discovered in one afternoon (just tackle all of Corso Vittorio Emmanuele), and it’s an easy launch pad to visit the nearby historic towns like Ortigia, Ragusa, and Modica.

Where to Stay

Il San Corrado

This ancient masseria is a fortified farmhouse that once belonged to Prince Nicolaci, and the hotel’s only neighbors are groves of citrus trees. It’s now a quiet hideaway for those who want to slip away into the peace of nature with luxurious accommodations that encourage wellness and total relaxation. On the property, you’ll find cream-colored Modican stone courtyards, an untouched 19th-century chapel that once belonged to the princely family, a library, a tennis court, and two sprawling pools lined with teak loungers.

Gagliardi Boutique Hotel

An intimate stay in the heart of Noto that embraces its local Baroque history, with unobstructed views of Ducezio Palace and the Cathedral of Noto from the terrace. It feels like you’re staying in an ancient Sicilian family home, where you can find antique furniture and local crafts within its charming bedrooms.

Country House Villadorata

Nestled in the rolling hills of Noto, just ten minutes outside of town, sits Country House Villadorata, a delightful summer residence on an organic farm with centuries-old olive, almond, and citrus trees. Originally an 18th-century wine press, its eco-friendly renovation was carefully designed to allow the property to produce most of its own electricity and water supply through thermal solar energy. With only a few room options on-site, each one features a veranda or terrace ensconced by fragrant gardens. After a day of touring around, take a dip in the Aqua Madre freshwater pool filled with mineral salts to decompress.

Where to Eat

Ristorante Crocifisso

This modern, family-run restaurant is one of the best in Noto and has earned itself a Michelin star for its gastronomic excellence. It’s a skip away from the main tourist area and requires a bit of walking uphill (towards the Church of the Crucifix), but fine contemporary dining with Sicilian flair is on the other side of the trek. The egg cooked at 63 degrees Celsius with black truffle is a standout among the many homemade pasta offerings.


A more whimsy take on the traditional trattoria, Manna serves Mediterranean meals in a modern multi-level environment with unusual lights and contemporary art. There’s a small terrace with draping ivy for a charming al fresco dining option, but the best dining perch is really inside.

Dammuso Baglieri

This cozy family-run eatery is smack in the middle of town and housed in a cavernous brick dining room, serving recipes from nonna. Frequent visitors of Noto tend to make Dammuso a regular stop for plates like the tonno in crosta di pistacchi and their surprisingly lengthy Sicilian wine list.

La Cialoma

If you’re up for a 30-minute drive, La Cialoma in the fishing village of Marzamemi is a must-visit. It’s a postcard-like restaurant that, at first glance, looks like it should be in Santorini – cerulean furniture and embroidered tablecloths are freckled along the large outdoor patio, with local pottery decorated with puppets, fish motifs, and mermaids as an homage to its mythical seaside corner of Sicily. Food-wise, the restaurant is best known for its exceptional grilled fish and seafood platters, with good reason. Owner Lina Campisi was born into a family of tuna fishermen with generations in Marzamemi, so her knowledge of local ingredients and seafood is undisputed.