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Sicily Family Holidays & Breaks

Sicilian beach coveSicilian beach cove© Antclausen | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Flying Time 3hrs
Carbon Footprint 1.58 CO2
Timezone GMT +1
Currency Euro

Today

Overview

This fascinating island with its rich mixed heritage (Greek, Arab, Roman and Norman), resulting from a long history of invasion, is a unique destination for family holidays. The wide-ranging influences can be seen in the island's architecture, landscape and culture, so whether you opt for the capital Palermo with its jumble of Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture or head straight to Taormina, Sicily's grandest resort, to watch the sun set against the backdrop of Mount Etna, this is a fantastic option for family holidays for those who love exploring.

As elsewhere in Italy, you'll find that children are warmly welcomed everywhere you go. And the locals' effusiveness towards younger visitors will help smooth over the language difficulties outside the main resorts if you don't speak any Italian.

Things to do with kids in Sicily

Hit the capital. Nowhere is Sicily's past more evident than Palermo, where you can explore the mixture of Greek, Roman and medieval influences and get the kids spotting monsters peeking out from the Baroque architecture. With older kids, or those with gory imaginations, visit the Convento dei Cappuccini's catacombs to see the mummified remains of Palermo's 16th- and 17th-century noble classes. 

Sicily also has a long tradition of puppet theatre, and there are at least five puppet theatres in Palermo and some in other major towns, including Syracuse (La Dei Pupari) and Acireale (Teatro Pupi Macri). Plays are usually in Italian, but the lively battles and music help little ones follow along. In Palermo, combine a puppet show with a trip to the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette, dedicated to Sicilian puppetry.

Also worth a visit is the Museo del Giocattolo Pietro Piraino in Bagheria, with more than 700 toys from the last four centuries.

Let the kids run off some steam at Bioparco di Sicilia, a zoo, playground and dinosaur park in Villagrazia di Carini close to the capital.

West of Palermo, browse the morning fishmarket in Trapani or visit the saltpans between Trapani and Marsala, with enormous piles of salt drying in the sun and a small Museo del Sale inside a restored windmill. Also nearby is the vast archaeological park of Selinunte, where kids can have hours of fun exploring Greek ruins.

East of Palermo, near the Madonie National Park, take advantage of the ropeladders and zipwires on offer at Parco Avventura Madonie. The National Park is also a great place for mountain-biking, trekking and horse-riding for all ages.

Although many of the island's beaches are pebbly, seek out some good snorkelling in Sicily's clear waters. For more watery fun on family holidays, hit the waterslides at Etnaland aquapark on the east coast.

Stay in one of the island's east coast resorts but after lazing by the pool, dress up and head out for to join in the communal evening stroll or passegiata. At the popular resort of Taormina, enjoy the cable-car from the beach at Mazzaro, which takes you up to the town to explore the famous Greco-Roman amphitheatre.

Impress even the most excursion-weary of kids with a trip to Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano, riding over mounds of smoking lava by cable-car or opting for a 4X4 adventure through the moonlike volcanic landscape.

In the rest of the Sicily, visit the temples at Agrigento and Segesta or the Roman-era mosaics of Piazza Armerina, perhaps breaking up the journey with an afternoon at the Parco Acquatico Conte, a water theme-park in Sommatino.

If you have more time, take a trip to one of the smaller islands that Sicily controls offshore, including Ustica and the Aeolians (mainly Stromboli, Vulcano, and Lipari), where you can enjoy a family mud bath.

Eat

Food in Sicily is super-healthy and delicious, with the focus on seafood and on vegetables such as aubergines and fennel. Typical Sicilian dishes include pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines, fennel, pine nuts and raisins), involtini di pesce spada (grilled rolls of swordfish with a herb stuffing) and spaghetti a la Norma, with aubergines, ricotta cheese, basil and tomato. If that's too adventurous for younger children, there are all sorts of good sandwiches and types of pizza.

And don't return from family holidays without sampling some of Sicily's delicious pastries stuffed with ingredients such as marzipan and ricotta.

Eating out is normally great value in Sicily, and kids will get a genuine welcome in just about any restaurant you care to patronise.

When to go to Sicily

Although Sicily is a year-round destination, in January and February the weather can be cool and rainy – aim instead for March and April, when the island is at its greenest, or May and June, which are sunny but not too hot (summer temperatures rise to 30C).

Autumn stays warm so is a good time for family holidays for those who like to combine swimming with sightseeing – indeed, Sicily is the perfect October half-term destination for families seeking a little culture.

Cost

Prices for one-week family holidays in Sicily can start at less than £500 per adult, including flights and car hire, sharing an apartment/villa in low season. At peak times prices can rise to £700 and more, depending on accommodation.

By Zannah Ingraham

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