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Updated by Colleen Lanin on Dec 03, 2016
Headline for 5 Finds for Families with Kids in Sicily
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5 Finds for Families with Kids in Sicily

Most visitors to Sicily head for the old world charm of Palermo, the biothermal wonder of Mount Aetna or the antiquated charm of Taormina and Agrigento—all well worth a visit. But take one of the smaller exits off the autostrada anywhere near the coast, as we did this summer when my family of five and some friends rented a villa near Messina, and you’ll be richly rewarded. Here are five must-finds during a trip to Sicily with kids.
My 6-year-old daughter enjoying the vertical pleasures of Grotte Beach
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Find the Beach

Find the Beach

We stayed in San Giorgio, a tiny town near the Port of Patti (which prompted many jokes among my husband and sons since “Patti” pronounced in Italian sounds awfully close to “potty” in English) and discovered quickly that the key to surviving the famed summer climate of Sicily is to find the water. Often. If looking for more temperate beach weather—you might look into visiting in June, September or October—when temperatures remain mostly in the 70s.Each coastal town has a regular beach, the one crammed with tourists. But ask the locals where to find the best beach and you will get a variety of options beyond the obvious coastline. We discovered one beach, called simply Grotte, full of small caves and rocky outcroppings a few hundred meters beyond the crowded sand beach by asking our waitress one night where she goes when she’s not working. Another local led us to a nearby peninsula surrounded by naturally occurring lagoons perfect for snorkeling with kids.The gorgeous Tindari Sanctuary perches high on a cliff overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea as seen from below

Find the local ruin or antiquity

Just look in your guidebook to find the closest Sicilian ruin or antiquity. There’s at least one in every town. And they are absolutely worth a visit despite the unenthusiastic offspring who must accompany you. In the summer, plan your visit for the morning before the heat has built up, and promise the beach for after. On our first day, we dragged ourselves to the top of a promontory in Tyndaris, one of the last Greek colonies in Sicily, and discovered the Madonna di Tindari Sanctuary housing not only a world famous Black Madonna, but also an artistic marvel of a church. After fortifying our group with popsicles, water and sugared almonds handed out by candy merchants, we wandered through an archeological site dating from the town’s founding in 396 B.C. and stumbled upon a Roman bath with colored mosaic tiles.Our group enjoying a gelato break in Lipari


Find at least TWO gelaterias

Find at least TWO gelaterias

My 6-year-old daughter has a book about Olivia, the pig, who goes to Venice with her family and they eat ice cream twice a day. I vaguely promised her that we would also do this if she was a good girl on the plane ride. Did I make good on that promise!Every town has at least half a dozen ice cream stores, serving quite frankly the most insanely delicious Italian invention in the history of Western Civilization: gelato. Forget about chocolate or vanilla—point to any flavor and your children will not only eat it, but also they will do anything you ask to guarantee more of it. (My pickiest eater began a love affair with pistachio gelato despite the color.)Don’t be afraid to mix it up either with granita which is closer to sorbet but just as flavorful as the gelato. In fact, my 10-year-old son and I spent a lovely half hour sitting on the curb comparing and contrasting lemon granita with lemon gelato culminating in, of course, a second serving of each.Just one course of our meal at the Santa Margherita agritourismo restaurant in the hills of Patti

Find the local agriturismo for a meal

A combination of the word “agriculture” and “tourism”—agriturismos are typically rustic operations designed to expose tourists to local working farms. They are also a delicious gateway to regional delicacies and five-course meals at a reasonable cost. Often agriturismos also have rooms for rent and many are housed in refurbished villas offering everything from swimming pools to spa treatments or guided hikes with naturalists. Even if you don’t sleep there, the restaurants are an excellent way to get a taste of the best of Sicily.Our party of nine (four adults and five children) spent an evening at Santa Margherita, a gracious stone farmhouse in the hills overlooking the coast. For the price of 25 Euros per adult (kids were half price and had a choice of two kinds of pasta) we began our feast with 11 antipasti dishes, from sautéed wild mushrooms to Caprese salad to local artisanal cheese to stuffed zucchini blossoms. After a double offering of pasta, came the meat course with no fewer than five types of grilled flesh including several kinds of homemade sausages. We capped off the evening with a selection of house made liqueurs.Our private boat tour of Vulcano


Find a boat

Whether it is a high speed hydrofoil ferry, an off duty fishing boat or a pontoon boat excursion to a lagoon, Sicily is—after all—an island and her charms, both manmade and natural, are no more magnificent than from the prow of a boat.One day we made an excursion to the Aeolian Island of Vulcano and negotiated a private tour with a local fisherman who steered our boat into a cave before dropping anchor so we could leap into the Mediterranean to snorkel. We spied hot pink jellyfish and a cuttlefish before climbing back aboard, to dry off chilled and salty from the sea. All in all, the best day of our week.


What do you think your kids would like best about Sicily: the beach, the gelato, the boat ride or something else? Let...

Halle Shilling was a journalist for several newspapers in the Midwest before moving to the Golden State to teach writing and drive her three children to soccer practice. She and her family live in Solana Beach, California.