When you think of Italy – the land of pasta, pizza and gelato – it doesn’t exactly sound like a vegan paradise. Yet Sicily might just surprise you with how vegan-friendly this gorgeous island can be. With it’s Mediterranean flair, Sicily is famed for its cuisine packed with flavour.
To fully appreciate this beautiful sun-drenched island, choose to travel across its best cities taking in all the delights – including the magnificent Mount Etna that towers above Sicily.
Sicily’s capital, Palermo, is vibrant and full of an energy that makes you want to return again and again. A mix of medieval castles and Byzantine castles, Palermo has a certain uniqueness that makes it stand out from other Italian cities like Florence or Venice.
Sightseeing-wise, simply walk down the city’s oldest street, Via Vittorio Emanuele, where you’ll see most of Palermo’s biggest attractions including the Royal Palace and cathedral.
If you enjoy shopping, La Vucciria is a large, open-air market that sells just about anything you could imagine, from fake designer bags to the freshest in local ingredients. Running for over 700 years, haggling is commonplace here, so ensure you do your souvenir shopping here for a bargain.
Haiku is a must-stop for any vegan visiting Palermo. Famed for its innovative cuisine that mixes the traditional Italian with global flavours, menu highlights include the vegan sushi and the Anthony Kiedis pizza.
If you are in the area, be sure to check this map that outlines all the vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants in Palermo. Keep in mind, though, that many restaurants and businesses close in August, with owners escaping the intense heat to take holidays of their own.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, B&B Novecento offers a wide range of vegetarian breakfasts – all locally sourced and organic – with a good selection of vegan options too. The B&B prides itself on offering products that have not been tested on animals and that are biodegradable.
The next stop on a Sicily tour should be Taormina. In recent years Taormina has emerged as Sicily’s hidden gem, yet this city – which is carved into the side of a mountain – has been popular with the rich and the famous for decades. In fact, Elizabeth Taylor was one of the region’s biggest fans.
A must-do whilst you’re in Taormina is to explore Mount Etna – Europe’s largest volcano and one of the world’s most active – the perfect place to connect yourself with Mother Nature at her finest. The hike will take you most of the day, or you can opt for a guided tour in the region. Expect to see lava flows, black soils and the lush green forests that thrive in the fertile volcanic soil – most tours include tasting the olive oil produced on the mountain.
One of the best places to stay is in an idyllic countryside villa, with the glorious Mount Etna as your view. Plus, a private villa will give you the facilities to cook your own meals using the delicious, fresh produce that is sold at the local food markets.
There are plenty of vegan-friendly options for eating out in Taormina too. Be sure not to miss out on the vegan lollies from Gelaterie Stecco Natura. They have a large range of vegan-friendly flavours, and they even have vegan gelato! For dinner, La Zagara has a really good vegan menu, and are extremely accommodating and friendly.
Moving to the eastern side of Sicily, you’ll find Modica – a city famous for its chocolate. Modica doesn’t just make milk-laden chocolates, the region is also known for it’s chocolate made with soya and agave, that is creamy and delicious. The shop in Modica has demonstrations on how they make their chocolate, using ancient Aztec methods, which makes for a lovely afternoon activity.
Modica has been floored more than once by devastating earthquakes – the most recent in 1693 – and has been rebuilt several times. Because of that, Modica has an intriguing mix of architecture ranging from the Ancient Greek and Roman to more modern baroque flairs. It is thought that the city is home to well over 100 churches, including the stunning Cathedral San Giorgio. None of Modica’s attractions are on the same street, indeed, this city is often described as a labyrinth that is best explored slowly.
Restaurant-wise, Singola is a popular local vegetarian restaurant with vegan options using only seasonal and locally sourced organic produce. With areas to eat both inside and outdoors, the interesting décor makes Singola a memorable experience. There is also a small store on site.