Your Guide to Yoga Retreats in Sicily
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Only a few miles away from Italy’s mainland, resembling a football being kicked by the Italian boot, lies one of the most fascinating destinations in Europe: Sicily.
Famous for its historical richness, cultural diversity, upscale hotels and shops, rustic neighborhoods, fantastic natural sights, exquisite wines and mouthwatering food, Sicily is an authentic paradise for all kinds of travelers.
Sounds like a nice place to take your yoga practice? The good news is that there are tons of yoga retreats in Sicily for you to choose from.
And even though it is the largest island in the Mediterranean, it’s just about the size of Vermont and you can cross it in just 3 hours. This means that you’ll have enough time to explore it all, something you’ll definitely want to do since, as Wolfgang Goethe said: "To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily, is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything."
First, a little bit of Sicilian history
Image credit: Yoga like a local
Sicily’s history goes back to the 8th century B.C. when the Greeks colonized the island and made it the third most important Greek city. Later on, the Romans arrived and took control for a few centuries until they fell and left it to the Arabs, who ruled during the 9th and 10th centuries.
For the next few centuries, the conquerors kept on coming and going until 1860, when Sicily became part of Italy. Today, it is an autonomous Italian region that has its own quirks, traditions and even a different dialect thanks to the mix of cultures throughout the years.
Sicilians are so proud of their heritage that they consider themselves Sicilians first and Italians second (if at all). With many layers of civilizations, their genetic makeup is vast. Consequently, many languages are spoken on the island; Italian and Sicilian are the most common, followed by Arabic, French, German and Romanian.
Lastly, it’s important to mention that, while the Mafia was such a big issue for the island during the 19th and 20th centuries, thanks to the government and police efforts to demise it, Sicily is nowadays as safe as any other Italian region.
Want to explore other parts of Italy? Here’s your guide to yoga retreats in Tuscany.
Why is Sicily special for yoga?
Image credit: Yoflaminga Retreat
Sicily is the perfect island retreat to expand your understanding of yoga thanks to its natural landscapes (over four-fifths of the land is hilly and mountainous), scenic surroundings, pristine waters and amazing sea.
As you already know, the island is the product of numerous cultures blending together, which means that every corner is full of art, intriguing history and beautiful architecture. One good example is the Valley of the Temples, with well-preserved ruins of 7 monumental Doric-style Greek temples. If you don’t have many days to pay a visit after your retreat, don’t worry, as most yoga holidays offer a day trip or two to the city, where you can visit the historic places, vineyards and delight your palate with delicious Sicilian food.
Plus, there aren’t many places on Earth where you can perform the volcano pose in an actual volcano! Well, on Sicily’s eastern edge, Mount Etna erects as the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active worldwide.
Where to go in Sicily?
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The capital of the island, Palermo is an energetic metropolis widely known for having the largest opera house in Italy, busy and exotic markets like Vucciria and Ballarò, and – according to Forbes magazine – the ‘tastiest and most varied street food’ in Italy.
This busy port full of mountains has also tons of architectural landmarks. Here, you can see 12th-century mosaics at the cathedral of Monreale, a royal palace from the 9th century Palazzo dei Normanni and the Byzantine mosaics at the Cappella Palatina.
With lots of Christian churches, mosques and palaces, in Palermo you’ll find history everywhere; especially at the Quattro Canti (also known as Piazza Vigliena), a Baroque square at the crossing of the two principal streets in the city.
There are yoga retreats that take place in an 18th Century Sicilian Palazzo, and most of the programs offer the opportunity to discover the authentic flavors of Sicily. Altogether, Palermo makes the perfect location to have a cultural yoga experience!
Image credit: Floripa Yoga & Kitesurf House
Ragusa is a beautiful hilltop city in southeast Sicily, divided into two parts: Ragusa Ibla (lower old town) and Ragusa Superiore (upper town). In the lower town, you’ll find traditional Sicilian Baroque architecture like the Duomo di San Giorgio, while the upper town has a more modern feel, with exclusive restaurants, cafes and a Cathedral with an interesting museum of relics and religious art.
Ragusa is also full of sandy beaches, which means most yoga retreats take place by the sea. This makes it a good spot to combine your yoga practice with kitesurfing or stand-up paddleboarding. Also, if you’re ready to become a yoga instructor, you’ll find good options for yoga teacher training in Ragusa.
Image credit: Luce Yoga
Syracuse is a Sicilian coastal city known for its lovely old town, its ancient Greek and Roman ruins and for being the birthplace of Archimedes, the preeminent Greek mathematician and engineer.
Here you can visit the Orecchio di Dionisio, a limestone cave shaped like a human ear; the Regional Archaeological Museum Paolo Orsi, one of the principal archaeological museums of Europe; and the central Archaeological Park Neapolis, with a Greek theatre and Roman Amphitheater.
Near to Syracuse, Taormina is very well situated as it offers spectacular views of the sea and the Etna Volcano. With small streets lined with shops and restaurants, this hilltop town is considered a must-visit by many.
Want to explore the rest of Italy? Check out this guide to yoga retreats in Italy.
Yummy tips for eating in Sicily
Nothing goes better together than a yoga vacation and a tasty travel experience! Sicily is the perfect place to do it. Starting with the fact that you can have dessert for breakfast, try a new kind of pizza and taste some of the finest wines in the region, this is just another reason why yogis love this island so much.
Normally eaten as a morning treat, Granita is something like a slushie (crushed ice with fruit pulp) accompanied by a baked brioche. You can choose from various flavors like lemon, strawberries, peach, tangerine, almond, coffee and chocolate. Yup, it’s as refreshing as it sounds and a good way to start your day on a high note.
When it comes to food, Sfincione is the original Sicilian form of pizza that you don’t want to miss. It’s thick and crusted, topped with strong cheese, anchovies, tomatoes, onions and herbs, and it usually comes in a rectangular shape.
Also, Sicily is a great wine region. The eruptions from thousands of years ago have now become sand mixed with rocks, providing unique minerals to the wine at an altitude that keeps it fresh. Therefore, wines from Sicily are highly distinctive and known for their fine taste.
Finally, don’t forget to try cannoli, a true local specialty originated on the island of Sicily. It consists of an Italian pastry with a crispy crust and ricotta cheese filling.
Best times to visit
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The ideal times to travel to Sicily are between April and early June, right before the heat of summer. Or from late September to October. Keep in mind that Easter and summer are considered high seasons, which means that it’ll be more expensive and there’ll be more crowds, but there are also more options for yoga travel.
Don't think you have enough time to go on a yoga holiday? You can also find short yoga breaks in Sicily.
*Cover image credit: Floripa Yoga & Kitesurf House