Tuscany or Sicily is one of the harder decisions we’ve had to make. These two regions are powerhouses of the Italian tourism scene. They each have incredible sights and scenery to recommend them and are both visited by millions of happy holidaymakers every year.
Sicily, the biggest island in the Mediterranean, is known for its layered history, archeological wonders, stunningly diverse landscapes, sparkling seas, and deliciously varied cuisine. But Tuscany is one of Italy’s most loved regions and it contains a startling range of delights, including renaissance artworks, romantic cities and hilltop villages, photogenic cypress groves, and world-class wineries.
But fear not, we’re here to help you make this tricky decision. These regions might both be beautiful, but they each have unique charms that appeal to different travelers. So we’ve laid out these differences for you here to help you decide which one, Tuscany or Sicily, is right for you.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Highlights
It isn’t easy to condense the wonders of these two locations into a few paragraphs because, like most regions of Italy, they are jam-packed with historical, cultural, natural, and modern delights. And Tuscany is home to more than most. Visitors should not miss:
- Beautiful, romantic Florence with its collection of Renaissance masterpieces, statue of Michelangelo’s David, and iconic domed cathedral.
- The Piazza del Campo and UNESCO-listed historical center of medieval Siena.
- Ticking the leaning town of Pisa off your bucket list.
- Visiting the many rustic villages and hilltop towns of the region.
- Taking a road trip through Val d’Orcia, a region so lovely that its landscapes have been reproduced many times in both Renaissance paintings and Hollywood movies.
And Sicily is not short of a highlight or two either! This is a region characterized by the influences of many different civilizations that have lived and ruled there. Remnants of these can be seen in the diverse architecture, ruins, and archeological sites present on the island. There are truly too many to see in one trip, but visitors should try not to miss:
- The many churches and Cathedral of Palermo, and the Cathedral of Monreale, considered one of the best examples of Norman architecture on the island.
- The southeast corner of Sicily where eight different towns are UNESCO listed for their Baroque architectural splendour.
- The Valley of Temples in Agrigento. Where you’ll see – among many many wonders – one of the best preserved Greek temples in the world.
- Villa Romana, with its lavish, intricate Roman mosaics.
- The ancient Greek amphitheater with iconic Mount Etna views in hilltop Taormina.
Conclusion: Art and city lovers should head straight for Tuscany, while archeology and ancient history hunters should visit Sicily.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Natural Beauty
Tuscany’s rolling green hills, vineyard dotted valleys, clay hills and Apennine Mountains are not just beautiful but a wonderful playground for road trippers, hikers, and bikers too. While you’re exploring these beautiful landscapes, keep an eye out for natural thermal hot springs to soak in! And though you might not think of Tuscany for beach holidays, it has a long, glorious expanse of coastline home to plenty of beach resorts. And if that’s not enough, visit the Tuscan islands sitting in the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, known for their pretty towns and stunning beaches.
There’s no shortage of beaches in Sicily either. With its 1500km long coastline and scattered Aeolian Islands, it is a well-known beach holiday destination. But the island is equally famous for the towering presence of the active volcano Mount Etna, a magnet for hikers wanting to explore its colorful, fertile slopes and peer into its crater.
Sicily is also home to an astounding number of nature reserves. Visit Vendicari Nature Reserve for glimpses of rare migrating birds, Zingaro for the stunning coastline, and the Alcantara Valley to see the lava-stoned walls of the gorges. Also, be sure to visit the white limestone cliffs of Scala dei Turchi and the ancient, endlessly photogenic salt pans at Marsala.
Conclusion: It’s a tough one but we’d say visit Sicily for the coastline, Tuscany for the countryside.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Getting there and around
Since both of these regions are popular tourist destinations, you’ll find them well serviced by transport links. You can fly directly into either at a choice of international airports or arrive via train or ferry from other Italian cities.
In Tuscany, all the main cities are well connected via high-speed trains and the smaller towns by local buses. And while this might be a good idea for urban day trips, we recommend hiring a car to explore the rural areas, since driving through the Tuscan countryside is one of the region’s highlights. If you don’t fancy driving in Italy – and we wouldn’t recommend it in the cities – consider joining an organized tour.
In Sicily, although there’s a good train network to the cities, if you want to visit the smaller towns, you will need to rely on local buses which can be a little erratic. So once again, we highly recommend hiring a car or choosing a tour.
Conclusion: these are equally easy regions to explore although if you’re sticking to public transport, Tuscany’s is a little more efficient.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Food
The food in Italy varies widely from region to region, and you’ll find very different menus in Tuscany and Sicily. Tuscany is a fertile agricultural region known for its red meat dishes, hearty stews, and simple rustic food. Don’t leave without trying:
- Crostini Toscani, thin toasted bread spread with chicken liver pate.
- Bistecca Al Florentine. Thickly cut T-bone steak flame-grilled to perfection and served rare.
- Potato stuffed tortellini, often served with a rich ragu sauce containing game or wild boar.
- Pappardelle pasta with local porcini mushrooms and truffles.
- Pecorino sheep’s cheese. A regional specialty.
In Sicily, you’ll find the menu contains more Mediterranean flavors plus a blend of influences from Africa, France, and Greece. Some of our favorites are:
- A refreshing breakfast of frozen lemon granita and a sweet brioche.
- Fresh seafood, especially the fat, oily sardines the island is famous for.
- Caponata, a sweet and sour antipasto dish containing aubergine, pine nuts, and raisins.
- Pasta Alla Norma, a traditional dish of Catania, with tomato, pasta, and aubergine.
- Arancini. These fried rice balls are stuffed with different fillings all over the island. Try them all and pick your favorite!
Conclusion: we love all the food! But if you’re a rustic, red meat fan head for Tuscany. For seafood and Mediterranean flavors, visit Sicily.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Wine
Tuscany is well known as one of the world’s most important wine regions and is home to 52 DOC and DOCG wines. These high-quality wines come from wineries spread across all ten Tuscan regions, and attempting to visit and sample them all could lead to a very tipsy holiday!
We suggest heading for the most famous region, Chianti, to enjoy glorious views alongside excellent wine. Then to Montalcino for the Brunello di Montalcino, a red wine made to such strict guidelines that it is often one of the most expensive – and delicious – Tuscan wines. And anyone who loves a rebel should head to Bolgheri, where they’ll find the winery credited with making the first ‘Super Tuscan’. A subcategory of wines that shirked Italy’s strict rules and wine codes to challenge how the country produces and classifies its wines. And they’re pretty tasty too!
Although Tuscany does overshadow it, wine lovers shouldn’t ignore Sicily. The island has quite a name for itself within the wine world and produces some excellent varieties. Head to the Etna region, where the volcanic landscape and elevation have led to some innovative wine cultivations. Be sure to try Etna Rosso, the so-called ‘Italian Burgundy’. And for a dry, crisp white sample Carricante made from ancient grapes thought to have grown in the volcanic soil for over a thousand years.
Also worth a sample is Perricone, a red wine whose depth of flavor is created by blending the island’s most common grape variety Nero d’Avola, with the rare Perricone only native to western Sicily.
Conclusion: Anyone visiting specifically on a wine tour should head to Tuscany for variety and name recognition. But more casual wine drinkers will be happy in both regions.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Nightlife
Sicily’s reputation as an Italian party hotspot is growing. You’ll find a wide variety of nightlife options from nightclubs to cocktail bars, beach parties to chillout lounges. Palermo offers the liveliest night out, while Catania has a youthful, vibrant scene thanks to the students and tourists. And for a more refined evening, dress to impress and head to the mountain town of Taormina.
In Tuscany, it’s all about Aperativo time! The early evening hours when crowds gather in the piazzas to sip cocktails, chat, people watch, and enjoy endless plates of delicious antipasto. All the cities and towns of Tuscany partake in this traditional evening enjoyment, but not all of them keep the party going much later.
Both Siena and Pisa offer a collection of mellow late-night venues but head to Florence if you want the best of the region’s nightlife. The historic center and Oltrano are great for laid-back bar hopping, then head to the Santa Croce neighborhood for the hub of clubs and late-night action.
Conclusion: For the best nightlife, base yourself in Florence, Tuscany, or head for Sicily.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Budget and Accommodation
Northern Italy is generally more expensive than the South, and it remains true in this case. The average cost for a couple on a week’s holiday in Sicily is $1283 compared to $1911 in Tuscany. Now, if you stay in the lesser-known areas of Tuscany, you can lower that price quite a bit. And similarly, if you fancy staying on Sicily’s Aeolian islands – specifically jet setter paradise Panarea – the price will shoot upwards. But on average, Sicily is cheaper.
When choosing your accommodation, be sure to look at all the options, especially in Tuscany, because this is the land of exquisite, bespoke accommodation. Here you can stay in working vineyards, ancient farmhouses, or entire villages turned into luxury resorts. But don’t panic if the millionaire lifestyle is out of your reach. With over 20,000 accommodation options on booking.com alone, there’s definitely something for everyone.
In Sicily, you have even more choices, with 22,000 options. However, there are less than half the amount of five-star accommodations available. And although there are some uniquely wonderful places, there are fewer bucket-list-style properties on this island.
Conclusion: Sicily is the cheaper option, but Tuscany takes the edge when it comes to dream accommodation options.
Tuscany Or Sicily: Conclusion
Well, this might not be such a tricky decision after all! Hopefully, you’ve noticed that although you can find glorious sights, surroundings, food, wine, and culture in both places, they do offer quite different highlights and vibes. So the way we see it is this:
Tuscany is the region for you if you love art, architecture, glorious countryside, and historic cities. It’s perfect if you want to eat rustic red meat meals, drink world-class wines, and stay in once-in-a-lifetime luxury accommodation.
But visit Sicily if you’re on a tighter budget or want your holiday to be all about historical influences, ancient ruins, and archeological treasures. This is the region for you if you want to spend your days beach hopping, exploring volcanic landscapes and nature reserves, and enjoying fresh seafood and Mediterranean flavors.
So there you have it! Now you’ve made your choice, it’s time to start planning your Italian itinerary!