For the final few days of our Sicilian adventure, we explored the Tyrrhenian coast in the north and the Ioanian coast on the east. Here are our highlights:

Historic cities of Siracusa and Catania

{A charming street in Ortigia}

{Another charming street in Ortigia}

{Ortigia's Piazza del Duomo}

{The Antico Mercato in Ortigia}

{A cheesemonger shows off his pigs made of cheese at the Antico Mercato}

Our stay in the island of Ortigia in the ancient city of Siracusa, near the southeastern tip of Sicily, may have been our favourite experience of our trip. The island featured charming alleys replete with baroque architecture, and we found ourselves wishing we could spend an extra day walking through all of them. Ortigia's Piazza del Duomo is also one of the most picturesque piazzas we have seen in Sicily. The Duomo sits on the ancient site of the temple of Athena, whose columns remain embedded and visible within the church walls. And its Antico Mercato at the north of the island was by far the most lively one we got the chance to see on our trip. Our stay in Ortigia was rendered even more fabulous by our outstanding lodging in the heart of the Jewish quarter, B&B La Via della Giudecca, where we had a massive apartment with a private rooftop terrace for a mere 115 euros. The B&B, a beautifully restored 17th century palazzo, is situated on one side of the Piazza San Filippo, next to the Chiesa di San Filippo Apostolo. The chiesa (church) sits on the site of a synagogue housing Jewish ritual baths (mikveh) over 20 meters underground, which you can visit on a guided tour at set hours of the day. There are thought to have been roughly 100,000 Jews living in Sicily before they were exiled by its onetime Spanish ruler, King Ferdinand II of Aragon.

The only true disappointment from our time in Siracusa was its archeological park. Though Siracusa's Greek amphitheatre is meant to be one of the best preserved in the world, the ancient stone benches dating from the 6th century had been covered up by wooden slabs, making it impossible to appreciate the grandeur of the structure. Our judgment was also tainted by the fact that we had just visited the majestic Greek theatre in Taormina (see below) a few days prior.

{Via Teatro Massimo in Catania}

{The grand Via Etnea facing towards the Piazza del Duomo in the distance}

{The baroque Cattedrale di Sant'Agata on Catania's Piazza del Duomo}

Though we only had the chance to spend a brief time in Catania, Sicily's second largest city, it was absolutely worthwhile. Its grand city centre features many buildings with an unusual purple and grey color scheme, and its main thoroughfare, the via Etnea, has a spectacular view of Mt Etna looming in the distance.

Scenic beach towns

We were fortunate to have had outstanding weather on the day we visited the coastal towns of Cefalù on the Tyrrhenian coast and Taormina on the Ionian.

{Cefalù's Cathedral}

Cefalù is a tiny beach town scenically placed at the base of a massive cliff. The Norman-influenced 12th century Duomo is breathtaking with the cliff in the background, and the narrow streets making up the tiny town centre allow for some very pleasant walks.

{Taormina's Greek amphitheatre with Mount Etna in the background}

{Taormina's Chiesa San Giuseppe}

{View of the sea from Taormina's Public Garden}

Taormina, perched high up on a ridge, allows for amazing panoramas of the nearby coast. Though Cefalù seemed to have mostly Italian tourists, Taormina seemed to attract a far more international crowd. The Greek theatre, with its world-famous view of Mt. Etna, is obviously the town's main attraction, but the town's streets and gardens (especially the Villa Communale) were all quite charming.

{Acireale's Piazza del Duomo}

Also worth mentioning is the slightly less glamorous beach town of Acirealeon the Riviera dei Ciclopi (where Odysseus is meant to have encountered the cyclops in the Odyssey) which has some beautiful baroque churches.

Baroque hill towns

{Cattedrale di Noto}

{An example of the ornate balconies of Noto's Palazzo Nicolaci}

{View of Noto from the terrace of Chiesa di Santa Chiara}

The Southeastern corner of Sicily is abound with scenic villages, many of which were reconstructed with heavily baroque architecture following the 1693 earthquake that razed nearly all towns in the region. Several of these, including Noto and Ragusa, maintain much of this baroque architecture to this day. In Noto, our favourite spots included the Chiesa di Santa Chiara, the roof terrace of which offers beautiful views of the central piazza, and the Palazzo Nicolaci, the balconies of which are supported by intricate grotesque figures. Though the main street in town, Corso Vittorio Emanuele (the name of the main street of nearly every town we visited), made for a pleasant walk, we enjoyed the baroque palazzi along via Camillo Benso Cavour far more as there were hardly any tourists.

{The town of Ragusa}

{Ragusa's Duomo peeking through}

Ragusa is split into two towns, Ragusa-- the region's administrative centre and modern town -- and Ragusa Ibla, which is the baroque and scenic old town. It was unfortunately pouring with rain on the day we visited, which prevented us from fully exploring the town, but in spite of the weather we still very much enjoyed its charming little streets and yet another grand Piazza del Duomo.

{The Basilica San Sebastiano in Palazzolo Acreide}

Other worthwhile stops on this "baroque village-hopping" phase of our trip were Palazzolo Acreide and Modica.

Food highlights

{Mediterranean sashimi at Osteria Nero d'Avola}

{Black pig sausage and artichoke at Osteria Nero d'Avola}

{Fresh fragolini at Osteria Nero d'Avola}

We had one of our best meals on our trip at the delightful Osteria Nero d'Avola in Taormina. Our meal started off with an amazing olive oil tasting featuring three very different Sicilian olive oils. The dish of black pig sausage from the nearby Nebrodi mountains mixed with artichoke was particularly outstanding, as was the Mediterranean sashimi, which included fresh red tuna, white tuna, shrimp, and swordfish. The fresh fragolini (wild strawberries) we had for dessert were also a treat. A meal not to be forgotten.

{Pane cunzatu at A Putia}

In Siracusa, we thoroughly enjoyed A Putia, which apparently is a favourite spot for locals. Their specialty was pane cunzatu-- loosely translating to "seasoned bread" -- a delicious Sicilian sandwich drizzled in olive oil and filled with cherry tomatoes, pecorino cheese, basil, and oregano.

{Fried fish at La Sicilia in Bocca}

We also particularly enjoyed our meal at La Sicilia in Bocca in Catania. This seafood spot has delicious appetisers with plenty of octopus, anchovies and shrimp, and their local sea bream was delightful in its simplicity.

{Dessert and moscato at Caffè Sicilia}

In Noto, we had a very pleasant--and reasonably-priced--meal at the family-run Trattoria del Carmine. After dinner, we tried some of Noto's local moscato wine while eating delicious pastries at Caffè Sicilia on Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

{Cheese at Dipasquale Formaggi}

Ragusa is known for being the heart of Sicily's cheese country, and no store epitomises this better than Dipasquale Formaggi. We enjoyed the Cosacavaddu Ibleo and aged Ragusano DOP so much that we bought some to bring back to London. Gelati Divini-- a double entendre in reference to its focus on wine-flavoured gelato -- on Ragusa's Piazza del Duomo, also has some of the best gelato we tried on the island.