Historical atmospheric ancient cities beside azure seas, etc. All true. Try to head inland if you can though, for rugged and scenic hill country awaits. Along with a surprising amount of snow for mid-March.
The Madonie highlands are a little over an hour’s drive southeast of Palermo and are an excellent outdoor hiking and nature area.
Madonie Park (http://www.parcodellemadonie.it) is a highland area that features the Madonie mountain range surrounded by the towns of Polizzi Generosa, Collesano, Petralia Soprana, Gangi and Castelbuono, amongst others, which offer a base to explore the region. If you hate the outdoors you can just drive around the park and visit the towns. There was cross-country skiiing at Piano Battaglia, which is an outdoor recreation area in the center of the Park and there are multiple hiking trails best accessed by your own car – public tranport is infrequent. Some itineraries are here http://www.parks.it/parco.madonie/Eiti.php and this is a good description of the topography http://www.summitpost.org/le-madonie/364267
I went for a hike on the Abies Nebrodensis trail (Sentiero degli Abies Nebrodensis) which you can reach on SP 119 from Polizzi Generosa and Piano Battaglia, with a trail head about 8km on the right from Polizzi Generosa. Even for mid-March at about 1,000 meters elevation, there was a lot of snow on the trails. http://www.parcodellemadonie.it/sentiero-degli-abies-nebrodensis.html
I went again the following day and the snow was more manageable for a few hours. The trail to the Rifugio Monte Cervi was also accessed from SP 119 and headed west.
The weather clouded over but it was a nice stroll along the valley.
The Rifugio was shuttered and was a good turnaround point.
I stayed at Agriturismo Cuca just north of Polizzi Generosa which worked really well. Agriturismos are a farmstay option that are very well set up – http://www.agriturismo.it/en/farmhouse/sicily/palermo/Cuca-1470060/index.html
Castelbuono is the largest of the towns if you are looking for a base and it has a large fortified medieval center. I quite liked Polizzi Generosa as well.
Mount Etna, Sicily’s only active volcano, is located just north of Catania, and is an interesting day hike. There are multiple routes up, and I drive to the base on the south side at Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza. You can take a cable car up or alternatively you can hike up the main access road – I had a roughly 4-hour round trip without going all the way to the crater.
As ever the weather was quite clear in the late morning but it clouded over soon after.
This was where I turned around. Not so much owing to the warning (which was relevant the following day when Etna erupted http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/17/europe/bbc-crew-volcano-mount-etna-eruption/index.html) but because I didn’t trust myself to navigate across the snow with the visibility being variable.
Variable visibility and a suspiciously recent lump of ejected rock.
This is a fuller account:
Enna is good place to base out of central Sicily. It has an impressive and defendable hilltop location – in case. Enna is very pretty.
It has the obligatory historical sites that will fill say half a day.
Commanding views over Sicily’s heartland.
I stayed just south of Enna at the Agriturismo Mandorleto http://www.agriturismo.it/it/agriturismi/sicilia/enna/IlMandorleto-3080663/index.html
Also within striking distance of Enna and worth a visit is the Roman villa near Piazza Armerina http://www.villaromanadelcasale.it