A guide to Sicily.
Sandwiched between Italy and North Africa and with a long list of historical invasions having left a unique thumbprint on the island, is Sicily – a cultural melting pot if ever there was one.With it’s rugged mountains and lush carpeted hillsides, Sicily has been described as a geological Garden of Eden. The most famous tourist resort of this green and luscious island is Taormina. Perched on top of a mountain with spectacular views of brooding Mount Etna, lively Taormina boasts a wide range of excellent restaurants, hotels, discos, lidos and beautiful sandy and shingle beaches. Not satisfied with a large helping of natural splendour, the resort also has lashings of culture including a 3rd century B.C. Greek theatre, rebuilt by the Romans, the ruins of the Odeon (for musical shows), and the 15th Palazzo Corvaia. The stunning views and the classical architecture gives just a small insight into why this island was once called the ‘Land of Miracles’.
One of the other most popular Sicilian resorts is Giardini Naxos, located at the base of a steep hillside and overflowing with bougainvillea. Giardini Naxos is renowned for it’s beautiful sandy well-kept beaches, lined with stylish hotels and restaurants. There are plenty of opportunities to indulge in some water sports such as diving, snorkeling and water skiing, and even to take in the breathtaking views from the top of the overlooking hill. Sicily is a deeply beautiful island, blessed both naturally and culturally. A definite must see at least once in a lifetime.
Formed by the volcanic activity of the famous Mount Etna, Alcantara Gorge on the Alcantara River close to Taormina,is a beauty to behold. Etna's past activity has created a beautifully scenic countryside which is encircled by small luscious green woods. During the summer, visitors are permitted to bathe in the cool, refreshing water that flows through the amazing rock formations taking in this remarkable spot of natural beauty.
Famed for it’s temple to a whole range of fertility goddesses, medieval Erice majestically gazes out across the northern coast of western Sicily from 750m above sea level. Once a wealthy Elimi city, Erice still exudes a potent medieval ambience and is very popular with visitors to the area. With two castles, namely Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle plus ancient Elimi and Phoenician walls around the northeastern side of the city, Erice is cram packed with fascinating culture and history. Surrounded by verdant parks and dissected by ancient stone streets there is also a healthy scattering of medieval churches. From the stunning Mother Church, on Via Carvini to the medieval Church of Saint John the Baptist and the Church of Saint Ursula, Erice is a wonderfully evocative place to visit.
Mount Etna Nature Reserve.
Sicily’s largest nature reserve is the world-renowned Mount Etna. This magnificent and unpredictable volcano measures approximately 3350m and is credited as being not only Europe’s highest volcano, but also it’s most active. The slopes of Etna are carpeted with beautiful oak and stone pine woods which provide wonderful hiking trails in the summer and autumn when the trees provide a breathtaking autumnal kaleidoscope, whilst in the winter there are also plenty of opportunities to ski on Etna’s slopes. Although it is too dangerous these days to climb up to the active craters, the lower slopes are littered with fascinating crevices and old craters from previous eruptions. An un-missable experience.
Although the exterior has been modified beyond recognition of the original medieval structure, the Royal Palace at Palermo should not be dismissed. The Pisan Tower of the Normans' still retains much of it?s original charm and the interior of the palace is a breathtaking experience. Now housing the Sicilian Regional Assembly the palace maintains much of its former grandeur. The Palatine Chapel and Roger's Room (the throne room) in particular, demonstrate the magnificence of the Kingdom's original splendour. Like a miniature Montreale Cathedral, the Palatine Chapel is adorned with traditional Orthodox iconography and a painted Arabic ceiling and is open during traditional hours. A definite must see for some culture by the sea.
Founded in 650 B.C. and once one of the most forward thinking Greek cities in Sicily, the remains of Selinunte sits 20m above sea level on the south coast of the island. With stunning views out across the Mediterranean Sea, the city - ruined largely by an earthquake in the Middle Ages - still evokes a wonderful feeling of what life in an ancient Greek city was like. There are a number of grand temple ruins, fortifications and the remains of houses. Five of the major temples can be found in the Acropolis, although only one of the five, Temple C is in a discernable condition. The site is incredibly tranquil and has a wonderfully peaceful ambience.