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Sparkling waters, atmospheric ruins, volcanic landscapes... as the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is a dazzling holiday destination. It’s located just off the toe of Sicily’s ‘boot’, making it easy to access from the mainland – and the perfect base for island-hopping.
Here are a few more of our favourite reasons to visit this historic, sun-kissed island (and yes, arancini may be one of them.)
Sicily has a long, rich history. The Greeks were the first to discover it, as early as 8 BC, and since then, it has been considered the ‘crossroads of the Mediterranean’ thanks to its central position. As a result, you’ll find fascinating relics of the Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines and more on this ancient island.
Visit one of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world at the awe-inspiring Doric Temple of Concordia at Agrigento, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s part of the Valle dei Templi, (Valley of Temples) where you’ll also be able to wander through groves of fragrant almond trees and explore the ancient Greek city of Akragas for yourself.
Thanks to this wealth of history, Sicily is bursting at the seams with world-class architectural gems. The capital of Palermo is home to grand, Arab-influenced domes as well as intricate mosaics dating back to the Byzantine era. Make sure to pay a visit to the 12th-century Palermo Cathedral, with its mysterious tombs belonging to royalty, and four ancient bell-towers.
Elsewhere in Palermo, you’ll find the Palazzo dei Normanni, a formidable palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the spectacular Martorana, also known as the Church of Santa Maria of the Admiral.
Sicily’s topography has it all: looming volcanoes, verdant valleys and peaceful meadows. This diversity means your getaway looks different from day to day. Where else could you begin by Mt Etna, the largest volcano in Europe? It's easy to get to, situated between the main towns of Messina and Catania.
Whether you want to go trekking into its craters and caves or admire its incandescent, fiery lava flows from a distance, witnessing the majesty of Mt Etna is an experience you won't forget in a hurry.
Hikers should dedicate a day to discovering Lo Zingaro Nature reserve, which stretches lazily along the northeast coast. This haven of thriving and rare flora and fauna is also home to lizards, peregrine falcons and owls.
What’s your idea of the perfect beach day – somewhere thriving and bustling, with plenty of cafes to pop into for a mid-morning espresso? Or a secluded oasis, where the only sound is the crash of waves? Luckily, Sicily has an abundance of both.
To feel like you’re in the thick of things – without having to fight for a space on the sand – make your first stop Isola Bella just off the coast of Taormina.
Take to the crystal clear water for an afternoon of snorkelling, before grabbing a cold beer or Negroni from a café-bar.
Next up is Torre Salsa, which is part of a peaceful nature reserve. Keep your eyes peeled for loggerhead turtles, or peregrine falcons swooping over the orchid-speckled hills behind you. For a unique photo opportunity, you can’t miss the Turkish Steps near Agrigento. Bright-white limestone has been gradually worn down to create a series of ‘steps’, which contrast boldly against the cobalt water. Take a walk along the stretch of golden sand afterwards.
Thanks to Sicily’s sun-baked climate, plenty of ingredients found in Sicilian cuisine are grown on the island itself. Think palm-sized lemons dripping with juice, fresh, salty shellfish caught from quiet local bays and ripe tomatoes as red as Mt Etna’s lava.
A rich tapestry of influences makes up the island’s culinary heritage – from North African to Greek.
Classic dishes to sample during your trip include arancini – oozing, deep-fried balls of rice, cheese and meats. Traditionally made to use up leftovers, they’re an indulgent treat in their own right. For your main course, it could only be pasta alla norma, which is synonymous with the town of Catania. Imagine soft macaroni pasta laced with sweet tomatoes, earthy aubergines and creamy ricotta, topped with fragrant basil. The only thing that’s missing is a glass of red Malvasia wine.
Allow yourself to be seduced by Sicily on one of our Italian or Mediterranean cruises. Balmy evenings by the sea and al fresco lunches on rustic terraces await.
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