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Sicily - Taormina


Sicily - Valle dei Templi

Strategically situated between Italy and north Africa and with fertile soil and rich coastal fishing grounds, Sicily has suffered an almost continuous round of invasion for as long as history has been recorded. The Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Aragonese, Bourbons and, most recently, the Germans (and the Allies) during the Second World War – all have left their mark on this unique island, the most populous in the Mediterranean. The economy is based on the production of citrus fruit, almonds, olives, vegetables, wine (including Marsala), wheat and beans, together with mining, fishing (anchovies, tuna, cuttlefish and swordfish) and the raising of sheep and goats.

The capital, Palermo, is a splendid city in a grand style, opulent, vital, full of remarkable architecture, particularly Norman and Baroque. Notable buildings include the Martorana, Santa Maria di Gesu, San Giuseppe dei Teatini and San Cataldo churches, the Cathedral and the Palazzo dei Normanni. The catacombs at the Capuchin Monastery contain thousands of mummified bodies.

is said to possess the best natural harbor in Italy. The old town stands on a small island just off the coast and contains many historic buildings. Archimedes lived and died here.

is a spacious city dating mostly from the 18th century, having been rebuilt following a succession of earthquakes. Europe’s largest and most active volcano, Mount Etna, stands nearby and with its fine beaches the city attracts many tourists.

, further up the coast, is an immensely picturesque resort town. Perched on a cliff within sight of Mount Etna, it has fine beaches, a well-preserved Greek theatre, a castle and a cathedral.

, a busy port with a deep natural harbor, was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1908. The Cathedral is an exact replica of that destroyed in the 1908 calamity, which was built in the 11th century by King Roger.

Sicily is littered with the remains of successive invading cultures and a full listing of important sites. The following is a representative selection of sites and buildings: the Norman Cathedral at Monreale, containing an acre and a half of dazzling mosaics; the numerous Greek remains at Agrigénto, said to be better preserved than any in Greece itself; the Greek theatre at Syracuse; the vast Temple of Apollo at Selinunte; and the Byzantine cliff dwellings at Cava d’Ispica near Modica.

Popular seaside resorts include Cefalů (near Palermo), Mondello, Acitrezza, Acireale, Taormina (see above) and Tindari. There are extensive sandy beaches on the southern coast.

Many attractive small islands surround Sicily, offering excellent facilities for underwater fishing. Accommodation is generally simple (although there are some excellent hotels). These islands are the Lipari Group (Lipari itself, Vulcano, Panarea and Stromboli), Ustica, Favignana, Levanzo, Marettimo, Pantelleria and Lampedusa.

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