A small world of its own
“Italy without Sicily does not leave an impression on your soul: here lies the key to everything.” This is what Goethe wrote during his voyage through Italy in 1787. In fact, Sicily is Italy’s largest island and at the same time a small world of its own.
Typically Italian and yet completely different: contrasts characterize Sicily in many respects – scenic, cultural as well as culinary.
The sunny island has always been considered a blooming landscape. Thus, it is in spring that Italy’s southernmost point displays its best, when countless almond trees turn the island into a sea of blossoms.
Charming lemon groves are to be found all over the island, but most of all on the fertile lava soil beneath majestic Mount Etna, the landmark of Sicily and the largest volcano of Europe.
Windswept maquis and gorgeous sand dunes in the southeast captivate you. Here you will find Sicily’s most beautiful sandy beaches – stretching for kilometres on end, wide and gently sloping they are a paradise for small and large “water bugs”.
In the sparsely populated inland, the mountain area with its valleys, gorges and barren plateaus creates an almost mystic atmosphere, in the mountain villages times seems to have stood still.
The islands around Sicily are worth a visit, too: from Sicily you can easily reach the Lipari Islands, for example.
Impressive witnesses from times gone by
Impressive witnesses from times gone by – you encounter them at every turn. Taormina, the famous small town high above the sea, offers an adorable setting – be it an event at the amphitheatre, the fantastic view of the east coast or a stroll through the small alleys.
Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples are a must-see for friends of antiquity. It is with a dignified pride that the impressive ruins present themselves as World Hertiage Site, and rightly so.
Furthermore, Syracuse with its Old Town of Ortigia, which is located on an island, as well as Noto and Modica, gems of the baroque, are World Heritage Sites and worth being explored.
Not only masterpieces of architecture, but also dreamy fishing villages and solitary nature reserves, they are simply tempting. The Etna Regional Park with its almost 60 000 ha is one of the largest in Italy. A guided tour of the volcano is surely one of the most exciting experiences during a holiday on Sicily.
The nature reserve Oasi di Vendicari in the southeast forms a unique coastal landscape. Dunes, woodland and lagoon lakes provide shelter for rare species like flamingos, cranes, pelicans and pond turtles.
The Necropolis of Pantalica (also World Heritage Site) and the Gorge of Anapo near Syracuse are two highly interesting destinations and, like all nature reserves, places inviting for a hike.
The Italian equivalent of the Grand Canyon is the Cava Grande del Cassibile near the small town of Avola. Lush maquis, fragrant oleander and giant plane trees line the descent into the river valley of the Cassibile. At the bottom of the gorge, at a depth of 250 metres, you are welcome to take a refreshing swim in the water basins and afterwards a sunbath on the heated rocks.
A melting pot of cultures
As manifold as the island's landscape and sights, as manifold its inhabitant – the Sicilian. The poet Angelo Fiore held that, when attempting to describe the sicilianità, there were "five million Sicilies", just as many as there are inhabitants. In the Sicilian melting pot of cultures you will find elements contributed by the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Hohenstaufen dynasty, the Spanish and the French.
Southern Italian hospitality, celebrating colourful, lively festivals and keeping up religious customs are surely among the islanders' characteristic traits.
From the culinary point of view, Sicily combines the cuisine of its ancestors: apart from the traditional Mediterranean cuisine, you will frequently find Couscous on the menu, and with the deliciously sweet dolci you will taste Arab influence as well.