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Last updated : Nov 2007
Sicily
Sicily - TravelPuppy.com
Strategically located 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 World War II, 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, swordfish tuna, and cuttlefish) and the raising of sheep and goats.

Palermo

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

The East Coast

Catania 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 is Mount Etna, which stands nearby and with its fine beaches the city attracts many tourists. Taormina is further up the coast, is a picturesque and immensely popular 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, as well as a plethora of chic bars and restaurants.

Historic Sites

Sicily is littered with the remains of successive invading cultures and a full listing of important sites. The most important ancient Greek sites are, the temples of the Valle dei Templi at Agrigénto, said to be better preserved than any in Greece itself, the Greek Theatre at Syracuse (where there is also a Roman Amphitheatre), and the vast Temple of Apollo at Selinunte. Other monuments include the Norman Cathedral at Monreale, containing 1.5 acres of dazzling mosaics, and the Byzantine cliff dwellings at Cava d’Ispica near Modica.

Aeolian Islands

This group of attractive and small islands is popular for its crystal clear waters ideal for diving and underwater fishing, and stunning beaches of hot black sand and rocky outcrops. Lipari is the largest and most touristy island. Panarea is smart but unspoilt. Vulcano, the closest island, and Stromboli, the most distant, are both active volcanoes. Accommodation is generally simple, although there are some lovely hotels.