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History of Sicily:

Steeped in history, Sicily possesses an extraordinary range of art, archaeology, culture and folklore. Its mountains, volcanoes, islands, health spas, beaches, climate, cuisine, wine and hospitality combine to make Sicily the ideal tourist destination. Lying in a strategic position between Europe and Arica, Sicily, melting pot of the ancient world, was touched by every Mediterranean culture, first the Greeks and the Romans, then the Arabs and Normans, and finally, the French, Spanish and Italians. Traces of this long history are evident today in the broad range of art and architecture including two of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world, as well as in the variety among Sicilians themselves, who range from blonde and blue-eyed descendants of the Normans to dark-eyed olive-skin Mediterranean people.

Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is a crossroad of civilization, reflecting the diverse cultures that have passed by here over the past 2,000 years. Among the many architectural treasures is the Palatine Chapel, built by Roger II in 1132. It reflects all of the artistic elements that came together under the Norman, French, Sicilian, Arabic and Greek influence.

About 50 miles southwest of Palermo is Segesta, site of one of the finest examples of Doric architecture left standing. Approximately 118 miles west of Segesta and up 2,450 feet is Erice, a medieval mountaintop town of castles, palaces and cobblestone streets, which offers striking views of Trapani, the Egadi Islands, and even the Tunisian coast on a clear day.

Trapani is the departure point for the ferries to the Egadi Islands and the island of Patelleria, near the African coast. South of Trapani is Marsala, a small seaside town, famous for its sweet wine. Continuing southwest is Selinunte, the site of Greek temples high on a plateau overlooking the Mediterranean. Originally, there were seven temples, of which only one still stands.

About another 60 miles farther east are the temples of Agrigento. Settled by the Greeks in 580 BC, the city survived attacks from the Carthaginians at the end of the 5th century BC, the Roman era, the Middle Ages under Arab and Norman rule and into the modern age. Its most astounding feature, though, is the Valley of the Temples, five temples built beginning in the 5th century BC.

Along the way to Siracusa, Ragusa reveals fine Baroque architecture and lends itself to beautiful walks in the old city. Siracusa, at the southwest end of the island was founded in 734 BC by Greek colonists from Corinth, and the city became a rival of Athens and the largest, wealthiest city-state in Magna Grecia. Today, the Archaeological Park contains the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and the most complete Greek theater existing from antiquity.

To the east lies Sicily's second city, Catania, with its superb views of Mt. Etna. On the other side of Mt. Etna is the medieval mountaintop town of Taormina with its spectacular views and Greek theater, first built during the 3rd century BC and today the site of summer arts festivals. Messina, a modern city, was rebuilt after being destroyed by an earthquake in 1908 and heavy damage during World War II.

Off the northeast coast lies seven beautiful volcanic islands the largest of which is Lipari. The Aeolian Islands, reached by hydrofoil from Messina, Palermo and Milazzo, are ideal for snorkeling or scuba diving.

For a trip inland from Palermo, pass through Caltanessetta to Enna, a fortress city of narrow winding streets with an impressive castle built by Frederick II.

Carnivals and Fiestas in Sicily

Sicily is not only a land of history, it is a land of spectacle. Almost every day of the year, a village somewhere will be celebrating a religious of traditional festival. Many of these festivals have been enacted for hundreds of years, often in elaborate style complete with costumes, life-sized puppets, waving flags and music. The whole town turns into one huge festivity as everyone participates.

Guaranteed Departures
embracing sicily

Sicilian Panorama
8 Days Catania

Jolly Sicily Tour
8 Days Palermo

Sicilian Kiss
8 Days Acireale

Splendid Sicily
8 Days Catania

Southern Splendor
7 Days Palermo

Sicilia Splendida
5 Days Catania

Sicily Gourmet
5 Days Palermo

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May contain technical inaccuracies and typographical errors. These pages may be updated from time to time.

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