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Explore Sicily - An Exclusive Guide

A perfect day in... Sicily, Italy

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Sitting at the very heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily is a true cultural crossroads, a meeting place with a unique history that gives the island a deeply seductive flavor. For centuries marauders, invaders and immigrants have shaped, molded and reinvented Sicily, creating a captivating destination that would take a lifetime to fully take in. This is where you can explore ancient Greek temples, Roman mosaics and Baroque palaces, stroll through souq-like markets and savor Arabian-influenced delicacies, and marvel at ancient olive groves, sparkling coves and the lava-spewing splendor of Mount Etna.

What to see in Sicily

Chaotic and captivating, Palermo is a good place to start – if not one for the faint-hearted. Take in the views from the famous 12th-century cathedral, with its rooftop walkway, or head to Piazza Bellini, home to quieter Chiesa di Santa Caterina, offering similarly epic views over the baroque rooftops, before taking a tour of the lively centre, with its ancient churches, noisy markets, wide boulevards and cramped maze of traffic-rammed streets. Teatro Massimo, on Piazza Verdi, is the world’s third largest opera house, and a fantastic place to take in some classic Italian opera.

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For a taste of Sicily’s ancient Greek highlights, head to the other end of the island, to the Valley of the Temples, near Agrigento, where ruins of temples and tombs from the 5th century BC stand amid almond trees. Don’t miss the extraordinary Tempio della Concordia, not unlike Athens’ Parthenon.

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What to do in Sicily

The constantly shifting and alarmingly active Mount Etna is one of the world’s largest volcanoes and worth seeing up close. You can visit the moonscapes of the summit by cable car (which has been destroyed by spews of lava in the past), for a tour of the crater and views over the blackened slopes to the cobalt sea below, or opt for a 4X4 trip followed by a hike. You’ll need good boots and warm clothes for the summit, even in summer.

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For a breezy break from sightseeing, head to the beachside town of Cefalu on the north coast, with a beautiful sandy beach backed by a promenade. Or head on a snorkeling trip in the beautifully clear waters of Isola Bella, a marine park close to the San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel, made famous by The White Lotus TV series. While in Taormina, try to catch a concert performance at the ancient setting of the Teatro Greco, with Mount Etna in the background.

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Take a boat tour of the laidback volcanic Aeolian Islands, with their idyllic sandy beaches, ancient olive groves and whitewashed seaside towns. You can take in Lipari and Vulcano (well known for its steaming mud baths) on a day trip from Cefalu, or spend the night in Salina, with a choice of lovely boutique hotels and restaurants. Stromboli, famous for its active volcano, offers black-sand beaches and volcanic hikes.

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What to eat in Sicily

Put simply, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Given Sicily’s sunny clime, the ingredients are spectacular and you’re guaranteed to eat well wherever you go. A few must-trys include: arancini, stuffed, fried risotto balls; cannoli, pastries filled with fresh sheeps’ ricotta; caponata, a tangy vegetable and olive stew; and the local pasta specialty, spaghetti tossed with sardines, fennel, pine nuts and sultanas. The vibe is very much rustic and hearty, and Sicilians have a sweet tooth, so breakfast is usually a (very good) coffee accommodated by a sweet pastry, or, in summer, a brioche with almond-infused granita.

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Street food is a way of life here, and you’ll be able to grab a snack to go from pretty much anywhere, from freshly-fried arancini to cannoli piped with hot ricotta while you wait. Look out for panelle, a hot fritter made from chickpea flour. And don’t miss the gelato, which was invented here by Arabs using snow from Mount Etna. Speaking of Mount Etna, its fertile slopes, and those of the Aeolian Islands, are home to numerous vineyards and the volcanic wine of Sicily is exceptional.

For more information, visit www.visitsicily.info/en

This article has been written for review purposes only and does not suggest sponsorship or endorsement of AARDY by the trademark owner.

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