Sicily: Folklore & volcano smoke

Sicily is the largest of the Italian Islands, separated from Europe by the Strait of Messina and lapped by the Mediterranean Sea. Known as much for its mafia past as its grumbling volcano, Etna, the island offers huge variety - from the lush, verdant mountains to the chic cities. Greek tyrants, Byzantine bishops, Arab emirs and Norman Knights all gave Sicily its diversity.

Palermo, the old town of Sicily’s capital, is postcard stuff; a terracotta-walled rabbit warren of cobbled streets with hanging baskets trailing flame red flowers. Catania is a paradise for adventurers and hikers, as is the UNESCO World Heritage site around Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano. The rolling countryside in the south throws up the precariously balanced hilltop towns of Ragusa Ibla and Erice, though you’ll keep coming back to Taormina. As the heat rises, retreat to Gran Duca for a bottle of chilled local Nero d'Avola (viticulture is a big thing in Sicily, just don’t expect a broad selection of international wines) and a generous plate of spicy spaghetti vongole while sitting high above the bay to see your yacht at anchor below you. Explore the Aeolian islands of Vulcano, Salina and Lipari: from lava formations to cliff-top meadows and deserted beaches.


When to go:

April – end of October

High season:

July – August

Highlights

1

The Greek amphitheatre in Taormina with a panoramic view of Etna

2

Drive through Marsala wine country and leave time for tasting

3

Take a thrilling helicopter trip above the Stromboli volcano

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