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Sicily Travel Guide

Panoramic view of Taormina, Sicily (© Francesco83 - Fotolia.com)
Panoramic view of Taormina, Sicily.

Introduction

Sicily (Sicilia in Italian and Sicilian) is one of the five an autonomous regions of Italy. With a land area of 25,711 km˛, it is also the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the largest Italian region. Sicily has 5 million inhabitants, making it the fourth most populous Italian region.

Sicily has five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Aeolian Islands, the Archaeological Area of Agrigento, the Villa Romana del Casale, Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica, and eight Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto. If the eight towns in the last category are counted separately, Sicily has the largest number of World Heritage Sites in Italy. If not, it is still second after Tuscany.

Famous people from Sicily include (chronologically): the mathematician Archimedes, the Renaissance painter Antonello da Messina, the Baroque composer Alessandro Scarlatti, the opera composer Vincenzo Bellini, the writer Luigi Pirandello (Nobel Prize), the poet Salvatore Quasimodo (Nobel Prize), and the fashion designer Domenico Dolce (of Dolce & Gabbana).

History

The earliest archeological evidence of human presence in Sicily dates from the Early Neolithic, around 8000 BCE. From 750 BCE, the Greeks started colonising the island, and were to leave the biggest genetic impact on the present-day population. The Phoenicians settled the north-western corner of Sicily, and founded the cities of Panormos (Palermo) and Motya. For the next 600 years Sicily was the site of the Greek-Punic war (600-265 BCE) and the Roman-Punic war (264-146 BCE), which ended with the Roman destruction of Carthage.

As the Western Roman Empire was falling apart, Sicily was invaded by Germanic tribes: the Vandals from 440, then the Ostrogoths from 488. Part of the Byzantine Empire from Byzantines 535, Sicily came under increasing pressure from the Arabs from 652 onwards. The island eventually succumbed to the Muslims in 965, and became the Emirate of Sicily until 1072.

From 1068, the Normans were invited by South Italians from the mainland to recapture Sicily from the Muslims. They took Palermo in 1068 and expelled the Arabs from the island in 1072. Ruling from Palermo, the Normans would establish the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130, which would at some point expand to all the south of Italy as far as Abruzzo. In 1816, it merged with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until the unification of italy in 1861.

Attractions

Attractions are listed geographically, from west to east (left to right) and north to south (top to bottom).

West

Palermo
Palermo, Sicily (© emicristea - Fotolia.com)
must-see Palermo.
Monreale
Monreale, Sicily (© Quanthem - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Monreale.
Castellammare del Golfo
Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily (© Tonino Corso - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Castellammare del Golfo.
Segesta
Segesta, Sicily (© pawelkowalczyk - Fotolia.com)
very good Segesta.
Levanzo
Levanzo, Sicily (© Kaleidos - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Levanzo.

Other attractions

very good Selinunte

Central

Aeolian Islands ※
Salina, Aeolian Islands, Sicily (© eyeworld - Fotolia.com)
must-see Aeolian Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea composed of the islands of Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Basiluzzo. Stromboli and Vulcano are active volcanoes. The former has been in almost one continuous eruption for the past 2000 years and earned the nickname of "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean".
Cefalų
Cefalų, Sicily (© Sylvana Rega - iStockphoto.com)
outstanding Cefalų.
Villa Romana del Casale
Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily (© V. ZHURAVLEV - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Villa Romana del Casale.
Mount Etna
Mount Etna, Sicily (© Francesco83 - Fotolia.com)
must-see Mount Etna (3,320 m / 10,890 ft) is the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world.
Caltagirone ※
Caltagirone, Sicily (© hbriphil - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Caltagirone.
Agrigento ※
Agrigento, Sicily (© Francesco83 - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Agrigento.

East

Taormina
Taormina, Sicily (© Francesco83 - Fotolia.com)
must-see Taormina.
Catania ※
Catania, Sicily (© gaemau - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Catania.
Syracuse (Siracusa) ※
Syracuse, Sicily (© fibra - Fotolia.com)
must-see Syracuse.
Noto ※
Noto, Sicily (© dalib0r - Fotolia.com)
must-see Noto.
Ragusa ※
Ragusa, Sicily (© boole2  - Fotolia.com)
must-see Ragusa.
Modica ※
Modica, Sicily (© luigi nifosė - Fotolia.com)
must-see Modica.

Other attractions

very good Messina
very good Militello in Val di Catania ※
very good Palazzolo Acreide ※
very good Scicli ※

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Eupedia's Rating System

Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

  • : Moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
  • : Recommended - to visit if you have time
  • : Outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
  • : Best of the country - shouldn't be missed
  • : Best of Europe

Natural attractions

  • : Moderately interesting
  • : Recommended
  • : Highly recommended
  • : World-class natural attraction
  • ※ : UNESCO World Heritage site


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