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Sicily, The queen of the Mediterranean

Sicily

The queen of the Mediterranean

Sicily is a paradise with respect to its climate, cuisine and culture. Four thousand years of history and several thousand years of immigration and cultural integration have made Sicily a breathtaking mix of European and Mediterranean civilisations. Remains from the Phoenician,Greek, Roman, Arabic, Byzantine and Norman periods are still scattered over the entire island. The evidence of this is everywhere plain to see in the architecture, language, cuisine, religion and traditions. Sicily is virtually one big open-air museum. While walking along the beaches and through the cities, villages and ruins, one is first transported to ancient Greece, then to North Africa, then to Italy of the Renaissance or to the empire of the ancient Romans. Sicily is comprised of a landscape of mountains, vineyards, olive groves and forests, and its beauty is simply baffling. Climb Europe’s highest ac-
tive volcano or enjoy the sunny beaches. Discover ancient temples by day and pamper yourself with Sicily’s exceptionally good cuisine by night. Whatever your fancy, Sicily is an inexhaustible source of delights and breath-taking natural wonders.


Places of interest Sicily

The Catacombs of the Capuchins in Palermo

A cemetery, which is known throughout the world as the ‘Catacombe dei Cappuccini’, is located in the crypt of the Capuchin monastery built in 1621. It holds a rather macabre sight. Until 1881, when the tradition was discontinued, about 8,000 mummified or embalmed corpses of members of the palermian upper class (including women and children) and the clergy were preserved here. 


The Circumetnea - Train around Mt. Etna

Sicily, Places of interest: The Circumetnea - Train around Mt. Etna

The Circumetnea is a private, single-track, narrow-gauge train that starts in Catania and encircles Mt. Etna in proper style in an old locomotive dating back to the year 1937. The main part of this scenic, 113-m-long route runs parallel to the border of of the Parco dell’Etna at ca. 800 m above sea level. During a relatively short stretch it reaches an altitude of 760 m (in Bronte). The train around Mt. Etna is definitely a unique experience! Lava fields without end, fans of smoke rising from the crater, a hundred-thousand blooming giant cactuses, agaves, lemon trees - a real sea of flowers!

www.circumetnea.it


The Island of Vulcano

Sicily, Places of interest: The Island of Vulcano

The Island of Vulcano has been known since antiquity for the capriciousness and ‘irascibility’ of its volcano. It is still an active volcano today. In the bay ‘Levante’, there are even thermal springs and healing steam that rises up from the earth.


Villa del Casale In Piazza Armerina, the mosaics of the Villa del Casale are shining once again

Sicily, Places of interest: Villa del Casale In Piazza Armerina, the mosaics of the Villa del Casale are shining once again

Sicily’s Villa del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, opened its doors to the public once more in July 2012. After six years of restoration work, it is now possible to wander among the villa’s mosaics again. During the restoration, 120 million individual tiles were painstakingly cleaned by about 50 conservators from all across Europe.

This Roman villa, one of Sicily’s most precious sites dating back to antiquity, was the residence of a wealthy merchant between the 3rd and 4th century AD, who brought back a group of artists specialised in the art of mosaic making after his last trip to Africa. New excavations show evidence that there was not just one villa, but rather a densely populated settlement with a spacious thermal complex.


The Island of Stromboli

Sicily, Places of interest: The Island of Stromboli

The Island of Stromboli is known as the ‘black pearl’ of the Aeolian diadem. It is the sole persistently active volcano in Europe, whose crater one can climb and see up-close. There are two small villages on Stromboli: the harbour town of Stromboli and the village ‘Giostra’, which one can only reach by boat


The Island of Mozia

Sicily, Places of interest: The Island of Mozia

Mozia is privately owned by the Whitaker family. Over 200 years ago, this English family was one of the founders of the Marsala wine production, and also began the excavation of the Punic city, which covered the entire island. The Whitaker villa, which includes a museum, is located in the centre of the island near the pier.


Caltagirone - the city of the Majolica ceramics

Caltagirone has long been known for its ceramic workshops and pottery still plays an important role here today. Balconies and storefronts, even bridges and staircases are decorated with the colourful ceramic. You can watch the artists at work in the numerous ceramic workshops and purchase high-quality ceramic products. The Majolica floors, the figurines -fischietti - which are available in many shops and of which there are 80 different traditional variations, as well as the ceramic nativity figurines by the masters of Caltagirone, which can be admired in the local ceramic museum, among other places, are all equally famous. Caltagirone’s elegant public city park numbers among the most beautiful in Italy and was planned by Giovanni Battista Filippo Basile, who understood masterfully how to incorporate local ceramic elements into the balustrades and pavilions.


The Botanical Garden in Palermo

Palermo’s awe-inspiring ‘Orto Botanico’ is located at the edge of the historic district. Here gigantic rubber trees reach towards the sky and palm trees and exotic bottle trees line the park’s paths. The garden, which opened in 1795 as a place of botanical science, was used as a model for many botanical gardens all over Europe. The sea roses with their magnificent blooms on the garden’s lakes are a particular treat for the eyes. And there is no escaping the true heart of the botanical garden of Palermo, the mighty fig tree with its protruding roots. This garden was effusively praised by Goethe on his Italian trip in 1787: “It is the most beautiful place on earth.”


The Island of Lipari

Sicily, Places of interest: The Island of Lipari

The Island of Lipari whose lively, picturesque harbour is towered over by rhyolite cliffs, is the centre of the archipelago. Its museum, one of the most interesting in the Mediterranean area, houses the myriads of artefacts from this island.


Salt gardens on the sea

A total of 27 salt works still produce salt along the 30-km stretch of coast between Trapani and Marsala. Old windmills pump the sea water into ever smaller basins until the salt is harvested. In the salt museum of Nubia the history of this antique tradition, its rhythm and its people, is explained. The museum stands on an old salt mountain. A windmill is also located here, as well as the salt workers’ house. To reach the ‘Via del Sale’ when coming from Trapani one must first arrive at the harbour area and then travel towards Marsala.


Tour information Sicily

Information for visiting the Alcantára Gorge

Sicily, Tour information: Information for visiting the Alcantára Gorge

Over the course of the millennia, the Fiume Alcantára has carved out a wild and romantic gorge (400 m long, 5-8 m wide and up to 25 m deep) in the volcanic rock of the northern slope of Mt. Etna. A good part of the canyon with its bizarre basalt walls can be waded through, although only if one does not baulk at the cold water with a maximum of 15 °C. The river bed can usually be explored from May to September, in the remaining months you can only go as far as the entrance of the gorge. From the visitor’s coach park, you can take a lift down to the pebble beach located in the canyon. The

descent by stairs, which begin about 200 m above the coach park at the main road, is free. Wading boots and waders are available for hire.


Festivals & Events Sicily

Festival of Saint Agata in Catania

from 3 to 5 February Each year one of Sicily’s largest festivals takes place in honour of Saint Agata. It is celebrated in grand style with a procession of lights followed by a fireworks display.


Flower Festival in Noto

On the third Sunday in May The Infiorata takes place in the heart of the historic district on the Via Nicolaci, one of Noto’s avenues. A colourful carpet of flowers unfolds, an impressive spectacle known far beyond the borders of Sicily.


Good Friday procession in Trapani

Probably Sicily’s most famous procession. Statues of saints, each weighing one ton, are carried through the streets with fervency. Other participants poignantly portray the Stations of the Cross.


Festival of Saint Rosalia in Palermo

10 to 15 July
Il Festino, as the imposing festival is called, is the event of the year in Palermo. The culmination of the festivities is a large procession on the evening of the last day of the festival. A statue of the saint is carried through the streets of the city on a wagon in the form of a ship. The evening ends with a triumphant firework display over the sea.


Ballo dei Diavoli (Dance of the Devil) in Prizzi

On Easter Sunday, experience lively Sicilian piety up close as the famous “Ballo dei Diavoli” takes place. It symbolises the everlasting struggle between good and evil, as locals dressed as devils parade through the streets and are symbolically vanquished by Jesus and the Virgin Mary.


Couscous Festival in San Vito lo Capo

Sicily, Festivals & Events: Couscous Festival in San Vito lo Capo

in September
A giant spectacle with chefs from all over the world, at least from the countries where couscous is part of the national cuisine. During the festival the city is bursting at the seams and bands play on several stages. There is an international competition and couscous dishes from various Mediterranean countries can be sampled.


Almond blossom festival in Agrigento

in February
The almond blossom festival takes place each year between the first and second Sunday in February. It started in 1934, the idea of Duke Alfonso Gaetani, to honour the magnificent blossom. This cultural highlight takes place in the Valley of the Temples - don’t miss it!


Suggested Excursion Combinations Sicily

The Aeolian Islands: Lipari and Vulcano

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: The Aeolian Islands: Lipari and Vulcano

Departing from Milazzo, the ferry ride crosses to Lipari (travel time around 1½ hours). You have the option of visiting the interesting museum of Lipari (located directly on the harbour) or of taking a short stroll through the narrow streets, before you will continue on by boat to Vulcano. Vulcano is inviting for a swim with its black lava beach, warm water springs and fango baths.


Cefalù, Castelbuono and wine tasting in the Abbey of S. Anastasia

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Cefalù, Castelbuono and wine tasting in the Abbey of S. Anastasia

Cefalù is famous for its beautiful beaches, but also for the structures which have re­mained intact since the Arabic-Norman period. To reach the magnificent cathedral dating back to the 12th century, wind through the small streets of the historic district. Then continue on to Castelbuono in the Madonie Mountains, where, among other sights, you will visit the medieval castle with its pa lace chapel and the old mother church with its splendid

frescoes. Afterwards enjoy a wine tasting in the history-steeped winery of the S. Anastasia Abbey.


Selinunte and Sciacca

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Selinunte and Sciacca

Travel to Selinunte, a small fishing village in the shadows of a gigantic expanse of ruins. That is all that remains of ancient Selinus, the Greek city on the border to Phoenician western Sicily. Visit the archaeological park and the partially reconstructed temple. Continue on to Sciacca with its unique and beautiful historic district sporting an Oriental flair, above all known for its therapeutic warm thermal baths. Art lovers will also get their money’s worth here - there are an array of interesting monuments to visit, most notably from the Middle Ages and the Baroque period.


Palermo and Monreale

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Palermo and Monreale

The capital of Sicily is a lively harbour city. Sumptuous palaces are set among typically Mediterranean street scenes. 

The Norman Cathedral and the Palace of the Normans are especially worth seeing. The Normans founded the abbey of Monreale in the mountains near Palermo as a symbol of their triumph over Islam. With its cathedral and adjoining cloister, this structure is among Sicily’s most important sights


Syracuse and Catania

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Syracuse and Catania

Travel to Syracuse, one of the most important cities of ancient Greece. Wander through the narrow, winding streets of the Ortigia Peninsula, the historical centre of Syracuse. Guided tour of the archaeological excavation site with its beautiful Greek amphitheatre and the ‘Ear of Dionysius’. On the return journey you will become acquainted with the lively and colourful city of Catania. Monuments from antiquity and fanciful Baroque buildings characterise the cityscape. You will see the Norman-Baroque cathedral with the Elephant Fountain, stroll through the fish market and along picturesque  market streets to the Hohenstaufen Castello Ursino, see the Greek theatre with the Roman Odeon and at last reach the un-

finished Baroque facade of S.Nicolo.


Segesta and Erice

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Segesta and Erice

Today you will visit the Greek temple of Segesta, which numbers among the best preserved temple complexes in the world. The amphitheatre perched on a hill provides a stunning panoramic view. The next highlight is Erice, located at an altitude of 750 m and surrounded by a mighty, medieval wall. The town is surrounded by many legends and through its panoramic location allows fantastic views of the surrounding landscape. Here you will stroll  through the narrow streets of the picturesque historic district with its numerous historic buildings, small squares and landscaped inner courtyards. Don’t miss out on a tradi tional almond pastry from the old bakery. 


Mt. Etna and Taormina

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Mt. Etna and Taormina

Excursion onto Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano. You will walk to the Silvestri craters and the lava streams of 1983 and 2001 at a height of ca. 1,900 m. (The continued journey to an altitude of ca. 3,000 m with all-terrain vehicles depends on the weather and costs extra.) In the afternoon you will visit Taormina, which is surrounded by an overwhelming setting of rocks, gardens andsea. Taormina’s most famous structure is the Greek-Roman theatre, from which one has a spectacular view of the sea and Mt. Etna.


Agrigento

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Agrigento

Today, look forward to Agrigento. The sight of immense monuments set against a Mediterranean backdrop along with the unique light are highly impressive. The vast size of the ancient area and the magnificent temple complex shed light even now on the former importance of this ancient city. The Greek poet Pindar called the city ‘the most beautiful city of mortals’. The perfectly preserved Temple of Concordia is particularly impressive. The archaeological area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


Piazza Armerina and Caltagirone

Sicily, Suggested Excursion Combinations: Piazza Armerina and Caltagirone

In the Villa Casale you can admire the almost 3,500 m2 of floor mosaics with mythological motifs, hunting and circus scenes of wealthy Romans as well as the famous ‘bikini girls’. Continue on to Caltagirone, also known as the ‘queen of the mountains’ and famous for its pottery production. The Duomo S. Guilano and the 142-step monumental staircase are the main attractions. Win interesting insights into pottery production during a visit to a pottery workshop in Caltagirone.


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