A gift of nature unlike any other, the great Mediterranean island of Sicily, is a treasure to behold in every which way. The largest island on the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has been a center of power, history, culture, civilization and learning from antiquity. The island is located to the extreme south of the mainland Italy and is only separated by the narrow Straits of Messina just off the North African coastline. The island is today an autonomous state within the Republic of Italy and one of the major attractors of tourists in the world. Its culture, architecture, food, people, language and way of life differs in some ways from mainland Italy giving it its own unique identity which it has been able to conserve and propagate with success. The island is also hosting many volcanoes within its boundaries with some of them also being active including the biggest of them all, Mt. Etna.
The island of Sicily is greatly endowed by Mother Nature with its landscape being full of green valleys, mountains, hills, and beaches. One can has so much to discover in this region of Italy that one visit will never be enough. Sicily has been brimming with human activity from as late as 8000 B.C when the area was largely dominated by the Sicani tribes who were later joined by the Elymians who were known to belong to the Aegean Sea. By the turn of the first millennia B.C, Greeks settlers began settling in the island forming many colonies and assimilating the Sicani tribes with themselves. The region thrived under the Hellenic culture of the Greeks resulting in the creation of many Greek temples such as those found in the Valley of Temples at Agrigento. The Island of Sicily came under the Roman control around the middle of the 3rd century B.C when the Greek ruler Syracuse asked for help from the Romans in defeating the Carthagian colonies in the westernmost part of the island during the longest battle of ancient times known as the Greek-Prunic wars. Following their victory in the war, the Romans annexed the island and made it their first province outside of the Italian Peninsula.
After the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D, the island saw many rulers rule its beautiful lands which included the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantine, the Arabs, and Normans who took turns to rule the island through most parts of six centuries after the decline of the Roman Empire and before the establishment of the Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century A.D. The Norman King Roger II of Sicily was able to establish the Kingdom under the subordination of various other kingdoms such as Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Two Sicily which lasted for more than six centuries. It was annexed as part of the Italian state in the movement of nationalism in 1860 and finally given the status of autonomous state after Italy was declared a republic in 1946.
Sicily has always been considered by Europeans as their paradise, a place which has inspired many artists, poets, authors with its rich color, great weather, breathtaking landscape and its amazing quest for culture. The island with its great shores kissing the clear, greenish water of the Mediterranean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas makes for some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Sicily’s geography is mostly mountainous with most of the parts dominated by some volcano or the other most amazing of them all being the great Mt. Etna which is the pride and symbol of Sicilian culture. The Region around the Mt. Etna, the largest volcano in Europe is full of rich biodiversity protected by various national parks which provide for great trekking experiences exploring the natural beauty of this humongous volcano. Sicily is a treasure bed of archeology with many remains and archaeological sites still intact in the island, the many caves of the volcanic mountains of the island provide for an exhilarating trip back in time of the first settlers on this island, the ancient monuments and the World heritages sites such as the Valley of Temples in Agrigento, Necropolis of Pantalica and the baroque cities of Noto Valley and Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina.
There are many charming islets which satellite around Sicily but none of them is as charming and stunning as the World Heritage site of the Aeolian Islands with its beautiful archipelago of smaller islands, caves, small beaches with crystal clear water and amazing local cuisines. Sicily is a paradise for lovers of beaches and nature. Trekking is becoming a very popular activity in the island state as it allows adventure seekers to explore the beautiful region around the many volcanoes of the island including Mt. Etna which at over 3000m poses quite a challenge. Besides these natural extravaganzas, Sicily has also been home of learning, arts, culture and heritage. One can visit the town of Acireale to see the Opera of Marionettes or experience the joy of the people of Sicily during the Acireale Carnival. Sicily, it’s a treat, a treat of amazing freshness, richness and luxury a place that is as breathtaking in its landscape as it is in its cuisines and culture.