Go To Sicily

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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When you go to Sicily, you'll be visiting the largest island (9,830 square miles) in the Mediterranean and one of the more densely populated (more than five million). It sits just off the toe of the boot that is Italy, separated by the narrow Strait of Messina, two miles at the narrowest point and 10 miles at the widest. Mostly mountainous, Sicily is home to Mount Etna, at 10,700 feet, Europe's highest active volcano.

More than likely, you will land in Palermo, the island's capital, when you go to Sicily. The city lies on the island's northeastern coast and looks toward the mainland. Founded by Phoenician traders about 800 BC, it became a Carthaginian settlement until the Romans arrived. Always a trading center, it is encircled on its inland side by the Conco d'Oro, a fertile agricultural plain thick with citrus groves and backed by mountains.

Why Go to Sicily?

One of the world's earliest multicultural societies, Sicily has been inhabited for some 10,000 years. In succession the Sicels, Elymians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, and Bourbons ruled over the island. In 1861, after Garibaldi swept across the island from west to east (the Normans had moved east to west), Sicily became part of the greater Kingdom of Italy. In 1947 it gained regional autonomy.

The largest of Italy's regions, Sicily is divided into three areas. When you go to Sicily you'll discover natural parks, cheese makers, Saracen ruins, outdoor markets, cathedrals, olive and lemon groves, medieval castles, and vineyards. At the eastern end of the island, near Mount Etna, are the Alcantara Gorge and a mud geyser flat, as well as countless opportunities for naturalists interested in bird watching, marine flora, or geology.


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