Sicily, the jewel in Italy's crown
You will arrive in Sicily where your holiday experience begins...
Sicily is an island of great contrast and with villas in the North West and the South of the Island there is plenty of scope to discover everything this Italian jewel has to offer. Whether it's Palermo or Marsala, Erice or Segesta in the North West or Catania, Syracuse, Noto or Modica in the South this island has plenty to see and do for every visitor.
Palermo is busy, hectic, intimidating and interesting by turns. It's the city which most encapsulates Sicily, and it is the home to some of the region's most important tourist attractions.
Palermo is Sicily's regional capital, and is a busy port city situated on the north-western coast of the island. In the Middle Ages, Palermo was one of Europe's leading cities, but nowadays the town is still trying to recover from twentieth-century years of blight. With a reputation as a hotbed for both petty and organised crime, Palermo's attractions as a tourist destination are frequently overlooked. There is some fine architecture to be admired, as well as good museums, churches, markets and restaurants.
Erice is in such a spectacular, naturally fortified position high above the natural harbour of Trapani, it is not surprising that the site has been occupied for millennia. It's perhaps not suprising either, that with the crag's veil of shifting clouds and air of mystery it was an important sacred site. There was a temple of Venus here which outlasted the different civilisions holding sway in the area. The female divinity to which the shrine was dedicated changed slightly with each culture: Astarte for the Phoenicians, Aphrodite for the Greeks and Venus for the Romans. Fertility rites would probably have taken place on or around the temple site, at the highest point of the town.
Marsala is nowadays most famous for its wine, also called Marsala. After a long period of poverty, Marsala became home to a prosperous wine trade, developed by entrepeneurs at the end of the eighteenth century, led by one John Woodhouse, from Liverpool, who exported the fortified wine. Other English and Sicilian business men followed his example, and it was in fact one of these men, Joseph Whitaker, who began excavating and piecing together the history of Mozia.
Marsala's other claim to fame is as the landing place for Garibaldi and his thousand men (the Mille) on May 11th 1860, starting the chain of events immediately preceding Italy's unification. Throughout town you'll find commemorative plaques, and businesses of every description trading under Garibaldi's name and image.
Catania is the second largest city of Sicily after Palermo and is located on the east coast facing the Ionian Sea. It is the capital of the Metropolitan city of Italy one of the ten biggest cities in Italy, and the seventh largest metropolitan city in Italy. The population of the city proper is 311,584 while the population of the Metropolitan city of Italy is 1,107,702.
Catania was destroyed by catastrophic earthquakes in 1169 and 1693, and by several volcanic eruptions from the neighbouring Mount Etna, the most violent of which was in 1669.
Catania was founded in the 8th century BC by the Greeks. In 1434, the first university in Sicily was founded in the city. In the 14th century and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centres.
Its old town, besides being one of the biggest examples of baroque architecture in Italy, is a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO.
Syracuse (or Siracusa) was the most important city of Magna Graecia. It defeated the mighty Athens in 413 and was home to many a great Greek, including the inimitable Archimedes. At the height of its economic, political and military powers, the city had a population of 300,000 and, according to Cicero, was “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”.
Modica The historical town of Modica is located in the south-eastern part of the island in about 20 km distance from Ragusa.
The elegancy of its buildings and streets richly decorated with baroque motives gave a significant boost to the town’s tourism. A further contribution was the annexation to the communities of the world cultural heritage of the UNESCO in 2002.
Modica is built at the foot of a rocky ridge where once two rivers flowed and which are now underground. In the past the town became an important centre of southern Sicily being the head of the homonymous county. Today the town is composed of two urban agglomerations: the Upper and the Lower Modica, both are fascinating in equal way for different reasons.
The Modica visitor must not miss a culinary visit to one of the numerous shops where the delicious Modica chocolate is made and sold.