“The largest Island in Mediterranean”
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and with the Egadi, Aeolian, Pelagie, Pantelleria and Ustica, form an autonomous region with its own legislative power.
Crossroads of various civilizations, that continued domination of the island, has inherited from each of them a piece of the mosaic that makes up the typical character of the people, as well as evidence of an extraordinary cultural and artistic heritage rarely equaled in the world.
A mild climate, a natural environment with wonderful islands and islets, some of the most beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean, with unspoiled seabed, active volcanoes, mountains, plains and Baroque cities face, fascinating and intriguing, make Sicily one of the most popular tourist original destinations of the Mediterranean and the world.
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Leaning on a large inlet at the foot of Mount Pellegrino, Palermo was counted in ancient times among the most flourishing cities of the Mediterranean. Despite signs of a neglect duration, is today a city extremely fascinating that hides true gems of art, inherited from Arab, normammi and Spanish splendor periods. The imposing Norman Palace, with the Palatine Chapel, is the wealth of the Arab-Norman style, with wooden stalactites and mosaics ceiling (XII sec.) that are among the most beautiful in the Byzantine art. Other beautiful mosaics can be seen inside the Martorana, a church of the twelfth century, several times remolded. Nearby, the Arab cupolas of San Cataldo, hide a relevant mosaic Norman floor. But, one of the most famous buildings of the Norman town, is the church of St. John of the Hermits (1136), surmounted by five red domes and adorned with a lovely garden that contains the ruins of a cloister. At the intersection of Via Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda, opens the spectacular Piazza Vigliena, known as the Four Corners, symbol of baroque Palermo, represented by the four concave sides of the buildings located at the four corners. Not far you get into Piazza Pretoria, where the fountain of the sixteenth century is one of the rare examples of Renaissance art in Palermo. Underground, then, lie the Catacombs of the Capuchins, which contain about eight thousand embalmed bodies of rich people, still dressed in their own clothes, gathered here in the seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth. Do not miss a visit to the Vucciria market, albeit with due care because of the bad reputation, which offers the same performance similar to a North African souk, with various food stalls on which tower swordfish integers. Of great importance is the Regional Archaeological Museum, built in the former convent of the Filippini of the seventeenth century, which contains one of the most important archaeological Italian collections . A few kilometers from Palermo, Monreale, with its cathedral of the twelfth century, decorated with Byzantine mosaics with a gold background, and the beach of Mondello, are two of the destinations not to be missed, just outside the city.
Sicily belongs to the African plate, with the exception of the north-eastern part, which belongs to the Eurasian plate, the sliding of the African plate that plunges beneath the Eurasian plate, led to the creation of the mountains of the region, as well as the presence of seismic activity is of tectonic origin that volcanic. The Sicilian more volcanoes are the Etna (3340 meters high), Stromboli and Vulcano, which have singularities as belonging to three different types. Etna is characterized by basaltic lava eruptions interspersed with periods of calm, the Stromboli eruptions continued, with lava fountains, and Volcano, explosive type, with long periods of apparent calm and sudden violent eruptions. The territory of Sicily also includes several smaller islands, with the archipelago of seven islands (or Lipari) and Ustica at north, one of the three Egadi islands to the west and, finally, to the south, the islands of Pantelleria, Lampedusa and Pelagie Islands . The Sicilian hinterland is hilly, partly mountainous (Madonie, Erei) and only a small flat part (plain of Catania). Sicily has a considerable extension of the coastal length of about 1500 km, with frequent and wide bays, spits of land that stretch for miles on the sea (as in the case of Capo San Vito and Capo Milazzo), pebble or sandy beaches, narrow or large, often wild, sometimes framed by white cliffs (such as Scala dei Turchi).
The religious festivals play an important role in Sicilian society, giving rise to celebrations and processions feel and spectacular. The Pasquacon greek-Byzantine rite, can be seen and lived in the village of Piana degli Albanesi , Contessa Entellina, Palazzo Adriano, Mezzojuso or Santa Cristina Gela (Pa). In February, the city of Catania, dedicated to Sant’Agata one of the biggest festivities of the country, during which a silver carriage , with the bust containing the relics of the saint, is followed in procession by the devotees, dressed in the traditional white robe, close by a cord, black bonnet, scarf and white gloves, clinging to a rope of a hundred meters. The Living Nativity of Custonaci is considered among the most important events of Sicilian folk traditions. In the Mangiapane cave, in the township of Trapani of Custonaci, houses and sheep pens perfectly reconstructed, form an authentic rural village. Over one hundred people, with shepherds, artisans, farmers and artists, depicting the activities of the past, that animate the crib, open throughout the Christmas period, until the weekend of the Epiphany. Now in its seventh year, Stone Theatres features live entertainment in ancient theaters and monumental sites, including the ancient theater of Morgantina, the Necropolis Realmese in Calascibetta, the ancient church of St. Hippolytus in Piazza Armerina, the Castle di Lombardia in Enna, the Garden of the Capuchins in Nicosia and the amphitheater of Villarosa (in July and August). Even the Pirandello Week of Agrigento (July-August), offers plays, operas and ballets. On the occasion of the international festival Taormina Arte (July-September) you can watch shows and plays inside the famous greek theater. The Carnival of Acireale is among the most beautiful of Sicily, with parades of floats and floats adorned with flowers. Do not miss the Feast of the almond trees in bloom, organized in the first ten days of February in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
By Plane. The quickest way to reach Sicily is by plane, on the island there are two airports, one of Punta Raisi, the Falcone-Borsellino, which is 32 kilometers from Palermo and Catania Fontanarossa Airport, 7 kilometers from the city.
ByTrain. There are lines connecting Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples and Reggio Calabria to Messina and from there to Palermo, Catania and other Sicilian provinces. Trains are transported from the peninsula by ferry from Villa San Giovanni.
By Car. With the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria is the Villa San Giovanni, where you can get ferries to Messina. Sicily is also accessible by ferry from Naples, Genoa, Livorno and Cagliari.
Sicily offers in one place all the interest that can be searched in a tourist destination, the beautiful sea, the spectacular cities rich in monuments, the nature trails. For fans of water sports, along to the other islands, offers the possibility of boat trips, scuba diving, snorkeling and windsurfing. For hikers, unique and captive destinations are Mount Etna, the Zingaro nature reserve or Madonie park . There are many itineraries of great interest. The territory of Catania, with the path that leads to Taormina and then to Randazzo, Bronte, Nicolosi, to get into the car to the Rifugio Sapienza, just at the foot of Etna. The beaches of Cefalu, a town with the remains of fortifications and the famous Norman cathedral, with routes that penetrate the interior of the Madonie, an imposing limestone massif, the highest after Etna. The stretch from Enna to Ragusa, along the road that goes from Pergusa Lake., Piazza Armerina and Villa Romana del Casale, and from Caltagirone, famous for its ceramics. From Eraclea Minoa in Caltanissetta, from Agrigento and the famous and exciting Valley of the Temples . The coast of Selinunte, between Mazara del Vallo and Sciacca, an area rich in monumental ruins and temples, considered one of the most remarkable archaeological sites around the Mediterranean. From Trapani to Erice, San Vito Lo Capo, a land of traps, to Castellammare del Golfo, near the archaeological site of Segesta and then Marsala. And finally Syracuse which, alone, is worth a trip in Sicily with the Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum, the Palazzo Bellomo, Maniace Castle and the Archaeological Park of Neapolis.
TRADITIONS AND FOLKORE
The festival of Tataratà is held in Casteltermini in occasion of the feast of the Holy Cross, the fourth Sunday of May. It is an event that keeps alive the Arab tradition in Sicilian folklore. The Tataratà is an armed dance, performed in small jumps and conducted by some characters that represent the old Arab courtyard. In August, Piazza Armerina, relives the Norman Palio, with sounds and atmosphere of the medieval period. In the frame of the old town, ladies, knights and militia create a striking manifestation of waiting “quintana”, where the four historic districts face off in an exciting ride on horseback. In August, in the Madonie, held some folk events such as the Joust of Ventimiglia at Geraci Siculo, an event that recalls the splendor of the feudal family of Ventimiglia, the Sagra della Spiga Gangi, a country event that evokes the costumes and the culture of rural life, and at Petralia Sottana, the new appointment with the old wedding procession and the Cordella dance , hymn of thanksgiving to nature and providence.
At the table, in Sicily, it always starts with appetizers such as thistles and artichokes passed in batter and fried, croquettes, the Chiaramonte Gulfi sausages or Sant’Angelo di Brolo, the “acciurate” olives (drowned in olive oil with local scents), and then, caponata, a preparation of eggplant. Inevitable the panelle, made with chickpea flour, and then the cheese of cow’s milk or sheep .Among the first course , stands out the anelleti timbal baked, then the pasta with sardines, pasta with tenerumi (shoots of the long zucchini plant ), pasta alla Trapanese (with raw tomato and garlic), and pasta ‘Norma’ with the sauce and fried eggplant. The fish is the undisputed king of seconds courses (although often it is also the first courses), usually cooked in the oven or on the grill, such as swordfish, tuna or sea bass. The Beccafico Sardinian are the rolls of sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, pine nuts and raisins. Among the meats, to quote the kid, typical for Easter Monday, and tasty sausages fried or grilled. The typical outline is the tomato salad, fennel, onion and lettuce. Characteristic of many preparations is,sweet and sour made with the addition of almonds, pine nuts, raisins, hazelnuts or pistachios. Among the desserts, the queen is the cassata, and then the cannoli, the buccellati made with fig jam, marzipan fruit made from sugar and almond flour, cuddureddi stuffed with honey (or cottage cheese or candied fruit ), the cakes with almonds and reginelle, biscuits covered with sesame seeds. Do not forget the ice creams, sorbets and granitas.
The Sicilian handicraft most important is the manufacture of ceramics, of which Caltagirone it is the centrer, with many shops, a museum and an art school specializing particularly oriented to the production of ceramics. Another area is that of the original production of mosaics, rooted in Sicily thanks to the presence of numerous archaeological sites (particularly developed in Piazza Armerina). The they work the lava stone, in the areas between Paterno and Acireale, with cromatic decorations. In the Aeolian Islands, increasingly rare but still active, is the working of obsidian. In the area around Catania and Messina there are artisans that produce objects in terracotta and ceramics richly decorated. In the region of Trapani carpets are produced. In the area of Sciacca are activities aimed at the production of artistic wrought iron, wicker, silver and coral.
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
… In the Strait of Sicily lying Empedocles, an active underwater volcano, located about 40 kilometers off Cape Blanc? The discovery of the volcano occurred during an oceanographic cruise, born with the intention of making a scientific documentary on the Ferdinandea island, emerged from the sea in front of Sciacca in 1831 and sank a few months later.