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Holidays to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands give visitors the chance to experience a unique region of Italy with its own history, culture and cuisine. Sitting right at the tip of Italy, Sicily is the largest and most populated island in the Mediterranean and offers a fascinating mix of cultures and architecture. Throughout its history, the island has been colonised by the Arabs, the Greeks and then the Romans. Today, visitors can still see vestiges of its interesting past in the Greek temples, Roman architecture, mosaics and Arabic influenced cuisine. Explore the historic city of Palermo, admire the views from Taormina’s dramatic clifftop location and spend time by the sea in Cefalu.
The UNESCO World Heritage Aeolian Islands lie just north of Sicily and offer a carpet of picturesque landscapes and natural attractions – steaming volcanoes, small rocky coves lapped by azure blue seas and green hills, perfect for hiking. The islands are also known for their excellent cuisine, from unique pasta dishes and cheeses to desserts and cakes, and of course fresh seafood.
Holidays to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands may be a popular, but there are still plenty of local, insider places to explore. Make sure to save some time to visit one of Sicily’s hidden gems – Noto. With its magnificent cathedral and baroque beauty, it will delight and surprise history and culture lovers.
For one of the best views on the island, make your way to the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina. Sit up in the restaurant on the roof terrace and enjoy a local bottle of wine or some delicate Sicilian cuisine, while looking out across the craggy clifftops, calm Mediterranean Sea and the smoking crater of Mount Etna.
It may be busy and little hectic but there are many reasons why you should visit the historic Sicilian capital of Palermo. It’s filled with charming buildings, romantic Baroque facades, dazzling Byzantine mosaics and many contemporary art galleries.
Take a trip to the ancient Greek city of Syracuse and visit its many sights, including the magnificent Greek Theatre, the ancient Temple of Apollo or the grand Maniace and Eurialo Castles. As well as history, visitors will find plenty of culture here. Make sure to spend an hour or two wandering around the impressive Piazza del Duomo and browsing the Ortigia market for fresh produce.
Holidays to Sicily and the Aeolian islands wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Mount Etna - one of Sicily’s most iconic attractions and a beautiful sight to witness. Europe’s most active volcano, it has been active for 3,500 years and stands at 3,329 meters high. Admire its might and power from afar or get up close with a hike up to the crater.
Flights from the UK to Sicily arrive into Palermo (PMO), Catania (CTA) or Comiso (CIY) airports. Flights to Palermo are available from London Gatwick and London Stansted and take approximately 2 hours 50 minutes, while flights to Catania depart from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton and Manchester and take approximately 3 hours. Flights to Comiso depart from London Stansted and take approximately 3 hours 15 minutes.
Thanks to its southerly location, Sicily enjoys mild temperatures all year round. Spring and autumn are both lovely times to visit, with temperatures in the high teens and early 20s (although up in the hills and on the slopes of Mount Etna it can be significantly cooler). In summer, you can expect temperatures in the high 20s – perfect for spending time on the island's beautiful beaches.
Fish and seafood are prevalent throughout Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, and wherever you go you won’t be far from the coast and the fresh catch of the day. In Sicily, one of the most traditional dishes is pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines). Heavily influenced by the Arabs, it features spaghetti or tagliatelle with sweet raisins, pine nuts, fennel seeds and zesty lemon. In the Aeolian Islands one of the best known dishes is grilled fish with caponata - a tomato and olive oil sauce made with aubergine, celery and capers.
Sicily and the Aeolian Islands are particularly well known for their cakes, sweets and pastries. In both islands, you have the chance to try the celebrated cannoli – crunchy pastry cones filled with flavoured ricotta cream. Other famous sweet treats include delicate and colourful marzipan fruit and biscotti. In the Aeolian Islands, almond cookies and sweets with raisins, cloves and cinnamon are also popular.
Cheese is of course one of Italy’s most famous products, and Sicily and Aeolian Islands are no different. Some of the most famous cheeses include pecorino, provola, caciocavallo and canestrato.
Sicily's history makes it a unique and fascinating island. Its strategic location in the centre of the Mediterranean has made it a melting pot of cultures, each leaving a distinctive imprint which is evident in the almost overwhelming mixture of architectural treasures and classical ruins.
In ancient Roman times, Sicily was known as Manga Greacia, which translates to Greater Greece, and the ancient Greek's influence is still evident today. They introduced vines and olives to this fertile island, some of the best preserved Greek temples in the world can still be found in Agrigento and the ancient Greek Theatre in the centre of Taormina is a must-see for visitors.
Over the years the island has been invaded by a host of nations, including Romans, Arabs and Normans. Even the British Administration briefly invaded in 1806. Its varied history means the Sicily's towns and villages have a unique feel with some interesting sites to explore. Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina has the world's largest collection of ancient Roman mosaics, which were unearthed in the 19th century, while the Normans fascination with Arab architecture resulted in them expanding, altering and adding to many existing buildings. Fine examples of this can be seen mainly in Sicily's capital, Palermo, such as the Palazzo dei Normanni, originally an Arab Castle to which the Normans added towers, levels and the Capella Palatina, a delightfully ornate chapel that was completed in 1143. Other buildings in Palermo include the churches of San Giovanni degli Eremiti and San Cataldo, which are crowned with a series of red domes mounted on cubic towers - reminiscent of the modern Arab architecture you can see in North Africa today.
If you would like to pre-book one of our excursions, please call our Italy Experts on 01293 762410*.