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Sicily italy
Sicily (Image by Peter H from Pixabay)


The largest island in the Mediterranean, and the first multicultural society in the world, Sicily is the eye of the needle of European history Strategically placed at the tip of Italy, it has served as the clearing house for occupying powers from the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, Greece, the Balkans, Iberia, northern Europe, and even (recently. briefly, but with equally profound influence) America. It's big enough to absorb, and small enough to transform by osmosis every culture imposed on it, and with a sense of identity strong enough to influence other cultures in turn. Blessed with a near perfect climate and fertile, volcanic soil, the island promises the best kind of Mediterranean beach holiday, then subverts its own hedonism with the competing magnet of cultural riches.

Sicily is a triangle with a 1,000 km coastline, mainly rocky in the north, and sandy in the south. In the east Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano, rises to 3,330 m above a plateau of lava and limestone scarred by ravines and dramatic gorges. Mountain forests give way to great plains of wheat, and whole ranges of terraced vines, oranges, lemons, olives and almond trees; a rural Culture as ancient as the ruins they surround. But history is very much alive in Sicily: in the palaces of Palermo, the Baroque fantasia of Noto, Agrigento's spectacular temples, medieval Monreale or Greek Taormina you feel the continuum of the Sicilian character — explosive, indulgent amused and amusing. In these places, and even in the dusty, traditional farming villages of the interior uplands, Sicily is glamorous. It's a glamour earned by millennia of hard graft, recycling what history has left there for the benefit of new visitors.