Every school child in the world is familiar with the island of Sicily, as it is playfully and everlastingly kicked into the sunny Mediterranean Sea by the boot of Italy. This island has one of the most impressive landscapes in all of Italy, with a unique history, historic ruins, few tourists, and delightful cuisine. Anyone wanting to explore a nearly undiscovered and authentic corner of this country should head to Palermo, to explore a dramatic and fascinating island.
Sicily is a powerful blend of culture and heritage
Palermo is the largest city in Sicily, and home just over a million people. It is a distinct place, with a culture unlike any other in Italy. Throughout its history, Sicily was conquered and occupied by just about every Mediterranean culture, from the Spanish to the Moors and the Greeks. Everyone left their own mark, so while other Italian cities pay tribute to their historic Roman roots; Palermo is a blend of many traditions and peoples. It is utterly unique in its style, attitude and its flavourful cooking.
The many cultures that have passed through Sicily have left behind many historic sites well worth exploring. Just outside of Palermo, the Cattedrale Di Monreale is a stunning 12th century cathedral featuring a wall of gold mosaic tiles. As well, the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi is a fine example of medieval architecture. Don’t miss the beautiful Castello della Zisa, and when night falls, don’t forget that there are still performances being offered in the historic Teatro Massimo. In the south of Sicily, the Valley of Temples in Agriegento features some of the best preserved Greek ruins in the world.
Palermo also offers the chance to visit some of Italy’s most fascinating museums. The Museo Archeologico Regionale takes an archaeological look at the Greek and Roman history of this sun-soaked island. While the Galleria Regionale features classic paintings and sculptures dating back hundreds of years.
Of course, Sicily also has a historic dark side, and Palermo is home to one of the most bizarre tourist attractions in all of Europe. The Capuchin Catacombs have thousands of mummified bodies, dried and dressed, and on display. It started as a crypt for monks in the 16th century, and eventually it became a status symbol paid for by the island’s rich and famous. A visit to the catacombs is gruesome, and fascinating, and entirely memorable.
Sicily also offers visitors a chance to explore pristine beaches and rugged landscapes, seemingly untouched by time. In the centre of the island, Mount Etna has been erupting for more than 500,000 years. Ancient poets wrote about its beauty, and you can still experience it today. There are dozens of ways to explore the natural wonder of this active volcano, from helicopter rides to hikes. Just off the coast, the Aeolian Islands were named for the ancient god of the winds. Their hot pools and beaches attract visitors from everywhere.
For pure relaxation, head across the water from Palermo, to the resort town of Mondello. The beaches are world famous, as are the spas, hotels, and the town’s cathedral.
So for your next visit to Italy, why not add to your romantic visit to Rome, and head south to beautiful and memorable Palermo.
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