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Sicily, Italy: 5 Must-See Sights of Sicily

Updated on April 28, 2011

The island of Sicily, Italy

It is best known for its fascinating geography. The island of Sicily is the ball being perpetually kicked by Italy's boot, and it is the home of Mount Etna, the largest active volcano on the European continent. Sicily is also one of the most dramatic and beautiful places in all of Italy, with a distinct culture, unique cuisine and a fascinating history, all well worth taking the time to explore.

Sun-drenched and stubborn, Sicily is a bold and dramatic place. It is the largest island in the Mediterranean; home to pristine beaches, ancient ruins and some of the best food in all of Italy. Here are five must-see sights not to miss on your visit to Sicily.

Palermo

The city of Palermo is home to just under a million people. Sicily's location in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea means that it was influenced by every culture that passed by over the centuries. The Greeks, Romans, the Spanish, Byzantines, Saracens; all left their mark on this island, giving Palermo a unique architectural style, a one-of-a-kind cuisine and a lively feel. It is a bustling city, full of restaurants and crowded markets. In the 12th century, this was the most impressive city in all of Europe. Today, it is a fascinating blend of cultures and experiences.

The Aeolian Islands

These stunning volcanic islands off the north coast of Sicily were named for the ancient demigod of the winds, Aelous. They are dramatic, natural and lovely, with thermal hot pools and incredible beaches. Lipari is the largest island, but they are all stunning, home to whitewashed houses with terracotta tile roofs, which harken back to the days of Spanish conquistadores. Stay in a bed and breakfast which serves home-cooked meals. Catch the ferry here from Milazzo.

Mount Etna

It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and has been for nearly half a million years. The Roman poet Virgil wrote about Mount Etna, and it is still erupting, waiting for you to explore its wonders. You can arrange tours to hike up the volcano, drive up the volcano, or ride a helicopter over the volcano. Whatever your level of activity, don't miss the chance to see what Virgil immortalized: Out of the bowels of the mountain torn, its maw disgorges, while the molten rock rolls screaming skyward; from the nether deep the fathomless abyss makes ebb and flow.

Cattedrale Di Monreale

It is one of the loveliest cathedrals in Italy. Built in the 12th century, just outside Palermo, it is not to be missed because of its stunning golden mosaics. The colorful, breathtaking mosaics cover nearly 70,00 square feet of wall inside this incredible cathedral, and are second only in size to Turkey's Hagia Sofia (although these mosaics are more beautifully preserved) .

Agrigento

The Valley of Temples in Agriegento on Sicily's south coast is home to some of the best ancient Greek ruins in the world. Go at night, when the temples are lit up by soft lights highlighting the ancient columns, which have withstood the winds here for thousands of years.

photo credits

flickr:

Cefalu Sicily - Photo by david.nikonvscanon

Palermo Cathedral - Photo by vic15

Belvedere - Photo by tore_urnes

Mount Etna - Photo by Jonathan Edgecombe

Cattedrale di Monreale - Photo by upyernoz

Agrigento-Temples Valley #12 - Photo by Chiara Marra

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