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25th February, 2021

Sicily - the crossroads of the Mediterranean

If you remember Sophia in the American sitcom 'Golden Girls', she always started her stories with… "Picture it. Sicily. 1922…" and you could almost see her life on this beautiful, complicated, culturally-rich island. The stories, the families, the passion for life – Sicily is an incredible place to visit and spend time. There are so many facets to the history, culture and life here that you could never be bored.

Situated off the 'toe' of Italy’s 'boot', Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and has been inhabited since 12,000BC. The story of this beautiful island is rivetingly turbulent with many twists and turns, and it has survived the Phoenicians, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish, French to name but a few.

It has been part of Italy since 1860 following Giuseppe Garibaldi's revolt, and it became a special autonomous region in 1946. All this rich history has resulted in a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, and so it's not surprising that Sicily has its own language, festivals and culinary traditions. This is certainly not Italy in miniature.

Visitors have been coming here for hundreds of years. Writers, poets and artists have tried to capture the island's beauty for centuries, and the year-round mild climate has been a big draw for European tourists who are not only interested in the scenery, but also want to experience the local culture and distinct cuisine.

The island's fertile soil is due to the volcanic activity; Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe. And its name 'God's Kitchen' is well earned as oranges, olives, citrons, grapes, almonds, tomatoes, artichokes and pistachios are grown in abundance. The fertile soil also means that Sicily is the 3rd largest wine producer in Italy, producing traditional fortified masala wines and, more recently, a host of new wines too.

Each town and city has its own Patron Saint and feast day, so you may see one of the many colourful processions, firework displays and carnivals during your time here. What you will definitely see is the beautiful scenery – the hills and mountains, the volcanoes and cultivated landscapes. You'll also be able to explore the huge amount of historic sites and those protected by UNESCO such as the Valle dei Templi, Villa Romana de Casale and the Necropolis of Pantalica, with its 5000 tombs.

Discover the island's ancient cities such as Palermo, Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa, and spend time relaxing on the beautiful coasts. Sicily is a magical place to visit, and whether you're trying delicious cannolo, going volcano trekking, shopping for terracotta ceramics, sampling the local wines or simply soaking up the sunshine and scenery, you won't be disappointed.

To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.

Writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.