Sicily holiday trip to visit the largest island of Italy

sicily map
sicily map

Travel Guide Sicily, territory and artistic heritage of the island in southern Italy, to visit the city and smaller islands.

Holidays in Sicily

Sicily is a region in southern Italy, is separated by the Strait of Messina from Calabria and its territory includes the island of the same name which is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, the archipelagos of the Aeolian, Egadi, Pelagie and islands of Pantelleria and Ustica. Also it includes the islands of Pantelleria and Ustica. Its provinces are Palermo, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Ragusa, Siracusa and Trapani.

The territory of Sicily, the largest island in Italy and the Mediterranean, is predominantly hilly and mountainous, there are also some low-lying areas, but not particularly large, apart from the Plain of Catania, which is the largest flat area Sicily. On the eastern side of the island, in the plain of Catania, the valleys of the Alcantara and Simeto, and the Apennines Siculo stands Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe (3343 m).

To the north of Etna, near the northeastern coast of the island, it is the Apennine mountain range Siculo, which is a continuation of the Apennines of Calabria, and is divided into the Peloritani, Nebrodi and Madonie. Among the other findings of Sicily we find Erei the center, the Monti Iblei in the south-east, and the Sicani Mountains in south-central.

As for the coast, the northern Tyrrhenian coast is generally high and rocky, interrupted by wide bays, like the gulfs of Castellammare, Palermo, Termini Imerese, Patti, Milazzo. The south coast is low and the eastern Ionian Sea appears low in the south, while north of Catania develops high cliffs and beautiful bays, up to Messina.

The beautiful coasts of the island there are those equally beautiful of the smaller islands, which form the largest archipelago of Sicily, corresponding to groups of Aeolian, Egadi, Pelagie, and the islands of Ustica and Pantelleria. Sicily has been inhabited since prehistoric times as evidenced by the graffiti found in caves of Monte Pellegrino and Levanzo attributable to the late Palaeolithic.

The Phoenicians settled there first, in the west, followed by the Greeks in 734 BC occupied the eastern part of the island. The Greeks founded commercial emporiums, farming colonies, reaching a remarkable prosperity. With the first Punic War (264-241 BC) Sicily became the first Roman colony. In 339 AD Sicily was occupied by the Vandals and then by the Visigoths. In 535 AD the island was annexed to the empire of the East by the rapid conquest of General Belisario.

Starting from 827 AD Sicily was conquered by the Arabs whose civilization has left numerous testimonies. In 1060 the Normans arrived on the island whose reign came in 1194 to the family of the Swabians with Frederick II that reached its peak. In 1270 the death of Frederick II, after a period in which the kingdom passed to the English prince Edmund of Lancaster, the crown was assigned by the Pope to Charles of Anjou.

His short rule was overthrown by the revolt of the Sicilian Vespers and replaced with that of Aragon in 1282, which ended in 1516 with the death of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and the passage of Sicily to the Spanish crown with the accession to the throne of Charles V. In 1713 the Treaty of Ultrecht sanctioned the passage of the island to the Savoy, but in 1718 the Spaniards began a campaign of reconquest blocked by the Austrians, and Charles VI of Austria was the new king of Sicily. In 1734, Sicily came back into the Spanish orbit.

With the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and the unification of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (the Kingdom of Naples was lost in 1806), began the Bourbon era that came to an end in 1860 when Sicily was joined to the Kingdom of Italy. After World War II the Region of Sicily has been equipped with a special status.

Sicily has great artistic and cultural heritage, many people have come and gone over the centuries in this land, thanks to its geographical location linking Europe and Africa, the richness of its sea and the variety of its territory .

The art of navigation and fishing in the open sea began before the sedentary life on the island, which has come to us through numerous prehistoric traces. Sicily’s Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Swabian, Angevin, Aragonese, Spanish and Bourbon, are many and precious the architectural and artistic.

What to see in Sicily

Sicily offers the visitor a splendid nature, magnificent monuments, ancient traditions have come down to us through the various civilizations on this earth met.

– A city Messina Strait, the gateway of Sicily you can admire the cathedral dedicated to the Assumption, dating from the Norman period. The building was consecrated in 1197 and despite repeated destruction is the monument and the art collection of the most interesting cities. They belong to the province of Messina Taormina and Giardini Naxos, two beautiful seaside town rich in history. In Giardini Naxos, the first Greek colony in Sicily, you can admire the extraordinary beauty of the landscape over a wide area and its archaeological museum.

– Taormina was founded in 358 BC by Greeks from Giardini Naxos. It stands on a natural terrace 200 meters above sea level and enjoys a magnificent panorama. The city’s symbol is the Greek Theatre, of great archaeological value, its location offers a beautiful landscape that stretches from the sea to the citrus groves, from Etna to the Bay of Naxos.

– Catania is located on the east coast of Sicily, halfway between Messina and Syracuse, at the foot of Mount Etna. The city is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the destruction of the earthquake of 1693 set off a process of social and cultural renaissance which has produced, thanks to the genius of architects and master carvers, true masterpieces of Baroque art. After the catastrophic earthquake, the extraordinary reconstruction was realized in other cities of eastern Sicily, in the territory of the Val di Noto, (Val indicates Vallo, administrative unit in Arab-Norman era), as well as the towns of Catania Militello in Val di Catania , Caltagirone, Modica, Palazzolo Acreide, Noto, Ragusa and Scicli, were included in the list of World Heritage Site, because they represent an exceptional example of art and architecture of the late Baroque.

– Syracuse is located on the southeastern coast. The city was founded by Greek colonists from Corinth in 734 BC Cicero he said it was “the largest and most beautiful of all Greek cities. Today the ancient Syracuse is a precious testimony “of the development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia,” this is one of the reasons for which it was listed as a World Heritage Site. The city stretches partly on land and partly on the cape-island of Ortigia. The heart of the city is the island of Ortigia, where you can see major architectural remains of ancient Civila. Some of the main monuments are the Castle Maniace, one of the main monuments of the Swabian period, the Temple of Apollo, the oldest example of Doric temple in Sicily, the Cathedral, which stands on the ruins of the ancient Doric temple dedicated to Athena, built in the fifth century. BC by the tyrant Gelone.

In the seventh century AD the temple was transformed into a church. Damaged by the 1693 earthquake, it was rebuilt in Baroque facade of drawings by Andrea Palma. The Fountain of Arethusa, considered the symbol of the city. Arethusa is a mythological figure linked to the origins of the city as a legend. The Palazzo del Vermexio, or Palace of the Senate, the Church of Saint Lucia to the Abbey, Palazzo Beneventano. On the mainland there is the Greek Theatre, an extraordinary example of theater architecture of the Greek and the grand Roman amphitheater. Siracusa is located close to the Necropolis of Pantalica contains over 5,000 tombs, most of them dating from the thirteenth to seventh by including BC Also found remains of the Byzantine period and finds dell’Anaktoron (Prince’s Palace).

– Dubrovnik is situated on a limestone rock formation between two valleys, the Santa Domenica quarry and the quarry of San Leonardo. It has ancient origins and like other cities of eastern Sicily and the south-east has been reconstructed after the disastrous earthquake of 1693. The reconstruction took place in the style baroque, in two areas: Ragusa Ibla, or lower, is the part where it was rebuilt the ancient city destroyed and Ragusa, the new part built in the district of Patro. The two nuclei are connected by suggestive descents, the most beautiful is the staircase (340 steps) called “The Stairs”, he starts from the Church of Santa Maria delle Scale and was built in the early eighteenth century.

In the early nineteenth century it was completed the construction of the first link, “the Ponte Vecchio or Ponte dei Cappuccini”, which allowed the expansion of the city to the south, beyond the Valley Santa Sunday and by connecting the Polo San Giovanni with the neighborhood Capuchin. Eighteen between churches and palaces in the city are included in the list of World Heritage Site. Ragusa Superiore is characterized by majestic late-baroque facades of buildings that overlook the long parallel streets. Among the most beautiful buildings in Ragusa are highlighted Palazzo Zacco, Palazzo Bertini, Cosentini Palazzo and Palazzo La Rocca. In the heart of Ragusa in higher dominating the city is the majestic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was rebuilt in Baroque style after the earthquake. Going down to Ibla we encounter the Church of Santa Maria delle Scale, also rebuilt after the earthquake, retains parts of the previous Norman building.

The remainder of the artistic heritage of the city is located in the district of Ibla. The Cathedral or Church of San Giorgio is a superb example of Baroque sacred designed by architect Rosario Gagliardi, who also designed the Church of San Giuseppe, another beautiful expression of art and architecture baroque. Over fifty churches are located in Ibla, the majority in late Baroque style, the most interesting are: the Church of Santa Maria dell’Itria, Church of San Filippo Blacks, St. Mary’s Church of Miracles, Church of the Most holy souls in purgatory, Convent and Church of Santa Maria del Gesu, Convent and Church of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception, the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer.

– Agrigento was founded by Greek colonists in the sixth century. BC (the ancient Akragas). The town is very important from the artistic point of view, because in its vicinity is the famous “Valley of Temples”, a vast archaeological complex of striking beauty, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The aesthetic beauty, the provision on the ground of the various archaeological finds, panoramic views, they imagine the ancient Akragas, flourishing cultural center of classical Greek civilization. Among the ancient ruins of this place stand the remains of seven temples, the Temple of Hera or Juno Lacinia, Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Hercules, the Temple of Olympian Zeus (Jupiter), the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Vulcan , the Temple of Aesculapius.

Very interesting it is the nearby archaeological museum, full of objects from the prehistoric period until the late Roman and Byzantine. The city of Agrigento is situated on a hill and is characterized by narrow streets and stairways. A visit to the Abbey of the Holy Spirit, of sec. XIII, the Church of Santa Maria dei Greci, (was the cathedral of greek-Byzantine rite) and the Cathedral of San Gerlando Bishop,
patron of the city (dating back to sec. XI but over the centuries had several changes). Among the illustrious citizens of Agrigento just remember the novelist and playwright Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936) and the philosopher Empedocles (fifth century BC.) Lived in the fifth century BC

– Palermo overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea along the coastline of the Gulf. It stretches the plain of the Conca d’oro, a flat area bordered by mountains that are named after the city. Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians in 734 BC and has seen numerous civilizations, as all of Sicily. Today we can see the remains of these historical periods, particularly in the Norman and the Baroque, through monuments of inestimable value. The cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into heaven is a beautiful and magnificent architectural complex (built in 1185) where the different periods of construction led to the mixture of styles. Church of St. John of the Hermits, an excellent example of Norman, Piazza Vigliena where stands the Church of St. Joseph Theatine, one of the most luxurious and prestigious seventeenth-century Sicilian, in his sottorranei is built another church dedicated Our Lady of Providence. Martorana Church or St. Mary’s, a true jewel of Norman art.

Church of the Holy Spirit or the Vespers, of Norman is located inside the cemetery of St. Ursula. In front of this church he rose up after a popular uprising called the Sicilian Vespers. Church of Santa Maria del Gesu, is located on the slopes of Mount Grifone and was built in 1429 by order of the Blessed Matteo from Agrigento. Magione church, its construction dates back to 1550 by Matteo d’Aiello. Church St. John of the Lepers, one of the oldest monuments of the Norman period. Convent and Catacombs of the Capuchins, it is a cemetery which extends in the underground of the monastery which displays about 8,000 mummified corpses. Norman Palace, now the seat of the Sicilian Regional, is a palatial building on existing structures built by the Arabs in the ninth century., Composed of various bodies of different ages and with a facade of the XVII-XVIII. Teatro Massimo of neoclassical style was designed by GB Basile in 1875. The Chinese house, built by King Ferdinand III of Bourbon in the context of the magnificent gardens of the park of Favorita.

– Monreale is a beautiful town which is located about 5 km from Palermo on the slopes of Mount Caputo. His visit is very interesting because its cathedral and the adjoining cloister is one of the most noble of Norman.