Sicily is one of those rare gems of the world where you’re likely to have an experience like no other. Largest of the Italian Islands, Sicily is rich in history and culture – you wouldn’t think this idyllic retreat would harbour such charming secrets, and it’s all there for you to discover.
To start you off, though, we would like to shine a light on the following ten:
- Grown at the base of Mount Etna, Sicily is the home of the seedless Tarocco Blood Orange – the sweetest and most flavourful of the three types. Almonds are also a specialty, and are a staple of the Sicilian culture – being associated with love and fidelity, and symbolising good fortune; sugar-coated almonds – ‘confetti’ – are given at weddings and baptisms. You will also find them used in Sicilian cuisine, often in their delicious desserts.
- The island shares a volcanic complex with the Aeolian Islands, where you will find a number of smaller dormant volcanoes lining the way between Mount Etna and Mount Stromboli – both of which are currently active. There are also volcanoes off the southern coast of Sicily, including the underwater Ferdinandea and the island of Pantelleria – itself a dormant volcano. What’s more – you can hike the big three: Etna, Stromboli and Vulcano.
- The cultural history of Sicily dates back to 8000 BC, and over the years the island has been home to the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs and the Normans. The island was also governed by Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and France over the years, before finally becoming part of Italy in 1860. All of this has had a unique result in Sicily’s art, music, literature, cuisine and architecture.
- It may be a rumour that William Shakespeare was really Sicilian, but it is true that he had an affinity for the region. He drew inspiration from local tales, and set some of his works in Italy or Sicily –such as The Winter’s Tale, Othello and The Tempest.
- Part of the Egadi Archipelago and the furthest from Sicily, Marettimo is considered to be ‘Italy’s Hidden Seaside’, and is rated as one of the best Mediterranean Escape Destinations by the Telegraph in June 2013.
- Tuna Fishing was once a major industry, before being scaled back and there are many remains of traditional tuna fisheries in Scopello. The Tonnara is one of the few best remaining examples, and had the nicest location – it is now a dive centre.
- The best capers worldwide are found in Ustica and Pantelleria, and are the only capers to have a Protected Geographic Denomination. Due to the nature of the soil, since they are volcanic islands, the capers grown here are tastier and slightly sweeter. If the capers are left to fruit, they produce large and delicious caper berries.
- Scopello is home to Sicily’s first Natural Reserve – Lo Zingaro, established in 1981. The reserve spans about 7km between Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo, and also includes part of the coastline. Within the reserve, one will find some of the most stunning landscapes, and a large variety of flora and fauna. Crusader Travel has a collection of gorgeous villas within a good distance to the reserve and other attractions – visit our website and contact us for more details.
- During World War II, Sicily very nearly became the 49th State of the USA! In a piece of surprising history, which almost seems unbelievable, Salvatore Giuliano – a high-profile bandit at the time – headed the separatist Movement for the Independence of Sicily and wrote to the then US President Harry Truman to aid his movement in abolishing communism and interring Sicily into the United States.
- Sicily and her islands – especially the tricky-to-reach Pantelleria – are a favourite celebrity retreat. Names you will often find include Gerard Depardieu who has a vineyard and produces wine in Pantelleria, Giorgio Armani and Sting. Several more prefer to make Sicily their favoured holiday destination.