Come for the unique hodge-podge of cultures, but stay for the landscape. Sicily has been the playground of Greeks, Arabs, Normans and a host of others, all leaving their stamp on the food and architecture of the island. But instead of a hotel, why not take a beachside villa for a week with friends or family. You can blend in with the locals and become part of the landscape to see the island from the inside. It’s not a big place, Sicily – around a third of the size of Ireland if you want a comparison. So if you are looking for a beach holiday with the opportunity to immerse yourself in history for a day or two in the middle, it’s a strong bet. The west coast is great for attractive beaches and fine villas to stay in. We just love Scopello, a pretty little village that was once home to tuna fishermen. It has an exquisite little port with and old-fashioned tuna processing plant and towers of rock piercing out of the sea. Some of the villas we’re especially keen on include Villa Casa Degli Ulivi, an airy home with its own good-sized pool and traditional Sicilian wood kiln for cooking. Alternatively, Villa Bougainvillea offers flexible accommodation depending on the size of your group. Even islands have islands, and Pantelleria is Sicily’s biggest island. It was known to the Arabs as ‘daughter of the winds’ – and it won’t take you long to work out why. Pantelleria is famous for its quiet coves which are great for families looking for snorkelling or diving. There’s even some archaeological exploration to do at the site of Mursia, which was a Bronze Age settlement. Excitingly, it’s also a volcanic island, which is why there are fantastic natural steam saunas and mud baths, so you can come away looking ten years younger.
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