And, no, it’s not because of the Mafia. Organized crime may still be alive and well, just like in any other big city, but you’ll be lucky to even encounter a member of the infamous Cosa Nostra. They are super secretive, nearly invisible, and hide behind largely legal big businesses. They’ve not gone rogue – they've actually gone corporate!
Here are the Top 10 legit ways Sicily slays:
- Your pick of 280 beaches, ranging from powder white sand, to shimmery gold, to dramatic volcanic black. You’re just spoiled for choice on this island where beaches can be found everywhere, from small towns with tiny coves, to lively fishing villages, to huge National Parks. Look around and chances are there is a beach just right for you and your lounge chair.
- From November to March you can ski and sail – all on the same day. The weather by the Mediterranean Sea is remarkably temperate, even during winter. And with the high elevation of the island’s mountains and ski resorts, snow is pretty much guaranteed for a generous four months of the season.
- Two highly active volcanoes – Stromboli and Mount Etna. Both are a hiking enthusiast’s dream. Daily excursions are available with plenty of volcanic activity warning beforehand. Stromboli is actually pretty predictable as it erupts every 20 minutes. And, Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Western Europe is also home to two ski resorts. Imagine dodging red-hot lava flows while off-piste? A true test to a skier’s skill and guts.
- Perfectly preserved Baroque towns & churches. The less-visited south-eastern towns of Ragusa, Scicli, Noto, and Modica are Sicily’s best-kept secret. Close enough to be visited in a day, these four towns were rebuilt by a Spanish duke after a devastating earthquake in the late 1600’s. The flamboyantly elaborate signature style of the Baroque served as a constant reminder of the power & glory of the Catholic Church which was seeking to thwart the more austere Protestant rivals. Religious Propaganda at its best.
- The finest Greek & Roman ruins. The towns of Segesta, Agrigento, Taormina, and Siracusa have some of the best preserved Greek & Roman temples, tombs, and amphitheaters on the planet – enough to rival even Greece and Rome. A history buff’s version of heaven.
- Only in Sicily – Norman/Arab/Byzantine architecture. When the Normans invaded in the 11th century, they fostered a rare spirit of collaboration between the incumbent Arabs and the resident Byzantine Greeks. For over 200 years, not only were they granted religious freedom, the Norman kings also entrusted them with biggest building projects. As a result, all across the island you will find breathtaking examples of the perfect union between 3 distinct but complementary styles – Norman arches, Byzantine mosaics, and Islamic domes. Fusion at its finest.
- This island, the largest in the Mediterranean, was conquered and inhabited by no less than 13 Empires. From the Phoenicians, to the Greeks and Romans. From the Vikings, to the Normans and Arabs. From the Germans, to the French and Spanish and with a few more in between. This is all evident in the island’s unique culture, cuisine and architecture. And, of course, in the faces of Sicily’s beautiful people. You can’t get any more genetically blessed that this.
- As a result of this marvelous multi-cultural mix, this Italian island of 5 million people nearly the size of Massachusetts is home to not 1 but 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (The Philippines has 6). Clearly, UNESCO knows a good thing (or 7!) when they see one.
- Captivating cuisine. From Palermo’s vibrant street food scene, to Chef Corrado Assenza’s world-revered pastries at Caffe Sicilia in Noto. From farm-to-table goodness in regal wine estates, to Michelin-starred magic in the Aeolian Islands. There is a goodie for every foodie.
- World class wine. Sicily used to be known as the land of mediocre wine but in the last couple of decades there was a rebirth thanks to the pioneering efforts of a couple of forward-thinking winery owners, namely, Tasca d’Almerita and Planeta. They planted the right, mostly indigenous grapes, grew them in the right terroir, and only produced their wine during good harvests. And this is all paying off, big time. Saluti!
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