This island has seen peoples from many ethnic backgrounds, making for a culture all its own. We all know of the Greek and Roman influences on Italian history, but did you know about the Arabic, Byzantinian, Spanish, and even Norman occupations that left their marks? For the architectural buffs, the buildings reveal the presences of these diverse visitors. Even UNESCO's World Heritage List recognizes this mix of people with the designation it gave to the 'stone gardens.'
Here in Sicily, traditions remain important. Be they Catholic festivals, equestrian competitions harking back to the Middle Ages, or Greek dramas performed in amphitheaters, learning about Italian culture must include witnessing these riches. After you spend your day enjoying all that Sicily has to offer, treat yourself by staying in a hotel on the coast, ending your evening with a view of the sea.
This town is old enough to be a contemporary of ancient Rome and other famous towns like Athens, but it succeeded in retaining control of the Sicilian island. The beauty of the sea and rivers have served as uplifting places for renown artists both past and present.
Mount Etna is an active volcano with a historical record, unlike many other volcanoes around the world. This has allowed scientists to use Mount Etna as a research tool. Aside from its scientific usefulness, Mount Etna is an incredible sight to see ï¿½so much so that even George Lucas filmed a scene from the Star Wars series here.
Taormina became even more popular after the presence of expatriate artists and intellectuals setting up shop there in the early 20th century. Your Italian tour guide can tell you more about these eccentric people and the gifts they left to humanity.
What makes Agrigento a must-see is what we call the Valley of the Temples, where you can see Doric-style edifices erected in honor of ancient gods like Hercules and Zeus.
While you explore Italian history, visit Piazza Armerina for its Castello Aragonese, a medieval castle, and its UNESCO World Heritage Site of Villa Romana del Casale, a fascinating collection of Roman mosaics.
One of the most stunning examples of Norman architecture, most likely incorporating a former Arab fortress, can be found in Palazzo de Normanni, a palace that contains the Cappella Palatina, a chapel fit for royalty with resplendent gold and icons.