Sicily is an amazing island just south of the Italian boot. It is a land of paradoxes. Settled by Phoenicians, considered the Roman bread basket, and due to its natural resources and strategic position on ancient trading routes grew into one of the most enlightened area of the Mediterranean. The Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures all worked cooperatively and in peace to create a center of learning and knowledge. This started to change when the Normans conquered Sicily in the 12 century. However the incredible mosaics that are in the churches show that the cooperation continued for a century or so. They were created by islamic craftsmen and if you look closely you can find an arabic inscription to Allah somewhere. Then in the 14th century all cooperation ground to a halt with forced religious conversions, political unrest between the nobles, king, and peasants, and open conflict. This stifled the innovation that Sicily led in the first millennium, and frankly I think it never recovered. I suspect that the world would have been a very different place if the Norman's left Sicily alone.What we found are the Sicilians are warm and friendly people. The food is fantastic, a mix of Italian and other cultures with amazing dishes and incredibly fresh seafood. The Mosaics in the churches in Palermo, Erice, and elsewhere are worth a trip in itself, but there are Greek and Roman archeological sites at Syracuse, Agrigento, Villa Romana del Casale, Taormina that are some of the best I have seen. And of course the still active Mount Etna is worth a trip.
We visited Sicily in 2004 and 2016. Sicily is an island at the southernmost tip of Italy and is separated from Italy by the narrow Strait of Messina. Its most prominent landmark is Mount Etna which at 3,320 m is the tallest active volcano in Europe as well as one of the most active volcanos in the world.