*Guest post by H. Johnson*
A trip to the ancient Italian island of Sicily is an exhilarating experience for any traveler that enjoys the authentic flavor of the Mediterranean. The island has something to offer for everyone, whether it be its culinary tradition, the natural parks and reserves, or the ancient historical legacy resulting from the centuries-long interaction with the various cultures which settled there. With over two thousand years of history, its historical significance can be gauged by the impact of Greco-Roman, Germanic and Arabic influences which shaped its traditions over the centuries and find direct expression in the architectural wonders that have been perfectly preserved since antiquity, including the many temples and amphitheaters which have been splendidly restored and are of even better quality than those of Greece itself.
Sicilian villas- with their architectural designs incorporating elements of Greco-Roman and Renaissance-style influences- are another principal aspect which adds to the historical atmosphere and ambient of the Island. Planning where to stay or making reservations for appropriate accommodations that will satisfy every taste (especially for a family with children) during your vacation can always be a hassle. For the best resources, and in order to make the most of a truly enriching and educational experience, among the top websites that come highly recommended, WishSicily website offers the most beautiful villas in Sicily and also some great deals and promotions with excellent discounts over the holidays.
Among the most preferred locations, the locality of Agrigento and its coastline, along with Taormina offer spectacular ruins and temples dating to early Greek and Roman settlements. The renowned Valley of the Temples near the city of Agrigento, houses the impressive Greek “Temple of Concord,” dating to the 5th Century B.C.; the extremely well-preserved remains of the “Temple of Olympian Zeus” are another sight to behold, as is the Temple of Juno. A visit to the Gothic Cathedrals and Churches of the town’s Historical Centre, and the local Archaeological Museum are also highly recommended as a resource for archeological enthusiasts and historians in general.
The ancient Greek amphitheatre in Taormina – dating to the 3rd Century B.C.- is a wonder of architecture that remains standing and preserved to this day. The panorama offers a breath-taking view of the sea and Mt. Etna, near Catania, which can be visited with guided walking tours and always by adopting the necessary safety measures that are required in the course of excursions to regions of volcanic activity.
The regional parks and natural reserves add to the richness of the Island and are a wealth of ecological resources. There are four regional parks in Sicily: The Park of Etna, Nebrodi, Madonie and Park of Alcantara. The Park of Etna is home to an impressive display of lava flows and springs that cohabit the region along with various species of plants, Oakwoods and ferns. Wild cats, foxes, weasels, porcupines and several prized species of birds like the Golden Eagle and Wild Doves also inhabit the region. Madonie is famous for the large number of rare and unique plants (over 20 species) that are unfortunately headed for extinction. Like Nebrodi, Madonie is also filled with luscious forests and trees, while the park of Alcantara runs along a river surmounted by high colonnades and majestic walls resulting from the sedimentation of tectonic magma currents. The archeological park of Segesta is a unique experience as well. Ruins and monuments adorned with intricate mosaics, and its famous Doric temples are a testimony to the grandeur of antiquity.
Those endowed with a tasty palate are encouraged to try the many delicacies offered by the various regions. Agrigento, Ragusa, Syracuse, Castellammare del Golfo, Cefalù and the various islands that dot the Sicilian Coast offer a gastronomical experience for every palate. The specialties in these regions include pasta dishes of every variety: Pasta alle sarde (sardines), Spaghetti alla Siracusana with fresh anchovies, Pasta alla norma with eggplant, and stuffed dumplings with grilled swordfish being only some of the many ingredients and recipes. As expected, fish is a principal resource- especially along the coastline although in the most mountainous regions one has an ample selection of game, cold cuts and cheese. There are dishes served with swordfish, mussels and clams, sardines, anchovies and meat plates that range from veal scaloppini and steaks to grilled sausages and marinated pork chops. Home-made desserts like Cannoli, or the famous Cassata, are also sure to complement any true and authentic Sicilian gastronomic escapade. If you are passing by Palermo I do recommend Antico Caffe Spinnato where you can take an amazing coffee and eat unique traditional Canolli.