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Sicily .. Italy (1) !!! The island of Sicily floats off the

Sicily .. Italy (1) !!! The island of Sicily floats off the toe of the boot of Italy, in the centre of the Mediterranean. This was the land of Persephone and Aphrodite for the ancient Greeks, who believed its rich pastures and miraculous natural beauty were endowed by the goddesses of fertility and love. Each succeeding wave of colonisers, from the Romans to the Spanish, have left their mark – physically, in the magnificent temples, palaces and churches, but also less tangibly in the island’s unique language and traditions. The Arabs’ subtle legacy is felt in the islanders’ generous hospitality and the rich cuisine, and the Normans left golden cathedrals at Monreale and Cefalù. Modern Sicily, however beguiling, is a flawed beauty. First impressions are intense, but paradoxical: beautiful and brutal, anarchic and serene, exuberant and insular, the island doesn’t surrender its charms easily. Grinding poverty, institutionalised corruption and La Cosa Nostra (the Mafia) have taken a heavy toll, but the last decade or so has seen a remarkable renaissance. The historic centres of Palermo, Catania and Syracuse are being slowly restored; great swathes of the glorious landscape is now protected in nature reserves; and grassroots organisations have found the collective courage to stand up against the Mafia. The result is one of Europe’s most complex and fascinating destinations… :) .
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