The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily may be just a short hop from the Italian mainland, across the narrow strait of Messina, but it's worlds apart in atmosphere and attitude. Everything Italian seems a little more appetising here - not only the food, but the history and culture too.
For a long time, Sicily was ignored as a holiday destination, largely because of the mafia stranglehold and the poverty of the people. But today, the island is experiencing a tourism boom and a surge in development as the destructive influences of the organised crime wane. Visitors discover that the Sicilian people are gracious and welcoming, and that the island itself offers natural and historic attractions of great beauty and interest.
The main cities of Palermo and Catania feature some of the most exquisite architecture in the world, a legacy of the many great civilisations that have vied for control of this strategically-situated island over the centuries, from the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans, to the French, Spanish and Italians. There are massive Romanesque cathedrals, the best-preserved Greek temples in the world and Roman amphitheatres, as well as magnificent Baroque palaces.
The continuous blue skies and temperate climate, lush vegetation and rich marine life all add to the island's appeal. Indeed, nature has given Sicily Europe's tallest active volcano, Mt Etna; a dramatic coastline; and fertile soil that gives forth much of the bounty on which the island's unique and delicious cuisine is based.
Sicily has a coastal Mediterranean climate of mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The mountainous interior has cooler temperatures, with snowfall during winter; while along the coast, winter temperatures average about 50°F (10°C), and summer temperatures about 84°F (28°C).