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Holidays in Sicily

The west is a former Arab kingdom, Palermo's Conca d'Oro (a ring of citrus groves) is an Arabian import. Many towns with their white-washed low walled square houses, such as Marettimo, would not look out of place in North Africa. The countryside is gentler here, than on Etna's flanks, characterised by sloping vine-terraced hills giving way to shingle coves and sandy bays lapped by sapphire waters. The South has always been the preserve of the Spanish - Ragusa, Noto and Ispica were all rebuilt according to Spanish Baroque in the C17 after an earthquake. Today their cathedrals could grace any Andalucian square. These gracious towns perch above dramatic limestone gorges, lined with oleander and carob trees. On the coast, you'll find miles of unspoilt, wide sandy beaches.

Where Europe meets Africa, Sicily has always had an on-the-brink feeling. Italy's most southern province, Sicilians are Latin by adoption only. Named tricarnia in antiquity due to its triangular shape, Sicily's three corners have striking contrasts. The Ancient Greeks settled in the east. This coastline is scattered with Greek artefacts from the ancient city of Siracusa (the New York of the Hellenic world), Agrigento's marvellous Valley of the Temples to Taormina's dramatic cliff-top theatre. Home to Europe's largest volcano, Mt Etna, this is a land of fertile terraces, bougainvillaea-decked squares and rocky volcanic shores.

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