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Why Sicily is an Italian Paradise Worth Exploring

The splendid sights and sounds of Sicily are perhaps unlike anywhere else in the world. Situated off the lower tip of Italy, Sicily is a world unto itself. With mild Mediterranean weather and a pleasant year round climate this is one part of Italy worth visiting. Sicily is rather hilly and is part of a series of active volcano ranges. Perhaps the most well known of the Sicilian volcano’s is Mt. Etna, an active and quite moody volcano. map of SicilySicily is home to one of the biggest preserved natural ecosystems, the Nebrodi Mountains Regional Park. Within the park perimeter is the most expansive forest on the island, known as Caronia. This is an island rich and diverse with beautiful landscape, excellent food and wonderfully delightful local peoples. It only takes one trip to Sicily and the rest of Italy to be absolutely convinced that this is a little bit of heaven on earth. Let’s look at some of the wonders of Sicily.

Sicily is rich with agricultural rewards. The island with its highly fertile and rich soil is able to produce some amazingly delicious and nutritious vegetables and fruits. The quality of the soil can be directly attributed to its volcanic makeup, resulting from many successive eruptions of Mt. Etna, primarily. The extended hot humid growing season is another contributing factor to the exceptional produce the island is famous for. The chief crops on Sicily are grapes, olives, and citrus fruits. Almonds are yet another abundant product in this Italian wonderland. Some of the finest olive oils in the world originate from right in the heart of Sicily. Let’s not forget the wine, ah the wine. Italy is known for wine and this little island just off the coast of the mainland is no less an excellent wine producer. One of its hallmark wines is of course Marsala. This tasty wine originates from the heart of Sicily and is highly regarded as an excellent gourmet cooking wine.

Culturally, Sicily is perhaps second to few other places in the world. With an extensive history in art and sciences, this is a place for the serious art buff. One example of the wide diversity of art and culture on the island of Sicily is the Teatro Massimo. The Teatro Massimo located in Palermo is the biggest house of Opera in all of Italy and perhaps within the top few in Europe in terms of size. The mainland of Italy has a generous share of famous artists, but Sicily is equally blessed in this regard. One example in the area of painting is Antonello Da Messina, a highly respected Sicilian artist. There are also several notable Sicilian composers that have made a mark on music. A few of note are Salvatore Sciarrino, Vincenzo Bellini, and Giovanni Pacini. Italy in general is well known for famous artists, and Sicily shares equally in many of the artistic accomplishments of this great culture. The only way to truly know Sicily is to visit Sicily.

Perhaps more than any other subject, the subject of food, and really good food at that, comes up when talking about amazing Sicily. The majority of the local dishes found in this island paradise are derived form the local produce. Regardless of if we are talking about the fantastic wines, or the delicious fresh fruit and vegetables, one thing is certain, it is usually all fresh and local. Be it tomatoes, beans, fresh olives, or a host of other fresh fare, the food that is prepared is always out of this world. Add to that the wide selection of fresh local seafood and you have the recipe for some of the best tasting foods you can imagine. And let’s not forget desert. Ah desert, the deserts of Sicily are in a class all their own. The trademark desert of Sicily is of course the Cannoli, a fried shell with rich heavy ricotta cheese filling. Sometimes containing chocolate chips or nuts, this is a premier Sicilian desert dish. Try a Connoli one time and you will be sure to come back for more.

Getting around the island is easy with a multitude of transportation options. The primary airport is the Catania-fontanarossa Airport. This is a very busy airport situated along the eastern portion of the island. Train and water transportation is also well represented on the island and easy access. What is most amazing about beautiful Sicily is the people. The people of Sicily are genuine, warm and giving. They want to share with you, talk with you and become your friend. Everyone you meet it seems has a smile and a laugh to offer. It could perhaps be said that in Sicily, a stranger is but a friend you have not met yet. This is a fitting saying and holds true. Whether it is the food or the cultural mastery, or the genuinely warm people of Sicily, one thing you can be certain of is that you will love Sicily – and Italy in general. Visit the island world of Sicily and see what you have been missing. You may even learn a little bit of Italian. After all, being in Italy and not speaking Italian is like going to the beach and not swimming.

 

Andalusia: A Travel Destination To The Heart Of Spain’s History and Culture

Provinces of Andalusia
Map of the Provinces of Andalusia

Andalusia is one of the most prosperous of Spain’s seventeen autonomous communities. It’s also what most people think of when they think about the romance and mystique of Southern Spain. Apart from the fabulous fairs (ferias and fiestas) which take place beginning in April and extend into the fall, there are the historic provinces of Sevilla, Málaga, Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaenand and all that they offer tourists. Andalusia is home to a population of over eight million locals.

Lovers of music and dance will discover the passionate and seductive lure of Flamenco. This art form has flourished in Andalusia for over five hundred years. Flamenco purists can experience the best of this music and dance by attending a Pena flamenca. This is a meeting place or grouping of Flamenco musicians or artists that present the most traditional and purest form of the art without any particular interest in impressing tourists or making money. Be on the lookout for these local and regional celebrations when visiting Andalusia.

Those with an adventurous spirit that require something more than just beauty and art to get their adrenaline flowing can try watching an old world-style bull fight. The bull fighting season begins with the fairs in April and continues until mid-October. Bullfighting is Spain’s national sport and one that grows more popular each year. In addition to the actual confrontation between the bull and the bullfighter (matador), there is the spectacle of the event: Entrance of the bull, the picador (a pair of horsemen), the banderilleros (they plant little flags with barbed tips on the bull’s shoulders), and the matador.

The ferias (fairs) and fiestas (festivals) present the best way to experience Andalusian culture. One of the most popular is held annually in Seville, starts about two weeks after Easter Holy Week in April and lasts for six days. This event includes colorful parades with decorated carriages, people and horses in costume, amusement rides and lots of wonderful food and entertainment. If you visit Andalusia during the summer you are bound to run into any number of local fiestas held in every town and village. Fiestas are showcases which highlight the history and cultural of each place. These events give townspeople a chance to celebrate and share their heritage.

Regions of Andalusia
map of the regions of Andalusia

When it comes to food, you cannot visit Andalusia without sampling dishes made from their treasured legs of cured ham. Fish and shellfish are also beloved staples prepared in many different ways. Gazpacho (pescaito frito, locally) is hugely popular and a must eat for tourists. If you visit southern Spain, leave your diet behind. Deep frying is the preferred cooking method, but well worth the extra calories for once in a lifetime meals you just can find elsewhere.

Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) in the Málaga province is world renowned for its tourist appeal. Most people fly into Málaga airport and travel from there to the fabulous resorts located on the coast from Manilva to Nerja. This area is a surprising place that offers much more than just sun and beach. Amazing landscapes, Michelin Star restaurants, archaeological treasures, historic structures, traditional flamenco and a world class bio-park that has become a model for modern zoos give the active tourist many exciting choices.

Major roads map of Andalusia
Major roads map of Andalusia
History buffs will be sure to place Granada on their must-see list. Among the many historic locations and culturally-significant places to visit are Alhambra and Generalife. The Alhambra is a huge fortress constructed during the fourteenth century by Arab rulers of that time. This cultural treasure occupies the top of the hill of the Assabica on the South-Eastern border of Granada and remains one of Spain’s top tourist destinations. The Generalife is a palace surrounded by romantic gardens filled with beautiful flowers, exotic plants and fabulous fountains.

Among the seven million people that live in Andalusia are the almost seven hundred thousand Gypsies or Romani people. They bring a richness of music, culture and costume to the region. If you really want to experience traditional Gypsy music, dance and culture you must attend the Romería Nacional de los Gitanos or National Gypsy Pilgrimage. This annual event takes place in Cabra on the third Sunday in June. The celebration began in 1969 and was established to help unite far-reaching Gypsy communities throughout Europe, and to provide an opportunity for non-Gypsies to meet and bond with Gypsies so that both cultures can better understand each other.

Andalusia is a wonderful tourist destination that has much going for it. Spain loves children, so don’t be afraid to bring the kids. There are a wide variety of family friendly events that take place during the summer tourist season. Whether travelling with family, friends or on your own, southern Spain is a treasure trove of history, culture, music, art and unique cuisine that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. For more info on Andalusia go here!