Eastern Sicily and places not to be missed

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Eastern Sicily awaits us with its unmissable attractions. Where do we start?

From the steps of the Greek theatre in Taormina, of course! After admiring one of the most beautiful views in Sicily, we take a stroll through the narrow streets of this enchanting town. Then we take our car, motorbike or bicycle and head for the Alcantara River Gorge.

These are wonderful ravines, very narrow and icy cold (depending on the period of our stay, a cold bath could be an unexpected experience), very well-equipped for visiting and not at all dangerous, even for children. Enjoy the wonderful walk through the gorges with your feet in the water or, depending on the season, you can rent practical rubber boots.

The cold waters of the Alcantara River flow straight down from Mount Etna: we pick up our vehicle and set off for Europe’s largest active volcano!

There are two access routes to the “summit craters”: Etna Nord Linguaglossa and Etna Sud Nicolosi. Both routes embrace us in a mountainous atmosphere and take us, by cable car or off-road bus, up to 3000 metres to the smoking summit. We won’t easily forget this experience, but let’s take our jackets and coats with us … even in mid-August!

We now descend from the top of the volcano straight to the sea, park, cross a short bridge and enter the island of Ortigia, the heart of Syracuse.

We ignore the sea a little, but only because we are overcome by the beauty of the monuments, churches, squares and streets of the city of Archimedes. Of course, it will be difficult to resist its call, watching it while we are sitting having a coffee in one of the many places that overlook it.

We resume our tour onward to the Val di Noto, skirting the Vendicari Nature Reserve, which alone would deserve a whole day enjoying the pristine sea or watching the migratory birds from the special observatory huts.

Noto is just around the corner. It is always worthwhile to enjoy the enchantment of this town, which was completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake in the architectural styles of the time: a marvellous Baroque style that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.

But what is that irresistible fragrance of chocolate? We are in the vicinity of Modica, home to the prestigious chocolate made from an ancient recipe attributed to the Aztecs, no less. Well, after tasting the various flavours of chocolate in one of the many chocolate shops in the town centre, you can redeem yourself from the sin of gluttony by visiting the sumptuous and beautiful Duomo.

Another gem not to be missed is Ibla, the historic centre of Ragusa. We stroll through the cathedral, alleyways, churches, the “Conversation Circle” and the beautiful garden. No difficulty in recognising some of the sets of the Commissario Montalbano TV series.

Back on the road to the centre of Sicily, we stop to admire Caltagirone and its splendid staircase. A symphony of multicoloured artistic tiles, the symbol of the town of Sicilian ceramics. We won’t go home without a souvenir in our bag!

Let’s see: where could we go next? But of course – to Piazza Armerina! It’s not every day you get to visit the Roman villa of a VIP from the age of the Caesars, a lover of luxury, art and the good life, who decided to live in the centre of Sicily for business or pleasure.

Not far away, another privileged “window” on the past is offered by the archaeological site of Morgantina. The famous statue of the goddess occupies a room in the rich museum which illustrates the history of this site from the Bronze Age to the Republican period.

Izi Travel audio guide to the UNESCO sites in Sicily

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