Swimming with the fish in Ustica
One of the late Jacques Cousteau's favorite places, this protected marine reserve on the island northwest of Palermo lets you get up-close and personal with the fish and allows for exciting archaeological underwater expeditions. If you're really lucky, a school of dolphins will escort your ferry ride to and from the island.
Taking on Mount Etna
Making your way up the highest volcano in Europe is certain to give you goose bumps, but lava flows aren't the only things happening here -- you can ski down the mountain with the Ionian Sea as a backdrop or trek through its lush Alpine vegetation.
Exploring the Sicilian Countryside
Sicily isn't all sun-kissed beaches and islands. The internal countryside, with its rolling wheat hills, tortuous river bends, centuries-old farmhouses, and magnificent medieval castles, is the real key to what Sicily was like hundreds of years ago. In towns within the verdant mountains of the Madonie, you sense that time hasn't caught up with modernity -- and the locals don't mind at all.
Crossing the Straits of Messina
If you want to make a dramatic entrance to Sicily, then this is it. Do it the way it's been done for thousands of years, possibly early in the morning, with the port of Messina as your beacon to the island. Just make sure not to irritate Scylla and Charydbis.
Watching a Volcanic Eruption from the Sea
Volcanic activity isn't limited to Etna; the Aeolian Islands are known for their fits and spurts now and then, especially on Stromboli, where the volcano huffs and puffs continuously. Get a bottle of Malvasia and enjoy the show from a boat, at dusk.
Visiting Medieval Erice
This picturesque village perched on top of a rocky crag dominating Trapani was founded by the mythical Eryx and has withstood many an invasion, remaining almost intact throughout the centuries. The sweeping views over land and sea are incomparable, the sunsets are like no other, and, on a clear day, you can see forever -- or at least to Cape Bon, in Tunisia.
Participating in a Town Festival
This is really when you get to see cities, towns, and villages come to life and understand the idiosyncrasies of the locals. Everyone comes out of hiding to take part, dressing to the nines, and age-old traditions and rituals are respected. There's no shortage of festivals in Sicily throughout the year -- every town has feasts for their patron saint. The most spectacular ones are St. Rosalie in Palermo (July 14) and St. Agatha in Catania (Feb 5). Non-religious festivals are the Almond Blossom Festival in Agrigento (first week of Feb), the Palio dei Normani at Piazza Armerina (mid-Aug), and the International Couscous Festival at San Vito Lo Capo (last week of Sept).
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