Venice - captured by tourists!
Pisa - no way to get to the tower!
Rom - Trevi Fountain can hardly be seen!
Italy is fantastic. Unfortunately, all the other tourists know it. And every year more and more come to enjoy it. But wouldn't you like to experience the authentic Italy without all the hustle and bustle? How about seeing more in a day than a single leaning tower or some crowded well?
Problem solved! Come to Sicily!
And what does Sicily have to offer? Everything that Italy has to offer and more - with many surprises. Let's start with a few:
What comes to mind for most people when they hear the word "Sicily"? Obviously, "The Godfather"! That's to be expected.
But there are many other fascinating twists and turns in Sicilian history and exciting things to experience today. For example, did you know about the long tradition of mummification in Sicily? You can see the result in Palermo. And just as Egypt doesn't have the monopoly on mummies, you can also find pyramids in Sicily - albeit, more modern.
When it comes to huge ancient temples and theaters, you likewise don't have to go to Greece to admire these wonders. They are in Sicily, too, and are at least as beautiful.
Lovers of modern art can visit Milan - or Sicily. The small Sicilian town of Gibellina has the most modern art in one small space in the whole of Italy. Fashion, too, has a strong presence on the island - and it happens to be home to a certain Domenico Dolce. The other half of the duo - Stefano Gabbana - hails from Milan.
In Palermo the sun shines 4.5 hours on average per day in January. By comparison, some of the sunniest islands in northern Europe are lucky to have an hour a day! Obviously, it makes sense to visit Sicily in the wintertime. And this is still an insider tip - not many tourists realize this yet.
In the summertime, it's a whole different story, as many people realize. The sun not only shines, it has no choice! This gives visitors the chance to experience some of the most wonderful climate in Europe, and it gives some of the locals the chance to harvest sea salt from the island's bountiful seas. It can only be done in clear weather because rain would spoil the harvest.
1000 km - this is the length of Sicily's coast. And for as long as it is, it is also diverse.
The north Sicilian city of Cefalù is a great example giving you a long, sandy beach right next to the historic town center. Cefalù is a bit like Taormina (a place popular with world leaders). But where Taormina gives you an ancient theater, Cefalù gives you a long, beautiful beach.
Along Sicily's south coast, almost "opposite" Cefalù, Mother Nature created a very different set of wonders compared to the north. A giant white rock, cut by wind and weather, staring off into the Mediterranean. The video presents this rock from the perspective of a small aerial drone.
Sicilians call this rock "Scala dei Turchi", that is, "Turkish Steps". Arab pirates (wrongly identified as "Turks") are said to have exploited the staircase-like structure of the rock to climb into Sicily. It is true that until around the 19th-century, Arab corsairs made the Mediterranean unsafe. With 1000 km of coastline, Sicily has always been easy to attack. Luckily, nowadays the beaches are only attacked by swimmers and sunbathers.
Shall we go to the mountains this year or visit the sea? Why not do both? Visit Sicily where both are right next to each other!
And there's one more thing: a big city is often not far away.
This is true when it comes, for example, to Monte Catalfano. This nature reserve is located right on the Gulf of Palermo and - you guessed it - right next to the gates of the city.
If you want to go a little higher up, try Pizzo Cane. It is located directly on the Gulf of Termini Imerese and is only roughly 30km from Palermo.
But maybe Pizzo Cane is a bit too small? No problem - take a trip into the Madonie. There you are not only close to the sea and a small city (in this case Cefalù), but also many picturesque mountain villages.
Sicily is in the middle of the Mediterranean. So it's no surprise that the usual Mafia stereotypes aside, the main themes of Sicilian life are sun, beach, and sea.
And for good reason! Sicily is the greenest island in the Mediterranean. It has over 70 nature reserves - many hardly known. If you want to get away the floating prisons that are cruise ships and all the rest of the mass tourism, this is the place.
Of course, you don't need to have the athletic determination of the guys in the video. You can walk Ficuzza forest on wide paths without steep slopes or obstacles of any kind.
Be sure to see the 'hunting lodge' of former viceroy Ferdinand III there as well. There's even a café opposite with something to offer for hunger or thirst - and still with a nice view of the palace.
In winter, Sicily's nature reserves located along the sea are especially beautiful. Everything is green is full of blossoming flowers. Winter for Sicilians is a lot like what northern Europeans call spring. There is a 'real' winter - but you have to find it. Just climb a little higher. You can find in the Madonie mountains nature reserve, for example, a popular winter sports area. So if you get restless relaxing under the Sicilian palm trees in winter, just remember the snow isn't far.
Ancient Greece was located in in what is today modern-day Greece. But this isn't the whole story. Ancient Greece in those days actually spread itself around the entire Mediterranean.
Of course, in those days there weren't national borders or worse, fences with barbed wire. The Greeks were able to develop their own language, mythology, and above all their unique cities (polis) in isolation by today's standards.
Ancient Greek cities spread around the Mediterranean - and above all, into Sicily. And because the Greeks built from solid stone, some of it remains for us to see today.
In the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento, the conditions of the Greek structure today is surprisingly good. In part, this is because the Romans took over and maintained them after the Greeks were pushed out. The Romans were quite open-minded when it came to their conquests.
In Selinunte most of the temples are in ruins, probably because of a tsunami in the distant past. But these ruins are breathtaking, and it doesn't take much imagination to see them all together as parts of an ancient mega-city.
One of the most beautiful theaters from antiquity can be found at nearby Segesta, and in Solunto the street plan of the ancient city is completely preserved. Solunto is located on the side of a small mountain, so it was never reclaimed in modern times, and has been asleep just as it was since the end of ancient times.
So you got to the Trevi Fountain in Rome and found you couldn't get near it?
No problem. Drive to Palermo instead. There standing in front of the town hall is a historic fountain which is at least as beautiful and which, if you come in winter, you'll have all to yourself.
And it too has its flavor of scandal. Not because Anita Ekberg once bathed in it. No, its creator decked out the fountain in nude sea nymphs and gods. Popularly, it has the name 'Fountain of Shame'. But don't worry - there aren't any teenagers hanging around.
Palermo is certainly the most interesting city in Sicily. But one should not underestimate the others. Most of the larger cities are located right on the coast and have their own special charms and hidden surprises.
In Trapani, for example, sea salt is still harvested the traditional way, and anyone who has visited the salt meadows in summer will never forget their fragrant aroma. Marsala is also still gathering salt. The city's more famous because of the wine of the same name which once had the reputation of being "cheap and sweet". Things are quite different today.
If you're afraid of the mafia, then go to Sicily. - Excuse me? Yes, seriously!
When it comes to the mafia, Sicily is like people who have given up smoking. When they get away from tobacco, they become militant anti-smokers. It is true that Sicily was the "motherland" for the mafia, and the reality was even worse and more bloody and the fiction of various mafia films.
But since the 1980s, nowhere in the world is the right-wing [!] struggle against the mafia more intense and more successful than in Sicily. If anything, northern Europe where the law enforcement pressure is low and the economy is doing well is a bigger draw for organized crime. In the immortal words of Willie Sutton when asked why he robbed banks: it's "where the money is".
But what about all the refugees? The question might sound heartless because it's everyone's responsibility to help people in need. But especially when it comes to a vacation, you sometimes want to get away from the craziness of the world and recover for a couple of weeks.
In Sicily, this is no problem. You can rent a quiet apartment by the sea or in a small town and as long as you aren't glued to the TV watching the news, you won't see any refugees. The truth is, today's refugees only land in certain ports and then are "redistributed" from there (again, another heartless word).
By the way, today in Italy the mafia-hunters who were so successful in recent history are also hunting "Islamic" terrorists. This could be why there's been no major successful attack in Italy - despite the fact that Rome is one of the world's 'most rewarding destinations'. Of course, there you are back in the craziness of the world.
In general, apartments in Italy can be pretty basic. Why waste time decorating them when people spend all their time at the beach or asleep? Well, there's some truth to this, but only for the typical Italian summer holiday.
For northern Europeans, however, Sicily out of season is very interesting. And especially in winter, these guests will stay longer. For them, a holiday apartment is more than just a place to sleep.
Here are a few examples of winter holiday apartments with a little bit "more":