The largest and most dynamic region in Italy, Sicily is a palimpsest of cultures and history right in front of your eyes, in your glass and on your plate. What they say in Italian is that la Sicilia ti riempie gli occhi, Sicily fills up your eyes, but more than that, it fills your mind, stomach and heart. Or to quote a recent visitor, "Man, it's just Thick down here." The beauty, atmosphere and palpable history are almost too much to bear.

Even though at the Strait of Messina not quite two miles separate the Island from the Continent, as Sicilians refer to mainland Italy, it makes for a very different experience.

In Palermo layers of culture bear witness to Sicily's varied and numerous foreign dominations, the passge of time is tangible. Catania, magically situated between the sea and the majesty of Mt. Etna, all black blue and white from the lava, sea and snow, has an electric energy that makes the rest of the Island seem asleep in comparison.

And in between the two cities lies the amazing countryside that changes shape and color from valley to valley, miniature romantic villages that time forgot, the sparkly crystalline sea, Byzantine mosaics, a live volcano, bouncy folk music, riotous city markets, rugged mountains, soft fields of wheat, Carthaginian Greek and Roman ruins, Norman castles, prehistoric cave paintings in the minor islands and the list goes on...

The foods are flavored with history: a humble bowl of curds and whey, baroque almond paste sweets made by cloistered nuns, Arabic-inspired fish cous cous, creamy gelato served up in a sweet, soft bun, baked ricotta, salt harvested from the sea, breads made with that golden colored and spicy tasting durum wheat, vegetables rich in flavor thanks to the terroir and sun, fish that tastes of the sea breeze itself and flavors and textures so delicate and balanced they can bring tears to your eyes.

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