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Sicily: an island of contrasts with its green pastures backed by the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean, prickly pears growing on slopes scorched by volcanic lava, and brilliant white almond blossom dotting the winter landscape.
On this island of beaches and mountains, it is possible to travel from the heights of magnificent Mount Etna (the highest volcano in Europe) to a secluded, sandy bay on the coast in just a few miles.
Dramatic, ever-changing and never dull, Sicily âs landscapes are truly stunning.
Sicily is the largest island of the Mediterranean (25.709 km / 926 sqmi).
It is separated from the Italian peninsula by the Straits of Messina, 3 km at the widest point, and from Africa which is 140 km away.
The island is more or less triangular in shape, its long sides facing onto the Tyrrhenian Sea in the north and the Sicily Canal in the south while the short side borders the Ionian sea to the east.
Up until the end of the Arab occupation the island was divided into three large valleys: the Val di Mazzara to the west, Val Demone to the northeast and the Val di Noto in the southeast.Sandy Beachsand rocky cliffs
The Sicilian coastline stretches over some 1.000 km.
The northern or Tyrrhenian flank extends from Cape Mille km di costa, da Capo Peloro vicino Messina a Capo Lilibeo vicino Marsala
The Sicilian coastline stretches over some 1.000km., from Cape Peloro near Messina to Cape Lilibeo in the vicinity of Marsala; here the rocks are consistently high and protrude jaggedly into the sea.
By contrast, the short distance between Trapani and Marsala on the western coast is flat and dotted with saltpans.
The southern coast of Sicily also has a flat coastline.
The eastern coast, facing onto the Ionian Sea, is low-lying at first, shaped into a succession of three wide bays: the gulf of Noto, the Gulf of Augusta and the great Gulf of Catania, which is where Sicilyâs largest plain reaches the sea.
North of Catania, the shoreline to Messina consists once more of high cliffs broken by a series of craggy inlets. As Etnaâs tall, black lava flows give way to the Peloritani Mountain limestone (an extension of the Calbrian Apennines), huge steep cliffs plunge down to the sea endowing the landscape with matchless beauty such as at Taormina and Acireale.
Sicily offers a yearâround feast for the senses: January sees the end of winter, with blossom on the almond trees, spring is marked by the flowering of the yellow mimosa trees and bright white, pink and yellow oleander bushes, accompanied by the sweet scent of orange blossom; and as spring turns to summer, it is purple and scarlet that dominate, with the blossoming of bougainvillea and the large, brightly coloured hibiscus.
Each region of the island has its local flora, such as the cork plantations near Niscemi, papyrus plants along the river Ciane just outside Siracusa and the manna tree grown in the Castelbuono area of the Madonie.
Sicily is almost completely deprived of any natural lakes (the only exception is the Lago di Pergusa), However there are a number of reservoirs in among the mountains.