There can be few places in the world more associated with tight family bonds than the Italian island of Sicily.
Smack bang in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, this rugged volcanic outcrop is packed with dramatic scenery, blessed with a fantastic climate and has a delicious cuisine, making it an ideal destination to do some family bonding of your own.
Sicily’s position in the central Mediterranean has meant that it has been a cultural crossroads for thousands of years. From the ancient Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians to the Vandals, Byzantines and Normans, every ruling power has added its own little piece of history and culture to the mix, so that today Sicily has a unique and vibrant culture all of its own.
The Island’s main geographical landmark is Mount Etna. Standing at around 3,350 metres, Etna is the largest volcano in Italy and one of the most active in the world. Bathed in myth and legend, Etna has shaped the landscape of Sicily; the view from the summit is a must-see on any visit to the island.
Formed by lava flows from Mount Etna, the Alcantara Gorge plunges 50m down to the river below. One of the most dramatic natural sights on the island, the gorge provides a great location for hiking, camping and, if you’re feeling more adventurous, river trekking.
As any Sicilian 'Mama' will tell you, food is the most important part of any family get-together. In the cuisine, you can see how different cultures have influenced the island over the years. With couscous dishes from North Africa, fish, olives and pistachios from Greece, and rice and spices from the Arab world, all combining to make a mouth-watering experience.
If you want to add an educational element to your holiday, a trip to the ancient coastal town of Taormina is a must. Perched on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, Taormina was an important town during the rule of both Greece and Rome. As a result it is littered with classical architecture, the most famous example being its ancient Greek amphitheatre, built in a dramatic position overlooking the cliffs and sea.
If the heat of the mainland gets a bit much, take your family on a day trip to the volcanic Aeolian Islands. Lying just off Sicily’s north coast, the islands are a popular destination for Sicilians and tourists alike. Famed since the time of Odysseus, they are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their outstanding beauty and unique environment.
It is obvious as you explore the island that family really is at the heart of Sicilian culture. Children often live with their parents until they marry, and even then only move a few houses away. On festivals and social occasions whole families celebrate together, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for visitors to enjoy.
After a week of volcano climbing, mountain biking, river trekking, sightseeing and swimming, your family will probably welcome some relaxation time. So then it would be the perfect time to put your feet up, open a bottle of Sicilian wine and enjoy real family time, Sicilian style.
How to do it:
Our eight-day Family Activity Holiday in Sicily begins in Palermo and takes you to Cefalu, the Alcantara Gorge, Mount Etna, Taormina and the Aeolian islands, before returning to Palermo. Tours include flights, accommodation, Tour Leader and most meals.