Popular, stylish, romantic, not forgetting historic, Italy is a country at home in the tourist and travel industry. You’d think it would be content with such enviable reputations, but the old boot does not stand alone. Kicking off from the toe is Sicily, and like a well flung pebble further out westward to sea is Sardinia. There are many reasons to visit the Italian mainland, but perhaps a couple of reasons not to are to visit these two destinations instead, equally famous for their own many reasons.
Many people travel the world looking for the whitest beaches and the clearest seas, all of which Sardinia boasts. However, this island goes one step further and envelops its shores with a rich turquoise tinge to the sea that in combination with the vast coastline and many bays and inlets creates a fantastic beach holiday destination. It quite clearly doesn’t earn its reputation lightly, and holds the enviable title of the ‘Emerald Coast.’ The island is not to be outdone by the sea, however, and attractions such as the city of Cagliari, ancient Alghero and the tourist resort of Stintino are all equal highlights.
Cagliari is the main city on the island and offers some of the destinations best restaurants and night scene, with an excellent reputation for dining. Obviously being an island they make full use of the marine environment and can whip up a mean sea food menu. If you travel on your taste buds then don’t leave without trying the local lobster or the speciality of spaghetti with sea urchin. It also boasts historical intrigue, as it has long been the islands main port, which being in the middle of the Med and exposed to a number of ancient empires is always interesting.
Europeans have been known for a tendency to hop around from one place to another since time immemorial, often uninvited and leaving their footprint behind them. Sardinia is no different, and despite being of Italian sovereignty it boasts a Catalonian past in Alghero. There’s the classic fortified village feel, and much of the architecture and in particular the Alghero Gothic Cathedral are stunning to behold. Should your feet be feeling adventurous, then an extended stroll around this city will also pick out numerous other fortresses and fortifications from the past.
Stintino is one of the most popular tourist resorts on the island, and offers plenty of luxury activities such as golfing and scuba diving. This is the place to come if you want to be spoilt for choice for hotels and villas, and also boasts 2 harbours, somewhat greedy for such a small resort.
Many who favour the archetypal image of the Mediterranean won’t be disappointed when visiting Sicily. Aside from the brilliant blue of the sea, the craggy rocks and headlands that form ancient landscapes are injected with colour by the sprawling dark green plant life found here. This is the ultimate location to break out your sandals that have been a staple part of footwear fashion in this part of the world for centuries, and stroll around the ever winding and evolving shoreline.
Dealing with the beaches therefore is clearly a must in Sicily. Mondello beach in Pallermo is a firm favourite, and offers a complimentary view of Mount Pellegrino in the back ground. San Vito is another alternative amongst many, and is a little coastal settlement that offers the typical Mountain background that much of Sicily enjoys.
Moving inland the archaeological heritage on Sicily is hard to ignore and can leave you pondering over your pick. Roman, Greek and Arab sites are on offer, but a definite highlight has to be Agrigento, which has one of the most impressive collections of ancient Greek architecture outside of Greece. Chief amongst this is the Valley of the Temples which is home to numerous ancient Greek constructions.
For the rest of this, it would simply be too easy to leave you with a list of all this island’s travel worthy destinations, from the Aeolian Islands to the commanding viewpoints of Taormina, one of the most stunning towns in Sicily. However, it feels more appropriate to guide would-be travellers toward Mount Etna, as its position as one of the most active volcanoes in the world typifies the fiery spirit of an Italian island and the Mafiosi reputation to go with it.
So all in all, these are two fantastic destinations that quite often steal the limelight from the mainland for those in the know. Most people’s first trip to Italy will centre on Rome, the Vatican and the Colosseum. If that’s you then get it done, out of the way and move onto the ‘laces that strap the boot’; the numerous fantastic Italian islands on offer in the Mediterranean!
Author Bio: Matt is a devoted explorer who has so far covered 5 continents, including much of Europe and the Mediterranean, and as a writer for a travel company. He is heading out soon on his Florence holidays to sample the never ending Italian cultural heritage.