Sicily is an island of contrasts whit its green pastures backed by the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean prickly pear
growing on slopes scorched by volcanic lava and brilliant white almond blossom dotting the winter landscape Sicily is truly
an island of contrasts.
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 ‘s 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 Straites of Messina 3 km at the widest point and from Africa, about 140km away by the Sicily Canal.
The island is more or less triangular in shape, its long sides fronting onto the Tyrrhenian Sea in the north and the Sicily Canal in the south while the short side fringes the Ionian sea to the east. Up to the end of the Muslim 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 1.000km.
The northern or Tyrrhenian flank extends from Cape Peloro near Messina to Cape Lilibeo in the vicinity of Marsala: here the rocks are uniformly 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 cost of Sicily remains flat.
The eastern coast facing onto Ionian Sea is low lying at first shaped into a succession of three broad sweeps: the gulf of Noto, the Gulf of Augusta and the great Gulf of Catania, which provides Sicily's largest plain with a sea front.
North of Catania, the shoreline to Messina consists once more of high cliffs broken by a series of craggy inlets. As Etna‘s tall blacklava flows give way to the Peloritani Mountain limestone (an extensions of the Calbrian Apennines) huge steep cliffs plunge down to the sea endowing the landscape with matchless beauty as at Taormina and Acireale.
Sicily's lack of water has been a major problem throughout its history.
The land here has limited permeability, rainfall is erratic and water distribution is poorly managed. Although numerous, the rivers which run into the Tyrrhenian Sea are short and fast flowing due to the proximity of the river sources to the sea.
The rivers of the southern slopes are more important by far not only because they are sustained by a more extensive system of sunken wells and natural springs but also because they are required to maintain a constant flow of water, however sluggishly, to the waterway.
The most important water network of the island comprises the river Gornalunga, River Dittaino, and River Simeto whose waters irrigate the fertile plain of Catania before flowing into the Ionian Sea.