Italy // Sicily //

The southern coast and the interior

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The southern coast and hinterland mark a welcome break from the volcanic fixation of the blacker lands to the north: here the towns are largely spacious and bright, strung across a gentler, unscarred landscape that rolls down to endless long sandy beaches and the sea. Sicily’s southeastern bulge was devastated by a calamitous seventeenth-century earthquake and the inland rebuilding, over the next century, was almost entirely Baroque in concept and execution. Noto, closest to Siracusa, is the undisputed gem, but there are Baroque treasures aplenty both at Modica and Ragusa. The coast, too, has some jewels: 10km south of Noto is the magical Riserva Naturale di Vendicari, and though certain stretches of the coast are marred by industrial development and pollution, there are some magnificent sands further west. Further west still, is Agrigento, sitting on a rise overlooking the sea above its famed series of Greek temples.

Slow cross-country trains and limited-exit motorways do little to encourage stopping in the island’s interior, but it’s only here that you really begin to get off the tourist trail. Much of the land is burned dry during the long summer months, sometimes a dreary picture, but in compensation the region boasts some of Sicily’s most curious towns. Enna is the obvious target, as central as you can get, the blustery mountain town a pace apart from the dry hills below. There are easy trips to be made from here, north into the hills and south to Piazza Armerina and the fabulous Roman mosaics.

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