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Having been conquered for centuries, Sicily is now a wonderful hotchpotch of an island. So prepare for a mix of customs, cooking, art and architecture. Toe-poked into the Mediterranean by Italy's boot, Sicily has a position that's something of a metaphor. Dominated by foreign forces for 25 centuries, the Med's largest island has always taken a bit of a 'kicking'. Be it the Greeks or the Romans, the Normans or the Spanish, each has left their footprint, not only on the landscape, but also the outlook of the Sicilian people.

Arriving in charismatic Palermo, you'll find a chaotic, raucous, yet endlessly fascinating city. It's a place of palaces, castles and churches, many of which house a clutch of treasures in the shape of domes, frescoes and alike. There's also a distinctly chic side to the city. Its modern area, for example - all trendy shops, expensive apartments and leafy avenues - wouldn't look out of place in Paris.

Away from Palermo, the Sicilian landscape is one of lush coastlines, glorious beaches and an arid, sun-soaked interior, all topped off with Europe's largest active volcano, Mount Etna. It's the coasts, though, that get the most attention. Here, fashionable cities like Catania rub shoulders with low-key fishing villages, while the offshore Aeolian islands - including Filicudi, Lipari and Salina - are a real chance to hit the pause button.

And then there's the food. Sicily is a food-lover's heaven, particularly when it comes to pasta. So keep an eye out for pasta con le sarde - sardines, fennel, pine nuts and raisins - and pasta con la mollica - capers, anchovies, green olives, garlic and roasted breadcrumbs. As for wine, decent reds include Cerasuolo and Nero d'Avola, while whites like Inzolia and Grillo are good bets.

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