Sicily's not-so-hidden secret

In Sicily, Mount Etna fosters life, food and adventure

Sparkling beaches, a uniquely Italian culinary scene, historical hilltop villages–there are many reasons to visit Sicily, the spicy island off the toe of Italy’s boot. At the heart of all of them: Mount Etna.  

“It’s not just a volcano, it’s an integral part of their daily life,” says Dana Quinn, one of B&R’s Experience Designers for Sicily. “I remember somebody telling me, ‘I don't need to see it, I've been to a volcano.’ Well, it's not just a volcano.” 

Located on the east coast of the island, between Catania and Messina, parts of Mount Etna are off limits because it is still an active volcano. But there are still so many ways to access it and experience first-hand how important it is to Sicilian life. “Anyone living near Catania can feel it rumbling at night,” Dana says. “It’s talking to them.” 

For hikers and walkers, the island’s east coast, is a dream to explore. Between river valleys, the coastal Vendicari Nature Reserve–home to incredible birdwatching and stunning beaches–and the lunar-like landscape of Etna, terrain is diverse and as rewarding as it is challenging. 

The volcano also contributes to the island’s fertile soil, which you savour in every dish and glass of wine you enjoy when on the island. Menus are filled with the bounty from luscious vineyards, almond groves, truffle forests and catches straight from the sea.  

“The food scene is massively about the land,” says Dana. "The grains, the sheep, the wine, tomatoes, artichokes, fava beans.” The hard part is not stopping at every farm stand.

There are many Bespoke options too for cyclists and those after a cultural deep dive. Those on bikes will relish the challenges and rewards on morning rides of the hilly terrain. “It's this dark beauty of these hills,” says Dana. Travellers looking to customize their time on the island have a rich diversity of options and activities to choose from. Afternoons can be spent snorkelling and swimming in waters of the Mediterranean. And history enthusiasts will absolutely love exploring such sites as the UNESCO World Heritage Site Palazzolo Acreide, a gem that features both Baroque architecture and Greek archeological treasures, and the late-Baroque town of Scicli, lesser known than neighbouring towns of Noto and Ragusa, but just as full of beautiful and rich in historic sites. 

“Whether you want to hike and bike, or pair kayaking with cultural exploration, there’s so much in Sicily to see,” Dana says. For those looking to revel in Italian culture and cuisine, but avoid the crowds often found on the mainland, Sicily is the region to explore.