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Sicily: Spotlight

Sicilian Lemons. Image: Getty

Fossa di Vulcano: Adventure seekers can leave their loungers behind and scramble to the top of an active 391 metre-high volcano without the assistance of a guide. The lowest point, at 290 metres, will take about an hour to ascend, and climbers will be rewarded with a mid-point cafe selling cold drinks and ice cream. A steaming crater awaits climbers who make it to the summit; continue to walk around the rim for stunning island views. The volcano has had nine major eruptions in 6,000 years and has been quiet since 1890, making it dormant (rather than extinct). Don’t underestimate the heat of the sun and bring plenty of water.

Beaches: Sicily has more than 50 beaches in many different shapes and guises, with pebbles, cliffs, coves, white sand and dive spots all for the taking. Some of the most popular include Mondello Beach in Palermo, with its soft sand and crystal clear water; Lungomare di Cefalu Beach in Cefalu, with its fishing village setting; Spiaggia di Castel Beach in di Tusa; San Gregorio Beach in Capo d’Orlando for its natural backdrop; and Capo Calava Beach in Gioiosa Marea, with its ochre-hued pebbles. The island also has many private beaches where you can escape the summer crowds.

Cooking classes: Follow a local, professional chef to a traditional market to choose fresh ingredients, before returning to II Nettuno Restaurant in central Taormina to learn how to cook Sicilian style. Tomatoes, olives, nuts and fresh seafood abound, and keen students can learn how to make pasta from scratch or sear a fish properly. Participants will usually create two dishes (a main course and a dessert, or a starter and a main) and then retire to the restaurant to sample their creations, accompanied by a selection of local white and red wines. The experience lasts five hours and costs around £73. www.ristorantenettunodasiciliano.it

Syracuse: With its ancient Greek ruins, citrus orchards, medieval lanes, cafe culture and sparkling sea, the city of Syracuse is well worth a visit. An earthquake in 1693 led to a programme of baroque reconstruction that is still evident in its buildings and streets today. Head to the Piazza del Duomo, grab a seat in the sun and watch locals and tourists go about their day-to-day routine in this pretty square. Noto’s cathedral is also worth a detour, the streets leading away from it an attraction in themselves. Those in the know also make a beeline for Biblios Cafe, a coffee shop-cum-bookshop that runs art classes and language courses.

Teatro Greco: If you make the trip to see any ruins while in Sicily, make them the Teatro Greco, the ancient Greek theatre of Taormina and the island’s second largest, and most celebrated. Beautifully preserved, and with views through the stage to Mount Etna on a clear day, this monument of Greek architecture is a wonderful place for quiet contemplation. Come before 10am to avoid the crowds and the midday heat; the evening sees operas, theatrical performances and live music take to the atmospheric stage.

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