Top sights on a cycling holiday in Sicily

Thursday, 12 April 2012 9:26 AM

Cycling holidays are a fantastic way to fully explore a region during a break, as you'll be able to travel from A to B at your own pace, covering a wider area than you could if you were walking. Sicily is the perfect candidate for a trip on two wheels.

The Italian island is bursting with fascinating places to visit and things to see, from its ancient Greek and Roman ruins to its more recent baroque towns and, of course, the imposing Mount Etna. There are numerous routes you can follow to discover parts of Sicily, but if you enjoy stunning architecture, its south-eastern provinces are the places to go.

Set off on two wheels here and you'll be cycling between several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, particularly in the Noto Valley area. A total of eight towns have been recognised by the international organisation due to their stunning baroque architecture, which is a result of significant reconstruction work following an earthquake in the late 17th century.

A great place to begin cycling in Sicily is Syracuse, a coastal city that is steeped in history. Some of the ancient buildings here were repaired after the earthquake, with one of the most notable being the Doric Temple on cathedral square. This place of worship has been converted many times over the years - it was originally dedicated to Athena, before being turned into a church by the Normans, with its current facade in the 18th-century style.

After exploring the thriving city centre, make your way to the Necropolis of Pantalica, another site protected by UNESCO, where you'll discover thousands of tombs carved into the rock, in addition to the remains of a Greek theatre, Roman amphitheatre, fort and temple. Once you've had your fill of Syracuse's treasures, you can start your cycling holiday in Europe in earnest.

Pedalling inland and slightly south, make Ragusa your next stop; a charming city that is home to some of the most stunning baroque facades you are likely to find anywhere in the world. The streets are lined with ornate buildings, which were reconstructed in the 18th century. Don't miss the Duomo di San Giorgio, Ragusa's cathedral, which was redesigned by Rosario Gagliardi following the devastating earthquake. Beautiful statues and friezes are in abundance here, while the 50 m bell tower is another feature that will capture your imagination.

Scicli is another of the UNESCO-listed baroque towns you can visit from here, as it is situated to the south of Ragusa. Marvel at the wonderful decoration on the Beneventano Palace and admire the architecture of its three 18th-century churches. From here, you can cycle east towards Noto, where you'll discover yet more stunning buildings and historical monuments.

The city is split into two levels, with the old areas on the upper level of a plateau, while the new, post-earthquake districts lie lower down the slopes. This is one of the best collections of baroque structures on the island, with a total of nine religious complexes found within the settlement.

Of course, you can't go cycling in Sicily and not see Mount Etna, which dominates the landscape and, indeed, is the reason for the majority of the island's geological features. This is the tallest active volcano in Europe and is truly a spectacular sight. From its ice-capped upper regions to the forests and citrus plantations lower down, you'll be able to distinguish a variety of landscapes as you view the peak.

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