The Beautiful Island of Sicily

by GuestPoster on April 9, 2012

About four fifths of the total area of Sicily Island is mountainous or hilly, yet with the exception of the range along the north coast, there are no well-defined mountain systems. Mt Etna, the high­est and most conspicuous mountain in the whole island, stands alone, and the lower ridges in the centre, in the south and in the south-west, criss-cross one another irregularly, mainly in a north­east to south-west, or in a north-west to south-east direction.

Mount Etna is, geologically speaking, a new formation. On its site there appears to have been, no further back than the Quater­nary Age, a wide bay or bight in the east coast of Sicily. The his­toric volcano owes its origin to a series of violent eruptions, and will, according to De Lorenzo, disappear by rapid erosion and disintegration within a geologically short time. The name Etna, or Aetna, means ‘burning mountain’, since it is traceable to the root, from which is derived the Latin aestus. In the Italian hybrid, Mongibello, now mainly poetical or jocular, Bello does not mean ‘beautiful’, since the name is a tautological compound of the Latin and the Arabic gebel, mountain.

East of Trapani, the Sicilian coast resumes its rugged, mountain­ous aspect. Cape San Vito, a magnificent spur, juts around the Ionian Coast, and the gulf of Castellammare, its shores fertile in vines, penetrates deeply into the coastal contour, and is guarded on the east by the rugged Punta Raisi. From here to Cape Gallo and Monte Pellegrino, the heights along the coast overlook fish­ing villages and well-cultivated bays until, upon rounding Monte Pellegrino, the gulf of Palermo presents the superb spectacle of a wide, richly cultivated plain rising abruptly to mountains which bound it on the south and south-west.

From Palermo to Messina the coast becomes more and more precipitous as the Sicilian Apennines draw nearer to the sea, rendering approach impossible except in fine weather, and the only natural harbours are those of Termini and Milazzo Lemons, olives, and grapes are grown all along this coast, the lemons more particularly in the province of Palermo and the grapes in that of Messina. East of Cefalu, a tra­veller by air or by sea will notice the extensive forests of oak, ash, elm and pine which clothe the northern slopes of the Monti Nebrodi and Peloritani. In fact, the province of Messina is, in its forestation, reminiscent of central Europe rather than characteris­tically Mediterranean.

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