Scorching Sicily - a road trip around the Med's biggest island

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Travel Advice - How to get the best out of your trip to Sicily

Language - Be prepared for the fact that, unlike many places on the Italian mainland, very little english is spoken in Sicily. Even in the major towns and resorts you will often find yourself in a bar or restaurant where English will not be understood. So, as with visiting all foreign destinations, it's a great idea to learn a few basics before you go... "please", "thank you", "can I have", and a few basic food and drink items will get you a surprisingly long way. If all else fails in Sicily - try speaking french. We found that many Sicilians had a few words of French, possibly due to the proximity of Tunisia and the French influence from there, or maybe because of the large number of French tourists in Sicily.

Driving - See my Sicily Driving blog for more info. Suffice it to say, we would NOT recommend driving in Sicily particularly if you are not a vey confident driver or if your reactions are not what they used to be. If you must drive, then get the MAXIMUM insurance you can.

Sightseeing - There are some fantastic historical sights in Sicily that are worth a visit even from even the most ardent of beach lovers. Many of these sights will require a degree of walking and together with the often oppressive heat in Sicily, this can be a lethal combination. Sunscreen, hats & plenty of water are the order of the day... no matter how young and fit you may be!

Beaches - As in mainland Italy, many of the beaches are segregated into private beaches belongoing to hotels or beach clubs. However, if you don't want to pay, there is almost always a public area of beach available if you search hard enough. You won't find the sand so finely raked as it is on the private beaches, but on the plus side it is likely to be much less busy... no self-respecting Sicilian wants to look like they.can;t afford the beach! As above, don't foregt that sunshine will be strong... sunscreen, hats and water are essential.

Taormina - Any vacation in Sicily is likely to include a trip or stay in Taormina. This hilltop town with it's quaint back streets, greek amphitheatre and views over Mount Etna justifies its reputation as a top Sicilian tourist attraction. Its attractiveness is comparable to places like Sorrento and Ravello on the Neapolitan Riviera... but on the down side, it also has similar problems with overcrowding, car access & high prices. So our top tip for a stay in Taormina is to find a hotel down the hill on the coast. Hotels here are much better value here and give you the option of easily spending time on the beach. There is a cable car up to the town of Taormina... it's reasonably priced and runs regularly all day until after midnight.

Prickly pears - Also known in Sicily as fichi d'India or Indian figs. You will see these all over the island of Sicily and sometimes huge examples can be found with a mass of colourful flowers. The prickly pear is a popular food in Sicilian cuisine... but be warned that if you want to pick and eat one yourself it is essential to remove the spines on the outer skin. Eating these spines can cause swelling and discomfort of lips, throat etc! Rumour has it the the prickly pear is also an excellent hangover cure... but then they say that about a lot of weird things!

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