A Roman holiday, anyone? Ha! Rome's so 15 minutes ago. Or as historians might prompt you, more like 1,500 years ago, when the original toga-clad empire fell. But guess what? Sicily, reputed to be a traditional mobster domain, has an offer that most vacationers can't refuse.
It's a perception that Sicily isn't scrambling to shake, however. Movie buffs flock to the island just southwest of mainland Italy to view the locations used for shooting the Oscar-winning epic The Godfather as well as the George Clooney heist flick Oceans Twelve. And with movie travel expeditions expected to rise as a vacation trend in 2020, visitor traffic isn't likely to taper off anytime soon.
Europe's Tallest Volcano
But Sicily offers more natural adventures than just Tommy-gun capers, such as Mount Etna, which at nearly 11,000 feet above sea level, is recognized by scientists as Europe's highest volcano, still active after its last major lava spew in 2009. Still boasting a bubbling crater, Etna continues to entertain millions of visitors annually via a number of private tours.
However deadly Etna's output has been after 35,000 years of existence, folks can toast the volcano for a highly-desired byproduct, as in the grapes that have benefited from the rich ash deposits and stomped to produce some of the finest wines in the world. Scores of vineyards dot Etna's slopes and create a wide variety of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah vintages.
You'll find more wineries elsewhere in Sicily at places like Palermo, Siracusa and Noto. Many of them offer tours of their establishments and even tasting sessions, adding to the island's reputation as a go-to spot for wine.
Besides vineyards, Sicily is also a dream destination for those with a thirst for ancient culture, exemplified by the Piazza Armerina, an old Roman villa run by a powerful family dynasty dating back to the fourth century. Giant murals capturing lifestyles of its occupants during that time as well as the architecture of unique columns, statues and other monuments still stand, showing only a bit of erosion over the years.
It wasn't just the Romans who called Sicily home eons ago. It's where you'll find evidence of the Greeks who settled on the island, particularly at the ruins of Morgantina, that has a legacy going as far back as 850 B.C. Although archaeological digs are still going on at the site, visitors can still check out some of the mud-brick and terracotta structures that was home to some of Sicily's earliest occupants.
The Godfather's Town
Finally, a dream vacation wouldn't be complete without visiting sites that have made Sicily a vital footnote in pop culture. Tours specifically designed to explore origins of the mafia take visitors to such towns as Corleone (the namesake of the family portrayed in The Godfather) and Salemi, home to a museum totally dedicated to capturing the history of the notorious local Mafia.
Speaking of which, Sicilians have a favor to ask of you...