Last resort / by Mario Mirabile

The Sicilians were well aware of the the value of tourism far back as the 18th century. The small seaside towns of Cefalu and and Taormina had been humming along quite nicely on fishing and agriculture for millennia. But when the locals realized there was a lira to be made out of pleasant beaches and stunning scenery, the fishing boats were painted in bright colours and converted into props for painters (and later for photographers), and every second house started selling artisinal gelato. 

Now, there's all manner of attractions. There's all the usual shopping opportunities, every imaginable eating experience (the traditional kebab appears to be quite popular, and we even spotted a couple of Irish pubs), and you often have to pay to lie on the beach. You can even take your life in your hands (sort of) by scaling the dizzy heights of Europe's tallest active volcano, Mt. Etna. It still fascinates me that people will choose to build, farm and live in places where history suggests is not a good idea to do so. Driving up the pleasantly wooded slopes, the landscape is intermittently scarred by lava flows from eruptions as recently as two years ago. But we got up and back safely, and were able to settle back with some traditional Italian food. Anyone for a kebab and a pint of Guiness?