WHENEVER, your travels lead in southeast Sicily, you are never far from 1693.

The earthquake of January that year destroyed more than 70 cities, killing some 60,000 people, including two-thirds of the population of Catania, which makes the Baroque cities, built with such nerve and verve following the quake so awe-inspiring - both from an architectural and emotional perspective.

But, then, Sicily has always ploughed its own furrows - sometimes to its detriment.

At the start of the 1995 trial of Giuilio Andreotti on charges of colluding with the Mafia, ordering the murder of a journalist and misusing public funds, his defence lawyer stated that Sicily was ''too complicated even for Sicilians to understand and suggested the judge throw out the case.

Others, such as Peter Robb, whose book in Midnight in Sicily offers a compelling introduction offers a compelling introduction to the highs and lows of the Mediterranean's largest island, have said you can't hope to understand Italy without trying to understand Sicily. [Courtesy Daily Mail]


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