The whole of history in one island

//The whole of history in one island

Such is John Julius Norwich’s love for Sicily that he was prepared to hobble to a lunch hosted by the island’s tourist board yesterday with his foot in a cast.
Only hours after a hospital check-up on an injured ankle, he stood in front of a small gathering in the Italian Cultural Institution in London’s Belgrave Square to tell us why he thinks Sicily is so special.
It turns out that an international crisis involving Iraq in 1961 (some things never change) forced him to delay his annual leave from the Foreign Office until October, and in order to be sure of finding warm weather, he headed as far south as he could.
“My wife and I drove to Naples in a tiny car and took a boat to Palermo, not really knowing what to expect. All I knew was that it had some Norman monuments.
“I was so blown away by them, and the uniqueness of an island which is at the centre of the Mediterranean and combines the best of the Greek and the Arab world, that when I came home and discovered no-one had written its history, I gave up my job at the Foreign Office to do it myself.
“Over the last 50 years I have discovered that this little island has the whole history of the world encapsulated in it.”
Viscount Norwich spoke so engagingly – giving a 10-minute history lesson the feel and excitement of a half-time pep talk – that even Nino Bevilacqua, president of the Palermo Port Authority, was moved to thank him “for making me fall in love with my island all over again.”
Nino has seen the number of cruise passengers visiting his city rise from 200,000 a year in 2004 to two million a year now. Most of them stay for just a day, visiting either the historic sites which so enthused Lord Norwich, or the natural attractions which include Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano.
One cruise line is determined to give its passengers more time on Sicily. Voyages To Antiquity, which co-hosted the lunch, sailed its first cruise last month. Its 380-passenger ship Aegean Odyssey has itineraries which spend a week circumnavigating the island, visiting smaller ports such as Syracuse, Trapani, and Cefalu which are off-limits to larger vessels.
The company, founded by veteran cruise entrepreneur Gerry Herrod,has based all its itineraries on Norwich’s history of the Mediterranean, titled The Middle Sea. It even calls these cruises “Sicily is the Key to Everything” and there are on-board lectures from leading historians and academics.
If they are as tasty as the crab claws, the cuttlefish risotto, and the lobster cooked yesterday by Sicilian chef Enzo Oliveri – who last year gave Gordon Ramsay a lesson in octopus fishing – then the passengers must be happy.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:28+00:00 26 May 2010|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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