With a total surface area of 25.460 sq. km, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean basin. Around it lies a number of smaller islands: to the north the Aeolian islands and Ustica, to the West the Egadi, and to the south the Pelagie islands and Pantelleria, making a total surface area of 25.708 sq. km. Sicily boasts around 1.000 Km of coastline, mostly rocky in the north and sandy in the south.
The landscape is varied, prevalently mountains and hilly, but with an expanse of plains around Catania. In the eastern part of the island Mount Etna (about 3.330 m) is Sicily's highest mountain, the whole of which is a protected area within a national park. Still active, it is the biggest volcano in Europe. Along the north coast of Sicily, from east to west, lies a stretch of the Peloritani and the Nebrodi and Madonie Mountains, some of their peaks reaching 2,000 m.
The area to the West of the river Torto has an irregular lime-stone formation, patchy or continuous, alternating with low rolling hills. Over to the east of the island, between Messina and Mount Etna, lies the easternmost tip of the Peloritani chain, very similar to the mountains of Calabria. The Southeast corner of Sicily comprises a series of high plateaus made up of lava, tuff and above all limestone, and features a number of impressive gorges carved out by water erosion through the centuries. The innermost part of the island is predominantly hilly, consisting mainly of the so called Altopiano Solfifero (literally the sulfur uplands), with altitudes ranging from 500-700 m. Its summit, however, with the snow, rises to almost 1.OOO m.
Sicily's principal cities include the regional capital Palermo, together with the other provincial capitals Catania, Messina, Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian), Trapani, Enna, Caltanissetta, Agrigento, Ragusa. Other famous Sicilian towns include Cefalù, Taormina, Bronte, Marsala, Corleone, Castellammare del Golfo and Francavilla di Sicilia.
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