My favourite place: Miles Russell

In the January 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine, Miles Russell selects Sicily as his favourite historical destination. HistoryExtra caught up with him to find out more...

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Q: When did you first visit Sicily?

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I first visited in the late 1980s, having just graduated from university. I loved it!

Q: What top three sights would you recommend people visit while they are in Sicily?

The catacombs of the Convento dei Cappuccini in Palermo (where mummified corpses of the city’s former elite are stacked in rows).

In Syracuse, I like to explore the atmospheric Greek theatre before wandering down to the shore where, between 215 BC and 213 BC, the townspeople resisted the might of republican Rome.

And finally, in the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, a Greek colony once described as “the fairest city inhabited by mortals”, an energetic walk takes visitors past a dizzying array of classical temples.

Q: What should people bring back home with them?

Photographs, memories and olive oil – lots and lots of olive oil.
 

Q: What is your favourite historical site in Sicily?

It has to be Villa Romana del Casale – close to Piazza Armerina – a third-to fourth-century powerhouse with the finest mosaics to survive from the Roman world. The hunting mosaic, in which tigers, rhinos, boar and the fictional griffin are being pursued, is the most spectacular.

What readers think of Sicily

Villa Romana del Casale for some of the most stunning mosaics you’ll see – late Roman, very intricate & very beautiful
@ShirleyWootten

Loved it! Taormina beautiful, esp. Greek theatre. Local driver took us to Etna – wow! Montalbano or Godfather tours too
@lesleysworld

Selinunte Greek Temples, Modica and Ragusa for Baroque, Siracusa amphitheatres, Ortigia Duomo. All the food and wine
@LifeafterSicily
 

Dr Miles Russell is senior lecturer in archaeology at Bournemouth University. You can read Miles’s feature on Sicily in the January 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine – out now

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Next month, Sean Mclynn visits Languedoc in France. Share your tips for would-be travellers on Twitter (@HistoryExtra) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/HistoryExtra)