Getting a taste of Sicily: the best virtual tours around

Imagination and technology, a marriage that allows many to experience the island’s treasures. Here are some selected digital paths to stimulate your curiosity while vacation plans are still on hold

Who said that relaxing on your sofa or outdoors meant we couldn’t enjoy museums, libraries and exhibitions around the world, at least in some form? The weeks spent under lockdown have taught us this is not the case and the opportunities are still very much here, while waiting for travel to resume as normal. Aided by digital tools to use on computers, smartphones and VR headsets, we are only a click away from the cultural and natural beauties half a world apart. Maybe we’ll retrace with the mind memories of the last time we visited that place, or it will be an occasion to add new stop to the list for when the pandemic dust settles.

SICILIAN TREASURES. The platform Goo­gle Arts & Cul­tu­re, for instance, allows users to visit major exhibitions, from the Uffizi of Florence to the MET (Me­tro­po­li­tan Mu­seum of Art), passing by the Van Gogh Mu­seum of Amsterdam a collection of high resolution images accompanied by captions and stories which also includes some Sicilian works, such as the exhibitions at the modern art gallery “Em­pe­do­cle Re­sti­vo” of Palermo or the digital one entitled  “For or­di­na­ry peo­ple” in the Farm Cul­tu­ral Park of Favara (Agrigento). Among the island treasures there are also two digital paths where you can move around the virtual spaces by the street view. A visit to the Tea­tro Mas­si­mo of Pa­ler­mo, part of the Gran Vir­tual Tour  released on 5th April by the Italian Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Google platform: just a click and here we are catapulted inside the auditorium, going through the stalls to the stage, being able to dwell on the details of the room like its mobile ceiling, or going to the grand foyer adorned with sculptures and bronze candelabra. Then, you can move from Palermo to the Val­le dei Tem­pli of Agri­gen­to, always virtually and in night mode too, the archaeological park of the ancient Akra­gas, the temples of Heracles and Concordia, the early Christian necropolis. The platform offers 11 stories to help visitors dive deep into the history of the ancient Greek city and its religious twists.

NATURAL TOURS. For those who want to immerse themselves in the natural landscapes of the island, the Cutgana Research Centre of the University of Catania launched the initiative #Istayhomeandenjoy nature reserves. A collection of virtual tours of protected areas of Sicily, made with the project CET – sustainable use of Cir­cui­ti Eco­Tu­ri­sti­ci (eco-tourist routes). Thanks to street view routes enriched by multimedia contents and descriptions, like videos and images, you will be able to make a tour between the marine zones of Isola Lachea e Fa­ra­glio­ni dei Ci­clo­pi and Isola Bella of Taormina, the reserve Com­ples­so Im­ma­co­la­tel­le e Mi­cio Con­ti, the Grot­ta Mo­nel­lo  and Grot­ta   Pa­lom­ba­ra of Siracusa, the speleological complex Vil­la­smun­do-S. Al­fio and Vallone di Piano della Corte, reserve of Agira. We can add to these the virtual tour in the  Gole del­l’Al­can­ta­ra made by You360.it: an interactive visit, between nature sounds and location information, down the river, between the gorges up to 25 metres high and surrounded by lava stone walls, one of its sixteen gurne and an overview of the municipality of Messina Motta Camastra.

UNDERGROUND CATANIA. Among the destinations there are also two routes in the underground of Catania. A virtual tour into the Poz­zo di Gam­ma­zi­ta, located site at number 17 of via San Calogero, a few steps from the Castello Ursino: a digital storytelling project for immersive media born from the encounter between See­to­view Vir­tual Rea­li­ty and the association Iden­ti­tas. This place guards the legend of the young Gammazita, whose history combined with the past of the well is told by descriptions and videos enriching the experience. A tour in the historic center of the city that continues to the An­fi­tea­tro ro­ma­no di Ca­ta­nia, a project made by the LAIM team (Laboratory of Immersive Archaeology and Multimedia of the Cnr) that allows you to visit the inaccessible area and the arena of this “black coliseum” of the imperial Roman era.

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