I have always been a bit fascinated by the different mythologies, legends, and superstitions around the world – so Sicily was like a magical playground for me.

This Italian island was ripe with stories about ancient gods and curses and heroes among men. I could feel it on every street, and I wanted to hear every story.

If you share my passion for the otherworldly around the world, here’s what you’ll want to know before you arrive in Sicily.

There is a monster trapped under Mount Etna. 

Mount Etna is one of the most famous active volcanoes in all of Europe, and it has quite the legend behind its towering and ominous presence.

When Zeus ruled the heavens, he was once challenged by a monster called Typhon, who wanted the cosmos for himself. If he could steal the kingdom of Zeus, all humans and divine beings would be under his command. He concocted a scheme and attempted to kill Zeus one night as he slept.

Typhon was easily defeated, but Zeus knew he was too dangerous to continue to roam freely. To contain the monster, he imprisoned him under Mount Etna where he remains to this day.

Sicily is the home of Cyclops.

But Sicily’s most infamous monster is not trapped under a volcano, he is living in caves and appearing in many legends to oppose the heroes of old.

Cyclops first appearance comes in the Odyssey, where he eats four soldiers trying to journey back home from the Trojan war. As the rest of the men escape, the monster pitches a fit throwing large boulders after them. These rocks can still be seen today off the coastline of Sicily; they are called ‘I Faraglioni di Aci Trezza.’

Cyclops later falls in love with a sea nymph named Galatea. He is overcome with jealousy upon discovering her lover, Aci. Again, Cyclops decides large rocks are the answer to his problems. He crushes Aci under one, believing he now has Galatea all to himself. But Zeus, always the romantic, reunites the couple by transforming Aci’s blood into a river and Galatea into sea foam.

The god of wine made a delicious discovery here.

But not every legend set in Sicily features monsters or creatures from the dark! Here’s a feel-good story sure to put a smile on your face:

One day a young god, Dionysus, was exploring Sicily during his travels. He found an unfamiliar vine, cut off a piece, and brought it home to experiment with. This vine was a grape vine, and soon Dionysus had created a new favorite drink: wine. Needless to say, it’s popularity spread among all divinity and mankind.

We’ll all raise a cup to that!