Pageantry climbs up Sicily’s baroque walls and shows on her inhabitants faces; and when you experience the island’s natural wonder, you begin to understand from where the inspiration comes.
Agrigento is a must for any cultured traveller. Take a walk on spectacular white chalk rocks (Scala dei Turchi) that dip into the Mediterranean Sea, or climb up to the seven doric style temples built around 430BC. The locals can’t get enough of this place, and if you’ve read Greek myth, neither could the gods, who sashayed along this ancient town’s coast.
The 12 arched openings of the Temple Della Concordia leads into the grandest of the edifices. The panoramic view takes in the immediate olive groves and the town. In town, Le Cuspidi offers some cool refreshments and the best Brioche Ice Cream you’re ever likely to taste.
If you happen to be in Sicily in February, then the Sciacca Carnival is a must see. The six day event celebrates local traditions and pokes (more than a little fun) at current celebrities and politicians. The floats are spectacular and, at times, ostentatious; but that’s the point.
Aside from the carnival, Sciacca’s main industry is still fishing. Get there early morning to enjoy the day’s fresh catch within an hour of them making it to the restaurant. The town also boasts an array of spas, especially useful after a day walking through narrow, and somewhat hilly streets.
Sicily is bursting with authenticity and more than a few surprises, especially if you expect to be waited on hand and foot. Case in point: Cibus Restaurant in Palermo. First you have to find it – many give up at this point. Situated towards the back of a grocery store, the only distinguishing feature of the restaurant is that there are tables laid out. Then you need to navigate the ticket style ordering system, for which you won’t get much help. The pizza, however, is especially scrumptious.
Other notable towns along north-eastern coast include Marsala, the island’s wine producing capital. There is, of course, good wine to be had. Also the landing point for Garibaldi’s 1000 men. So it seeps in history as much as it does amber nectar. The renaissance architecture is simply breath-taking.
Although leisure is never more than a street away, Taormina – known as the Milan of the South – is a designer shopper’s heaven. But Taormina’s allure is not just in the Gucci and Armani outlets that dot its medieval streets. Perched high up on a hill, and overlooking some of the most impressive beaches in Sicily, this town is wonderful spectacle both from within and for those that gaze at it from a distance. Although relatively well known, there are plenty nooks and crannies to explore.
Cefalù & Catania
Cefalù matches Taormina in leisure activities, as loungers flock to its many hotels and beaches. Best among them include Hotel Le Calette, Hotel Villeroy, La Volpe in Bikini and Lido Poseidon – all higher end resorts. Alternatively, cheap drinks can be found at Catania, favourite with students and people who like, basically, to drink.
Then there is Mount Etna. The fiery and often convulsing “lighthouse of the Mediterranean”. The volcano’s continued activity provides a raree-show, depending on how close you want to venture. The molten lava spews from its producing “black rain” with a reddish core.
Historically a place for artists and poets, a vibrant community has built up around Etna’s vicinity. This encapsulates Sicily’s essence. Simmering and rich, a tapestry of the meeting of cultures, history and nature.
About the author: UK writer Ramis Cizer has a penchant for the Mediterranean and writes about his experiences of local culture, history and natural landscapes. His first thought upon putting his bags down at his hotel is to walk for a few hours in order to understand local customs and explore off the beaten track. You can connect with Ramis on Twitter and Google+.
(Main photo by Scott MacLeod Liddle)