Once again being the leech-like person that I am, I have sucked away my best friend’s Sicily visit wish and turned it into an article. Although what I did notice was, people have such a romanticized idea about the place. And I am in a rare straightforward state of mind which I usually am not when I’m writing an article. So let’s shatter some idyllic notion, shall we? But before we do that, let’s do some basics on Sicily first.
5 Things To Know Sicily Better
So, where is this wonderful Sicily that you were ranting about?
Situated on the southern tip of Italy, it is a rugged and a rather attractive island. A historical bit would be, Sicily has been dominated by the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans and the Aragonese. Hence cultural difference between every city of this island makes then appear as separate countries altogether.
Annnd where would you find yourself once you’re here?
The picture is of Catania’s airport although the next biggest airport is in Palermo (PMO). Sicily is linked to the main Italian train network at Messina so if you’re in Italy, you could totally opt for this very convenient service. Well there is also the car-train from Venezia and Rome. There are buses and there are ferries. This island is anything but isolated.
Does this island have something more to offer than sea, surf and sand?
Enough to get you blisters on your feet but not cover in entirety. Okay let me list some of the must-sees but there’s much more than that. Sicilian sites like Nebrodi mountains, Madonie mountains and Etna volcano are the main sites for trekking.
Erice in the West Coast is the highest town in Sicily, with its ancient stone walled city should feature on your list, world’s largest astronomical clock and the Museo Regionale in Messina are tourist fascinations as well and the Temple of Concord, of the picture in Agrigento; these are the listed few but there’s a lot more to Sicily.
Okay and you girl, what would you eat, when you’re there?
Well, vegetarians you’d be missing out the best which is seafood but Sicilian desserts would make up for your limited savory options. In the northern parts of Italy, cream and butter are hardly used. Instead, the natives substitute with tomatoes, lard (rarely) or olive oil. Sicilians cultivate a uniquely Sicilian type of olive tree, which they affectionately call the “saracena”.
The food is typically Mediterranean but there are strong hints of Arabic and Spanish flavor and Sicilians notoriously have a sweet tooth and are among the best dessert-makers in Italy. Try ‘cannoli’ (tubular pastries filled with sweet ricotta cheese), ‘granita’ (ices mixed with real crushed fruit and juices), and their most famous export, ‘cassata’ (Arabic-inspired cake). Sigh.
What about drinks?
To all you vodka-whiskey-beer hunters out there, Sicily is not hot on alcohol. She actually the lowest rate of alcoholism in all of Italy although that doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to vacay sober, haha. Ever heard of Sweet Moscato? Marsala? Nero d’Avola? They are all wines. Very fine, Sicilian wines. The best known Sicilian wines are, apart from the ones already mentioned, Bianco d’Alcamo, Malvasia, Passito di Pantelleria, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Etna Rosso, Etna Bianco. No one stays sober now, viola!
Fantastico! Do I return home alive though?
Well only if the beauty of Sicily isn’t too hard for you to handle. Alright, on a serious note, beware of pick-pockets, in all of Italy. If you want me to play mommy, I can tell you to keep your wits about you when you commute and not to wander into neighborhoods you are asked to steer clear from BUT there is one thing that I would like to tell you though: you’re not going to be attacked by a mafia, thank you very much.
5 Things Nobody Will Tell You
All That’s Sicilian Isn’t Very Italian
As I wrote earlier, Sicily does not contain the regional culture that the rest of Italy bears because of her diverse history. But truth be told, that isn’t all there is to it. Sicily’s island status makes her ambivalence even stronger. The sense of separateness explains a lot, from the persistence of the island’s notorious criminal underworld to the strength of the Sicilian dialect (there goes the mafia) also Sicilians have a darker complexion, with stronger facial features, than many mainland Italians, reflecting the presence of Phoenician and Arab ancestry among the island’s population. There, there… it’s still very much Italian apart from these.
A Mafia Wouldn’t Sit Around Looking Like One
Back when I was in school, my history teacher had told us how she had met a mafia in a casino and he had offered to fly her and her husband to his hotel; Mafias aren’t celestial. Chances are, that you might meet the mafia but yes, they wouldn’t easily reveal their identity and they wouldn’t shock you by the way they look. That dapper man you see at the restaurant might or might not be a mafia, who knows.
Mummy Returns? No. Because Mummies never left
I was hooked to this bit of information. Okay Mummies did leave eventually after 1881 but until then the mummification rites were widely practiced here. Using arsenic baths and quicklime, Capuchin friars preserved the corpses of aristocrats, the clergy, doctors, lawyers, women and children and laid them to rest in Palermo’s Catacombe dei Cappuccini. Around 8,000 embalmed Sicilians, rictus grins aplenty, are now on display to the public in the underground vaults. Have an appetite for adventure? Here’s a sort.
Black Sand, Blue Waters, Snow-Capped Mountains, That Are No Mountains
I didn’t mean to be partial but it seemed unfair to show what they both looked like especially since they are poles apart. Also these mountains that I mention? Yeah, they’re not mountains at all.They are Sicily’s very own active volcanoes. That explains the black sand as well. But for the most part, everything on this island like its people behaves itself.
Cause They’re Hot And They’re Cold
That pretty edible thing you see up there, that’s the famous Sicilian Cassata and that what you see under that, is a typical Sicilian family that eats that sweet thing above (its not just any family of course, its the Corleone family. Godfather much?) You’d ask how since Sicilians can seem sullen and inscrutable but that is only because Sicilian family life is like a cocoon and they believe in formal manners. Hence when you’re packing, make sure you stock some extra manners, haha.
All said and done, I feel this isn’t one of the usual European vacations where you know what to expect. Sicily has so much identity and is so self-satisfied that she will make sure she isn’t just another holiday.
Hope you do visit Sicily and tell me stories but until then,