You may very well know that as a traveler it is absolutely normal to fall in love with the places that you go. But what exactly does this mean ? You feel both desire and satisfaction, but you only think about discovering more and more. You find new people, new cultures, new architectures, new sunrises and new adventures and all these make you wish you discover even more. This is exactly what happened to me, for the first time, in Italy. Maybe you expect to read how I fell in love with Venice, Burano or Rome. But, to my surprise, I fell in love in Sicily, with Sicily. And as Goethe said: “Italy without Sicily does not leave an impression on your soul: here lies the key to everything.”
I only had 5 days to spend there, so I spent them in Catania and Taormina, but these days were enough to make me want to come back, but this time without a return ticket.
Since I arrived I was surprised to see how different Sicily is from the rest of Italy, at least from architectural point of view. Sicily’s architecture is called Sicilian Baroque and is a distinctive and unique form of Baroque architecture. In the first evening I felt it cold, with imposing buildings, too much agitation and too much garbage. But later things changed.
Here are my conclusions after 5 days:
Mafia or “Cosa Nostra” continues to exercise a baleful influence on Sicily, from its periodic killings, to the protection money – pizzo – many hotels, restaurants and shops are forced to pay. Unfortunately, this makes the investors and the tourists get scared of Sicily and leave it as a poor island.
Even though the traffic here is a complete chaos because no traffic sign is respected, no crossing is done on the zebra, no crossing is done on green traffic light, they honk a lot – exactly this chaos makes Sicily so charismatic. All cars are damaged. But I like everything that is not normal, everything that is not standard. A very good way to handle the traffic is to rent a scooter.
People in Sicily speak a different dialect than the rest of Italy which makes it difficult even for the Italian speakers to understand the Sicilians. They often use gestures. English is only spoken in the touristic areas. Before going to Sicily, I would recommend you to learn at least some basic words. The application that I used to learn some words is Duolingo.
Unfortunately, a very unpleasant particularity is that there is no respect for the nature. Garbage is thrown away everywhere, on the street, on the beaches etc. However, in the touristic areas you won’t see this problem.
If you travel on a budget, this is the perfect place to eat good, a lot and cheap. For example, I paid for a pizza 15 euro in Verona, but in Sicily the same pizza costs 4 euro.
Even though it has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, the Sicilian food has also Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. When I travel I like to taste traditional food, so my favorite dishes here were:
Pasta alla norma — Pasta with tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and ricotta salad.
Pizza – any pizza. Something typical Sicilian is pistachio, so I recommend you to try pistachio pizza.
Arancini-Rice balls stuffed with anything from meat sauce to cheese and vegetables. The perfect snack food for any time of day.
And, as a desert I ate granita, at least once a day. We all know that Italy has the best ice cream. Well, if you like ice cream, you need to know that granita is a Sicilian “ice cream”. Actually, it is a semi frozen desert made from water, sugar and different flavors. I recommend you pistachio flavor granita and almonds flavor granita (madorla).
I recommend you to go at least once to the market where you can find fruits, cheese, fish, fresh and cheap vegetables.
6.What to drink
Sicily is the third biggest wine producer in Italy. If you want to try something specific
for Sicily, then try almonds wine, it is absolutely amazing. It became my favorite wine.
Another specific drink for Sicily is limoncello.
If you do not like lemons, you can find the same liquor with different flavors. For example, I tried Pistachello and Meloncello.
Here we get to my favorite part. Made in the Unesco World Heritage town of Modica and inspired by the traditions of the ancient Aztecs, Modica Chocolate is one of the world’s best kept secrets. I tried Modic chocolate with pistachio flavor, with almonds and also traditional. It’s the best I have ever eaten. I recommend you to search this chocolate in the small stores where you can find it for 3-5 euro, otherwise in the touristic areas will cost arount 6-8 euro.
It is known that poor people are the best ones. This exactly how it is in Sicily. They are very hospitable, they have a huge heart and are always willing to help you. These are people that enjoy everything they have: sun, heat, sea, health and who would never leave their island. And as a curiosity, they are much happier than the ones from north of Italy. For example, I met a girl in a bus who offered to drive me home with her car from the bus station because “she knew the city is dangerous”; another one, a former cancer patient thought me about how important is to think positive and that everything is possible if you really wish to.
Catania – it is not a touristic city, but here you can see the true Sicily, because it is pretty much isolated.
Taormina – it’s a charming hillside town on the east coast of Sicily and is one of the island’s main tourist resorts. The most famous landmark here is the Greek Theatre. From here take a bus and go to Castelmola, a nearby town rarely visited by non-Sicilians.
Mount Etna – a day of hiking in order to reach the top of the biggest active volcano in Europe.
Isola Bela-is Taormina’s most beautiful beach.
Outside the cities I traveled by train (if you travel on a budget, you can skip the ticket), but inside the cities I recommend you to walk. Distances are not so big and it is the best way to discover all details.
I have to admit that the separation of Sicily haven’t really been an easy one because I cried all the way from Catania to Rome in the plane. I felt the leaving of Sicily as a true breakup. I know, Sicily is not for everyone. If you can’t get over those few unpleasant aspects and to see the big picture, then you will be disgusted. But for me people are more important than the buildings and when I saw that the poor are willing to share with me, I knew that Sicily and its citizens will always be special. It’s natural, it’s wild but it’s beautiful in the true meaning. And I know that one day we will see each other again, this time without returning ticket.
Did it happened to you to fell in love with a city?
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