I’d like to emphasise that my list will not include shopping sprees, and if you’re on the look-out for this attraction, you’re potentially one of those people who restricts their exploration of this sun-kissed island to the limits of Catania, Taormina and Syracuse.
And there’s no harm in this! However, I visited Sicily recently for a few days and relegated myself to these same places as well… and guess what? The open markets still do not feature on my list of favourites!
The Food – Sicily, being part of Italy, shares a lot of its traditions with Malta which is only 35 minutes away by plane. Food, you might say, is one of the things we have in common with the Sicilians. That is true, but only up to a certain point. Maltese cuisine has its own flair and traditions, and in love with them as I may be, I’ll admit that I prefer and adore Sicilian recipes even more. Before you come at me with your torches and pitchforks, let me mention two things – fresh homemade Sicilian pasta and Sicilian cannoli. If you haven’t tried these yet, make sure you do before you reach the end of your tenure on this earth. What’s more, I suggest dining at an agritourism buffet for the genuine experience. Pure culinary bliss.
Above: Sicilian Cannoli by Piero Lo Zopiero
Roman and Greek Ruins – Before travelling to Sicily for the first time four years ago, I admit that I was totally ignorant of how many amazingly well-preserved amphitheatres, temples, and other ancient ruins there were in Sicily. From the Valley of the Temples of Agrigento (4th century B.C.), the Ancient Greek Theatre at Taormina (3rd century B.C.), to the archaeological park of Segesta, which is one of the world’s best examples of Doric architecture, and the Temples of Selinunte, not to mention the ruins and Archaeological Museums of Syracuse and Palermo… These are but a few of the world-wonders present in Sicily.
Amphitheatre at Segesta Complex, photo by Daniel Scicluna
The Medieval Heritage – Sicily has a complex history. It fell under the Normans, the Byzantines, the Muslims, and ended up being the refuge of the Knights of the Order of St John when they left Malta. Accordingly, its architecture, art, heritage, and culture reflect this multicultural background, presenting the astonished traveller with an array of interesting artefacts and buildings. Have you been to the beautiful medieval village of Erice? The baroque historical town of Noto? How about the medieval Castle of Mussomeli or Castelmola in Messina?
Erice Medieval Church captured by Daniel Scicluna
Natural Treasures – I don’t know if all Mediterranean islands are as beautiful, not having visited them all yet… Sicily in fact sports a large number of mountains, lush woods, and an array of beautiful wild flora and fauna . This can surely be admired in such parks as the Zingaro Natural Reserve, as well as the many pristine beaches dotting the landscape. Also, don’t forget to visit Mount Etna!
Above: Nebrodi Mountains
The People – Friendly, happy, helpful, with a zest for life and a laid-back attitude, the people of Sicily are very proud of their heritage and rightly so. They’re very quick to tell anyone who’ll listen that they’re Sicilian and not Italian, and that their island has an independent and distinct history all of its own which makes it unique. Come to think about it, they’re very much like the Maltese!
Ps: Ensure your hand never leaves the horn when driving in Sicily :)