A few weeks ago I set off to a full week of dolce vita, far niente and pasta and pizza galore. Obviously, my destination was Italy. To be more precise, its far south: the island of Sicily. As an avid traveler I have seen quite a bit of Italy so far, but Sicily was still a big white gap on my personal map – undiscovered terrain if you want so. Thus it was about time to descend to Europe’s far south and explore this Mediterranean island.
Choosing mid March as the travel season proved to be a nice move – no tourist masses and no tourist prices but lots of nature, free tables in restaurants and quiet sightseeing tours. Sicily is one of the biggest islands in the Mediterranean, yet it is quite manageable to be discovered in one week. Traveling with a rented car is the easiest option – the streets are ok (not perfect though) and you can get more or less everywhere within a few hours.
My trip started in the popular seaside town of Cefalú in the island’s north with a relaxed walk in the beautiful old town and a good lunch overlooking the sea (traditional pasta with swordfish, pine nuts, raisins and wild fennel) followed by pistachio sweets and a good espresso macchiato. Later on I headed to Palermo, the island’s capital and biggest city. Sicilian cities resemble each other – you will notice beautiful architecture, numerous baroque churches, shiny domes, wonderful piazzas. On the other hand you will behold old, unmaintained buildings, crumbling facades and unfinished and abandoned construction sites. Palermo has it all – and still it is a beautiful city to visit. Most of the main sights are located in the city center and can be visited by foot (better than facing the chaotic Italian traffic). Some of the most iconic sights include the Piazza Bellini with three landmark churches, the Teatro Massimo, the cathedral of Palermo, the archaeological museum and the city’s botanical garden (one of the oldest in Italy, I will blog about it in a separate post). Moreover you can descend to the La Cala port with its yachts and enjoy seaside views while eating a delicious local ice cream. In Palermo I stayed in a fab airbnb design loft – I will blog about it in a separate post too!
If you go to Sicily, don’t miss the daily ‘passeggiata’ – an evening walk around dusk time when main streets turn into pedestrian zones and all Sicilians go out for a stroll, some shopping and chit-chatting on the street while enjoying buskers and other street performers. Food wise you will be in heaven, too. Amazing pizza can be enjoyed in the Pizzeria Frida with many queuing Palermitanes, delicious local dishes and wines in great quality can be found at the Osteria dei Vespri (reserve a table during the high season) and fantastic slow food can be tasted in the Casa del Brodo. Get prepared to loosen your belt a bit.
Palermo is a great starting point for a little discovery trip to the west of the island. If you like beaches and sunbathing, head to Mondello with its fantastic beach and seafront. For cultural sights drive into the island and stop at Segesta with its majestic temple and theatre in the middle of nowhere. Further west you will arrive at the coastal town of Trapani with its salines, windmills and sights of the Egadi islands (plus its local pasta dish with tomatoes, basil, garlic and almonds). If you opt for the southern route you will end up in the city of Agrigento sitting on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. You can ignore the city itself as it is rather uninteresting, but just south of it is the world famous Valley of the Temples with a line-up of some of the most fantastic and best preserved Greek temples of the entire Mediterranean. You can enjoy a long and relaxed walk and dawdle from temple to temple. I visited the archaeological museum at the end with a great selection of ancient ceramics.
This complete today’s tour of the northern and western part of Sicily. Next time I will take you to the west and Sicily’s second largest city, the highest and most active volcano in Europe and more sights and culinary expeditions.