Sicily: Island Paradise Full of Old World Charm
Sicily is a breathtakingly beautiful island in the very best old-world Italian way. There is a wide range of places to explore, depending on your preferences. Dive into Sicilian life in the bustling town of Palermo. Sit by the sea in the beautiful seaside village of Cefalù. Explore the well-preserved Greek and Roman ruins. Sicily boasts many must-see Unesco World Heritage sites. Read on to learn more about all that awaits you in charming, old-world Sicily!
Palermo is Sicily at its bustling best. Palermo scatters its sights throughout the city. You can easily visit them while locals go about their day around you. You get the feeling of really experiencing the city and not just playing tourist.
Palermo offers a range of experiences from the street markets full of fruits, vegetables and most importantly fresh fish, to the elegant opera house. Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy and third largest in Europe. Head up to Monreale Cathedral (built between 1170 and 1189) to see the beautiful golden mosaics made of 2200 kg of pure gold. Arguably the most beautiful of the Norman influenced churches in all of Sicily, the Cathedral is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Visiting Siracusa is like taking a step back in time. This is old school Sicily. Leave the map in your room and just wander the old streets of the Ortygia district, the oldest part of the city dating back around 3,000 years. Taste the local food including fresh seafood, traditional Sicilian pizza, and finish with a granita for dessert! Granitas are Italy’s version of a slush and worth the indulgence.
If you want a truly off the beaten path experience, visit the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica nearby, also a Unesco World Heritage Site. It’s a pretty easy hike to these 5,000 burial chambers dating from the 13th to the 7th centuries BC. A visit here combines a trip to a unique sight as well as a beautiful walk through the countryside.
Taormina is popular for its annual film festival but consider visiting when it’s a little less crowded. The town is a bit more polished than other Sicilian towns but still very quaint and charming. Wander its streets, enjoying beautiful views over the countryside where on a clear day you can see Mt. Etna.
Visit the ancient Greek theatre in the middle of town, Teatro Antico di Taormina. The view is breathtaking and the history of the theatre is fascinating. Spend some time getting a feel for the layout of the theater and how it has changed over the years. Today it is used for various events including operas and concerts. If you are going to be in town when there is an event of interest to you, I highly recommend getting tickets.
Tis Travel Tips
A variety of food options await you in Palermo. The best way to dive in is to take a street food tour. As you walk through the busy streets of Palermo stopping for tasty bites, your guide will tell you the origins of the food you are eating. Much of the food that is popular today had very humble beginnings as peasant food and has been perfected as today’s delicious specialties. Be aware that you may stop for some more adventurous eats like the popular spleen sandwich. I did give this a try but favored the more tasty arancino or rice ball filled with a savory center.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, consider timing your trip to Sicily around Easter. Sicilians take Easter celebrations very seriously. Sicily, and in particular, Palermo is one of the best places to be if you want to witness the Easter rituals of hardy souls walking heavy replicas of the bodies of Christ and Mary through the streets. The streets fill with locals celebrating the holiday. It’s a sight to behold even if you are not a follower of the faith.
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