The island life in Sicily

Updated: Dec 1, 2019

“Sicily is the pearl of this century… Since old times, travelers from the most far away country… boast of its merits, praise its territory, rave about its extraordinary beauty, and highlight its strengths… because it brings together the best aspects from every other country.” - Al-Idrisi Arab geographer, The Book of Roger, 1138 - 54

Lush mountains of Taormina

The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, rich in culture, arts, music, literature, cuisine and architecture; the home to great archaeological and ancient rites; the melting pot of different cultures who have come and gone - This is la bella Sicilia.


Climbing Mount Etna


Sicily is a unique region of Italy that will surprise you in many subtle ways. It's not what you expect in terms of stereotypical Italy. Splashes of contrasting colours paint the dreamy landscape, from the sparkling blue seas and violet blooms surrounding the islands, to the dark peaks of watchful Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Referred to as the Trinacria, meaning triangular, the island is located in the south of the Italian Peninsula separated by the narrow Strait of Messina, just off Italy's "toe of the boot".


Enjoying a plate of pasta e vongole (pasta and clams).

"Mangia mangia!" - Food

The Sicilian cuisine matches the language - they're both romantic, distinct and rustic. Sicilians speak in a different tone and style from standard Italian lingo, as their dialects combine elements from the myriad of subcultures within their towns and villages. Similarly, Sicily's rich and abundant food represents the different traces of all the cultures that have existed on the island throughout history. You'll find influences from Greece, Spain, France and most interestingly, the Arab world. The use of dried fruits, saffron, sardines and exotic spices (to name a few), give a nod to the Arabic past.


Apperitivo hour!

Smoke sword fish and fresh orange: a perfect pair.

Swordfish, olives, pistachios, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes are among the many traditional ingredients used in Sicilian cuisine. Street food and snacks are always available, particularly arancine - big deep-fried balls of rice with lots of cheese and sometimes vegetables. Of course, their beloved pasta is a staple, with famous dishes including spaghetti ai ricci (spaghetti and sea urchin), pasta con le sarde (with sardines - my personal favourite!) and pasta alla Norma (with eggplant, ricotta and basil).



Pasta e sarde (pasta and sardines)

Insanely large pizzas - one with salmon and pistachios, the other with meatballs

St Agatha's sweet boobs

Sicilian sweets are another famous specialty with origins going back as far as the 9th century influenced by Arab candy makers. Some world-renonwed treats include cannoli, granita, frutta martorana, Pignolata of Messina and Crocetta di Caltanisseta. My favourite is the Cassata Siciliana - a lavish liqueur-soaked sponge cake covered with marzipan and topped with a single candied cherry. In some parts of Sicily, the dessert is called Cassatella di Sant’Agata, as it resembles the shape of St. Agatha’s breast, Sicily's patron saint.


Sicilian vino from the Princes of Spadafora

Vino

Sicilian sweets are another famous specialty with origins going back as far as the 9th century influenced by Arab candy makers. Some world-renonwed treats include cannoli, granita, frutta martorana, Pignolata of Messina and Crocetta di Caltanisseta. My favourite is the Cassata Siciliana - a lavish liqueur-soaked sponge cake covered with marzipan and topped with a single candied cherry. In some parts of Sicily, the dessert is called Cassatella di Sant’Agata, as it resembles the shape of St. Agatha’s breast, Sicily's patron saint.


Recommended red wines include those mainly produced in Siracusa, around Noto, such as the Cerasuolo di Vittoria and the Nero d'Avola. Do try the Nero d'Avola range by Dei Principi Di Spadafora - quality drops from my very own family tree (way down the line!) Sicily also produces a variety of dry and white wines, rosés and dessert wines, such as the famous Marsala and the Malvasia delle Lipari. Limoncello, a delicious lemon liqueur, and Amaro Siciliano, are also typical Sicilian drinks consumed as digestifs after meals.


Teatro Antico, Taormina

"To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything" - Goethe

Top 3 places to visit in Sicily:


Beach in Cefalu

Cefalù

Cefalù has a special place in my heart. The coastal city in Northern Sicily boasts one of Europe's finest beaches, as well as the most impressive Arab-Norman architecture. The picturesque medieval town is full of history and charm, with honey-coloured stone buildings, mosaics, cathedrals and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. Stroll down the narrow cobbled streets to find little ports with fishing boats, boutique shops, markets and restaurants and cafés galore.


Sights of Palermo

Palermo

Introducing Palermo: The capital of the island, full of cathedrals, royal palaces and Byzantine mosaics. The 12th century city is home to the neoclassical Teatro Massimo, known for hosting world-class opera performances, as well as the Palazzo dei Normanni, a royal palace started in the 9th century, and the Cappella Palatina. Wandering through the famous bustling markets, such as the Vucciria near the port, you'll find all kinds of treasures; handicrafts and souvenirs, fresh seafood, herbs and local produce. Take in all the colours, aromas and flavours of the Palermitano lifestyle.


L'isola bella, Taormina

Taormina

This hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily truly defines La dolce vita. Although it's ludicrously expensive and teeming with British tourists, it's worth spending a few days here to see the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greco-­Roman theater still used today, and take in the breathtaking views over the cliffs and sandy beaches. Be sure to venture across the narrow sandy path to L'Isola Bella, a beautiful tiny island and nature reserve.


#travel #wunderlust #italy #sicily