Sicily: Sicilia in Italy, pronounced “See-chee-yla”, is the grandest of all the Italian islands with gorgeous beaches and majestic mountains. At its center are rolling hills and rugged landscapes with endless wheat fields and almond orchards. The Nebrodie Mountains will surprise you with beautiful, lush forests. It is home to one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, Mount Etna. The fertile volcanic soil provides the perfect environment for the ancient olive groves and lush vineyards. Sicily is rich in history and culture. Its a multicultural mix of French, Spanish, Greek, German, African, Asian, and Middle Eastern Influences. You will witness this in its grand architecture and eclectic Italian food. Sicily has it all: beauty, history, culture, and delicious food. This place with utterly “wow” you.
We stayed in Cefalu’, a seaside town with beautiful beaches and scenery. We chose Cefalu’ because we felt it had a good mix of beauty, history, and culture. The small town with it’s medieval winding streets sits serenely between a sandy beach and a huge towering chunk of granite, La Rocca. From La Rocca you can discover great views of the landscape and the ancient Temple of Diana. Its unique two-towered Norman Cathedral is also a must see.
Sicily is the hidden gem of Italy. I have no idea what called me to this island, but I’m so glad I stumbled here. As the days go by, I long to see it again, to discover all that it has to offer.
The paths along the ocean are splattered with dessert plants, palm trees and contrasting flowers with all the brightness of spring. A beautiful plethora of vegetation nestles in the crooks and crannies of sculptured-like rocks all along the azure coastline.
The walk to the town center was only about ten minutes, and the views along the way were spectacular so it didn’t seem that far.
And we stopped along the way to take pictures. We were there in July so it was hot, but the people in Sicily didn’t seem to mind us wearing shorts and tanks. In northern Italy, what I’m wearing is only for beach attire.
This place is so picturesque….just like a postcard.
Our first stop was to see the two-towered Norman Cathedral. The cathedral’s exterior is that of Romanesque architecture, a style of medieval Europe. The building’s interior is decorated with lovely mosaics created by twelfth-century Byzantine artists: a large Christ Pantocrator on a gold background dominating the apse, above the Madonna, archangels and Apostles. These gleaming mosaics are one of Sicily’s greatest sights.
Our next stop was the Capriccios Cafe where we were given free food. I’m not kidding. We ordered two glasses of wine, paid for the servicio for the table, and this is what they delivered to our table to munch on: several plates of bruschetta samples. There was no need to get lunch after this.
After this we took a walk through the winding streets lined with shops and restaurants. Each street we took led us straight to the ocean. I loved that not a single sole spoke English. Sicily was where I really improved my Italian language skills.
Walking the streets with Italian vacationers, not tourists, was heaven to me. I love being lost in a different culture. Reluctantly, we left the town early to be at the Sicilian Barbeque taking place at our hotel that evening. And…I’m so glad we did because we met friends there that made our Sicilian vacation even better.
The music and dancing began when the sky turned deep, navy blue. We were served the most delicious food I’d ever tasted. This is where I discovered caponata. It had a grilled taste, and a perfect blend of sweet, spicy, and tangy. Just like the music!
The traditional, Tarantella Dance… and that’s when we met Andrea and Rosario Castelli, our Sicilian/American friends that made our Sicilian vacation more better than good… (that’s the Cajun dialect coming out in me.)
This was definitely worth the money. It was so worth it that we paid him extra. It was a day of good food, friendship and sooooo much information. We learned tons about Sicilian culture, using the freshest ingredients, and the best cooking techniques and all from a chef of forty years.
The next day we rented a Vespa (scooter) to ride through the mountains and surrounding towns. We rented one in Capri so I had already been broken in to the scariness of Italian driving. Actually Sicily seems to be a lot safer place to drive than the rest of Italy. We started up the mountain to Castelbuono, but there were so many things to see along the way that it was quiet some time before we made it there. First stop was a vineyard and an olive grove.
We rode turned up the mountain before reaching Castelbuono, we turned up the mountain to Polina, a town Dramatically situated atop a 730-metre rocky spur. I thought we’d never make it on a scooter, but within minutes we climbed this mountain.
The manna trees have grown wild around Pollina and Castelbuono for many centuries.
In July and August, the creamy white sap flows so abundantly that it drips out of the branches and gradually crystallizes, so it looks like stalactites hanging off the tree. Local experts know how to cut slits in the bark to create more of these stalactites, and they monitor the trees over many days as they extend ever downwards until it’s ready for harvesting. It has many medicinal uses, it is sold to use in cosmetics, but if you go to Castelbuono, you can buy it to eat as manna ice cream. So, we rode that scooter right to Castelbuono. But, we forgot about siesta. The entire town was asleep.
Within the town, were these Mediaeval baths or a wash house of sorts – a “lavatoio” – It is fed by a natural spring.
The next day we rode the scooter to TUSA
The fishing boats line up on the shore outside of Tusa
More photos from Sicily coming soon… We are posting something daily so subscribe to our blog for free updates.
If you are planning a trip to Sicily, check out Bella Sicilia Vacations. It’s a unique Sicilian experience where the people there speak English and will teach you everything you need to know about the culture, the food, and the history of Sicily.
Their link is: