Sicily

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.

Sicily Rocks Near LaCallWe 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 Hotel La Calette view

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.

Sicily beautiful forts

We stayed just a few minutes outside of town at Hotel La Calete, a quiet, spa-like resort with a relaxing atmosphere. Sicily Hotel 1The rock formations around our hotel were unparallelled to any I’d ever seen.

Sicily Rock Formations 1The 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.

Sicily Hotel 2Breakfast was in the garden every morning overlooking these peaceful views.

Sicily garden

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.

Sicily walk to CefaluAnd 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.

Sicily walk to cefalu2

This place is so picturesque….just like a postcard.

Sicily Cefalu

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.

Sicily Norman Cathedral

Sicily steps to CathedralSicily cathedral 3

Sicily Cathedral inside

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.

Sicily Bruschetta stop

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.

Sicily walk through streetsWalking 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.

 

Sicily Begin Sicilian BBQThe sun started to set over Hotel La Calette and the atmosphere was pure Sicilian.

Sicilian Barbeque sunsetThe 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!

sicilian BarbequeThe 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.)

Sicilian barbeque danceThe next day we planned a cooking class with Mimmo at his new restaurant in the village of Sant’ Ambrogio.

Sicily Sant'AmbrogioThis 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.

Sant'Ambrogio Cooking 1There was so much to this experience that I’ve decided to dedicate an entire page to our cooking experience.  I’ll share the link when I have it finished. We love you Mimmo!

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.

Sicilian vineyardsSicilian Vineyard2We parked our bike, and walked through the vineyards.

Sicily Vespar James vineyardThe grapes…

Sicilian GrapesAnd the olive groves on the other side of road…

Sicilian Olive GrovesThe beauty of an olive branch. The symbol of peace.

Sicily olive branchLater on, we discovered an ancient olive grove with trees over 800 years old.  For the past 30 days I’d been all over Italy, and this was the first time I’d seen trees like this.

Sicily Ancient treeThe roads up the hillsides and across the mountains were nearly deserted.  We were not in a touristy place.  We were experiencing life like a Sicilian.

Sicily mountain roadsWe 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.

Sicily Polina from farThere I stood with breathtaking, panoramic views of the Tyrreneian sea, Cefalu’ and the Madonie and Nebrodi mountain ranges.

Sicily PolinaThe Castello di Pollina

Sicily Castella di PollinaAnd the gate that leads back to the village.

Sicily Polina gateWhen Pollina Castle was exactly built is unknown. It is first mentioned in 1082, but all I know is that its very old.

Sicily old pollinaAnd this arch overlooking the mountains is so unexpected.

Sicily arch of pollinaAnd so was this sculpture representing a the harvesting of manna, a centuries-old tradition from this area, secretly passed down from father to son.

Sicily Pollina Mana treeThe art was modern and the buildings were medieval. Such a rare combination, an interesting little town on top of a crag.

Sicily Pollina structures

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.

Sicily Castelbuono siestaWe did find a restaurant overlooking a beautiful garden. We were the only patrons.

Sicily Castelbuono restaurantDoc and Oil’s menu of the day:

Castelbuono menuThere were a few people relaxing at tables, but we were the only ones walking the street.

Sicily castelbuono gelatoWe thought is was so cool to walk through the town during siesta. Very quiet, and like we were in a deserted ghost town. It was kind of nice to take pictures in an empty setting.

Castelbuono steepleAnd here it is: Oh, what a beauty! The castle of good air.

The CastelbuonoThis really was a beautiful little mountain village.  Just look at the mountains in the background.

Castelbuono streets with mtThe fountains helped to cool us off and quench our thirst.

Castelbuono fountainsThis reminded me of the alleyways in Venice. The narrow breezeways carrying the smells of fresh laundry hanging from the balconies. Potted plants and neatly swept cobblestone paths.

Castelbuono vs veniceWe left before siesta was over and headed back down the mountain to the ocean.

Sicily Back to the ocean And on to Cefalu’ for the rest of the afternoon.  I’m not sure what this archway is called, but I love the way it  leads to the beach.

Cefalu archThe boats of Cefalu’ are a sight to behold.

Cefalu boats

Within the town, were these Mediaeval baths or a wash house of sorts – a “lavatoio” – It is fed by a natural spring.

Cefalu bath houses

Cefalu wash house

 

The next day we rode the scooter to TUSA

Sicily Tusa Waves

The fishing boats line up on the shore outside of Tusa

Tusa Fishing Boats

 

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:

bellasiciliavacations.com

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Sicily

  1. We are in Cefalu for a month and really enjoying your comments and pictures. We have a cooking lesson tomorrow with Mimmo. Have already eaten there twice!

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