Trip in Siciliy
Sicily is the ideal place for all of those who love to spend the holiday in a unique place where to enjoy the sun and the sea in a magical atmosphere, where history and traditions perfectly merge.
Sicily's capital is a veritable open-air museum. In fact, it turns out to be the perfect mixture of history, art and traditions that the old inhabitants left behind them in the territory. The city tour starts with the visit of the Cathedral, the architectural synthesis of the different dominations in the ages, the perfect match of Eastern and Western religions. Remarkable is also the historical compound of Palazzo dei Normanni which is the seat of the Regional Parliament today where you will find rich decorations in the Sala Ruggero and Cappella Palatina. With its magnificent Byzantine mosaics, the Chapel is the cultural and political emblem of the Norman sovereignty in Palermo.
In Piazza Bellini, San Giovanni degli Eremiti and San Cataldo, two churches built side by side, and their small red domes in Arabic style overlook the square. You will also find another church the Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio known as "La Martorana", one of the most beautiful and fascinating Byzantine churches of the Middle Ages in Italy, yesterday's testimony of the religious and artistic Orthodox culture in the country. By walking the old centre streets, you will come across the typical local markets pulsating with people where to find those fragrances and flavours that have not changed over time. The best known and the most popular markets are Capo, Ballarò and Vucciria.
By entering these markets, you will have the good feeling of experiencing a moment of the past. Even flavours are those from the past, fragrances of food and spices are blended into a unique aroma that you will smell in these markets only. The stands will provide you with the famous Sicilian street food: sandwiches stuffed with eggplants, panelle, croquettes and sfincione. Do not miss the local pastry, at which the inhabitants are really good, made up of the famous cassata, nougats, granita and ice-creams.
The cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale are two destinations you should not miss to visit. Within the two churches there are precious mosaics depicting cyclical stories from the Old and New Testament that end with a huge portrayal of the Christ Pantocrator in the apse posted.
If you are looking for nature, you can head to the parks and reserves on the island. The Zingaro Reserve has an about 7 km coast line which links together the towns of San Vito Lo Capo and Castellammare del Golfo. The most beautiful coasts of the island are probably the ones on this stretch of littoral zone where high cliffs plunge into the sea and the bays seem to be niches carved on the side of the promontory.
The Madonie Park is a regional reserve, which includes fifteen municipalities in the province of Palermo. It is the home of more than half of the Sicilian plant species and, in particular, most of the endemic species in Sicily. Rivers and streams run through these mountains carrying water from the mountains to the sea, starting off the particular Karstic phenomena. The Nebrodi regional Park is the largest protected natural area in Sicily. These mountains extend in the three provinces of Messina, Catania and Enna, and are delimited by the Simeto river in the South, the Pollina river in the West and the torrent of Novara di Sicilia in the East. Right between the Nebrodi and the Madonie mountains, the unique project of the Fiumara d'Arte was born, a sort of an open-air museum of contemporary sculpture. This project aims at the development of a natural area through the symbiosis of art and nature. An ongoing project that has involved and still engages contemporary artists from both Italy and abroad.
Do not miss to visit the archaeological sites of Selinunte and Segesta that, thanks to the wonderful Doric temples and the Greek theatre, take the visitor's breath away; places that you will find nowhere else in the Western world since the huge number of ruins in perfect conditions. The archaeological site of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento is definitely one of the most representative archaeological areas of the classical Greek civilization, which, in 1998, has been included in UNESCO's World Heritage List. Here you will see the wonderful Doric temples of Hera, Zeus and Concordia standing out in a raised position. From the Middle Ages to the present days the beautiful landscape, the vegetation, the colours and the echoes of lost civilizations have inspired philosophers, writers, poets and painters: Ludovico Ariosto, Goethe, Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas, Salvatore Quasimodo, Luigi Pirandello are the name of just a few personalities that passed by here and were impressed by this wonderful site.
Surely Mozia is worth a short visit. Located in the Mediterranean Sea in the middle of the Stagnone di Marsala, it was an island inhabited by Phoenician people and, today, is a very special site where an ancient Roman villa, whose floor is made up of unique river rock mosaics, was found. Characteristic is also Cothon, the artificial pond that is a rare example of a Punic harbour - the only one in Sicily, and lastly the Tophet, a particular cemetery where you will find the amphorae containing the remains of dead children.
Those who want to get away from the hectic pace of the city or just want to enjoy beautiful sunsets by the sea should make a tour of the islands around the Sicilian coast. It is hard to decide on one of these beautiful islands where culture, tradition and nature harmoniously combine. Ustica, for instance, is an island situated off the coast of Palermo, which is a very attractive destination for its natural beauty and the variety of the landscapes that fascinate a huge number of visitors every year.
In front of Milazzo, you will find the Aeolian archipelago, composed of seven small islands that are very different from each other. Filicudi and Alicudi are renowned to be rough and wild. The touristiest island is Lipari, the largest in the archipelago and the most interesting for its beaches of fine white sands and the beautiful old town with the Castle and the Archaeological Museum. Then, Vulcano, Panarea, Salina and the lively Stromboli with its volcano that attracts and frightens visitors for the fiery lapillus high in the sky.
The Egadi archipelago is composed of the islands of Favignana, Marettimo, Levanzo and several other small islands far about 7 km off the Sicilian West coast, in the province of Trapani. Favignana is the main island of the archipelago; here there are the remains of an early Christian cemetery. The island is known for the rich seabed, the tonnare -tuna fishing ports- made by the Angevins and later enhanced by Florio, a rich family of Sicilian businessmen. The Tonnara is not working anymore but, until 2007, during the months in which the tuna fishing used to take place, the island was invaded by many tourists and enthusiasts.
Sicily boasts of an excellent gastronomic heritage. The many different cultural influences, which are a testimony to the various invasions, have undoubtedly bequeathed a unique treasure. Suffice it to say that a recent article published by the renowned American magazine Forbes placed the city of Palermo in fifth place in a special rank for the quality and a variety of street food.
Thanks to this distinguishing feature, it is possible to take a tour of Sicily following a gastronomic itinerary that definitely offers a privileged perspective on the culture of the area.
Starting from Palermo, the oldest markets in town, which are Capo,Vucciria and Ballarò, offer just an idea to how to try out the various specialties of street food: sfincione, boiled octopus, frittola, quarumi are good examples of what you can taste from the street food in Palermo; also, in order to get to know more about the cultural traditions from which they come, you should ask the local sellers who will be happy to tell the stories of their city. And even broccoli, artichokes and cardoons in batter, fried calamari, sarde a beccafico, sardines balls etc ...
In friggitorie you can taste the panino with panelle and croquettes, the panino con la milza -with the spleen- in the "schiettaor maritata" version without or with fresh ricotta. In fry shops, to complete the picture, there is plenty of choice of so-called "pezzi": the baked calzone or fried pizzotto, the ravazzate anfd the rollò with wurstel.
A separate chapter has to be written for the arancine, the first example of a takeaway. Usually you may find it in the two most famous variations: the butter and meat versions. Everything changes on Saint Lucia's day, December 13, when the variety of condiments multiplies exponentially: salmon , spinach, aubergines and even chocolate.
In the area of Castellammare del Golfo and Scopello, you should taste the pane cunzato: hot bread, fragrant, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, caciocavallo slivers, oregano and pickled sardines; it was the typical meal of tuna fishermen during the mattanza. But also, the cassatelle, the ricotta cakes similar to a stuffed panzerotto with cheese and chocolate chips, fried in hot oil must be eaten hot.
Catania's street food offers the sanguinaccio, which is pork blood cooked in its own guts, and the sandwich with horse meat.
In Ragusa, ' mpanatigghi and scaccia deserve particular attention. The first one is a typical product of Modica area and it is a cookie stuffed and breaded like a small panzerotto, crescent-shaped and filled up with a mixture of almonds, walnuts, chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and beef. The scaccia is a flat bread rolled up on itself and stuffed with ricotta cheese, onion, sausage and local ingredients.
The ' Nfgghiulati are typical of the Syracuse area and are made up with the same dough bread with the addition of lard, olive oil and powdered mint. It exists in both the sweet and salty versions and the most typical ones are stuffed with sausage.