As Henry Van Dyke said in his poem, “Sicily,” it is a “garden isle, beloved by sun and sea.” Indeed, it is a place where the sun seems to shine forever, creating a landscape that is verdant and refreshing. The coastline boasts of azure waters that lap at the fine sandy shores, making it a perfect haven for locals and tourists alike. Sicily has survived years of foreign rule which have left their indelible marks on the island’s present culture and traditions. It was able to adapt to change and to absorb the various cultures that have come and gone on its shores.
Being the largest island in the Mediterranean, it is an island paradise that offers more than just the perfect beaches for a summer time spree. It is blessed to have survived years of instability that we now can enjoy the abundance of what it can offer to us the occasional traveler. From the slopes of the majestic and mystical Mt. Etna comes copious produce and wines and from the waters come the freshest fruits of the sea. For my trip, I checked out a Sicily travel guide online to help me with my agenda. Indeed, Sicily is a place to see and fall in love with as I did during my five days on the island.
I arrived in the early summer afternoon in Palermo and I felt the thrill of my adventure as my plane taxied on the runway. On the way to the Ambasciatori Hotel, I was greeted by the sun and the architectural beauty of the city. My excitement was climbing and I couldn’t wait to see the place. After I got settled in my hotel, I immediately ventured out to see a bit of the area. Following my itinerary I headed towards the Norman Palace which is constructed in the Arab-Norman-Byzantine style. I was stunned by the sheer beauty of the building especially the Capella Palatina. The whole place is full of masterly artworks mixing various cultures and religions in one place. Next, I continued on my way and found myself in the area of the Fontana Pretoria. This is the centerpiece of the piazza with its huge and ornate details of concentric circles, tiered basins and nude sculptures. Since it was hot, I decided to try some gelato and found Gelateria Al Cassaro conveniently located nearby. I ordered a cone in three flavors of pistachio, dark chocolate and hazelnuts. It was truly a cool and delightful treat! There were so many things to see but I chose to head on towards the church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio which I discovered is another building characterized by the mixture of different cultures of centuries past. I immediately found out that everywhere in Sicily, there are churches located within near distance of each other. In fact, walking towards my next stop took me no longer than 5 minutes. The Chiesa del Gesù is one of the most important Baroque churches in the city and in all of Sicily. I was awed by the interior’s decoration which was definitely grand.
The next morning, I wanted to experience the outdoor markets which are so famous. After breaking fast on the hotel’s ample fare, with camera in hand, I headed out early towards Piazza San Domenico in search of the Vucciria market. Truth be told, I could hear the hubbub some distance away and as I turned around the corner, lo and behold! The place was already alive and busy with people haggling and merchants calling out their merchandise. It was so exciting! There was seafood, fresh vegetables, herbs and other local products. I found some souvenirs and continued on my way. I went on a tour of the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo. I admit I had some goosebumps but my curiosity got ahold of me. Afterwards, I just wandered around while looking at shops and taking photos and found myself famished. I lunched at I Sapore del Mare where I enjoyed a delectable plate of fresh oysters, anchovies, sardines and other seafood. I was satisfied I could have gone back to my hotel for an afternoon nap but I decided to head down to the waterfront to waste away the afternoon. I arrived at La Cala which I found charming with boats resting on the pier. There were so many things to see as well such as the twin towers of the Porta Felice and the Gothic-Catalan church of Santa Maria of the Chains.
On the third day, I checked out from my Palermo hotel and took a bus ride towards Taormina. As the taxi was climbing up towards my hotel, I felt the rush of excitement as I saw how picturesque the town is. Below, there was the beach and in the distance, the imposing Mt. Etna. I couldn’t wait to go exploring! I arrived at the hotel and as I looked out my window, I was greeted by a stunning view of the sea and of Mt.Etna in the distance. I was already falling in love with Taormina. I went out towards the Teatro Greco Romano and as I sat on the old bleachers, I couldn’t help appreciating the grandeur of that olden civilization. I took a lot of photos of the panorama. As the sun beat hotter, I bade farewell and headed towards town. I found Maffei’s restaurant hidden between winding streets and dined on a delicious plate of Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare, Melanzane Ripiene, and Panna Cotta with chocolate sauce, to top it off! After lunch, I took the cable car ride and headed towards Isola Bella for some time on the beach. I spent the whole afternoon lying around and exploring the little “island.”
The fourth day found me in good spirits as I prepared for my trip to the Alcantara Gorge. It was about 40 minutes to reach by bus from Taormina. I followed the path at the top which allowed me to take some beautiful photos of the gorge below. Amazingly, there was an elevator that brought me down to the river where I enjoyed a cool dip in the waters. I had lunch at the restaurant nearby and headed back to Taormina. I decided to spend the rest of my afternoon in the gardens which brought a wonderful respite caused by the hot sun. The English-style Trevelyan Gardens has a very panoramic walkway that allows visitors to have a glimpse of Mt. Etna and the sea. I was content to seat under the shades and take an occasional photo.
The next day was my last day in Sicily. After saying goodbye to the hotel staff, I took the bus that brought me to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. This was indeed a great culmination of my trip as I walked past various temples of centuries past. I was amazed at how well-preserved they are. Despite the heat of the day, I was happy to have seen the place. As I waited for my bus ride to take me back to Palermo Airport, I flicked back at the pictures I was able to take. I was glad that my trip was well worth it. Sicily is a place to see, and to love. And surely, it deserves another trip in the future.