I started my trip one sunny morning taking the ferry from a small Calabrian fishing village called Villa San Giovanni, to cross the Straits of Messina. The trip is short - it lasts about 20 minutes - and the ferry transports trains, cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.
My first destination: Taormina and its exceptional coast views:
It is located on a 200 meter high cliff offering a spectacular and unbeatable sea view.
My first tour was a visit to Corso Umberto, the main street in the center of Taormina, which is a pedestrian zone. It brings together beautiful luxury shops and local gastronomy in its restaurants, cafes and traditional bakeries. And walking through its streets I arrived at Piazza IX Aprile, one of the best viewpoints of Taormina that has a huge panoramic terrace with wonderful views of the bay and Mount Etna.
For lunch I chose the classic rigatoni pasta, accompanied by roasted aubergines, ricotta and basil, all fresh products found in this region.
In the afternoon I visited Isola Bella, one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, where I was able to bathe in a beautiful tongue of sand that flows into an islet, It is one of those places that leaves you breathless because of so much beauty, in fact I could say that it is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Impossible not to be moved by its splendid sunset!
For dinner I tried the classic Swordfish Rolls which consist of thin slices of fish with an excellent breadcrumb filling, seasoned with pine nuts, olives, capers, tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil. This fish is the most consumed on the island.
Syracuse, the Sicilian jewel:
I started my day with a somewhat particular and highly recommended breakfast: granita alle mandorle, an almond ice cream that is always accompanied by brioche bread, it is a unique experience that can be strange at first, but then you do not stop trying the granita in all its flavors. To understand Sicilian food, you must first know that this Italian island was conquered by several cultures: Greek, Roman and Arab, hence its gastronomic variety.
And a beautiful sunny day greeted me in Syracuse, on the southeast coast of the island. Once the largest city in the world, it now fuses baroque squares and pastel stone buildings with a sea of dazzling blue. Impossible not to visit the Duomo square, the Cathedral and the Archaeological Park of Neapolis, it leaves you speechless!
After a very Sicilian lunch indeed! Pene Cunzatu, which is a toast of homemade bread, accompanied by fresh tomato, anchovies, cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano, I started the tour to the Greek Theater, where from its stands you can see the sea! It was one of the largest in the world when it was built, seating 16,000 spectators. Carved directly into the side of Temenite Hill overlooking the Sicilian countryside, the stone theater was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site… Well deserved recognition!
The view from the upper terrace allows you to admire the suggestive Fountain of the Ninfeo and the wonderful panorama that dominates the great port. From any part of this route you can see and feel the Etna volcano with its striking colors, it is still active today and experiences periodic eruptions releasing rivers of lava. This gigantic mountain dominates the Sicilian landscape, and its slopes are part of the so-called Parco dell'Etna.
One of the things to do when in Sicily is an excursion to Mount Etna, and for good reason! I boarded a cable car to reach 2,900 meters above sea level and walk through the craters of the mountain, an experience difficult to replicate in other places. Unique landscapes await you! It is perfectly safe to visit Etna as long as there are no government-imposed restrictions. In addition, the guides are experts in judging the situation; That is why I advise you to only do a guided tour and not venture up on your own.
Palermo: my final destination on this trip
I arrived very early in Palermo, the capital of Sicily: noisy, moody, messy, crazy but so imposing and architecturally and historically impressive that I define it as an extremist city. Palermo is not an easy city nor is it a destination for everyone - for that reason it was my last stop on this trip - the best way to understand it is to walk it. And walking it I met the following places...
Corso Vittorio Emanuele is one of the big and important streets in the center, where I could see several palaces with baroque architecture and decorations, and many shops. And from now on the Arab character of the city can be found above all in the old markets: la Vucciria, el Capo and Ballarò.
Street food, the old bancarelle of Palermo, where it is possible to eat a bit of everything, is still found throughout the city today. And precisely at a street stall I had cazzilli (fried potato croquettes) for lunch, fried aubergines and some delicious ciccireddu, very small fish floured and fried at the moment. Sicily is the ideal place to taste a different dish every day! And to finish lunch or dinner, in Italy you always enjoy the real espresso coffee.
My second day in Palermo, I dedicated it to art, which as you know is one of my favorite moments on every trip, visiting the Teatro Massimo, one of the largest in Europe and considered the temple of lyrical music, also thanks to its excellent acoustics. My second stop was the Politeama Theater located in Piazza Ruggero Settimo, built in neoclassical style between 1865 and 1891, it has a capacity of 950 people. Lastly, I visited the “Antonio Pasqualino International Puppet Museum”, a particular place that preserves more than 3,500 puppets from all over the world. An important part of the museum is dedicated to the “pupi”, typical puppets of the traditional Sicilian theater inspired by the time of the Knights. The "Opera dei Pupi" is still alive today in Sicily where the heirs of the last families of "puparos" guarantee the continuity of the tradition. And of course I brought as a souvenir a beautiful wooden and sheet metal puppet that I bought in a fun store.
I returned to the hotel with that magical feeling that only the theater can offer us.
On my last day I started by visiting the Plaza Marina, located on the shores of the port. It is one of the liveliest places in the city, with markets and where you can find the giant Ficus Magnolioides, considered one of the monumental trees in Italy. For nature lovers, this island overflows in every corner.
In the port area is the Foro Italico, which in mid-July is the center of the festival of Santa Rosalia, the patron saint of the city. I was told that this lively party lasts 5 days and ends with fireworks that illuminate the entire Gulf of Palermo and the rest of the city. I promised myself that my next visit to the city would be during those days to enjoy the traditional celebration.
What's better than ending my trip with a Sicilian cannoli?
It is the king of Sicilian pastry, and it is made up of a fried wafer filled with a cream of fresh sheep ricotta to which you can add Bronte pistachios - the star product of the island - and a few drops of chocolate. .
What is clear to me when I say goodbye to the island is that each civilization has left its mark and that mix makes it a magical place that steals the senses of all its visitors.