Sicily is the essence of Italy, in the sense that everything Italian is intensified here. All that you either love or hate about Italy, you’ll find in its purest form here, on this island shaped by a still active volcano, once a kingdom, now one of the poorest areas of Italy. Take visual trip together with us and discover the many faces of Sicily.
In no other region have we found such contrasts; such beauty, so much garbage.
Palermo boasts stunning and unique Arab-Norman buildings, Baroque palaces and Art Nouveau architecture – all a part of the city’s proud, long heritage. The decay however is also ever present. The collapsing houses, the sod and dirt, the piles of garbage around the dumpsters and in the streets. Children begging by the tables and stray dogs catching a nap in a sunbeam.
Every evening the passeggiata brings people out on the streets, where they parade up and down Via Marqueda in their sharpest outfits, sometimes stopping for a chat or an espresso and cannoli. The side alleys are dark and sullied with dog shit, the buildings disintegrating with scaffolding being the only thing that keeps some of them standing. But the Palermitane don’t seem to notice. Is it defiance or resignation, I wonder.
Sicily is an opera
..Michael Corleone said in “The Godfather”.
If Sicily is an opera, the nature is the aria. The mountainous region of Madonie, the trail snaking along the stretch of coast in Zingaro Natural Park, the desolate volcanic landscape of Etna. Even the Monte Pellegrino, towering over Palermo, is a green haven, home to eagles, butterflies and flowers.
The south-east corner of Sicily is a Baroque masterpiece. Our favourite was Siracusa, but also the sleepy white town of Noto, the hilltop hugging Ragusa and Caltagirone, with its long, tile-covered staircase, are late Baroque gemstones, acknowledged even by UNESCO for their unique architectural presence.
Greek ruins in Agrigento and Segesta as well as the most beautiful Roman mosaics “in situ” anywhere in the world, in Villa Romana del Casale, are other testaments to the development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia.
Another reason to visit Sicily are the people: charming, curious and crazy. Another reason still, the food: cheap, savoury street food, ruby red wines, fresh seafood and amazing cannoli.
Like opera, Sicily is not for everybody. It’s bombastic, colourful, chaotic. Just try driving in Palermo for 15 minutes and you’ll know what I mean. It’s loud and confusing and you’re thankful just to come out alive on the other side.
Nevertheless, I’m afraid that everything hereafter will be dull and quiet…
Skip the traffic chaos of Palermo and let us show you the beauty of Sicily right here:
Take visual trip together with us and discover the many faces of Sicily
Palermo boasts stunning and unique Arab-Norman buildings, like the Cathedral
The Arab-Norman architecture of Palermo is recognised as World Heritage by UNESCO
The city’s diverse architecture forms part of its proud, long heritage
You can buy fruit and vegetables directly from the back of the truck
Creative Street Art in an alley near Ballarò Street Market
Biblioteca Comunale di Palermo
The decay however is also ever present
Cheap, savoury street food is a definite must on a visit to Palermo
Amazing, highly addictive cannolo. Best in plural: cannoli!!
Another popular street food all over Sicily is the “Arancina”
Typical street view in Palermo
Stray dog catching a nap in a sunbeam
Fountain in Villa Trabia
Another reason to visit Sicily are the people: charming, curious and crazy
The markets are a colourful experience
Surrounded by the ocean it comes as no surprise, that Sicily has an abundance of fresh seafood
Stray cat scavenging the dumpsters at Ballarò Street Market
The towers of the cathedral though the palm trees at Villa Bonanno
Another Arab-Norman attraction and quiet retreat in the busy city is Chiesa di San Giovanni degli Eremiti
The cloister garden is peaceful. The ticket price is 6€
It seems that Saturday is Laundry Day!
Sicily used to be the Kingdom of Sicily and one of the richest regions of (present) Italy. The baroque architecture is the remainder of this glorious past
Baroque detail of the “Quattro Canti” – the Four Corners – at the crossing of Via Marqueda and Via Vittorio Emanuele.
Baroque is the opera of architecture: full of flamboyance and rich detail
The Fontana Pretoria is for Palermo what Trevi Fountain is for Rome. Only with less water..
The Fontana Pretoria is the one of the places where the decadence of Old Times meets the decay of the Present.
The fountain represents the Twelve Olympians
The wonderful Baroque Palazzo Comitini offers guided tours
The streets west of Teatro Massimo are full of restaurants, cafés and artsy shops
The area around the Mercato Vucciria is a popular place for locals to hang out at night
An “aperitivo” including drinks and tapas for 10€ in the area between Teatro Massimo and Via Roma is a great way to start off an evening
Amazing details of the Arab-Norman cathedral and its 16th-century portal
This ancient chapel in the Palazzo dei Normanni has the most wonderful Byzantine mosaics
The intimate Cappella Palatina is one of the most beautiful attractions of all Palermo
The church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio is a clash between Byzantine mosaics and Baroque frescoes
Maiolica is Italian tin-glazed pottery made in dazzling colours. The Moorish heads, also called Saracen heads, are actually flower pots.
The Baroque façade of Church of Saint Dominic was completed in 1726
This cathedral was first erected in Norman–Gothic style, later extended in Renaissance style and at last the present church with its Baroque facade was constructed
Glimpse of Palermo’s cathedral from the rooftop of the church of Santissimo Salvatore
The picturesque beach town of Mondello, just on the other side of Monte Pellegrino is a popular summertime leisure
Beautiful Art Nouveau houses crown this stylish resort
The old bathing establishment of “Alle Terrazze” is a memento of Palermo’s heyday in the “fin-de-siècle”.
A stroll along the beach in January is also an enjoyable exercise
Another short trip from Palermo is Monreale, with their UNESCO classed cathedral
The cathedral is also a brilliant example of the Arab-Norman architecture dominating the area
The Byzantine mosaics are marvelous
Sicily is also the best place to admire Greek ruins – outside Greece!
The Greek Temple was built approx 2500 years ago by an architect from Athens
The Roman Theatre of Segesta boasts one of the best backdrops ever seen in any theatre!
Agrigento is another gem among Greek ruins – and acknowledged by UNESCO
The Valley of the Temples is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture
It is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy
The park and landscape is the largest archaeological site in the world
The UNESCO World Heritage site in the middle of Sicily has the world’s most beautiful mosaics “in situ”
If Sicily is an opera, the nature is the aria!
Following the trail snaking along the stretch of coast in Zingaro Natural Park is a wonderful hike
The desolate volcanic landscape of Etna is another, entirely different nature experience
The craters are a reminder that this volcano is merely sleeping..
The view to and fro the Crateri Silvestri are magnificent
The presence of the volcano dominates the panorama of the northeastern part of Sicily – and perhaps the mindset of the Sicilians?
The best spot for photos of Etna is the romantic seaside town of Taormina. Preferably from their Roman theatre (what a backdrop!) or else from the public park
Taormina is known for its colourful Maiolica ceramics and Saracen heads
While Baroque is present all over Sicily it is certainly abundant in the southeast
Catania on the east coast is part of the UNESCO acknowledged selection of 8 cities, that are late baroque treasures
Like so many other buildings, the Porta Uzeda was built after the devastating earthquake of 1693 in late Baroque style.
A cathedral for the bibliophile: Biblioteche Riunite is not only a precious baroque testament but has a rich collection of books
The fountain with a Roman statue of an elephant carved from basalt, is now the symbol of the city
The old town of Siracusa is actually an island called Ortigia
Siracusa and its diverse architectural patrimony made it to the UNESCO list
The Cathedral was erected upon the Temple of Athena – and you can still see the columns inside and outside
Even though this church wasn’t here when Cicero dubbed it ‘the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of all’, his conclusion remains true!
When the full moon lights up the blue sky, the golden Baroque buildings are even more charming
The Sicilian Baroque is considered one of the most typical expressions of art of Southern Italy
The old town island of Ortigia is a wonderful mix of Medieval, narrow alleys and Baroque, grandiose squares
Historic Syracuse offers a unique testimony to the development of Mediterranean civilization over three millennia
Touring the countryside of Sicily may take you past some hilltop-hugging towns like Enna
From Enna you have a gorgeous view onto another hilltop town – that of Calascibetta
Another charming destination is the seaside town of Cefalù. Here seen from the La Rocca – the huge rock next to the town
La Rocca is not just a very steep hike, it’s also a natural Park and thus requires an entrance fee of 4€ per adult
The ticket price – and climbs – are well worth it when you command stunning views of Cefalù and the coast line
Also a Norman cathedral, its fortress-like character dominates the skyline of the surrounding medieval town
It’s easy to forget that every powerful cathedral and posh building is actually just made out of rubble, molded by man
Even in the charming, medieval streets you can’t ignore the powerful presence of La Rocca: “The Rock”