Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I was sad and disappointed to learn, over the Christmas holidays, of tour operators who are again setting up "Mafia tours" of  Sicily.  I am not going to pretend that the Mafia is dead and I have expressed my thoughts about its continued existence in this post.  However, there is so much that is lovely to see here, such a varied and fascinating culture to explore and there are so many fantastic taste sensations to be enjoyed that I cannot understand why anyone would want to persist in promoting the stereotypes.  Sicily and the Sicilian people deserve better so here is a very personal and eclectic list of good reasons to visit my island in the sun:

1.  Marvel at the Greek sites of Agrigento, Segesta and Selinunte.

Tempio della Concordia, Agrigento

2.  In the summer, attend a performance of a Greek play at the Greek Amphitheatre in Siracusa.

Performance of Medea at Siracusa in 2009

3.  Visit the Infiorata [carpet of flowers] in Noto in May.

4.  See the breathtaking beauty of the Val di Noto towns, which collectively form a World Heritage Site.

Duomo di San Giorgio, Modica

5.  See the Venere di Aidone, over two thousand years old and home after so many years of enforced wandering.

6.  Relax on clean, unpolluted beaches.

7.  See the settings of the Montalbano films.

8.  And, talking of that gourmet detective, try the local arancini!

9.  Breathe in the heady scent of orange blossom and buy some zagara cologne.

10.  Eat a Sicilian vanilla orange!

11.  Take a bus ride along the edge of the Stretto at Messina.  It is stunningly beautiful.  While you're there, gaze over at the Calabrian coast - you could even take the ferry across if you have time - and remember all who passed along this route as they emigrated to Northern Italy and far, far beyond.  Like migrating peoples today, they wanted only a better life. 

12.  Go to a street market, such as the ones in Modica and Catania.  You'll be amazed by what you find there!

13.  Visit Bellini's house in Catania.

Image of Vincenzo Bellini: Wikipedia

14.  Admire Norman and Arabic architecture in Palermo and visit the seat of one of the world's oldest parliaments.

15.  See Modican chocolate being made to the Aztec method at Bonajuto in the town's Corso Umberto.

16. Don't miss out on the best gelato in the world!

17.  Take a trip up grumpy old Etna.

18.  Eat plentiful prickly pears in autumn and sip prickly pear liqueur.

19.  See traditionally painted Sicilian carts at Donnafugata in Ragusa or at the Mostra Permanente del Carretto Siciliano housed in the Museum at Terrasini [Palermo Province].

20.  Go to a Sagra, such as the Strawberry Festival at Casssibile in spring, the Prickly Pear Festival at Militello in Val di Catania or any number of chestnut festivals in the Etna area in autumn.  Relearn the art of living in tune with the seasons.

Finally, if you are genuinely interested in Mafia history but not in sensationalising tragedy, please pay homage to those brave Sicilians who lost their lives campaigning against the criminal organisation:  Giuseppe Impastato, Paolo Borsellino, Giovanni Falcone and others like them deserve wider world recognition, as do the thousands of Sicilians who work daily to preserve their best traditions and make their region a better place.

For all of them, please come and see the Sicily I love.


Leslie: said...

I was pleasantly surprised when I visited Sicily 5 years ago. I loved all the Greek history and the temples and ruins. The weather was perfect (first week November), the people very lovely, and the scenery spectacular!

annechung said...

There are too many reasons to visit Sicily, none of which are mafia related. Villa Palagonia in Bagheria (near Palermo) is my favorite. The works of Serpotta especially in churches in Palermo, and also to eat the delicious pastry that they make for St Joseph's day. I could go on and on and....

Whispering Walls said...

And of course your chocolate festival

Ro said...

As a Sicilian (100%) who was born in the US, I have truly come to relish my long wonderful heritage with the Sicilian people, especially the Monrealese! Thank you for the excellent post! I am going to send this to all my cousins!

Rosa said...

You've convinced me! But I loved it already. It's time for another visit!

James Higham said...

Good selection. I presume the mafia reasons will follow this. :0

rochambeau said...

AND Twenty~One:
Visit Patrizia and Simone!!! That would be # uno on my itinerary! Happy New Year from me to you from Jefferson Texas to Sicily, Italy!!
Oh the places we'll go .....................in blogland!!


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Leslie. I'm glad you had such a positive experience here. Hi, Anne. Yes, many reasons indeed. Thanks for adding those. Oh, definitely, WW! Hello Ro and nice to meet you. I love Monreale too. I am flattered that you are going to show the post to your cousins - thank you. Thanks, Scintilla. Do come back soon! Thanks, James but not on here, they won't! Hello, Constance. Wouldn't it be lovely if you could visit? Meanwhile, though, it's wonderful to be able to communicate asw we do. x

RNSANE said...

It all sounds just glorious....I've only had two brief visits in Sicily, via cruise ship and opted to spend the day in Taormina which was just lovely. How nice it would be to have a week to really do a little exploring and to visit YOU!

Miss Footloose said...

What a wonderful post! As an expat having lived in a number of foreign countries, and now living in Moldova, I am well aware of how stereotypes can be very destructive.

When I lived in Armenia I knew a man from Sicily who would get upset every time people would start talking about the Mafia. He wanted people to come and see the "other" Sicily. It must be very frustrating!

You make Sicily look very enticing and I may make it out there some time. Are there many American expats now living there?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Carmen. Perhaps one day you will. Cincin! Hi, Miss Footloose and thank you. Yes, stereotypes can be very hurtful and damaging. There are a few American expats in Ragusa but I don't know how many there are in Sicily as a whole.

Bill said...

What is a Sicilian Vanilla Orange...for those who don't know?

Liz Hinds said...

You've convinced me, welshcakes!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hello Bill and nice to hear from you. Please forgive the late reply. Vanilla oranges only grow in Sicily between October and Xmas and are wonderfully sweet!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I'm glad of that, Liz!


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