A recollection of memories and feelings from a 9-day summer trip to Sicily by Ambra Andrei, AVMM's content contributor and stylist.
Visiting Sicily had been at the top of my bucket list for a very long time, and I finally got the chance to travel there in September.
Sicily is located in the South of Italy and is the largest island not only in Italy, but also in the Mediterranean.
As an Italian, I often chose to travel abroad instead of exploring my own country, be it for the curiosity of unknown and faraway places or the ever present thought in the back of my head “I can always do that later”. However, the past few years evoked a feeling of belonging that really inspired me to spend more time in Tuscany, where I’m from, and also to explore other areas around Italy. This summer, it was time to finally visit beautiful Sicily.
Sicily - A blend of beauty and culture
Sun, sea, food - wouldn’t this be enough to make you want to take the first flight out to Sicily? But there’s actually so much more than that.
Inhabited for over 10,000 years, Sicily has been a crossroads for various cultures throughout history. From Romans to Greeks and Phoenicians, traces of the past are clearly visible all over the island. Its cultural diversity throughout the centuries has left marks on the architecture, landscape, as well as the language (Sicilian dialect has major influences from Arab and Greek, among others). The mouth-watering food specialties offered at every corner are also a great mix of flavours - sfincione, arancina, cannoli, pane e panelle - you can never run out of options!
Driving through Sicily from west to east
First, know this: Sicily is HUGE! A 25.426-km² island definitely can not be fully explored in just 9 days and requires more than a single trip to fully immerse in its beauty. But depending on what type of vacation you’re looking for (city visits, sea, volcano hike?), you can handpick certain corners of the island and discover the surroundings.
During this trip, we first visited the western part, including Palermo, Castellammare del Golfo, Erice, and Trapani’s salt pans, then we drove all the way to the south-east and visited Marzamemi and Noto before flying out from Catania. We stopped halfway for a detour at archeological site Valle dei Templi.
Valle dei Templi, Agrigento
Sicily: Cities, history, art
Palermo was our first stop, which is also Sicily’s biggest city. It’s hard to describe Palermo’s charme in a few words. Entering the city from the airport one immediately approaches 10 and 11 storey immense buildings, contrasting historical columns along the way. But there’s one thing that is particularly striking as you enter the city center: the flora is astounding. Palms, cacti, banana trees - all grown wildly in great heights and widths, as to reflect the favourable climate of their home, one that rarely leaves space for rain and cold in favour of dry weather and hot sun (temperatures in some of the cities reached 48°C last summer).
Approaching the heart of the city, the region’s typical baroque style makes its appearance pretty much at every corner - a richness in forms, molds and colors that is testament to passages from many cultures throughout the centuries.
The best example of this baroque triumph is probably Monreale Cathedral, a Norman-Byzantine cathedral built just before 1200 and located on the top of Monte Caputo, 20 minutes from Palermo’s city center.
Monreale Cathedral, Palermo
Noto, located in the south-eastern part of the island, showcases baroque flair at its finest, with buildings dating back to the 18th century scattered around this hilly, small, lovely town. Walking around the center might take just one day, but to visit all the palazzi and religious buildings (more than 30!), may well take you a whole week. We walked up and down the hilly streets and went off the beaten path to find some peace of quiet while admiring stunning hidden corners.
Ambra in Noto wearing the Athena Dress in sorbet
Seascapes in Sicily
Beach life in Sicily is one to dream of. As an island, you hardly run out of options if you want to dip your toes in the Mediterranean sea or lay down and get that Vitamin-D stock for dark winter months elsewhere.
We visited many beaches during our trip, including Isola delle Correnti, San Lorenzo, Riserva di Vendicari, Marzamemi - each of them showing a different kind of seascape. Sometimes, we found an agitated, deep blue sea, while others calm waves with crystal clear water and soft golden sand.
Portopalo di Capo Passero
Isola delle Correnti
All around Sicily there are countless beaches and calette to explore, some of them only accessible by boat. I think there’s hardly anything more peaceful and relaxing than laying on warm sand and listening to the sound of waves. My mind clears and my body feels one with nature. It brings me calm, renewed energy, and perspective. It’s my way to reconnect to the world and to heal wounds. And Sicily seems to be the perfect place for that.
Sicily has left a big impression on me, just as I had imagined. Hardly any other country I visited has this explosion of nature, sun, and history. All the people we met during the trip were welcoming and visibly proud of their region - and rightfully so.
There are many places we couldn’t visit due to limited time, but this is just another reason to come back to Sicily some time soon.
This article was written by Ambra Andrei, AVMM's content contributor and stylist.