Seven Sicilian Surprises, a personal insight by Paula Gardner of Scarlet Thinking
I’m a big fan of mainland Italy and like to visit a different city each year. In the last few years I’ve travelled to Rome (many times), Bologna, Milan, Verona and Venice, but when the opportunity to visit Sicily came up I wasn’t quite sure. I like my cities. Would this be too quiet for me? Would I feel isolated? I decided to take the chance and see. Staying at the northern resort of Castellammare del Golfo, here’s what surprised me…
You know those vacation adverts where the water is a beautiful azure blue and you have a sneaking suspicion that it has been retouched? Well, the waters around the northern part of Sicily are just that fairy-tale blue: inviting and stunning at the same time.
The Godfather Keeps His Distance
I had expected the shops to be full of Godfather Tat bit was pleasantly surprised that it was kept to a minimum. Yes, I did bring the odd Godfather fridge magnet home with me, but on the whole the Godfather thing is delightfully low key and the gift shops full of more sophisticated local produce and craft products.
This is the Italian Accent
I’ve been learning Italian for years now. It’s not easy and I have to admit slow progress, but the process is enjoyable and purely for fun so that’s not a problem. What was lovely was finding that in Sicily the accent is the lyrical one that inspired my love for the language in the first place. Sicilians are adept at speaking with their hands in wide loud gestures that animate the conversation, even if it is only about buying a bag of oranges. I loved it.
As I’m learning Italian, I appreciated the opportunity to practise it, but, on the flipside, if you don’t speak Italian you may struggle a little outside the bigger towns.
Sicilians had time
This may just be about cities compared to a resort, but I found that the Sicilians had more time to indulge my bits and pieces of Italian, and for some reason I didn’t feel intimidated to try to communicate with them. I found them a warm and friendly people, who rigorously kept to siesta hours and seemed all the more relaxed for it. On the whole it was a very relaxing, chilled place to visit especially
when compared to the mainland.
The fish was world class
As an island, I guess you would expect nothing less, bit the quality of fish restaurants was amazing. From the small harbour-side stalls to fine dining, the fish was fresh and beautifully presented.
Fussy people (like me) are catered for
I’m lactose intolerant and prefer to eat gluten free when I can so I am always a bit wary when I’m travelling as to whether I am going to be able to find enough to suit. I needn’t have worried, many of the cafes and restaurants we visited offered soya milk and gluten free options.
What can I say about Sicilian wine? That it is worth a trip to Sicily for the wine alone? Even the vino della casa was always spot on. Nero d’Avola is the rich, juicy one that is perfect for Pizzas and meat based pastas, whilst the white Grillo makes an interesting and unique choice to have with fish. If you can make it, a wine tour is a must, and there are many all over the island.