Monday, 15 April 2013

travel inspiration: sicily

To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

If Goethe was right then I'm one of those who have been to Italy without having seen it at all.

I vividly remember walking the streets of Florence and Rome, discovering the canals of Venice on a gondola, enjoying dinner somewhere in the Tuscan countryside, soaking up the sun on beaches by the Adriatic Sea, visiting San Marino (technically not Italy, but an independent state), taking a ferry from Genoa to Sardinia to discover the island (in a recent post I said I had never been further south than Rome but by that I was referring to the mainland). And these are just part of my memories.

That said I'm afraid I cannot quite agree with Goethe, at least not today. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt. If I find myself in Sicily one day, which I hope I do, and discover that 'clue to everything' I will know that he was right.

It was never my plan to post images from Sicily today or, when I think of it, ever. Before leaving the house this morning I was about to post that bottom photo (which happens to be taken in Sicily) with other pink/peach coloured images when all I could think about were peaches, big juicy Italian peaches, the best I have ever tasted in my life. Then I saw the Italian map spread out on my table (see yesterday's post) and I was reminded of Goethe's words. That was it. I abandoned my plans, left the house and decided to keep my mind open to Sicily today, and hoped that I would find some nice travel photos when I got back home.

Enter photographer Giuseppe M. Galasso, the owner of the first seven images in this post. To my delight I found his old profile on TrekEarth. (If you are interested in travel photography then check this guy out; he has been almost everywhere, even in Iceland.)

All day long my mind was drifting off to Sicily and I was thinking about what I know about the island. I knew that Palermo is the capital and as I have a friend from Messina, I'm familiar with that city, a seaport that used to be a major commercial port in the past. I knew that it had a few UNESCO World Heritage sites, and as someone brought up in a country with volcanic activity, I hadn't forgotten Mount Etna.

When thinking of Sicily the word fusion comes to mind. I think of rich Mediterranean culture blended with Greek temples, Norman churches, Byzantine mosaics and baroque architecture. As I food lover, I'm aware of its culinary culture.

When I was younger the ideas of Sicily I had in my mind were probably connected with what I had seen when watching The Godfather trilogy by Coppola. That and Dolce & Gabbana. I'm afraid 'the Corleone family' image is still alive and kicking in the minds of many. I think Dolce & Gabbana have changed some people's ideas about Sicily and maybe we can thank those two for putting it back on the map. Not that I think it ever fell off the map completely.

I mentioned the UNESCO World Heritage sites earlier and Sicily has five of them. One on my list of places I would like to see is the Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina, in the province of Enna. This is the brief description of the place on the UNESCO website:

Roman exploitation of the countryside is symbolized by the Villa Romana del Casale ... the centre of the large estate upon which the rural economy of the Western Empire was based. The villa is one of the most luxurious of its kind. It is especially noteworthy for the richness and quality of the mosaics which decorate almost every room; they are the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the Roman world.

There are a few photos on their website too that show the ancient mosaics.

In the province of Trapani, in the south-west part of the island, is the Greek archaeological site of Selinunte. In the photo below, from an article in the August 1995 issue of National Geographic, you see the stately ruins of the Greek Temple of Hera.

If you are interested in knowing more about Sicily there are of course guidebooks and many websites that will give you all the information you need. Today I came across a book by Mary Taylor Simeti called On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal and added it to my Amazon picks. She moved to Sicily back in 1962 and knows the heartbeat of the island.

If you care more for novels then maybe you should get a copy of The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. And if you care for Goethe you can, of course, read his Italian Journey, 1786-1788 (translated by W.H. Auden).

photo credit:
1-7: Giuseppe M. Galasso (1: San Giorgio cathedral, Modica, 2: Cefalu, 3: Modica, 4: windmill on the west coast, 5: Avola cathedral, 6: Palermo, 7: Palermo) / 8: Victoria Yarlikova (Messina) / 9: William Albert Allard for National Geographic (Greek Temple of Hera, Selinunte) / 10: Vita Nostra on Etsy


  1. Looks just fantastic, so much soul! Hope I´ll get to see it in real life one day. :-)

  2. What a beautiful and dreamy post. I've been to Italy quite a few times but never to Sicily. Yet. But it is on my wish list. I want to see Palermo, the Etna, Catania, taste Sicilian delicacies, sunbathe on the island's beaches…thanks for the Monday inspiration, Lisa!

  3. wow, these photos are stunning. all of them. apparently, I haven't been to Italy either. I almost went many years ago, but it somehow didn't work out. what a shame. it really looks lovely.

    do you know the Montalbano mysteries by Andrea Camilleri? they all take place in Sicily and are well worth reading.

    thanks for this beautiful post :)

  4. Thanks for transporting me back there with the absolutely gorgeous images!... I adore the Greek temple in the second last pic. I love to see the remains of previous civilisations existing in a modern day world.. Beautiful - when can I go ? :)

  5. So Beautiful Pics!!!! I love this so much!!!

  6. Thank you for taking me away back in time, Lisa. I love everything I've seen of Italy, but haven't made it to Sicily so far. I'll make sure to remember not to call the locals Italians, but Sicilians, otherwise they would be offended. I did this once and the look I got wasn't too nice. :)

  7. Reading your post has brought back such wonderful memories for me...I ADORE husband and I were in Sicily a few years ago I can't wait to return....this summer Positano ;-)
    Thank you Lisa I can smell the air ;-)

    1. So you have found the clue to everything ;-)
      Positano sounds wonderful. Ischia is on my list, which isn't far away.

  8. Hi everyone,

    I'm from Naples and I have been in Sicily a couple of times. I love it as you do. Last September I was in Catania and I had a great time. Here you can have a look at some of the pictures I took at the market:
    If you go there do not forget to try some granita. :)

    For those of you who are going to Ischia I recommend to visit two thermal gardens: Poseidon and Negombo. My favourite one is Poseidon because it lies on a hillside under the shade of the pine trees surrounded by hundreds of bushes of colourful flowers.
    I'm sure you know about La Mortella. It really is a dreamy garden.
    The local speciality is rabbit. I know that it isn't everyone's first choice, but in my opinion it is really good. If you are interested I can recommend a good restaurant.

    Regarding Positano, it is beautiful. The entire Amalfi Coast is. If you have enough time visit Amalfi and Ravello. When I am in Amalfi I love sitting at the Caffetteria Andrea Pansa next to the Duomo to have tea and (you can't miss this sweet) a delizia al limone.
    In case you need any other information I am happy to help. You can reach me through my blog:



    1. thanks Valerio for your comment and links

    2. P.S. Thank you. I love your blog.


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