I still can not believe how awesome this whole week on this island was for me. Where should I start?
I have been to Sicily by boat for a day in the cities of Palermo, Trapani, Syracuse, Catania and Messina. I thought that I saw everything on the largest Mediterranean island. But it was not like that, I was surprised which charming little villages with a lot of history still exist. But more about that later.
Sicily is also known as the treasury in the Mediterranean. I saw this great offer on the internet from Gruber Reisen, 1 week half board for € 990,00 in Fiesta Atheene Palace Hotel in Campofelice di Roccella. Appointment from 19th to 26th of May 2019 and departure from Graz. Since I’m from Klagenfurt, I found this connection just great. By the way, at Gruber Reisen. There are 4 trips every May, for this trip. May is well priced, and there are not that many tourists on the way, and you can catch the first rays of the Mediterranean climate. For brave people. you can already take a swim in the sea at 18-19 degrees water temperature.
Departure Graz at 08:00 am with a flying time of 1:45 hours, arriving shortly before 10:00 am. That’s what I call good travel planning! Since you have at least something from the rest of the arrival day! Announcement, approach to Palermo. I got a first glimpse from the plane to the mountains and the sea of Sicily. The weather was fantastic with a stiff pinch of north / east wind. The anticipation was great to see more of this Mediterranean island.
Upon arrival at Palermo airport, the transfer took just over an hour to the Hotel Fiesta Atheene Palace at Campofelice di Roccella. Temperatures around 20 degrees with sunshine and a strong wind with the smell of the salty sea. The hotel is on the north side of Sicily, which is also an advantage in very hot temperatures as you always have a pinch. In the middle of summer with the Scirocco wind from the Sahara there are temperatures above 40 degrees.
The hotel room was just what I wanted, with a balcony to the south and great views of the vegetation.
After a hearty breakfast I went on the first trip to Monreale and Palermo.
The visit to the Norman Palace with its Cappella Palatina (Palace Chapel) was ever very interesting. Attention! Security check as at the airport. Small queue with backpack control and x-ray! Interesting architectural style, Byzantine, Islamic and Romanesque. Not to forget that the Norman Palace has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015.
Cathedral Monreale is a landmark cathedral and UNESCO heritage since 2015. It was built by the Norman King William II of Sicily at the end of the 11th century (1172-1176).
Cloister Monreale, which is part of the cathedral, is simply impressive. It reminds me a little of the Alcázar of Seville. There is a blog about Seville where you can read all about my trip to Seville. Especially the courtyard is just great. The contrast of the colors is unique for photos.
A visit to the cathedral of Maria Santissima Assunta (Roman Catholic Church) of Palermo should definitely be planned. It is located near the Norman Palace, with the short walk through the park Villa Bonanno equipped with 700 palm trees. For Germany, the cathedral is of particular importance, as there are the tombs of the Hohenstaufen emperors Henry VI, Frederick II and Queen Constance of Sicily.
A visit to the market in Palermo with a typical Palermitan snack with wine was also on the agenda. Sicilian cuisine is one of the oldest and most varied regional cuisine in Italy. A typical starter or snack is Arancino, small stuffed rice balls, or Sfincione, a kind of pizza made from bread dough. Typical pasta dish from Palermo is Pasta con le sarde with sardines. Simply delicious!
Recommended are also culinary tours
Quattro Canti (four corners) is a framed place in the historical center of Palermo. It is located at the crossroads of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda and is one of the outstanding works of Baroque architecture in Palermo. The square is also called Teatro del Sole, because all day long, the sunlight falls on one of the corner facades. In the pedestals there are fountains whose fountains and statues symbolize the four seasons.
The opera house Teatro Massimo was the scene of the final scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather – Part III and the Teatro Politeama Garibaldi which houses the Galleria d’arte moderna.
After a busy day in Palermo and Monreale, it was good to sleep longer and enjoy the hotel and a walk on the beach. I decided to take a shuttle to Cefalu. This was recommended from some friends of mine. It is a coastal city in the north. It is known for its Norman cathedral with its imposing twin towers.
The 24-degree weather made it fun to walk around town looking at and enjoying the old houses with the backdrop of the Rocca di Cefalu a limestone cliff. Along the Piazza di Garibaldi there are numerous cafes where you can watch the quiet life of the Sicilians over an espresso.
The sight of the small fishing port on the beach is enchanting. The water was about 19 degrees, yet I saw one or the other swimming in the sea. I was able to soak up the beauty of the old city with the old buildings on the harbor wall.
Full day excursion to Etna and Taormina with a lunchtime snack with wine tasting on an estate at the foot of Mount Etna.
Mount Etna, with its 3323 meters, is the highest active volcano in Europe. 4 days after my departure from Sicily, the Etna (Southeast Crater) erupted on May 30, 2019 again. Based on the media reports, I still have the pictures in mind where I shot photos from the Southeast Crater. Simply exciting! You can see in the photos below what it looked like before the eruption. I think that the driveway up to the volcano is unique. It is like a lunar landscape, and some of the houses are still enclosed by the old lava. Even the vegetation is unique, yet it takes about 200 years after a volcanic eruption until something grows again.
Taormina is a hill town on the east coast of Sicily. The city is known for the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theater where performances are still held today. Not far from the theater are small coves with sandy beaches and steep cliffs as you can see from the photos.
My visit was late afternoon and you really need patience. Tourists, tourists and again tourists. If you have the chance to visit Taormina, do it early in the morning.
Excursion to the islands, Lipari and Vulcano. It took the ferry from Milazzo with a journey time of 1:30 hours first to the picturesque island of Lipari. The island belongs with its neighboring islands Stromboli, Salina, Vulcano, Panarea, Filicudi and Alicudi to the archipelago of the Aeolian or Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Recommended is the visit to the Castello di Lipari. The view down from the castle is so special.
Afterwards we went straight to the island of Vulcano, a boat ride of about 20 minutes. Upon arrival on Vulcano you immediately have the sharp smell of sulfur in your nose. Is a bit getting used to.
Please pack the bathing trunks and take off into the healing bath in the sulfuric mud. Then off to the seething sea to the natural hot springs. The mud bath in the sulfur pool should act like a makeover. The fact is, the skin becomes silky soft. But did not help with me. 🙂
From the west of Sicily along the coast to Monte Erice. The driveway to the mountain at 751 meters is not for people with vertigo. It was a kind of funny in my stomach. Only a few hundred people live there. Mainly people live there from tourism. The view of Trapani, the wide plain and the sea is just great.
Recommended are good shoes, the alleys are mainly paved with stones and are very slippery on the way down.
On Erice of course, a visit to the Pasticceria Maria Grammatico is not missing, because you have to definitely look. Unbeatable are the Genovesi, a specialty of Erice and an almond liqueur and an espresso.
It was a lazy day to relax, last time a walk along the beach and the hotel garden and pack the suitcase!
Conclusion of this trip to Sicily:
I recommend everyone to look at Sicily. I think May is especially good as it is not that hot. I was definitely surprised by the beauty of the largest island in the Mediterranean. As I live on the border with northern Italy and often travel there, there is a big difference between Sicily and the mainland of Italy. Not only the kitchen is different but also the locals. They are very friendly what you do not know from the northern Italians (there you are only a tourist and is exploited)!
Thanks to Gruber Reisen for this great and well-organized trip! Have fun for your next trip.
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Recommended excursions and tours in Sicily