There are so many amazing things to see and do on the wonderful island of Sicily that we could easily go on and on, but we decided to hand pick the very best. So here we happily present five, one for each finger, of our favorites.
This ancient town has been a strategically important city for more than a few handfuls of centuries due to its position high on a hill, and the nearly impenetrable Saracen Castle that guards it from above. First as a citadel for the Sicels, who gave Sicily its name, then later the Greeks followed by the Romans.
Any visit to Taormina, which is considered by The Nomadvisor to be one of the best places to stay in Sicily, must include a stop at the Ancient Greek Theatre. Thought to have been originally constructed around 300 BC as a classical Grecian amphitheater, the Romans rebuilt it several centuries later after they took control of the island.
Most of what remains today is the brickwork from that reconstruction, but we also saw evidence of some marble columns left over from the original Greek architecture.
But we have to hand it to whoever built it, they did it right because it is still in use today for plays and concerts.
Another don’t miss spot in Taormina is the Piazza del Duomo. The square is in front of the cathedral and centered around an ornate fountain from 1635. But more important to us was that this is the ultimate location for stunning views of Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and the highest in Europe.
This was once one of the Mediterranean’s most powerful cities and much of the fortifications are still visible along the coastline. As with all of Sicily, the history is an intriguing mixture of Greek and Roman with some Middle Eastern and modern Italian thrown in.
With that in mind, we took a look at another amphitheater, known simply as the Greek Theater. It predates the Romans by some five hundred years and is one of the largest ever made by the ancient Greeks.
Near the theater is an ancient quarry known as the Latomia del Paradiso. Here caves were cut into the rock walls as stone was removed for construction projects and often theseexcavations were used as prisons.
The most famous of these is known as the Ear of Dionysius.
The name could come from the shape of the cave but, after hearing the acoustics from the inside, we concluded that it must have more to do with the amazing sound qualities within the cave.
3. Ragusa Ilba at Night
The city was devastated by an earthquake in 1693, which means that almost everything has been built after that. Yet this is still one of the most captivating towns we have ever walked through. No doubt the fact that we entered just as darkness was falling and one by one the buildings lit up against night sky had something to do with that feeling.
Especially exquisite was the sight of the radiant blue dome atop the Duomo di San Giorgio dominating the town from above. It was well worth simply taking a seat to enjoy the view and a glass of wine for a while.
The city is truly ancient, going back over three thousand years. While it was also stuck by the earthquake, it was not completely destroyed and the blend of old and new has earned the city the honor of being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The buildings packed in on the hillside made for an amazing sight, but without a doubt our favorite thing about Modica, was a tour of Sicily’s oldest chocolate maker, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto.
The family has been processing cocoa beans for six generations, since 1880. But their secrets go back even farther, as they use the methods of the Aztecs brought to Sicily via Spain in the 16th century.
Luckily we sampled the finished product before entering the kitchen; otherwise it might have been impossible to keep our hands out of the cookie jar so to speak.
While Sicily is certainly a part of Italy, it also retains many unique qualities, especially in its cuisine. One obvious aspect is that since it is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, seafood is front and center.
Of course there is pasta, in too many forms to count, and incredible breads, along with almost every vegetable under the sun.
All of these and more will appear on The Sicilian Plate. Most every restaurant has their own version featuring local fish, salamis, cheeses, peppers, and various veggies, but no two were ever the same. Every plate yielded a delicious surprise.
One last bit of advice. Olives are particularly prominent, they grow almost everywhere and are a part of almost every meal. However, we learned a very valuable lesson, never, ever eat an olive right off the tree. The bitter taste might just take a few days to get off of the tip of your tongue.
Now that is some hand-y advice.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com