Category Archives: travel

Summer in Sicily – day 5-6

So far I was truly enjoying my visit to Sicily, I tried to carve as many picturesque views in my head as possible, so that I remember them for long. What I didn’t know is that more amazing places are still waiting for us. I think fifth day of the trip was my favorite one of them all, especially its last stop.

Day 5 – Our Friday trip began with our bus heading towards Trapani, which is a home town of Cantine Pellegrino. We had the opportunity to visit the cellars of this wine maker that is in operation since 1880.  We learned a bit about Pellegrino family history (the business is still in family hands), about different grape types they use in production. Afterwards we entered long, warm & humid corridors filled with gigantic wooden barrels. The entire place was filled with the fine smell of oak combined with dry facets of wine and tannins. Plus a bit of stench coming from humid stone walls.

Pellegrino is mostly famous thanks to their production of Marsala – they are the only ones who produce this white wine strengthened with a bit of brandy. Even though it was still way before noon we were all invited to do some wine-tasting. We could try 3 different kinds of wine but since I’m not a person who likes wine I couldn’t really tell anything more about them. I only knew which one I liked the most. Also in Trapani but a little bit farther away we made a quick stop to see the salin (saline? salina?) Those are shallow water tanks located just by the sea coast. They’ve been used for centuries as a source of natural salt. Salty water from the sea evaporates over time until the concentration of salt is so high that it begins to crystallize. In early September when we came it was salt harvest time. Heaps of salt were everywhere and they looked like snow or shaved ice. Old windmills by the coast made this area very picturesque. Salins are also popular among exotic birds.

From there we headed deeper into the land and the bus soon started to climp up the hill on this rather narrow, winding road. Soon enough we all noticed the most picturesque view ever. Combination of nearby trees with a view over the cities behind it and with a coast ever father away made it a truly memorable view. On top of the hill we arrived to Erice, a medieval triangle-shaped town. There a Polish tourguide who lived in this area for over 30 years joined us. He talked with so much passion and in such an interesting way that it was a pleasure to listen. Once sightseeing was over we could participate in traditional Sicilian dinner, which consisted of caponata (a starter made with stewed vegetables, mostly aubergine), pasta alla norma (pasta with tomato sauce & aubergine) cooked & stuffed octopus tentacle or lamb chop as a main course and finished with a selection of sweet almond and pistachio cookies. Yum. It was a wonderful day.

Day 6 – This was the last day of our Sicilian trip and it couldn’t have been anything else than Palermo, a capital city of this island. But before that we went to Monreale to see the duomo, a cathedral. 102 meters long, 40 meters wide and 32 meters tall it combines various architectonic styles such as norman, arabic and byzantine. This cathedral has an impressive interior created with a lot of real gold elements, however Jesus Christ portrait above the main altar attracts most of attention. It’s a matter of perspective but we were told that just his nose is 1 meter tall!

Then we jumped over to Palermo. To get to the historical part of the city we passed through the old Roman walls and one of the gates leading to the city. As we were walking towards the city cathedral we heard some bits of Palermo history and how it relates to Sicilian mafia. Duomo di Palermo is another monumental building adorned with a lot of arabic decorative details such as arabesque. Interior was beautiful too. Then walking along Via Vittorio Emanuele we reached Quattro Canti, which is a crossroad with Via Maqueda. These are the two main streets of Palermo and where they intersect 4 buildings on each corner have their facades decorated with stone monuments of people, with fountains and flags. Just behind the corner you find Fontana Pretoria, also known as Fontana della Vergogna (Fountain of Shame) titled like that because of the daring care to physiognomical details of the figures. In this place our guided tour ended and we had time for ourselves.

Walking along Via Maqueda we grabbed some local street food to fill our stomachs that by that time were demanding some attention. We also had a coffee and aperol next to Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, with a view at Teatro Massimo. This free time passed really quickly and it was already the time to say goodbye to Palermo and to Sicily in general. We had a long way to go as for the last night we were returning to the first hotel where we stayed – to get from Palermo to Nicolosi it took us few hours to get there. Due to early flight back to Poznań on Sunday we had to be ready to go to the airport at 4 AM. Not the perfect time for a wake-up call but the moment we were taking a ferry from Sicily to continental Italy the sun was about to rise & we had a wonderful view to bid us farewell.

I said goodbye to Sicily. Once I came back home on Sunday afternoon I had 3 days to laze away before I was going to Florence for Pitti Fragranze. But that story has to wait until the next post.

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Summer in Sicily – day 3-4

First two days spent in Sicily were pretty exciting & I was looking forward to more.

Day 3 – Lazy Tuesday spent on Lipari Islands (also known as Eoles) we again had more busy day in our agenda. In the morning we drove to Katania – capital city of the region. Our hotel was in that very part of Sicily so it wasn’t a long travel. We visited a city cathedral and for our free time we were encouraged to go & see Castello Ursino. There’s an interesting history behind it – when Etna erupted and when lava entered the city, people of Katania started praying to the holy patron of the city so that their town is spared. Lava stopped just few meters from the walls of Castello Ursino. We found this castle but there was no time to go inside and visit the museum.

Afterwards the group was taken to Syracuse, a visit was split in two parts. First we visited archeological site with the main attraction being an archeological amphitheatre. It was quite a monumental one with great sights all around. Not to mention that even nowadays it serves its purpose as classic greek dramas are still played here. A little bit further from the amphitheatre there was a grotto known as ‘ear of Dionysius’ – it had great acoustics and apparently was used by rulers in ancient times to eavesdrop what slaves are talking about. Many were executed because of that.

Then we went to Ortigia, a little island on which the historical centre of Syracuse is located. Here we visited another beautiful church and learned about a spring of sweet water that appeared just a couple of metres away from the sea coast, which is pretty fascinating. During free time we just walked around (and found another castle!) or sat down for a coffee & snack. Last but not least we landed in Noto, a little but utterly beautiful town. It’s famous mostly because it’s full of churches – basically one neighbors with another. And all of the city historical architecture is based on some sort of a sand stone that gives all the buildings a specific yellow-orange color.

Day 4 – That day brough quite a change for our touristic groups as we were moving from Eastern part of Sicily to its Western coast which also meant moving to a different hotel. So after returning from Syracuse we all had to pack as the next morning we were checking-out of our rooms. On the way to a new sleeping place we made a couple of stops for sightseeing. First on our Thursday agenda was impressive right off the bat. Few kms outside of Piazza Armerina town we visited Villa Romana del Casale. It was constructed in first quarter of the 4th century. What is so special about it is that it’s a house of the biggest and most varied collection of mosaics in the world. It takes 2-3 hours to walk around the villa (partly original, partly reconstructed) and see those beautiful mosaics. Most famed one is a ‘bikini’ mosaic showing women playing sports in skimpy sports clothes.

Afterwards we travelled to Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) which is another archeological site we visited & is located in Agrigento. It’s a complex of 7 temples built in 5th century BC, all dedicated to ancient Greek gods such as Concordia, Juno, Heracles, Vulcan. They are preserved in better and worse conditions but it quite a few cases they actually look like buildings, with columns and so. Temples are placed on top of the hill with little greenery to provide shade. So on that day it was actually quite useful to have an umbrella with me and to protect own head from the scorching heat. That was the only moment during my stay when umbrella came in handy.

Since we still had a long distance to go to reach our final destination of the day, Agrigento with its ancient temples was the last place scheduled for visiting. We spent few more hours in the bus until we finally reached the hotel. This time it was close to the sea so we had the opportunity to go to the beach and swim in the afternoon, before dinner time.

The adventure in Sicily was progressing and we were inevitably getting closer to its end, but there were 2 days still. I’ll tell you about those soon.

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