Sicily

Before our first trip to Italy last year, a friend of a friend who’d done a study abroad in Italy suggested that if we had time, we should visit Sicily. We didn’t have time on that trip, but in the food markets in Florence we noticed that much the produce was from ‘Sicilia’.

So we went to Sicily on this trip, spending just four days in a place that deserves at least a week.  Sicily has so much on one island: ancient ruins, an active volcano, smaller islands, nature reserves, beaches, cities, salt flats, wineries and farms.

Given the brief time we had, we concentrated just on the Northwest coast: three nights in Palermo exploring the city’s many food markets, and getting lost amid the narrow streets, a day trip to calm, clean Trapani (but sadly not enough time to get to Erice), and a day in Cefalu to swim before we headed to Rome.

Flying into Palermo, it was immediately clear that we were somewhere very different. Sicilian hills were huge, steep and reddish -colored compared to the rolling green hills of Tuscany and Liguria. They rose up dramatically from the shoreline. (We tried but never got a very good picture of what it looked like. You can get a sense of it in this wikipedia photo.)

Palermo

Even after three nights in Palermo, I’m still not sure what to say about it. We had a great conversation with the two locals we were staying with and that’s something I didn’t get anywhere else on this trip, but I never really got a good sense of the city as a whole, perhaps because I was frequently lost in it’s a maze of narrow, windy, stone streets.

I had decent food, lots of seafood, but nothing that notable, aside from the gelato in brioche. (Mr. WholeHog, on the other hand, was adventurous enough to try a typical Palermo sandwich consisting of veal spleen and lung). The food markets, on the other hand, were the most striking part of my visit to Palermo and deserve a separate post.

Trapani

Coming from often crowded Palermo, Trapani seemed almost deserted. It was clean and quiet. There were many pedestrian only streets so I got a much needed break from the constant scooter traffic in Palermo.

trapani

We had a lovely lunch in Trapani at the generically-named Cantina Siciliana. It’s the kind of restaurant you hope to find when you travel: a small, family-run place with a deeply local menu and an extensive all-Sicilian wine list. We ate what we’d heard was the local specialty: fish with cous cous (they spell it cus cus) that’s been cooked in fish broth, along with some grilled vegetables, a crudo of local seafood, and a great Sicilian white wine (that I can’t remember the name of).

Cefalu

An hour away from Palermo by train is Cefalu, a touristy beach town. Maybe there’s more to Cefalu that we could have discovered if we were there longer than 24 hours, but aside from the chance to see another element of Sicily but I was indifferent about our stop in Cefalu.

P1000316

The beach was nice, but the water was nothing like the gorgeous water in Corniglia. The town was cute. Like the towns in the Cinque Terre, there are stone steps and tiny streets running throughout. It’s built right on the water and many restaurants offer seating out on the water on what are essentially little piers built over the rocky shore.

Our four days in Sicily didn’t bowl me over but we saw such a small corner of the island. Having spent time now on the Northwest coast of Sicily, I’d like to see the other coast — Siracusa and Noto, especially — and I’d like to go inland.  I’d make more of an effort to see the ruins next time, and I’d like to see more of the agriculture, maybe visiting wineries or olive oil producers.

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