Travel to Sicily – Episode 651

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Best Places to Visit in Sicily (Podcast)

Hear about travel to the Island of Sicily in Italy as the Amateur Traveler talks to Barbara Riedel from barbaralicious.com about the home of her mother’s family and the “home of her heart”.

Barbara says of Sicily, “It’s a very unique place. During the last 3,00 years Sicily has been a melting pot. People from everywhere around Europe and even Africa came there and tried to proclaim it theirs. So many many nationalities have been there and have left traces. It’s very different from mainland Italy and it’s also very different from the rest of the countries around Europe.”

Barbara who is a child of a German father and a Sicilian mother has been coming to this island for many years. She gives us a one week itinerary around the island starting in Palermo and hitting Mazara del Vallo, Agrigento, Syracuse, Catania, Mount Etna, Taormina and Cefalù before returning to Palermo.

In Palermo, Barbara starts us at the Palazzo dei Normanni or the Palace of the Normans which is part of a UNESCO site. The Normans first came to Sicily in 999 and over the course of more than a century conquered all of southern Italy. They eventually formed the Kingdom of Sicily and ruled southern Italy and Sicily until 1194. Barbara also recommends the beautiful Monreale Cathedral as well as the best place to get Pani câ meusa… a spleen meat sandwich. For a beach and a promenade by the sea she recommends a side trip to Mondello.

Mazara del Vallo is a beautiful village along the coast that Barbara fell in love with. It is only two hours by bus from Palermo.

The Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) in Agrigento has some of the best examples of Greek architecture including a temple that rivals the Parthenon in Athens for beauty. The Valley of the Temples is a UNESCO site. Sicily was once part of Magna Graecia (Greater Greece), a string of Greek trading cities in southern Italy that pre-date the rise of Rome.

Syracuse has a Greek Theatre which is also from the time of the Magna Graecia. The old town in Syracuse and the nearby Necropolis of Pantalica are a UNESCO listed site.

Catania sites at the base of Mount Etna (UNESCO) which is the most active volcano in Europe. You can ski Etna in the winter or ascend it by gondola to get magnificent views of Sicily.

Taormina also has a ancient theatre. It is a beautiful old hilltop town. Nearby you can find the Piazza Armerina (UNESCO) with some of the best examples of Roman mosaics.

Barbara’s last stop is Cefalù which is a beach vacation spot where she recommends you stop for a relaxing end of your trip. The cathedral is worth checking out. You can also hike the Rock of Cefalù.

Fall in love with Sicily by seeing it through Barbara’s eyes.

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Show Notes

barbaralicious.com
Sicily
Palermo
Palazzo dei Normanni
Kingdom of Sicily
Monreale Cathedral
Pani câ meusa
Pani Ca’ Meusa Porta Carbone
Mondello
Mazara del Vallo
Agrigento
Valle dei Templi
Syracuse, Sicily
Catania
Necropolis of Pantalica (UNESCO)
Mount Etna
Taormina
Cefalù
Piazza Armerina (UNESCO)
Palermo Guide for Digital Nomads

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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

One Response to “Travel to Sicily – Episode 651”

Kathy

Says:

Sicily is very high on my “should revisit” list, so I was particularly interested to hear this episode. However, there were several surprises, starting with the idea that you only need a week for Sicily. Even with Barbara’s rather abbreviated itinerary, that’s short. I’d recommend at least two weeks and preferably three. Then she really didn’t seem very enthusiastic about the cathedral in Monreale, which to my mind is one of the three absolute “musts” – the others being Agrigento and the Villa Casale.

There were several towns she left out, starting with Trapani and Erice, which are close to Palermo. Erice has stunning views, and while you could do it as a day trip from Trapani or Palermo, if you stay overnight you’ll miss the crowds. Then if you go to Siracusa, you absolutely need to stay in Ortigia, the old town on an island that is part of Siracusa and has a Duomo that incorporates columns from the original temple to Athena. I’m not a fan of baroque, but if you are there are three baroque towns in that area that you should also see. Even I went to one (Noto). If you are into volcanoes and want more than Etna you could stay on one of the Aeolian Islands and visit Stromboli.

I did the train trip down from Naples, and would not recommend doing it all the way from Rome. It was an old, slow train (took three hours to get to Siracusa after it reached the island) and the scenery on the mainland gets repetitive. Getting the train on and off the ferry took ages, too.

I was there in early May and would recommend going in spring when the wildflowers are out. No way would I go in the summer!
WRT food Sicily has the best cannoli. Pasta alla Norma and pasta con le sarde are local specialties, as is couscous.

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