Friday, June 19, 2009

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides Sicily

For the past two seasons here in Sicily, this book has been our main travel guide to the mysterious and often misunderstood island of Sicily. It has been a GREAT companion on our travels and I would highly recommend it to any one planning a trip to Sicily.

It breaks the island down into five regions, Northwestern Sicily (Trapani/Cefalu), Southwestern Sicily (Agrigento/Caltanissetta), Northeastern Sicily (Catania/Messina/Enna), Southern Sicliy (Syracuse/Ragusa) and, finally, Palermo. No one in Catania is happy that the city of Palermo got to be it's own region in this book!

One of the things I like about the DK book is that they quickly give you an overview of the main things to see in each region. I've decided to list them and make a comment if we have been there.

1. The Archaeological site of Selinunte: I got close but it was closed by the time Paul and I got there late one Sunday afternoon. Paul just climbed the cliffs to see it anyway.

2. The Egadi Islands: I went to the first island, Favignana, last year. It was beautiful but the water at this fine beach was swarming with billions of tiny medusas, i.e., jellyfish.

3. The hilltop town of Erice: Near Trapani it offered some stunning views.

4. Medieval Cefalú: One of our favorite spots in all of Sicily with an excellent beach, I just wish it were not a nearly two hour drive from Aci Castello.

1. Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina: Just wonderful. We went twice last year but a few of their more interesting pieces were closed for renovation.

2. Agrigento's Valle dei Templi: Fantastic ancient Greek temple ruins, visiting these made missing Selinunte not so painful.

3. Volcanic Pelagie Islands: Never made it to these.

1. Awesome Mt. Etna: It IS awesome, especially last year when the lava started flowing in May.

2. Taormina: Right up there with Cefalú for charm and only a half hour away. We DID visit here often!

3. The Aeolian Islands: Laurie and I spent a couple of days on Lipari and Vulcano. Loved them both and I wish we had gone there a few more times.

1. Baroque towns of Noto and Ragusa: We went there yesterday for the first time, both were very interesting.

2. Majolica tiles in Caltagirone: We made several trips here to make our wallets lighter and our luggage MUCH heavier. Great ceramics!

3. The Greek Theater in Syracusa: Huge and well worth a visit but I like Taormina's smaller one better.

1. Piazza della Vittoria area: The highlight here for me was Palermo's Cathedral and just the oasis feeling in an urban setting that the Piazza's park gives off.

2. Colorful Markets: The only one I visited a few times was the famous Mercato della Vuccira immortalized by Renato Guttuso's 195o's painting. I never got to Palermo's other market, the Mercato Ballaró. I think Catania's Fish and Downtown Markets are both far superior to the Mercato della Vuccira.

3. Monreale Cathedral: Simply the best one on the island, just stunning!

4. Cripta dei Cappuccini: Not for the faint of heart. Paul and I both enjoyed walking among the catacomgs festooned with hundreds (thousands?) of bodies, some mummified, others in the form of skeletons wearing their Sunday best from their previous lives, eerie but interesting!

Well, this concludes the DK book's list of the 17 highlights of your trip to Sicily. Like any such list, I agree with most, defer on some and thought I would probably add a few new things if I had to publish a "Top 17".

It is trite, I know, but my list would have to start with the people of Sicily. Don't get so wrapped up in siteseeing that you forget to meet the wonderful people of this fascinating island!

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