A slice of Sicily
Monday 18 July 2016
Our summer visit to family in Sicily, which was baking under the intense summer sun. We spent time visiting family and friends, mixed with swimming, walking, culture and good food. Sicily is a special place which we are slowly exploring. It's bigger than many people realise and of course we'll never see it all, but here's a slice of Sicily - a mixture of well known tourist attractions and places a little off the beaten track.
Caltagirone is a city famous for its ceramics, which decorate the old town and fill its many shops. It's near our family so makes a perfect spot for a passeggiata, a little stroll in the evening as the air begins to cool. Then the next morning we visited the market for some forgotten essentials and tasty food. I always love to visit a proper market. It's a great way to get a real flavour of a place.
As it's very hot (about 35C), we wait until the evening to venture to the nearby town of Piazza Armerina, most famous for the Roman mosaics nearby. The old town is quiet at this time and we head down the hill and find that much more lively with locals.
In the heat, the sea is very tempting - the gently sloping sandy beach at Scoglitti is lovely and not too far to travel. Later we head inland to Comiso to meet more family. It's not on the usual tourist trail, eclipsed by other nearby baroque towns, but the centre is pretty nonetheless.
We head off for a little trip to the north west of Sicily, staying in campsites (El-Bahira , then Camping Baia di Guidaloca) near the sea for a few nights. One evening we meet some friends on the high hilltop town of Erice. The maze of tiny streets is still pretty busy with tourists as night falls and we enjoy exploring to find somewhere to eat - there are plenty of choices. Sitting outside is a must for us and we enjoy a tasty meal.
Zingaro Nature Reserve and nearby
We revisited the beautiful Zingaro nature reserve, in the north-west of Sicily. On our previous visit, recent fires meant most of the reserve was shut and so we couldn't explore the higher paths in the hills. On our first visit this time, parking at the north entrance, it was the tremendous heat that stopped us walking in the hills. Instead we spent the day swimming in gorgeous sea, mainly at Cala Berretta about halfway between the two park entrances. When we visited again a couple of days later, the weather was thankfully rather cooler. This time, after a quick stop in the town of Castellammare del Golfo, we parked at the south entrance. We walked along the "sentiero delle orchidee", which has great views over the sea, but no orchids this late in the year. So between the two visits this time we managed to walk the entire coastline. From the map we were given on entry, there's still plenty more to explore in the hills - I think it would be well worth coming back in the springtime.
Sicily has several famous Greek temples and theatres, some of which we've visited on other trips. The was our first time at Segesta and it was definitely worth the trip. The temple is nearly intact and only a short walk from the car park. But it was the theatre and the fantastic backdrop of the surrounding countryside that we most enjoyed. We walked up to the theatre, rather than take the bus as most people were doing. There are some interesting ruins to see on the way, but best of all are the views of the temple that can be slowly enjoyed on foot.
Bagheria isn't one of Sicily's main tourist destinations, although it is the location of the film Baarìa, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. It made a perfect stop on the way back to the family and gave a different taste of Sicily.
I hadn't seen Etna that much this trip, so it was good to enjoy a final gelato looking out over to the volcano. Unusually, my flight home took me over central Sicily, so I got great views of Zingaro and the beautiful sea I'd been swimming in a few days before. (Normally the planes for the UK take off out to sea, then turn left up the coast towards Messina. In that case, those on the left of the plane get great views of Etna and later down to Taormina, where the plane often heads inland.)
I'd love to hear what you think...
email your comments