Sicily by train…
Why not tour Sicily and sample some succulent Arancini, Panelle or Sfincione?
Before we get in the nitty gritty, let me tell you Sicily is a mishmash of various architectural styles. Sicily holds a Greek legacy, dates back to Roman times, went through the Middle Ages and saw the emergence of Renaissance and Baroque. Located some miles off the Boot of Italy, it is well-known for the Etna which is not dormant at all!
Let’s begin our journey with Syracuse. Before jumping on the railway car, let’s visit Syracuse whose historic center is situated on the islet of Ortigia that 3 bridges connect to the city. You will stroll over the paved lanes and marvel at the townhouses which have their luster back. Then you will inevitably head to Apollo temple ruins and discover the Plaza del Duomo.
Among the monuments lining up the square the sprawling cathedral is the queen of attractions with its Greek columns. After dark the entire city is gripped with a fiesta atmosphere thus don’t hesitate to peek into a courtyard to discover some hidden gems. Just a stone throw from Syracuse, you will love the Neapolis archeological park. Although the Greek amphitheater contains over 15000 spectators, it was dug in the rock. In addition, you will step inside Denys’ Ear, an underground cave that inspired Caravaggio.
It is just a hop, skip and jump from Syracuse to Taormina, perched on a promontory. Even if you can’t help being impressed by the Corso Umberto that hosts nice boutiques, I was blown away by the Wunderbar. The institution at which I sipped a limoncello, overlooks the sea and is granted a jaw- dropping view. I also happened to witness a photo call on the esplanade and could admire a Sicilian bride in her wedding gown. It takes some effort to climb up the steps that lead to the top of the Greco-Roman amphitheater. Once there your effort will be paid off since you will enjoy a spectacular view on the sea. On your way back stop at the Giardini Gardens of Lady Trevelyan who pioneered wildlife conservation. You will admire bougainvillea, hibiscuses, Victorian follies or even a dolmen she had built in tribute to her deceased dogs!
Further North, you will stop at the Mount Etna. Either you hike to the crater which means you have to be well-equipped and wake up early. Or you take a cable car and hike the last trek. In all cases you must hire a guide or a volcanologist on spot. You must bear in mind that the highest volcano in Europe, which was formed by underwater eruptions, is still active. Whereas on the top of the volcano the soil is arid in summer and covered in snow in winter, the soil flanks are more fertile. That’s why you will run across citruses, vineyards or cypresses… It is arguably after dark that the show is most fascinating with blocks of rock being expelled by an incandescent lava. As a result, the sky above the crater is illuminated and just before every eruption you can hear the Earth rumbling!
To feel the pulse of Palermo, you’ll have to step inside some of its exuberant buildings. Off the beaten paths is the Malfitano Villa built in a neo-Renaissance style and that boasts elegant gardens. It housed the globetrotter and archeologist Joseph Whitaker and during the Belle Epoque it was the venue for lavish parties. You will bump into the ghosts of imperial dynasties and Richard Wagner came to the place on many occasions. Then take a guided tour at the Mirto Palace and you will be carried back to laid-back times. The palace-museum is a prime example of Sicilian aristocratic architecture between the 17th and 19th century with Murano chandeliers, Chinese lacquered panels, fine porcelain, an organ, prestigious grand pianos … If you are not in a mood for visiting the cathedral, head to the Ballaro Market and mingle with locals or go to the Mondello beach surrounded by Art Nouveau houses.
It is hard to imagine what the heaven would look like however when you see this paradisiacal orchard, you’d reckon you have found it. You won’t resist and purchase some melon, quince or grenade local jam. If you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, I suggest putting yourself in the shoes of a speleologist and exploring the caves. The archeological valley which comprises 12 temples is a UNESCO listed site. In your position, I would definitely head to the nearby beach Scala dei Turchi as to take in the landscaping. Some limestone cliffs, the sea as far as your eyes can see, I bet you will snap some fantastic shots here. Those who wish to escape the midday sun may go for a swim in the Big Blue at the foot of some vertiginous stairs!