If you don’t know what you’re looking for in a holiday, you may want to visit Sicily and/or the The Aeolian Islands near Sicily: chances are you’ll find it and more. The largest amongst the Mediterranean islands, Sicily’s scenery, history, culture, cuisine, and glorious sunny weather have been attracting visitors from the world over for years. Add to that a bit of Hollywood glamour, with films such as Il Padrino not only shining the light on the machinations of the mafia but also on the beauty of the island, and the recipe for an exciting, stimulating, relaxing and memorable visit is complete.
With Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Germanic, Arab and Norman conquerors all settling and shaping Sicily’s culture to varying degrees, archaeological sites abound on the island. One of the most famous attractions and examples of Greek architecture, and one Sicily’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites, is the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento. Other stunning remains of such diverse epochs include the Greek-Roman Theatre in Taormina, the walled palace Al-Kasr in the centre of Palermo, the Baroque Cathedral of San Giorgio in Modica, or indeed the architecturally multi-layered Palermo Cathedral, reflecting the different historical periods of its additions. Villa Romana del Casale, also a UNESCO site near the town of Piazza Armerina, offers visitor the chance to admire the greatest collection of Roman mosaics in the world. Sicily is also a heaven for Baroque aficionados, and the Sicilian towns of Noto, Caltagirone, Catania, Ragusa, Modica, Scicli and Acireale offer some Baroque architectural gems.
Should you get a little tired of brick and mortar (or rather columns, architrave, pediments, wrought iron balustrades, grotesque masques and intricate belfrys…), Sicily’s 1500 km of coastline and numerous beaches and bays, are a favourite destination for sea-loving travellers and sailor men.
Boat rentals are easy and sailing Sicily and exploring the numerous islands near Sicily could just as easily be all you want to do during your vacation. Its volcanic Aeolian Islands, including Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filucudi, Alicudi and Panarea are one of the most visited destinations in Sicily and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whether it is snorkelling in the crystalline blue waters of Panarea, or witnessing a Strombolian eruption that tickles your fancy, a holiday exploring the Aeolian Islands is sure to give you plenty of happy memories, and is indeed one of the best Mediterranean cruise vacation.
Amongst the Mediterranean islands Sicily has certainly one of the strongest culinary tradition. This has not just the very diverse populations and cultures that settled there to thank for, but also an extremely friendly climate for many tasty crops, such as tomatoes, aubergines, olives, artichokes, beans, citrus fruits, apricots, and of course grapes. Aubergines are indeed a staple of many Sicilian recipes.
A traditional snack are Arancini, breadcrumbs-coated stuffed rice balls, filled with meat and/or tomato sauce, mozzarella, peas – the origins of which is said to go back to 10th century Sicily under Arab rule.
Another is Caponata, a starter made of cooked vegetables, fried aubergines, celery and capers in a sweet and sour sauce. Or Pasta alla Norma, a simple yet tasty pasta dish made with tomatoes, fried aubergines, grated ricotta cheese and fresh basil, and supposed to have been named in honour of the Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma.
However, for its desserts alone it is sweet teeth the world over that should descend upon Sicily!
Cannoli Siciliani, made of fried pastry filled with ricotta cheese, candy fruit, nuts. Granita, not an ice cream and not a sorbet, Granita is very much in a league of its own: made with ice crushed to varying consistencies and texture, depending on where in Sicily it is made, and flavoured with traditional ingredients such as lemon juice, oranges, almonds, coffee, it is served with or without a dollop of freshly whipped cream. A traditional breakfast indeed is Granita al Caffe with cream and brioche bun.
Wine and cheese are also very much part of the Sicilian taste palette. On the cheese front, Ragusano, is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese similar to the more familiar Provolone, while Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk, with or without additional ingredients such as chillies, nuts, rucola.
As for wines, the most famous is of course Marsala, a sweet fortified wine of which there are many varieties as there are producers. Not be confused with Zibibbo, which is also a sweet wine but generally lower in alcohol content. Other well-known wines include Moscato, Malvasia and Nero D’Avola, a relatively unique type of which is produced in the town of Noto.
With its history and wide cultural influences, its architecture and abundant culinary traditions, and with much scenery, sun and sea, Sicily is an ideal exploring destination whether on land or at sea. The numerous boat rentals available on the island also mean that Intersailclub is able to offer a very good selection of boats for all to choose from.
So go on, dip your feet into it all, and treat yourselves to the best Mediterranean cruise vacation with Intersailclub.