Few things to know before going to Sicily.
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Are you coming to Sicily for the fist time? Well let’s get you in the right mood. Regardless of where you come from you’ll soon find out that this island is different from anything else you’ve seen so far. Its charm comes from thousands of years of history, and from that sense of contrast deeply bounded to the Sicilian spirit.
Spending your holidays here you’ll have the chance to truly soak up this unique and authentic atmosphere, and we want to give you a few tips on how to do it.
Take it slow!
Time goes by slowly for Sicilians. You may not notice it in the crowded big cities, but you’ll surely get what I mean as you walk across one of the dozens of little towns on the coast. So don’t rush it, take your time. Have a nice breakfast. Have one of those heartbreaking cappuccinos they make around here, maybe next to a sweet cannolo or granita and then start your day. No pressure.
Eat ice cream in a brioscia.....so so so yummy!!
There’s a ton of stuff you can eat around here, literally. You probably won’t have the time (or the stomach) to try everything, but if you’re spending your summer holidays in Sicily you’ll find the time for this: eating a brioscia con gelato. Choose whatever flavour you like but try it.
Pig out on street food.
The island’s cuisine — which is distinctly different from mainland Italy’s — is, like Sicily, a unique mix of cultural influences. Choosing between eggplant pasta and fish couscous on the same menu, it’s clear that you’re at a crossroads of Europe and Africa. And some of the best food is also the cheapest. Sicily is renowned for its street food. Try an arancina (deep-fried saffron rice ball), panelle (chickpea fritters), sfincione (rustic Sicilian-style “pizza”), polpo bollito (a boiled mini-octopus), and — if you dare —pani ca’ meusa…the famed spleen sandwich.
There are a few highly expensive and classy restaurants around the island, that’s true, but if you’re looking for the most typical (and probably even the best) Sicilian food, that’s not where you want to go. Look for the old Trattorias, the ones with red-checkered tablecloths and rickety wooden tables: that’s where you’ll find the true taste of Sicilian cuisine.
Party with the Sicilians.
On this island of very tight-knit communities and fierce local pride, there’s always some big festival going on. Most towns celebrate their patron saint’s day by processing through the streets with an elaborate float (or several). Other celebrations fill a more specific niche. I happened to be in the town of Palermo during their biggest party of the year, Festino di Santa Rosalia. The feast of Santa Rosalia is probably a famous example of such traditions – in Palermo, it is called ‘u fistinu. It takes place in the most beautiful places of Palermo in mid-July.
This feast surprised even the great travelers who visited the city in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Santa Rosalia, particularly dear to the people of Palermo for her role in fighting the plague in 1624, is the absolute protagonist of this great event.
Watching the people in procession is definitely a unique experience on the night of July 14th: the procession starts at the Cathedral and reaches the Foro Italico through Cassaro; it follows a path full of references to pain that culminates in the joyful celebration of life, with a big show of fireworks. While I enjoy the serendipity of just stumbling onto Sicilian celebrations, it’s smart to do some Accept homework, find out what local festivities might be going on nearby, and make a point to drop by.
Accept Sicily on Sicily’s terms. Be friendly.
Sicily is an ideal “deep cut” for Italy connoisseurs who’ve already seen Venice, Florence, and Rome, and want to experience a facet of Italy that’s more intense and challenging. But first-timers might find it a bit wild: buzzing motor scooters, potholed infrastructure, arm-waving people, and, yes, more graffiti and roadside garbage than you’re probably used to seeing. Sicily feels more like Mexico than like Milan. But that’s what I like about it. It’s rustic, rugged, close to the ground, and off the radar of most mainstream tourists. It takes a few days to adjust to the island’s unique rhythms, but once you do, it’s easy to get swept away by Sicily. Best of all, in all of Europe, Sicilians are some of the most enjoyable people to simply interact with. Walk through a bustling street market, strike up some conversations, and let a vendor talk you into buying a three-foot-long zucchini you don’t really need. Sicilians are hearty fellows, they’ll welcome you with open arms if you show a friendly attitude. They’ll be more than happy to give you directions and tips, they can be quite fan and you’ll make friends easily here if you want to.