Italy, oh Italy, my perfect place on Earth. Mi amore!
As you may or may not be able to tell already, I am obsessed with Italy. If I could, I’d stay in Italy for as long as possible, seeing all the beautiful places, learning the rhythmic language and eating all the incredibly delicious food. Based on what I know from various sources, including one actual Italian who left her country after college, I don’t think I’d like to live there permanently. But I definitely want to get the full experience and maybe one day I will stay there for the 6 months allowed under my US green card – maybe quite soon, thanks to an online business I’m about to start! I’ll let you know how that works out, too, by the way.
So far I was lucky enough to be able to visit Sicily and, unlike my previous brushes with Italy, I actually stayed there, as opposed to having a one-day sight-seeing trip around a city. Now, months and months later, I finally got to rounding up the millions of photos I took and writing about my actual experience. Below I am going to show you what I consider the absolute best of my Sicily. Enjoy!
I keep saying “my Sicily”, because I didn’t actually get to see the entire island – there simply wasn’t enough time. I stuck with the western part of it, which includes Palermo – the capital of the region.
I stayed in Terrasini, a small town near Palermo. Now, the hotel itself was designed as a “village” – you might be familiar with that – meaning it was a complex of multiple buildings. It meant that there was a lot of room for all sorts of greenery, and I am such a sucker for that! I’m an iron-clad big city girl, but being a nymph of the forest (Roman meaning of my name) and also a Virgo and an artistic soul in general, I love me some plantsies. I get overly excited over beautiful flowers or exotic plants.
And my biggest, uh, flower porn, were the abundant hibiscus flowers!
Like this entire tree of pale pink hibiscus! It seems to be growing so effortlessly. I want that in my garden. When I have one.
Also, there were tons of cacti growing everywhere. There were areas of the property, especially on the hill by the sea, where you could technically go exploring, because there seemed to be some old trodden paths there… but I guess you weren’t supposed to? Either way, the wild forest of barely anything but cacti effectively kept tourists away from venturing there and maybe that’s why management didn’t bother fixing the fence in that one spot. I mean, it kept everyone away… but not us! 😀 Just for the record – it wasn’t my idea. And all we got out of the whole adventure was an unimpressive prickly pear fruit and a very pesky thorn in my father’s finger, which I ended up having to extract and somehow lodging in my own finger…
The view from the balcony of our room was to kill for, especially in the evenings! Though the song of the cicadas hiding in that tree was deafening.
And since we’re speaking of views, here’s one from the terrace of the main building.
You could get a drink from the bar just behind the door, sit outside and enjoy the breeze and the blue, blue waters and the blue, blue sky… Which is exactly what I did on the last day of my stay!
My coffee was served in a fancy glass, but it wasn’t alcoholic or anything. It was something I’ve never even heard of before, I forgot the name of the drink, of course, but it was something like iced black coffee with sweetener and it was supposed to have a lot of that foam on top. Poor barista tried two times before she got it right… I probably wouldn’t have noticed because honestly, I had little idea what I was ordering!
And that’s just little ol’ me, sipping on this apparent masterpiece of a coffee, sitting very awkwardly as one of the fellow tourists offered to take a photo of me upon noticing my efforts to capture Instagram-worthy photos of my hand holding this magnificent drink.
I absolutely loved how even our hotel looked so… Sicilian! I’m rather used to hotels being quite uniform, modern-ish and standard-issue looking, but here – maybe exactly because it wasn’t one of the international hotel chains – I was getting the real deal. I especially loved this little building that I passed by every day on the way to the main building, where the restaurant was. Those cacti were captivating, too! I’ve never seen those to be so big and outgrown in real life before.
We visited a few smaller tourist spots around Terassini, and I’ll be damned if I remembered all their names… I am a bad, bad tourist! I loved the stories our guide was telling us (yes, it was that kind of trip) and my experience would be so incomplete without them. I am just really bad at dates, names, and numbers. Anyway, before you realize that means I’m bad at remembering anything – here’s some pictures of those smaller towns! They’re absolutely beautiful, they have that Sicilian vibe that makes them look so… baked, faded and ripe at the same time, and most of all – really dated. And that’s what nerds like me love the most. It’s but my humble opinion, but the good part of this post starts right now!
There’s some serious art to decorating the exteriors. Apparently there are contests held for the best and most original exteriors and I think the one with the chair won one time.
Capital of the region. A fantastic, old and slightly crumbling city with the best gelato in the world. Did you know that gelato originates from Sicily, specifically? But more on that later.
There were Italian flags hung between the major tourist walkway. I had no idea why, but I was captivated!
I was in love with the colors of some of the buildings, like this bold brick red. You see what I mean by crumbling, though?
I didn’t quite catch it in this photo – the cavalcade had to keep walking – but on that balcony on the top there’s a big handmade sign that says “CARPE DIEM”. It means “seize the day”, for those of you who slacked off in high school or college. Somehow I imagined the people who live in this apartment as the kind that smokes weed and participates in civil rights movement protests. Not sure how I came up with that.
Of course, there’s plenty impressive, historical architecture – important churches, theaters and whatnot. I won’t bore you with that, though. I’ll just show you this incredibly rich building right here and move on.
Italians can be extremely religious. I mean, duh, right? Anyone with even the faintest recollection of their history and geography classes can easily guess why.
There are tiny shrines like this here and there, either with Mary or Jesus, very often plastered to the building walls. This, for example, is Mary of the Air Conditioning.
Just kidding. But I found it funny how those two elements ended up being the main subjects in this photo, as if they were connected or something.
But the A/C unit here does bring up an interesting fact, namely that the people behind this wall are lucky. Despite temperatures comparable to, say, Texas, air conditioning isn’t as common as you’d expect.
So tiny yet so significant! It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited, and it has it all: beautiful architecture, the mountains and the sea.
It is pretty much made of tiny alleyways between buildings, so tight that two neighbors from opposite buildings could exchange Christmas gifts through the windows. Look at this one right here – is it just me or does it seem to be getting even narrower towards the end?!
I was absolutely fascinated with these tiny passages. I took way too many pictures of them.
These are motherfucking mountains, right behind that building! Isn’t that awesome?!
Sorry. Got too excited. It’s just that there are so many exciting things in this photo, all in one place: 1) old architecture, 2) a tight alley, 3) mountains.
That was the last one, I promise. They’re just so charming! You get it, right? I really hope you do now.
Now I’m going to show you a seemingly quite dull piece of architecture, here it comes:
And now I’m going to tell you what’s incredible about it: it’s almost a thousand years old. It was built in the 12th century and, miraculously, has survived until today! It’s not doing very well, but it’s still standing.
Being around things this old makes me feel so small, but at the same time also very connected to the humankind. This was erected by some king, who at the time maybe thought he was going to conquer everything and everybody, he was praised and revered… And now he’s gone, ordinary people don’t even know who he was, and the only thing remaining is this cathedral he ordered to build, the very same one whose cold bricks I am touching right now.
There was something very unnerving to me there, however. It was the fact that the locals rode their scooters straight into the middle of the crowd, with no regard for safety at all! And, best of all, they acted like they had the right of way! Well, even if somehow by the law they did, they shouldn’t just angrily ride forward, not looking whether people are getting out of the way or not.
And finally, the very famous beach in Cefalu. During the proper season and in proper weather, the blue umbrellas are open, drawing in many artists who sit on the pier and replicate this crazy picturesque view.
Look at me, touristing in style, for once in my life!
Every single sunset was magical. I don’t know what it was, but they were so much more beautiful than the cityscape ones I’m used to. The color palette was so much richer than just shades of orange. Unfortunately, my cameras could never capture that truthfully enough. You could see a little bit of that in the view from the window picture I showed earlier. And here’s a very pretty lens flare.
Then there was this beautiful light phenomenon one day. The sky was a little bit cloudy, but in the middle of the water, a beam of light tore through the clouds, making it look completely unreal.
This looks magical, and it looked even more surreal in real life (curse my DSLR-less life! I need one desperately). The primitive, superstitious part of me tried to look for an explanation by making up theories about angels, a sign from above, aliens landing, healing power… I wish I could have hopped on a speedboat and sailed all the way up there, to see what it’s like to be inside that magical circle of such intense light. It lasted for about half an hour.
And so, there it is – my mostly visual recollection of the awesome time I had in Sicily. For an artistic nerd like me, this southern Italian island was an absolute feast for my eyes. I definitely need to come back there and explore the eastern half, which will include climbing the volcano.
Good prices are another reason why I’m inclined to come back. Sicily is actually Italy’s poor South, so the prices are lower, the people are louder and harder to understand (sorry, hillbillies, you are), life is slower and the food is better. Well, maybe I shouldn’t make that claim about food, but most Italians, no matter where from, will agree on one thing: Sicily has the best gelato. Period.
Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll show you some of the most notable and most Sicilian food items I tasted.
Have you ever been to Sicily? If not, did I convince you to visit? Which photo was your favorite?