Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

Sicily - m.k. photo

“If someone asked me what it was I loved about Sicily, I’d say the perfect coffees, seafood spaghetti, thin-crust pizza, arancini, tiramisu, local wine, the summit of Mount Etna rising above the buildings, the warm sea breezes, the stubbly, barren landscape created by old lava flows, hiking through the snow at 2000m, collecting lava rocks, laughing at the crazy driving (and realizing why there’s a mechanic’s shop on every corner), walking through the colorful streets of Taormina (and thanking the lucky stars you’re there in January when it isn’t blisteringly hot) the typical Italian hairpin bends, the Italian language, the Italian pronunciation of English, the orange trees, the palm trees, the exotic fruit, the friendly people, and the Bialetti shop.” (2017)

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“In Sicily, the southeast wind, the Sirocco from the Sahara, blows in mercilessly in July and August. In August, it is not recommended to visit Sicily, or really anywhere in Italy. August is ferragosto, the sacred general freedom of the Italians. Italians, regardless of age, flood the coast. They have no intention of vacationing outside of Italy. Sicily is a subjugated place at this time. Mass misery on the beaches. In addition, everything is much more expensive in August, including hotels and services. In Taormina in August, you will have to pay 50 euros (!) a day for two sunbeds and one parasol. It's better to visit in September and October. "


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Sicily (east coast)

Likes:

-Taormina's old town with its characteristic Mediterranean, charming, zigzagging, Italian streets with small restaurants, boutiques, fights of steps, orange trees, and flowering plants popping up everywhere
-in Taormina, an indescribably beautiful view of the Greek theater, with Mount Etna and the coast in the background
-the town of Castelmola and the hiking trail of steps leading up to it
-the old town of Syracuse on the island of Ortigia, the hustle and bustle of the local market - right next to the fish market there is a small street food buffet, Caseificio Borderi, where phenomenal (!!!) sandwiches are made from the finest local ingredients – always be prepared for a minimum one-hour wait in line, but every minute is worth the wait (for the sake of illustration: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zswRwwB3iyk)
-the island of Isola Bella, which you can walk to at low tide on a small tongue of sand. The island is a nature reserve, so only a small part can be explored (for a €4 entrance fee), fortunately, the “host” of the island was right there and was persuaded to personally guide it around and show the hidden treasures where tourists are not allowed in.
-on the long beach of Giardini Naxos you will find alternating soft, golden sandy beaches and areas with pebbles, so everyone can find the type of beach that suits them
- as in most places in Italy, even if you don't speak Italian (just like Italians often can’t speak English), thanks to the open, relaxed locals, you can easily make yourself understood, and the locals are very helpful. The Sicilians, anyhow, are very friendly – in the smaller settlements, they consider you an acquaintance after their first meeting with you and greet you if you run into them again in a shop, on the street, in the café, etc.
-Italian food, coffee, delicious ingredients, and juicy fruit - one of the signature ingredients of Sicilian cuisine is eggplant, which is used in a lot of local dishes
-on Sicily's east coast, all cities and attractions can be explored without a rental car, using Interbus and hop-on-hop-off services (the former costs around € 1-3, and you can get a one-day ticket on the latter for €10, while a long-distance journey, such as the direct bus between Syracuse and Taormina, cost €17)
-the driving style of the locals - they are simply amazing, they can maneuver on narrow roads and hairpin bends, use the horn as a kind of signal (watch out, I'm coming!) and they are especially attentive to pedestrians – as soon as we step off the sidewalk, they stop immediately
-the presence of Mount Etna, the most active and largest volcano in Europe - it's an incredible experience to watch the smoky crater of the volcano from the beach - sometimes you can even hear the sound of smaller eruptions – not the kind of experience you have every day!

Dislikes:

-when you’re trying to relax on the beach, you keep getting hassled every few minutes by vendors – because of them, it’s not worth bringing valuables to the beach
-in the summer, sometimes in the scorching heat it can be a bit uncomfortable to explore the cities (it was no accident that the afternoon siesta was invented), so always bring sunscreen and water with you
-Beaches are very crowded during the summer season, but you can also find less frequented beaches
- most of the local restaurants and shops close for siesta time, which is from between about 1 pm and 4 pm – tough luck for anyone who gets hungry during this time
-there are just too many sights for a single week – the time we spent here went by very quickly – we’ll definitely have to come back!

(Gabrielle, 2018)


 

Practicals

Transport

“The best synonym for Sicilian transport is chaos! You can get by with caution and good luck, of course, but it’s better to be aware of a few things before getting into it. I imagine the points below are more or less how Sicilians think:

• Care for those already on the roundabout: ‘I’m just going to go. I’m going in, whether someone’s coming or not – after all, I’ve got places to be…’
• Priority sign: ‘What's that???’
• Stop sign: ‘Yeah, cute red thing. Looks good by the side of the road. Adds ambiance.’
• Likewise, for Sicilians, it seems to bring some sort of chi, or internal balance, if they can occupy at least two lanes when driving, whether it’s the fast lane and slow lane on a motorway or the slow lane and the slipway.
• Bikers: zigzag back and forth. Unpredictably.
Positive: the car horn is used as a mood element, for conversation – but not like at home where it means ‘F... your mother, I will eradicate your family if you try to squeeze in ahead of me at the next red’ type of way
Tip: if you want to get from A to B on time, use ONLY a highway because the main roads are winding and clogged. The highways, on the other hand, are of good quality and not all sections have tolls!
Bus: There are very good bus services in Taormina and around Sicily, both to and from Catania Airport.
The exact departure time of local buses is generally 10-15 or even 20 minutes late, but this is not true of air travel! It is interesting that while a trip from Hotel Corallo to Taormina costs €1.70, the ticket to the airport costs €7, and that’s with discounts. People with weaker nerves should prepare in advance, as the local bus will get up and down to Taormina along a serpentine road from the shore with a lot of hairpin bends. Here, drivers bring their vehicles down to pick us up in a hair-raising but apparently safe manner, all the while cheerfully talking with whoever is in the car (and often looking back at them.)” (N. K. 2017)

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“Driving is a nightmare in Sicily, especially in the big cities. Lane markings are never obeyed, not even by chance, and you find yourself doing 70 in a 50km/h zone, cars will still hurtle past you. There are no big, SUV-type cars at all, everyone races about in small, battered vehicles – nothing else would fit down these narrow lanes. It was also weird that the men seemed to change behind the wheel. Under normal circumstances, when an Italian man talks to me or even just looks at me, I feel 10 years younger, 10 inches taller, and 10 pounds lighter. If, on the other hand, they’re behind the wheel of a car, the experience is completely different, and I don’t experience the slightest courtesy on their part.” (2017)

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"If you want to go on a trip, it's a good idea to rent a car. Cheaper accommodation is difficult to find without one, and tourists obviously know it, because there are a lot of cars for rent, so you have to wait a lot. This website is best for finding a car. If possible, choose the smallest car possible, as the roads are so narrow that an oncoming car cannot fit by you. You can see this illustrated in any parking lot: there are hardly any big cars. The roads, with the exception of the highways, are not very good quality, and our GPS sometimes took us onto dirt roads. There are a lot of hairpin bends. The traffic signs are not clear, and the rules (when to give way, where to park) are interpreted by people as they see fit. And a Vespa can pop up anywhere, anytime, and from any side. Nevertheless, we didn’t see a single accident.” (2016)

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“Thanks to a multi-million euro motorway development, the road network in northern Sicily – between Messina and Palermo – is perfect. Unfortunately, the designers and builders seem to have somehow forgotten the south of the island, where the situation is not nearly so rosy. On the contrary! There are plenty of potholes, but hardly any road signs, so GPS can be really handy. By the time we reached Etna, Catania, and Syracuse, the roads were getting worse and worse, and it is not exactly a pleasant experience to drive on them, but of course, there’s a payoff, too. For the beauty and the spectacle, you have to pay the price.” (2017)
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“Though speeding is hardly an option in Sicily anyway, it’s better to roll down the window and just dive into the local traffic, so you could reach out the window and touch the squid on the ice at the market, and see the old guys playing cards on the sidewalk up close. This takes time, and if you want to see more than one or two destinations, it takes a lot of time.

This is an average street – the sort your GPS will cheerfully direct you down. That's why it's always worth choosing the smallest category of the car – you couldn’t even shoehorn a Ford Focus into this space.

The island is bigger than it looks based on maps and journey planners. The fastest progress is guaranteed by highways, where you sometimes have to pay tolls and sometimes don’t.

To be more precise, the better-quality Catania-Messina-Palermo section, which crosses mountains with tunnels and valley bridges, works with the usual Italian tollgate system (at the gates you have to drive to where it says Biglietto, where you can pay in cash), but the A29 in the west is free. I have no idea what the logic behind it is, and if anyone else understands, feel free to share. Roadworks seem to be constant, and this has a big impact on travel time.

So these highways are fast in principle, but in reality, you have to be prepared for permanent lane closures and diversions. The A19 connecting Catania with Palermo was recently completely closed along a long section due to a landslide. We also went that way, and had to take an enormous detour on winding mountain roads towards Polizi Generosa and Petralia Soprana.” (2015)



Food

In Sicily, they make a lot of breaded food, cooked in oil, as well as a lot of different types of croquettes, which all look the same. These can be made from vegetables, potatoes, eggplant, and ‘milk’, which actually means bechamel mixed with cheese. They also like to bread stuffed sardines and eggplant.

We always got fresh bread in the restaurants, which we could nibble on while waiting for our lunch or dinner. I think it’s impossible to get through all the courses – we’d been there for three days before we ate dessert because we were always full before we got to it. I watched the locals, and they don’t eat everything either.

We ate practically no meat during that week (though we did try panino alla meusa).  Krumpl was more tempted by the fish and seafood, and I felt the same way. In our experience, meat shouldn’t be ignored either, but we can’t give our own first-hand report of this.” (2017)


Sicily - seafood spaghetti - a.s. photo

Public safety

“On a one-off visit, you aren’t likely to see much sign of the mafia. Although a sharp-eyed observer may notice, at the flea market in Catania, that one or two older, fuller gentlemen in well-tailored suits and designer sunglasses walk with dignity among the stalls, surrounded by young, hard-faced Italian men…
“Yes,” Sicilian acquaintances said when we gave a description of the gentleman after the trip to Catania, “a mob boss was overseeing his business.”

If they tell you not to go to Corleone or the Casa district of Palermo, or anywhere else where the mafia presence is strong, take their advice; otherwise, there is nothing to fear as a tourist.” (2017)


Background

Sicily - Cefalú - i.s. photo

Destination in brief

Size: 25,711 km² (9,927 mi²)

Main city: Palermo

Population (in 2020): 5 million

Average net monthly salary in Palermo (in 2020): 1100 Euro (in Milan: 1650 Euro)

Nowadays

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Sicily - No Mafia - o.j. photo

People

“Sicilians don’t tend to get drunk and find it both strange and rather tragicomical if a tourist drinks him or herself under the table. We do not recommend that a male tourist tries to start something with a local girl or woman. It could end badly, even if you don’t need to immediately imagine getting knifed. As a precaution, it may also be best not to stare provocatively at a local girl or woman. In the Godfather, Al Pacino explained himself to the innkeeper, but that ended in marriage.

Sicilians have a unique attitude towards accuracy and reliability. They also have a saying, ‘I'm never late, I arrive just in time.’ However, the ‘time’ in the sentence can mean a delay of an hour or two. It’s also fair to say that the locals do not expect accuracy from the foreigner either. On the contrary, we can embarrass them if we arrive somewhere right on time.

Locals are very sensitive to insults. Say and do nothing offensive, even from your car. If a tourists were to flash the sign of the ‘horned one or curnuttu, which is well-known across the island, to another motorist, then he can expect to be chased down by that driver and possibly hospitalized.


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"The siesta is very serious business for a Sicilian. No one, and I mean NO ONE works during siesta time, so even the local supermarket chain closes, and everyone goes home for a nap. When Lorenzo found out that we’d gotten into town at one in the afternoon in the afternoon, hoping to eat something and then wander around and look at the shady, zigzag streets of the old town, he tried to subtly let us know that this was not the ideal time: between 1 and 4 p.m., not even the grass grows here. As a solution, he suggested that we go see the downtown museum, which is located next to the seminary because he thought it was one of the few places that might still be open during siesta. Lorenzo was wrong. Then, after lunch, we went back around half past three and had to ring the doorbell. A sleepy lady opened the door for us, said two sentences about the museum, then handed us our tickets and let us go through ourselves.”


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Sicilians (and they consider themselves Sicilians first, Italians second) really like to dress up and spend a lot of money on looks, but its on weekend evenings, when the families of Trapani parade down the main street, with almost all the men in nice suits, women in fashionable clothes, with expensive bags and beautiful hairstyles, lipstick and high heels, that the street truly ‘sparkles’. Young people also spend a lot of time and money on themselves.


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"The passion of the Sicilian temperament is overwhelming. Especially if you visit Savoca, one of the most beautiful settlements in Sicily. This is a place that stands out even among the beautiful cities of Sicily with its natural beauty. No wonder Francis Ford Coppola was immediately captivated by the place when he was searching for a location for the Sicilian scenes of the Godfather.

The Godfather is a defining work of cinematic history, so it is absolutely certain that one of the purposes of every trip to Sicily is to visit the locations where the film was shot. However, it is good to know that the real city of Corleone is unfortunately not featured in the film. It was already so industrial in the 1970s that Coppola did not consider it suitable for the Sicilian scenes in the film. The director thus asked a friend, the famous Sicilian painter Gianni Pennis, to help find the right environment for the scenes. Without hesitation, the artist recommended Savoca and Forza d’Agro to the director.” (2018)


Sicily - y.m. photo

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