RWH tour leader Eileen Lyons gives a vivid impression of the scenic beauty and unique history and culture of the largest island in the Mediterranean as she explores the Treasures of Sicily.
A golden haze of mimosa trees lines our road from Palermo to Selinunte and beyond. Our first hotel, amidst silvery green olive groves, with an inviting pool and close to the remains of the huge ancient Greek city of Selinus, named after the wild celery that grows here.
Walking along beaches by the intensely blue, shimmering Mediterranean, rolling waves and the smoothest of pebbles, by the cliffs of Capo Bianca. Hard to believe the stories of boats of migrants and people trafficking that are in the news.
On to Agrigento, where the simplicity of the 13th century church of St Nicola and the sculpture of a boy from 470BC in Museum of Archaeology make a big impression on us. Ancient Greek temples – Concorde still standing after 2,000 years. Our guide, Salvatore, an anthropologist and archaeologist, helps us to understand how it would have been, and afterwards we enjoy a picnic in the lemon groves of ancient gardens, alongside Sicilians, merrily celebrating Liberation Day. Wandering through medieval streets with smiling women, and boys playing football, sitting by the cathedral nibbling divinely delicious, almond biscuits made by the nuns, and then trotting back down to our hotel with its lush gardens, palm trees and a pool.
Siracusa, more urban, noisy and busy. Ortyggia’s main square, splendidly elegant, the cathedral built onto and dominating pre-existing Greek columns. Delicious antipasti and seafood in local restaurants. A much anticipated day excursion to see the majestic Baroque architecture of Noto against vivid blue skies, followed by another communal picnic, with more local wine, at the well preserved, beautiful Greek Theatre of Akreide. Then onto the plateau of Pantalicca where we found remnants of a palace from 1270 BC and a Bronze Age necropolis carved into limestone cliffs.
Sun, blue skies, an abundance of wild flowers, the brooding snow-capped flanks of Etna in the distance, sampling local food and wines, pastries, granita and ice-creams, Limoncello, good company, plenty of laughs and so much more.
Finally, Palermo – vibrant, dusty, chaotic, full of interest and hard to sum up in a few words. The exquisite mosaics of the Royal Chapel, centuries-old crumbling palaces, over 300 churches, a contemporary art gallery housed in a renovated Neo Classical / Baroque Palace, pavements polished by the footsteps of time, a horse trotting alongside a scooter in the middle of four lanes of traffic and huge cruise liners, yachts, old fishing boats jostling in the harbour… and again, so much, much more.