Although it is difficult to summarise the holiday in a few short words, it was without a doubt amongst the best trips I have made. There is an extraordinary ‘permanent impermanence’ about Sicily, characterised in part by its volcanic nature, and the general feeling of being in a time warp.
“Wow” Moments in Sicily
Bob regales us with “wow” moments from his one of a kind Sicilian walking holiday. A combination of luck and beauty left this group with long lasting memories. – Laura, Community Coordinator
Our private group, the Georgia (USA) Overseas Hiking Club, chose Ancient Wonders of Sicily because of the many spectacular sights that we would see. We saw so many spectacular things, but what also makes a holiday truly memorable is the unexpected bonuses that in the words of our leader, Peter Watts, are simply “wow”. We had two super “wows” on this holiday.
The first occurred in Syracuse after a dinner at the appropriately name restaurant, La Rambla. Peter invited group members to accompany him on a bonus walk to explore Ortygia Island illuminated at night. While walking we spotted a crowd along the street and heard the music of a band coming toward us. We quickly squeezed in to see what the commotion was about, only to discover a small army of men bearing an enormous silver statue of a saintly woman on a pedestal. The mystery was solved when the men began to chant, “Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!”.
A little research revealed that Santa Lucia was born in Syracuse and martyred during the persecutions under the Roman Emperor, Diocletian. The statue itself is 90 kilos of solid silver resting on an enormous base of silver and transported on the shoulders of 60(!) very able-bodied men. No wonder the procession took periodic rest breaks. It is paraded only twice a year, and we were there!
A helpful local told us the procession would end at the Duomo (Cathedral) and kindly showed us a shortcut so we could again see the procession as it arrived. We secured a prime location on the Duomo steps and again had a marvelous sighting of the sacred pageantry. The finale was a magnificent display of fireworks that lit the sky with color and deafened the ears. Definitely, wow!
Our stay in Palermo included a visit by public bus to the remarkable Cathedral in nearby Monreale, noted for its gold and colored glass mosaics which are said to surpass even those of St Mark’s in Venice. We were early arrivals for the return bus to Palermo where our group of 21 had the opportunity to mingle with a group of 8 young adults from Macedonia who were taking a break from a conference on organized crime. Many conversations between we Americans and our new Macedonia friends ensued. As the bus departed for Palermo our new friends entertained us with one of their national songs. Upon completion, much to our amazement, the Macedonians broke out with “The Star Spangled Banner”. Naturally, we joined in the singing of our national anthem as we serenaded all of the other bus passengers. This was a very unexpected and moving moment for us. Another wow!
Karen, our leader in Sicily, surveyed the debris of our 4 course meal on our last night and said wistfully, ‘ I remember when the Ramblers bought a bottle of wine on the first night and it lasted all week’. In front of her was the evidence of modern Ramblers; glasses and bottles bore evidence of aperitifs, wine, beer and after dinner liqueurs.
Pounding Inspector Montalbano’s Beat in Southern Sicily
The dreamy locations of the Inspector Montalbano TV Series have placed this part of Italy firmly on the tourist map. Rupert Parker, journalist, photographer and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, investigates and finds baroque hilltop towns, stunning beaches and is tantalised by a possible sighting of the famous detective.