Though I usually write code for NileGuide, today I’ve been asked to write some English on being Italian. My parents were both born and raised in Sicily (the large island in southern Italy) and – though I grew up in San Diego – we would go back to visit family every few summers.
In America, Sicily seems to be known mostly for: 1) the mafia and 2) spicy versions of Italian food. I can assure you, however, that if you visit Sicily, you will not have any trouble with the mafia and nothing will remind you of Pizza Hut’s “Sicilian” pizza. The real “pizza” of Sicily is the sfincione. A local dish of Palermo (Sicily’s largest city), sfincione is a foccacia with casciocavallo cheese, oregano, bread crumbs and just a hint of anchovies. As for the mafia, they’re too busy running small time protection rackets to bother any tourists.
What advice can I give to would-be travelers? First, though you can go sight-seeing in any given city on foot, transportation between cities can be an issue. The trains are fine if they’re going your way, but especially in the southern part of the island, a car is a must (make sure to specify an automatic if you need one: almost all Sicilians drive manual). Also, Sicily can get very hot in the summer. This is great if you want to enjoy Sicily’s beautiful beaches but otherwise avoid the heat of July and August.
No visit to Italy would be complete without sampling the local cuisine, and Sicily is no exception. Pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) is a definite can’t miss. And when you’re on the go, try an arancine; a fried rice ball with a ragu center. For dessert don’t pass up cannolli or gelato served Sicilian style: in a Brioche!
Sicily’s cultural heritage alone makes a trip worthwhile. The best time to see it is during any of the town fairs. Brightly colored hand-crafted carts and marionettes could be on display along with live music. Almost every town in Sicily has a yearly festival (often in honor of the town’s patron saint) so check ahead and make sure to see the festivities!
Photo courtesy of david.nikonvscanon