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 Islands Information

Place: Sicily

A Sicilian Itinerary   by Denise Hummel

Our Sicilian itinerary includes Palermo, The Easter Pageantry of Enna, Ragusa, The Temples of Agrigento, and not to be missed, the Majesty of Volcanic Mt. Etna. Our bases of travel were Palermo where we experienced the exquisite Hotel Villa Igea, Enna at the peaceful and utterly relaxing Villa Gussio and Ragusa, at the sumptuous Villa Carlotta. The history, the food, the people, and the natural splendor of this island are unforgettable.

We start our adventure in Palermo, one of those cities that exudes vitality and Villa Igea is an oasis in the middle of it. With a vintage villa, views of the ocean, a garden more fragrant than any I have ever smelled and a pool with it's own "ruin" and view of the sea, how could you go wrong?

There are so many sights in Palermo, one could spend a week here, but if you only have a day, going to the Palermo market is one of those memories that stay with you. It's not just the site and smell of so much fresh produce -- it's the sounds of the merchants selling their wares, shouting in dialect that the most astute foreigner will understand only based on what the merchant is holding up for you to see.

Easter week is a magical time to visit Sicily. Flowers are in bloom. The temperature is warm, but not unbearably hot. For the festivities of Holy Thursday, and in fact the whole week of Easter, there is no better base than Enna, and no better hotel than Villa Gussio. The pool, the spa, the restaurant, and the general atmosphere of true Sicilian warmth and hospitality makes it an ideal and tranquil setting from which to explore the surrounding town and panoramic countryside.

Most importantly, the traditions of Sicily, and especially the town of Enna, are rooted in centuries of pageantry and the experience, for the tourist unfamiliar with this cultural splendor, leaves one transfixed for some time. Giovedi Santo (Holy Thursday) in Enna is particularly stirring. Three thousand participants from the various churches of the province, convene in hooded garb, and march in silence in and out of the churches from tiny street to tiny street. Toward the end of the evening, a statue of Jesus, removed from the cross, is placed in a glass and gilded coffin and leaves the church atop huge wooden planks carried by 80 men, walking in swaying rhythm to the lamenting drone of a brass ensemble.

Ragusa is an optimal location from which to explore the ancient city of Siracusa, Piazza Amerina, and the Temples of Agrigento, not to mention Ragusa itself. For us, the ideal hotel was, without a doubt, Villa Carlotta. Apart from the beautiful pool and lovely rooms, which meld a turn of the century structure with modern, sleek, and comfortable amenities, the food is out of this world. Let's start with the breakfast -- yes, there are healthy, home-made yogurts and fresh preserves -- but, I'm talking about the sweet ricotta filled pastries that literally melt as you put them on your tongue. Sicily may be famous for its pastries, but Villa Carlotta is the quintessential place to eat them. Dinner included authentic Sicilian cuisine, but with none of the heavy dishes that leave you barely able to depart from the table. Come, if not for the wonderful location and atmosphere, for the food.

Ragusa, Piazza Amerina, and Siracusa, all easy day trips from Villa Carlotta are worth the trip. Each one characteristic, and each one urging you to wander to see what's around the next vicolo or piazza. But, the visit that is irresistible is certainly the Temples of Agrigento. They are so grand in stature and structure, having withstood the test of centuries and in such a picturesque setting, often with a backdrop of modern civilization, that to come to this part of Sicily and not see them is unthinkable.

It isn't possible to write a Sicilian Itinerary without the inclusion of the omnipotent Mt. Etna. It can be seen from almost anywhere on the island and perhaps the best base is Taormina, although given the expense of staying at this exotic location, it is perhaps best viewed from Catania. The new chairlift has been open since last year and after taking it to a location near the summit, there are jeeps available to transport you to the main crater. Be prepared with warm clothing, even in summer, as the altitude and wind require it. Stark and untouched, one has the sensation of walking on the moon ...

About the Author

Denise Hummel is an American, who moved to Italy with her husband and children for a one year cross-cultural experience that has expanded to two. Denise Hummel directs a communications business focused on tourism called Imagine Communications.