Villa Niscemi, Palermo – the most lavish palace in all Sicily

One day strolling through Palermo – OK, staggering in the heat – I chanced to notice a pair of gates which felt very familiar. I had never seen them before, yet I knew them so well. I knew there was going to be a false river inside them inhabited by expensive imported ducks. So we…

Sicilian Ceramics in Palermo

Last summer I dashed down to Sicily and wanted to purchase some gorgeous Sicilian majolica ceramic art for my new house. So I toddled off to “Tre Erre” in Palermo.   What to buy? An owl?   Something fruity?   Something fishy?   How about some heads?   Or even Medusa’s head?   In the…

Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and the Norman King William II’s minister. One of his close relatives had Monreale cathedral built during an overlapping time period, and they were therefore regarded as competing with each other for glory. The Normans had…

Shopping in Palermo

Palermo is a fun place to go shopping, and you can find some real bargains if you know where to go. If you don’t, you can find a truly amazing amount of tiny weeny Chinese clothing, that you would not have fitted into by the time you were 12. Never fear! Follow my advice, and…

The Jewish Ghosts of Palermo

There was a Jewish presence in Sicily for centuries, possibly from before the birth of Jesus. The Jews were the only outsiders who made their homes in Sicily and became part of her population without invading. They simply turned up, fitted in and made themselves indispensable.   The Jews were the literate and educated members…

The Vucciria Market in Palermo

I was bewildered recently to find an article online, published by Italy Magazine, purporting to be about the Vucciria Market in Palermo. It described the Vucciria as a flourishing food market full of exciting fruits, vegetables and meat and fish. It said visiting the Vucciria is one of the most exciting things to do in…

Baths and Curses in Palermo’s Archaeological Museum

I recently visited Palermo’s Archaeological Museum (called “Antonino Salinas”). Most of it is closed for restoration, but there was still plenty to enjoy.   I sat for ten minutes serenely enjoying the sound of the fountain before exploring the part of the museum still open. Can you guess what this is?   It’s a Roman…

The Botanical Gardens of Palermo

Palermo has a 200-year-old botanical garden with a vast and stunning plant collection and a crazily cheap entrance fee. Obviously there are different flowers to see each month: this is the garden in August. These photos are all by my super-talented sister Susanna. Click on any photo to see a high resolution enlargement.   Have you voted…

PHOTO GALLERY: Palermo and other Sicilian towns

I am delighted to have permission to reblog this from dorsetdaze All the pictures, and the article, are by Dave, a talented photographer with an eye for the unusual. Sicily: a land of many faces March 13, 2014 Traffic and graffiti: two of Palermo’s trademarks. SICILY, eh? One minute it can make you smile, the next…

The Life and Adventures of Santa Rosalia, Patron Saint of Palermo

I described, in my previous post, the sanctuary of Saint Rosalia, which is a baroque church facade with a drippy cave behind it. Now I’ll tell you about her amazing life. Santa Rosalia was born in about 1130, when Sicily was ruled by the Normans. The king was Roger the Second. I’ve been inside his…

The Sanctuary of Saint Rosalia on Monte Pellegrino, Palermo

Walking through the doorway of a magnificent Baroque church, and finding youself in a gloomy cave with water dripping on your head, has to be one of life’s most interesting experiences. The church is the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia. It stands at the very top of Monte Pellegrino (Pilgrim’s Mountain), which overlooks the whole bay…

The Celebrity Chefs of Palermo – They’re Offal!

Do you eat offal? is it forbidden by your religion? Or do you just think it tastes like poop? In Palermo, fast food sold in the streets is almost all made of offal. One of the absolute classic dishes of Palermo is U pani ca meusa, which means, “bread with spleen”. I ususally give this…

A bird’s eye view of Piazza San Domenico, Palermo

I took this photo from the rooftop café of La Rinascente, a swanky department store in central Palermo. This is PIAZZA SAN DOMENICO. On top of the giant column stands the virgin Mary. The piazza takes its name from the Chiesa San Domenico, which is out of frame to the left. The street with red…

The ‘Cult of the Beheaded People’ in Palermo

There’s a small road in Palermo called “Via dei Decollati,” which means “Street of the Beheaded People.” In medieval times, this area was just outside the city and criminals were beheaded here. Unfortunately the Sicilian government was corrupt in those days – not any more, of course! – and many innocent people were beaheaded, too….

Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

I think you can tell the people at UNESCO were a bit overwhelmed with how much wonderful stuff there is in Sicily. When they were naming World Heritage Sites, they just lumped together nine towns all in one go, or an entire group of islands. Each part of these sites merits a listing in its…

Sicily in Jewels: The precious legacy of Duke Fulco Di Verdura

I wrote a few days ago about Villa Niscemi, once home to Fulco Di Verdura, the Sicilian duke whose memoir so enchanted me. As an adult he moved to New York and became a jeweller. His dazzling artistic legacy has Sicily in every jewel. First let’s look at this elephant: He was inspired by the iconic…

Sicily’s marvellous mechanical dining table in the Palazzina Cinese

One of the things that has made generations of English aristocrats fall in Love with Sicily over the centuries is the mutual passion for eccentrics. I don’t mean subtle characters, like one of my beloved uncles whose favourite food was broad bean and custard sandwiches. I mean flamboyant filthy rich people who could construct a…

Cathedral Building… or was it Economy Building?

All the cathedrals across Europe were built in the space of about 200 years, at the height of the crusades. They look expensive, but they were actually money machines. Whilst there may have been an element of religious fervour to them, they were also a way of demonstrating power to potential enemies and the illiterate…

The History of Sicilian Cuisine in Thirteen Invasions

Sicilian food is the original fusion cuisine, a unique mix of all of its diverse cultural heritages. The island has been at the heart of thirteen different empires over the last three millennia, and each one of them has left its mark on the Sicilian housewife’s kitchen cupboard. The Phoenicians The Phoenicians were traders and…

Sicilian Christmas Gift Ideas

That festive time of year is approaching, when Sicilians gather for intimate family dinners of 25 to 40 people, eat more than their body weight in food, and shout to relatives at the opposite end of the table about how good the fourth pasta course tastes.   It’s also, of course, the time when we…

Top Ten things to do in Sicily in Winter

Sicily isn’t usually the first place people think of going for holidays in winter, but my German friends pointed out to me it is actually a great choice. This isn’t just because you can often get winter sunshine, but also because there is lots going on, you can see the sights without the crowds, and…

Nature loving things to do on holidays in Sicily

Sicily has 70 nature reserves and I have still only visited a handful of them. They make it a paradise for nature lovers, but there are other irresistible natural attractions all over Sicily, too. BEACHES AND MOUNTAINS IN LO ZINGARO NATURE RESERVE This was the first nature reserve in Sicily and it has mountains, a…

A Time to Die – the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily

The history books about Sicily have little to say about the time of the Spanish rule. I find this strange, because the Spanish changed Sicily more than any other conqueror. The way they wanted this island is the way it still is: the Sicilians just cannot seem to shake them off.   Some history books…

Sicilian Housewife gives her Husband two Black Eyes

Hubby and I had just flopped blissfully into bed from parenting-induced exhaustion. When our kiddo has a cold, he makes sure the suffering is dished out fairly and evenly among all persons present. I believe some people can finish running a marathon with more energy than we had after a day of making lemon and honey,…

Practical Tips for Trips to Sicily

I know I make jokes about everything but I shall try my best to be sensible and serious on this page, and stick to telling you really useful stuff. I am even using bullet points and everything. The weather in Sicily It’s hot. Except when it’s not. No seriously, some people think we don’t get…

Art to see on holidays in Sicily

Sicilians – like all Italians – are highly artistic. The main way to see historic art from the Medieval period, Renaissance and Baroque periods is by visiting the literally thousands of churches, which are all free art galleries packed with works by highly important and famous artists. There are also galleries of historic and contemporary…

The best beaches in Sicily

You need to ask Sicilians which are the best beaches in Sicily. They change every year, not only because of who goes to them and how clean they are, but because nature works fast on this triangular island. There’s a beach near me that was twenty yards of soft sand last summer: this year its…

Things to do with children on holidays in Sicily

How do you entertain your children on holiday in Sicily? Leave them to play for a week with the waiters in the nearest restaurant while you enjoy sightseeing. No no no!! You can actually have a very interesting holiday around Sicily whilst taking your little darlings with you. Sicilians adore children and roll out the red…

Sicily Travel Guide

A free online travel guide to Sicily, with sightseeing ideas and practical tips Some inspiration for your Sicilian bucket list Sicily is a place where you can walk around a bank vault containing the most precious collection of coins in the world (Siracusa) or meet a real life knight in shining armour (Caccamo). You can…

Food loving things to do on holidays in Sicily

Sicilian food is probably the best in the world. Just look at how many fatties there are in Sicily if you don’t believe me! (I should probably stop making fun of fatties these days; after ten years in Sicily, I am one of them.)   SICILIAN FOOD: THE ORIGINAL FUSION CUISINE Read this post to get…

Ancient History things to do on holidays in Sicily

I studied Classical History at university, so this particular section just grows and grows. There’s a fantastic concentration of ancient sites in Sicily – including a UNESCO World Heritage Site – which are not only educational but great fun to see. ANCIENT CULTURES LIVE ON IN SICILY Ancient history can be found in the present…