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…

Christmas stocking filler: A simple guide to classic Sicilian card games

What kind of Christmas would it be for a Sicilian family without playing riotous card games amid a heap of pistachio nut shells? Join in the tradition this year with some bargain stocking-filler gifts. The bestselling pocket edition This book gives very clear instructions for twelve Sicilian card games, with photographic illustrations.  It is the…

Reimagining Sicily – a new documentary (featuring me!)

I was very excited when Sicilian American film director Mark Spano asked if he could interview me for a documentary he was making, called Reimagining Sicily. I was particularly impressed when he managed to book nearby 17th century Villa Palagonia to do the filming; for this gorgeous villa is owned by 32 different people, none…

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…

A Festival in Noto

Every parish in Sicily has a festival once a year to celebrate the saint in whose honour the church is dedicated. We happened to be in Noto a good few years back during the festival at the Cathedral, which is dedicated to Saint Nicolas (Basilica Cattedrale di San Nicola). We began the day with the classic…

The Baroque town of Noto, Sicily’s Ingenious City

Noto was one of the earliest cities in Sicily, first built in the Bronze age by the Sikels, one of Sicily three indigenous tribes. By early Medieval times it was a bustling city, and one of the last Arab holdouts to finally succumb to the invasion of the Normans. It retained a multicultural population and…

The Museum of a Sicilian Water Mill at Cavallo d’Ispica

We visited this lovely little museum near Siracusa when we found it by pure chance. It is called the Museo Cavallo d’Ispica. It is in an old water mill, which the same family has converted into a museum, after several generations of their family used it to mill flour. They were clearly the kind of…

The Ear of Dionysus near Syracuse

These photos are of a remarkable rock formation called the Ear of Dionysus, just outside Siracusa in south-Eastern Sicily. It is named after a former dictator of the Greek-founded City, as apparently he was very paranoid about rivals and improsoned them all in this cave. He then sent envoys to eavesdrop on them, as the…

Ancient Romans in bikinis and mini-skirts at Casale

The Villa Romana Del Casale, in Piazza Armerina, is one of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. The villa was huge and would have been built and decorated at staggering expense. It was the manor house of a colossal agricultural estate, owned and run by an Italian aristocrat. Sicily was regarded as a terribly primitive province…

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…

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…

Mount Etna, Europe’s Biggest Volcano

Imagine my shock and embarrassment when I suddenly realised, after 11 years in Sicily, I had never blogged about Mount Etna! Now I have finished clutching my pearls in horror, I am rectifying this oversight forthwith. Mount Etna is Europe’s largest volcano, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is not only the biggest, but the…

Castelbuono, the Foodies’ Paradise in Sicily

I have blogged about Castelbuono before, but not recently, so I am doing it again! We took an English friend there last summer, and she took all these lovely photos. Thank you Adrienne! Castelbuono has a medieval castle with a very long ramp at the entrance and several arches to negotiate before you get there:…

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…