By: Alexandra Tyson
Visiting Sicily is still regarded as a travel experience off the beaten path for non-European adventurers. Due to years of Mafia control, visitors have shied away from this Italian island; however, a resurgence in tourism is making Sicily a top destination in the Mediterranean region. Sicily will welcome you with warmth and a passionate sense of pride. Its people are notoriously gestural, yet gentle and hospitable. For instance, the family who owned the apartment where I stayed cooked multiple authentic Sicilian meals for me–gratis! This same family’s next door neighbor took me around Palermo on the back of his Vespa, allowing me to see breathtaking views of the city, mountains, and sea.
There are so many more wonderful things to say about visiting Sicily, but here are the top 3 reasons why I think you should:
AFFORDABLE CUISINE & SPIRITS
Food and drinks are very affordable! Sicilians pride themselves on being able to enjoy artisan cuisine and spirits without breaking the bank. If you are a seafood enthusiast, this is the place for you! Generous plates of the freshest seafood prepared in a variety of ways will never exceed $30. Pizza, homemade pasta, and other traditional dishes cost even less! Wine is mainly served by the half-bottle (wine-by-the-glass is foreign to Sicilians) and is sometimes cheaper than bottled water! Cocktails are always prepared with the freshest ingredients, such as the Sicilian version of a mojito, which includes rosemary instead of mint and a purée of the island’s indigenous melon.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Each area of this small island is different, offering attractions and activities that cater to a variety of interests. In Palermo, you will experience a unique mix of European, Arab, and African culture against the backdrop of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Other notable towns include Catania, Mount Etna, Aeolian Isles, and Taormina. Buses and trains throughout Sicily are quite efficient and inexpensive, making travel between its cities very easy.
The beaches could rival many Caribbean destinations. The water is calm and crystal clear with a temperature that is significantly warmer than most Mediterranean beaches. I ventured to Mondello which is fifteen minutes outside of Palermo and accessible by public bus. This beach of powdery white sand is open to the public, but the private beach clubs are well worth the price. For $25 a day, you get a cabana or set of sun lounges that can be shared between four people. These clubs have amenities such as bathrooms, cocktail service, and security workers who look after your belongings as you take a dip in the refreshing sea.
English is not widely spoken so asking a Sicilian for assistance is an experience in itself–you may find yourself surrounded by five or six people all trying to help you locate the right street or cafe! So be open to its boisterous magic and let Sicily awaken you as it did for me!