Palermo has been a crossroads of different civilizations for millennia. This city is an intoxicating concentration of Byzantine mosaics, frescoed churches, and Arabesque domes. A place that is both on the edge of Europe and in the middle of the ancient world, where Soq–like markets are flanked by baroque churches, date palms frame the gothic-style buildings and blue-eyed blondes mingle with brunettes with a darker complexion.
Centuries of splendour and decay have created a complex urban reality, in which crumbling stairways lead to gilded halls where people’s distrust hides a generous heart. In the meanders of its noisy streets, the Sicilian capital contains citrus-scented cloisters, stucco-adorned chapels and vintage shops full of clothes that belonged to the nobles of the past.
The busy Quattro Canti intersection forms the centre of the old city. Not far away is a small group of unmissable monuments, in particular, the sixteenth-century Fontana Pretoria and La Martorana, a church dating back to the twelfth century commissioned by the Syriac admiral of Roger II’s fleet, George of Antioch, and designed as a mosque.
Piazza Pretoria is bordered by impressive churches and buildings, this square is dominated by the triumphal Fontana Pretoria, one of the main landmarks of Palermo. The pools, arranged on different levels in concentric circles, are crowded with naked nymphs, tritons and river gods who seem to dart out of the water. With its realistic nudes, the fountain aroused the scandalized reaction of the Sicilian faithful, who renamed it ‘the Fountain of Shame’.
There is a place in Sicily where it is possible to admire one of the most representative and best-preserved archaeological sites of the entire classical Greek civilization, which was included in 1998 in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. We are talking about the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
The site is located on a rocky ridge where the ancient city of Akragas once stood, where is possible to admire the remains of numerous Doric temples dedicated to the Hellenic gods.
The imposing Concordia’s Temple stands out above all, and it is also one of the existing ancient Greek temples best-preserved and, unlike many others, it remained almost intact since its construction, in 430 BC. Along the sixth century, it was transformed into a Christian Basilica and its structure was reinforced to have a better chance to survive earthquakes. In 1748, however, it was returned to its original form and renamed with its current name. The excellent state of conservation is because, under the rock, on which the temple stands, there is a layer of soft clay that acts as a natural shock absorber, protecting the building from earthquakes. Many modern researchers believe that the Greeks were aware of the particularity of the terrain when the Temple was designed.
Second in order of importance is undoubtedly the Temple of Juno, also known as the Temple of Hera. It was built in the 5th century BC and the Middle Ages was partially destroyed by an earthquake; however, the colonnade has remained almost intact, as well as the long altar, originally used for sacrifices, that still bears some reddish marks: these are probably traces of the fire started in 406 AD during the Carthaginian invasion.
The Temple of Hercules, the last in the eastern area, is the oldest, as it dates back to the end of the sixth century BC. Eight of its 38 columns have been put back on their feet so you can walk among the remains of the others.
The Tomb of Terone is, on the contrary, a small temple placed on a high base, erected in 75 BC, about 500 years after the death of Terone, the Greek tyrant of Agrigento.
The main attraction of the western area is the remains of the Temple of Jupiter. The building, which measures 112 meters long and 56 meters wide, that features high columns, would have been the largest Doric temple of antiquity if its construction wasn’t interrupted with the sack of Akragas by the Carthaginians. Later, the unfinished temple was destroyed by an earthquake.
Among the ruins lies an 8 meters high telamon in a supine position, is a male statue with raised arms that originally supported the weight of the temple. However, it is a copy; the original is exhibited at the Archaeological Museum
The Temple of the Dioscuri consists of four columns and is known also as the Temple of Castor and Pollux. Built towards the end of the 5th century BC, after being destroyed by the Carthaginians it was later restored in Hellenistic style only to be destroyed again by an earthquake. What you see today dates back to 1832, the year in which the building was rebuilt using material recovered from other temples.
Immediately behind the Temple of the Dioscuri, there are few altars and small buildings which are supposed to be part of the Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore. Known as the Sanctuary of the Chthonic Divinities, it dates back to the beginning of the 6th century BC.
Sicily is one of the most popular destinations for all those tourists who look for a perfect mix that includes; leisure, culture, good food, traditions, and beautiful weather. Therefore we have decided to talk about what are, in our opinion, six good reasons to get a trip to Sicily!
- Artistic and cultural heritage
- Natural beauties
- Mediterranean climate
- Cities of art
- Sea and beaches
Artistic and cultural heritage:
“The world has literally passed by here”
Sicily, due to its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, has always been a crossroads of many peoples who over the millennia have left countless artistic and cultural legacies.
From the archaeological sites of Greek and Roman eras to the Arab-Norman cathedrals, from the Late-Baroque of the Val di Noto to the Byzantine buildings (and so on) Sicily is, for this reason, the first Italian region for a number of world heritage sites according to Unesco.
Sicily is also an ideal destination for those who love nature and adventure. The island boasts in fact two natural heritage by Unesco such as the Aeolian Islands (with its seven islets, is a paradise for excursions and crystal clear sea lovers) and Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.
Very famous are also the many nature reserves such as the Egadi islands, Stromboli, the Zingaro reserve (near San Vito lo Capo), and Vendicari, in the Syracusan area.
Located right in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, Sicily has a pleasant and mild climate for most of the year. The coastal area’s temperatures generally settle around 25-26 degrees starting from April to the end of October, (with of course a peak of hot temperatures during July and August), making beaches the perfect place for that tourist who looks for some relaxation and taking a sunbath.
The food tradition in Sicily is of course typically Mediterranean and is counted among the most various and sophisticated in the whole Italian peninsula due to the countless influences of the past dominations that crossed the island along the centuries.
The typical products of the area are olive oil, citrus fruits, almonds, pistachios, and many more …
The typical Sicilian pastry such as; ice creams, cannoli, cassata, Modica’s chocolate, and granita as well as traditional cuisine and typical products such as couscous, arancini, ricotta, pasta with sardines, pasta alla norma, caponata, Ragusan and Modican scacce (focaccia) and many others.
Typical wines also deserve a particular mention; Nero d’Avola, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Grillo, Zibibbo, Marsala and Passito di Noto.
Cities of art:
Sicily literally teems with cities of enormous artistic value, we only mention some of the most important: Ragusa Ibla, Modica, Syracuse, Catania, Palermo, Agrigento, Taormina, and Trapani.
Sea and beaches:
Sicily with its 1,152 kilometers of coastline certainly doesn’t miss beaches! Among the most popular beaches on the island we have, for example, the Isola dei Conigli in Lampedusa, the natural reserve of Vendicari, or the beaches of San Vito lo Capo and Cefalù, the Marina di Ragusa’s promenade or the suggestive Scala dei Turchi.