We arrived in Sicily on 21st May with no expectations and an open mind. Six weeks later we are leaving with beautiful memories, unforgettable experiences and an open heart to hopefully one day return. Sicily is certainly understated and underdeveloped, which only adds to its appeal and charm. It’s very much a place that time forgot about and so what you experience is very raw, natural and real. Sometimes it feels a little mysterious but then again with such a dark and colourful past, it is no surprise. The invasions, communist rule and wars have all left their visible scars, which are clearly on display for you to explore.
What you can’t always see but can feel is the darker side of Sicilian culture, the Mafia. It has left Sicilians suspicious and wary, so upon 1st impressions they appear very cold and guarded. Offer a friendly smile and you uncover an innocent and friendly nation only too glad to chat. The Mafia are very much kept behind closed doors and as an outsider you never encounter the corruption or wrong doings…thankfully. There is a positive and upside to corruption – friendships are rare but once found the friendship is exceptionally strong and sincere. This creates a culture of devotion and passion for families and true friendship, which is evident every evening. Sicilians of all ages will head to the local gathering spot every sunset. That maybe the beach, the promenade, the piazza or park. Every man and his dog will head to the local gathering to just walk with their loved ones, share a picnic, catch up on local gossip or eye up the potential partner. It really is a pleasure to experience and it is made more memorable with a gelato (ice-cream). The ice-cream is to die for, it is gorgeous and on average costs €1 per scoop. The flavours are so intense, it is hard to describe and it should be on everyone’s bucket list! Melon & Pistachio are just 2 of our all time favourites.
Every town and village in Sicily operates in the same timescales, so no matter where you are, you pretty much know what is going to happen. In the morning you exercise and their are 3 activities to chose from,. Its a bit general but walking for women, cycling for fellas and running if you’re not sure. The ability of the cyclist is really amazing and its not uncommon to see a pensioner cycling up a mountain pass at a fair old speed. Then from 9 until 1 the shops open. Supermarkets as we know it, haven’t really arrived in Sicily so you find every village has little shops selling their produce. As a minimum you will find a fruit & veg shop, tobacconist, bakery, ice- cream / coffee shop / pizzeria and hardware store. Fish is more common that meat and you either buy from local fishmongers, the harbour or from a van that drives around the village street. In the larger towns betting shops seem to be popping up all over the show, which is not dissimilar to home. 2 until 4 is shut down time and no matter what or where you are these two hours are sacred. Love it or hate it, you have to embrace because Sicilians will not change. During this time you are not permuted to do anything and we’re not joking. It is not uncommon to find sign posts informing you of the sacred rules – thou shalt not beep your horn, thou shalt not talk etc. If you do hear people then you can guarantee they will be whispering. Between 4 and 5 the Sicilians wake up and business reopens until sunset when it closes again, so everyone can head to the local gathering.
During the week people usually retire around 8 or 9 but at weekends it depends on the atmosphere and it is not uncommon to see child still up at midnight. At weekend the beaches are heaving except between 2 – 4. So avoid like the plague or you’ll get squashed. Sicilians have beach visits down to a tea-they pull up in a car, open boot, pull out brolly and bag and within seconds they are catching rays. They love it and you will see them pull up, stay for an hour and then disappear.
Pizzeria’s are everywhere and there is nothing they like more than a large family gathering at dinner. Sicilian food is as and the odd local speciality. Wine and coffee are the most common bar drinks and I have yet to see a drunk Sicilian. Even the teenagers are well behaved apart from the odd scooter screamer. Sicilians are strong catholics and every village has at least one church and several shrines The shrines are usually a local saint or madonna and come sunset they are a light with candles and people taking time to remember their loved ones. You can usually find a water tap or fountain near a shrine, which is a necessity when travelling by motorhome. Most of the places have fountains with natural spring water and yip you guessed it, every town has the best spring water according to the little old lady who lives opposite…bella bella, Scooters are everywhere especially at beach places. Inland and its more little cars like fiat 500 and panda’s, The Piagio van is very common (Craig wants one) and looks la bit like an Indian rickshaw. Talking of cars, Sicilians cannot drive for a gold pig and we are convinced they don’t know how to reverse. They get in the car, turn the ignition key, place in gear and then press the gas pedal. Their foot does not come off the pedal unless they look like they might kill someone. It never occurs to a Sicilian driver to stop and let someone pass. They will dent their car before apply common sense and just wait 2 minutes. I don’t mind saying that Sicilian drivers are shit. Parking is a whole new experience and the aim is to park in the smallest space possible and if you cant park just double park or triple park if you’re feeling extremely stupid. Parking colours are also standard – blue areas are paid parking, white are free parking and yellow are disabled. if there are no markings then its pot luck. The roads in general are very good and traffic lights are only really seen in cities. To cross a road just step out, good chance they will stop because it gives them a chance to swop their mobile to the other hand. Road rage is rare just like a car without a dent. The police system is hard to follow as there are several types but as a foreign just obey the signs and you cant go wrong. Sicilians don’t like space, you can be the only one on a car park and they will find you and park 2 inches away. Same goes on the beach, campsite or on the street.
The biggest issue by far is rubbish. It is everywhere and if anything spoils Sicily it is the rubbish. They don’t have residential collections instead they have communal collections. So every town will have several places were people can dump rubbish. Inevitably it spills over, so most road sides are covered in litter. Graffiti is sometimes an issue although less so Sicily compared to Italy.
The diverse landscape means you can be skying in the morning and sunbathing in the afternoon. It really is amazing. The beaches are OK but certainly nothing like the white sand in the Caribbean. More golden sand (black in the north) with clumps of wild grasses. But on a sunny day with turquoise waters and the odd lone rock, any beach looks great.
Nearly everything in Sicily ends in an “O’, so if you have no idea how to speak Italian just take a wild guess and then add an ‘O’ and a good chance you’ll not be a million miles out. Uno, Duo, Italiano, Campo, Praygo, gelato, risotto, vino….
In terms of our stats we’ve spent a total of €1,436 (£1200) , or €35 per day broken down as follows
- Shopping €643
- Diesel €310
- Camping €212
- Cigs/tobacco €162
- Dining out €45
- LPG €36
- Other €28
When we go shopping we don’t really hold back, we buy what we want and when we want. We don’t compromise on quality and the cupboards are always stacked as best we can. As most people know, Craig is an excellent cook, so home cooking is our preference and when it comes to BBQ time, Craig does a mean T-bone! All our drinking water is bottled and most evenings Craig has a glass or two or three of wine or beer. For me, I like to melt away with a piece of chocolate.
It would be good if Craig could give up the fags both from a financial point but mainly from a health perspective but his choice.
I would also like to eat out a little more just so we can experience different foods. It also makes you dress up a little more, making an effort for each other which in my eyes in nice.
Weather wise its rained for 3 days. overcast for 4 and 34 days of glorious sunshine. We’ve travelled 1,608 kilometres around Sicily through all sorts of terrain.
We will definitely come back to Sicily (rare for us) and in many ways very sad to say good bye as everything about it is simple and beautiful. We feel very lucky and privileged to have seen Sicily and I hope when we return it is as beautiful as the day we left.
But the whole point of this trip is to explore Europe, so onwards and upwards.