SICILY - The Island of History - Trip Report
Amazing history. Sicily's rich history reflects its central location in the the Mediterranean. Going back to 800 BC it was colonized for hundreds of years by Greeks and Phoenicians. Then over the centuries the island was ruled by the Romans, the Goths, the Byzantine Empire, the Muslims, the Normans, the German Hohenstaufens, the Angevins, the Arogonese, Spain, the Bourbons, and finally Italy.
Amazing sites. The result of this history is an abundance of fascinating historical sites to complement the ruggedly beautiful land and seascapes and the charming ancient towns.
Palermo. We began our tour in the capital city of Palermo. Architecture layered with varied cultural styles over the centuries. Fine plazas, narrow lanes lined with vendors
Monreale. Monreale Cathedral is on a hill overlooking Palermo and dates back to 1174, It is a great example of Norman architecture but it is also a delightful mix of Baroque, Muslim, Byzantine and Catholic decor. and symbolism, The walls are covered with Christian mosaics, above the non-representation Muslim geometric tile patterns. The tiled exterior is extraordinary.
The Cloister. The peaceful green Cloister is noted for its colonnade covered with intricate carved and golden designs .
Segesta. A short drive from Palerma we encounter the stunning Segesta Greek ruins including an amphitheater and a well preserved Doric temple dating back to about 420 BC..
Scopello. We then visit the lovely little town of Scopello and take a swim in the warm crystal clear blue waters below the hilltop town. One of our favorite stops on our tour.
Erice. The hilltop fortified town of Erice, with its narrow cobblestone streets and stone monuments, is a well preserved medieval walled city with great views of Punta del Saraceno, Capo San Vito and the Aegaian Islands.
Selinunte. Selinunte was one of the most important of the Greek colonies, and was founded about 628 BC. .The acropolis contains the ruins of at least 8 Greek temples.
Planeta Forestoria Resort. We stayed at the gorgeous resort in Menfi created by the founders of the Planeta winery. The resort overlooks vineyards and the sea, and also makes a seaside villa and becch available to guests.. The food is incredible and indeed this resort is a culinary school.
Agrigento. Agringento has the best-preserved Greek temple in the world (Concordia) along with several others. We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Athena which is on the temple grounds and gives its guests private access to the site before it opens to the public. We had the place to ourselves for 30 minutes. Extraordinary!
Villa Romana Del Casale. This UNESCO World Heritage site has the largest, most complex, and best preserved Roman mosaics in the world. Covered by a landslide centuries ago, it was forgotten until excavated over the last century. Virtually every floor and wall in this huge villa complex is covered in rich mosaics, including the famous "bikini girls."
Taormina. The ancient city of Taormina is the major tourist destination of Sicily. Built on the hillside of Monte Tauro, it features great seaside views of the Ionian Sea, a Greek theater, and popular beaches accessible by an aerial tram. There is also a beautiful garden, Giardini della Villa Comunale, and charming restaurants and shops.
Hotel San Mateo. This five-star hotel is in the heart of town with lush accommodations and great views.
Syracusa. This 2700 year old city was considered the greatest and most beautiful Greek city in ancient times. Its architecture mixes Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Muslim and Christian influences - for example the Cathedral was built in the 600's over the Temple of Athena and has fluted Doric columns, Norman arches, and Baroque statues.
Syracusa also has wonderful shops and charming restaurants.
Noto. Noto's main street with reputed to be the most beautiful in Sicily. The spiral staircase to the bell tower provides a nice view of the town.
Ragusa. This ancient hilltop walled city built of stone has amazing vistas. After a devastating 1693 earthquake, the town was largely rebuilt in the Baroque building style of the era.
Locanda Don Serafino. There is an amazing restaurant and inn carved into the rock on which the town is perched. Remarkable ambiance, great service, excellent food. There is just one very chic room in the inn so far.