Awoken by the agriculturally mundane sounds of the humble tractor at 4am, I had a fleeting moment of – ‘where an earth am I?’ To paint a picture, I am on the top floor of a rustic bygone villa in the secluded and agrarian south of Sicily. Citrus permeates the air, and a fresh cool sea breeze blows from the silent, brooding ocean. It’s sublimely bucolic, minus the tractor.
At first, my overactive imagination runs wrought at the prospect of mechanic noises and torchlight’s among the sheltered vines at this graveyard hour – ‘tis Sicily after all. Alas, my preconceptions and imaginations prove hasty and overactive (as usual). It’s too hot during the day (40°C plus) and the ideal time to pluck, prune, plough and ponder is indeed at 4am.
Sicily is a sublime fusion of culture, history, food and people. I have always found that one of the greatest things about being a tourist in Italy is its variety. My boyfriend is Milanese and even he failed to completely comprehend the language (dialect) and cultural nuances of his fellow people, albeit separated by 1,340 km and 11 regions.
I’ve always found this to be Italy’s main attraction; wherever you go and whatever town or region you visit, it’s so disparate from the last. Italy maintains its cultural, gastronomic and linguistic multiplicity, guarding their historic diversity with a fierce and protective pride.
We’re staying near Palma di Montechiaro, within the province of Agrigento. It’s a region rooted within its traditions and unapologetic in its refusal to adopt modernisaiton. The market is the main hub of the town, where nothing opens before 10am. ‘Lunch time’ is imperative and is a 3-hour practice. The evenings are long, social and colourful. Nonna’s smoke Marlborough’s and gossip in the piazza, youths flirt under a full moon, children greedily guzzle gelato and men exchange harsh words in the forbidden offside allies. Nobody sleeps before 3am.
The beaches are secluded and quiet and are thankfully without seaside kitsch. Overprices cafes, restaurants or, heaven forbid, a fun fair are forbidden. It’s a welcome change (Brighton beach being our closest from our abode in London).
The food, people, traditions and culture of this Sicilian region are from a bygone age. It’s a tranquil and untouched area which awakens the senses and indulges the simple pleasures of eating, drink, strolling and chatting.
I have travelled all over Italy and even lived near Milan for a year as a naïve 18-year old. Yet, I have never (excuse the cliché) come across anything quite like Sicily. I seemed to have developed a vacation nostalgia for it; a place I love to visit but could never live (more on that later).
- About 70 percent of people in Sicily speak Sicilian not Italian.
- Palermo is one of the five cities Forbes Magazine deemed as having the tastiest and most varied street food.
- Economically, Sicily is one of the poorest regions in Italy.
- Sicily has a 600 mile coastline
Slept / Casa Malerba
Ate / Copious amounts of Spaghetti Vongole
Drank / Espresso / dry local white wine / limoncello
By day / Took to the beaches at Scala dei Turchi
By night / Played the voyeur at the piazza in Licata