Sicily is a place that can't be described in one short post, especially if you have enough time to indulge in its cultural, natural and culinary richness. That's why I've already wrote two blog posts about our Sicilian adventure, and it seems to me now that there's more to come! :)
After a few lovely days spent in the valley of baroque towns, we headed to another famous Sicilian valley, the one of the Temples (or in Italian, Valle dei Templi) to discover ancient history of the island.
The city of Agrigento was founded by Greeks in the 6th century BC on a plateau overlooking the sea and olive groves and was then known by the name of Akragas. According to UNESCO, it was one of the greatest Mediterranean cities of ancient world, and thanks to the extraordinary condition of preserved temples, it is today a protected site.
We approached Agrigento by car, struggling to find our accommodation, navigating in circles through narrow, one-way streets of the city on the hill. Next morning we woke up early to avoid the unbearable sun beams while visiting the white cliffs of Scala dei Turchi and the temples of Valle dei Templi.
I have to admit that I expected more from Scala dei Turchi (translated “Stair of the Turks”) which looked so tempting on all the photos and postcards. I don’t wan’t anyone to get the wrong impression- the white cliffs are peculiar and interesting, but not as big and impressive as I imagined, and the turquoise sea seen from the distance was pretty muddy because of the waves that raised up the sand. We sat on the warm cliffs as long as the rising sun allowed us to, took a walk on the sandy beach and then headed back to see the temples.
The site is amazing- the Greek town of Akragas landed on a hilly landscape with a view of turquoise sea, and is today surrounded by ancient olive groves. The temples were built in Doric Order, the most simple and the most massive one of three Greek orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). They look impressive in their simplicity and proportion on the background of clear blue sky, as they must have looked 27 centuries ago.
Before heading to Palermo we decided to stop at Sciacca, charming fishing port and the so called “city of ceramics”.
The city wasn’t as pretty as medieval Cefalù or romantic Taormina, but it had a laid-back atmosphere, artistic vibe and the terraced main square overlooking the sea and the port dotted with fishermen’s boats. I found out later that the city hosts one of the most frequented carnivals on Sicily and is known for its spas- so there are few good reasons to visit!
One could spend quite a lot of time wandering through ceramics shops of Sciacca- we found one that had original pieces and a nice lady selling them, so we ended up buying a pile of beautiful souvenirs, and even visiting the workshop of the family producing them!
The road that connects southwestern Sicilian coast and Palermo passes through picturesque landscape of wavy golden hills, which we were able to enjoy thanks to the low traffic, mild afternoon sun that spread over the hills and a bunch of croissants filled with pistacchio cream given to us by our kind hostess in Agrigento!
Traffic in Palermo was a shock at first- as there are almost no rules and no safety distance in lines for Palermitan drivers, but we got used to it and just went with the flow (and also didn’t use our car till the day of our departure :) ).
Palermo is an assembly of historical layers with great architectural pieces and chaotic 20th century residential architecture, broad avenues and dirty side alleys, expensive fashion stores and and quirky farmers markets...
If you’re visiting Palermo there are some things not to be missed: Vucciria or Ballaro Markets with their abundance of colours, smells and sounds, complex architectural legacy inherited from all the invaders that once ruled the island, brioche con gelato which is a Palermitan specialty and locals say that you can’t leave without trying it, and getting to know the locals- their warm hospitality and spontaneity is really enjoyable.
Chiesa della Martorana (depicted on the pictures above) is a wonderful example of architectural multiplicity, with its Byzantine mosaics, medieval bell-tower and baroque façade!
Our last night on Sicily was a cherry on top to this wonderful trip- we tried out a restaurant in Palermo that served some insanely good seafood dishes, all of them fresh and local, of course! The staff were so friendly and kind- they invited us to see a bucket of fresh lobsters that had just arrived, and talked with us about the differences between Croatian and Italian seafood cuisine!
Although our trip came to an end in Palermo, I am going to write two more posts about Sicilian cuisine, as I am obviously excited about everything we’ve seen and tasted there, and can’t wait to go back and explore this astonishing land further.