There is plenty to see on the Island of Sicily but you really need a car to get about. The highlight has to to be the Acireale Carnival.
We’d heard one of the big events in Italy is their carnivals. A group of eight of us decided to go the Acireale Carnival. WOW, I can’t tell you how spectacular this was. We were expecting some floats with big headed figures on them moving along the road. Well we did get that but so much more. They were pulled along by tractors and manoeuvred to a spot and parked. The float came to life with moving parts and music. Also during the afternoon there was dancing and some smaller floats.
Some of the small floats
The floats are enormous when they open out. The building behind is five stories high which gives you an idea of how big they are. Each of the floats puts on a bit of a show with music blaring out.
Masks are also used on the floats and are of a satirical nature and appears as caricatures of famous people. The float that was created on theme of the Amazon and climate change had a witch doctor emerge and when the mask was removed it revealed “Donald Trump” to the sound track of “Living in America”.
In addition to the floats in years gone by people used to throw eggs or vegetables at each other as part of the celebrations, thankfully now it’s just confetti and spray foam.
We visited the Donnafugata Castle, which is in the commune of Ragusa, near to where the other liveaboard sailing community of Sicily is based.
Valley of the Temples, Agrigento
The Valley of Temples are Greek not Roman ruins built between 510BC and 430BC. There are eight temples. The Temple of Concordia is one of the best preserved temples.
We had a visit from the in-laws, John and Irene, so this is when we did the bulk of our sightseeing of Sicily.
Palermo is in the north of the island and is the capital of Sicily. We visited the Palazzo dei Normanni (Palace of the Normans) or Royal Palace of Palermo. The palace contains the Cappella Palatina which is in the Arab-Norman-Byzantine style that prevailed in 12th century Sicily. It was stunning.
Palermo Cathedral. Here is the tomb of Giuseppe Puglisi, a Roman Catholic priest who openly challenged the Mafia who controlled the Palermo neighbourhood of Brancaccio and was killed by them on 15th September 1993 on his 56th birthday.
The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele opened its doors to the public on the evening of 16 May 1897, twenty-two years after the laying of the first stone. In the Pompeian Room, aka the “Echo Room” there is a spot where you stand in the middle which sounds like the world can hear you as your voice booms out, when in fact they can’t, it’s only you on the spot that can, a very odd experience. Many shocked faces from those standing on the spot.
We took a trip to Syracuse which is on the east coast of Sicily. Here there is a Roman amphitheatre. Syracuse is the birth place of Archimedes who was mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer. We visited a museum that had created his inventions and some of his discoveries.
We took the hop on hop off bus which took us to the island of Ortygia where we thought we would visit Castello Maniace to find that it isn’t open on Monday mornings, it’s normally the other way around they shut in the afternoons. We’ve been caught out with opening times a few times!
We decided to call into Taormina on the way back from Syracuse. Parking is a nightmare. Ian parked up and uttered his usual words “it’ll be alright”. I obviously begged to differ, but he would say that’s not unusual! On walking a 100 yards, and with the realisation that the car could possibly be towed away Ian stayed with the car and me and the in-laws went off for a walk around the sights. Just as well as minutes after we left the Police arrived and moved him on. Taormina is very hilly but very pretty. The theatre, which is Greek, has wonderful views across to Mount Etna.
Mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale
The first day of John and Irene’s visit and the weather was awful, raining, windy and cold, so we decided to visit the mosaics thinking as they are under cover it would be warmer. Wrong! Under cover they might be but the walls were most definitely very open and by the end of our two hour visit my hands were like lumps of ice, not what you’d expect in Sicily at the end of March. Anyway, when you visit mosaics they are normally small pieces, with not much definition, well these looked like they had been laid just the week before (and no they weren’t). The villa and the mosaics date back to early 4th century AD. The reason for the mosaics being so well preserved is a landslide and flood that covered the remains.
A passageway that is approximately 60 metres, is one long mosaic and is the “Ambulatory of the great hunt” and is very impressive. One part shows the animals being loaded into Noah’s ark.
One of the rooms is called the Sala delle Dieci Ragazze translated as “Room of the ten girls”. The girls look like they are wearing bikins but it is in fact sports wear they are athletes. One is holding dumbells which were used the lengthen the long jump, by swinging the arm’s backwards and momentum can be increased which makes it possible to jump further. One is about to throw a discus and two are running.
Easter, as you would expect is the time for parades and Licata was no exception, although a renactment of the cruxcifiction, wasn’t quite what we expected. On Good Friday, Jesus carrying the cross came from one direction and the Virgin Mary was being carried from the opposite direction. They met at the town square and then they were carried down to the end of the road where Jesus was taken into a church and a different statue was brought out without the cross. He couldn’t be tied to the cross with a cross on his back. He was then taken and tied to the cross by the priest.
On Easter Sunday Jesus is paraded again as he has risen from the dead. He is carried around the town which has been decorated.
This pretty much covers our tour and time in Sicily and it’s not long before we say “Arrivederci” to Italy.