A trip around the island region in search of intense flavors and scents, of great cooking and unforgettable wines.
Any time is the right time to visit Sicily, but its art-rich cities, its exceptional food – olive oil, cured meats, fish, citrus fruit, vegetables – and its infinite variety of landscapes are best enjoyed when the tourists have gone home. From September to June, Sicily is at its most seductive. We’ll give you best of the seaside cities, from Palermo to Catania, Agrigento and Trapani. Sicily also has several spa towns, such as Sciacca and Acireale, with comfortable resort hotels that favor the word ‘wellness’. Carnival is a big event in both these towns.
The region is also known for its rich, sometimes disturbing Easter celebrations, especially in Prizzi, near Palermo, in Trapani and Erice.
Sant’Agata is the patron saint of Catania and her mid-winter festivities include a colorful procession through the city streets. Santa Lucia is celebrated in December, and in Siracusa, a gala procession accompanies the statue of the saint from the cathedral in Ortigia to her basilica. There’s hardly a visitor to Sicily who won’t bump into a festival or two, no matter what the time of year. They’re worth looking out for. The ones not designed for tourists have long histories.
From the moment you set foot in Sicily, street food will entice you. Friggitorie – informal shops dedicated to fried foods – are everywhere in Palermo and Catania. Kiosks, focaccerie, gelaterie, fruit and vegetable stands piled high in public markets: temptation is on every corner.
If you come in November, you’ll hit olive oil season, celebrated in festivals all over the island, in Ficarra, Chiaramonte Gulfi, Castelvetrano, Scicli and Trapani, to name a few. Polizzi Generosa honors its own bean, fagiolo Badda. Zafferana Etnea’s food festivals promote the town’s chestnuts, pistachios and honey. There are street fairs focusing on cured meats (Caccamo, Misilmeri, Caltagirone) and mountain products (in the hills of Nebrodi, Madonie and in San Giovanni Gemini near Agrigento). Traditional sweets such as buccellato, Testa di Turco, frittella, cassatella and truscitedda each have a special festa of their own.
In Palermo, wander through the famous Vucciria market, and visit Capo, Ballarò, (perhaps the most multi-ethnic corner of the city) or Borgo Vecchio. Taste panelle, fried chickpea morsels, and potato croquettes, fried eggplant, or cicireddu – tiny fish floured and fried just before serving. More adventurous eaters should try pani cà meusa (sandwiches stuffed with tasty organ meats and either lemon, ricotta or local cheese).
The more hesitant can opt for grilled kebabs of mutton or veal. In Catania, the Fish Market is a glorious sight, its stands gleaming with majestic swordfish, with heaps of dark grouper and bream, mussels and clams, octopus and crustaceans, sardines, cod, gurnard, and shrimps. But no street food can replace a visit to one of the great restaurants, such as Duomo in Ragusa, Madia in Licata, Gazza Ladra and Fattoria delle Torri, both in Modica, Sicily.