Many years ago in the heart of China, as a school girl, I heard a beautifully touching story from the radio, one of the few means of reaching out beyond the Great Wall of China at the time. That story was translated into Chinese from Italian: Lemons of Sicily. It tells an emotionally charged story of failed romance between a couple of young Sicilian lovers, him a poor flute player who did everything to help his lover to reach career heights as a famous singer and who finally abandons him. The story starts with him visiting her in her luxury home in Naples, bringing her a basket of Sicily lemons.
Actually I remembered little else except the title of the short story which has stayed with me all these years. Sicily became a symbol of romance for me from that point on. I never expected that one day I would be visiting this far far away place in the West. Even though I have been living in the UK for many years since then, it did not occur to me to visit until now. One of the reasons, of course, was the other dominant legends, Mafia (see previous blog post).
So before my feet touched the Sicilian soil, I knew roughly three things about this Island: Romance and Lemons, Mafia, and location for a TV series I faithfully followed on BBC 4 and absolutely adored: The Young Montalbano – guess apart from solving murder mysteries, he is the romantic lead of a typical dark and handsome heart-throb who set millions of viewers’ pulses racing 😉
So Agrigento, where the author Luigi Pirandello came from inevitably became the destination of our day trip, as you can see the picture of me next to the bronze bust of the man who created that story which imprinted itself on my impressionable young mind (picture above). Apart from him, Agrigento is home to the famous Valle dei Templi, which the Greeks built three millennia ago, then fell into the hands of the Romans.
A slow walk into ancient history in the steaming heat of 41C was well worth it, despite the heat stroke I suffered by the end of that sweating saunter into the past.
En route, we also paid a visit to Villa Romana del Casale where we saw some of the best preserved and the most extensive set of Roman mosaics in the world. The lavish Roman hunting villa took over 50 years to construct beginning towards the end of 3rd century AD, and the remains we were able to see were absolutely amazing.
Another place with a wow factor was the Greek theatre carved out of the hillside in Taormina, a popular and obligatory tourist town, as it was one of the stops of the Grand Tour. The amphitheatre overlooked the deep blue of the Mediterranean with Mount Etna in the distance. It has amazing acoustics and spectacular views.
Other wonderful sights we managed to see included some of the most stunning and impressive churches we had ever set foot in. The churches in the capital Palermo, and the Cathedral in Monreale (My King) were simply out of this world and beyond what words can describe.
Then, of course, there was the vast landscape and supreme beaches and sunsets. The natural beauty in Sicily alone is worth a visit.
Our week-long holiday to Sicily was too short to explore it thoroughly and to my heart’s content, but that may not be a bad thing. It leaves something for us to go back to. Next time, we’ll be sure to follow Young Montalbano’s footsteps to discover some of the hidden gems, and if I was lucky, I may even dip into the waters where he did his morning and evening swims. Time will tell.
Finally, a few more holiday snaps to tempt you, including a selection of delicious culinary and sweet treats we indulged in.