On the whole, Sicily has a very different vibe from the rest of Italy. The best I can describe it as a combination of Africa and Italy- which is a pretty easy conclusion to draw given it’s geographic location. But what that actually translates to on a street level is a much greater ethnic diversity than Italy (and better ethnic food) while still displaying the classic Italian norms.
I spent all three of my nights in Palermo, on the north side of Sicily. I wanted a big city to stay in, but word of warning: if you’re at all interested in hiking the famous volcano Mt. Etna, stay on the east side of the island. Sicily is a big place, and it would take a good chunk of time training or busing there from Palermo.
I split my weekend into three parts: first half day exploring the city itself, another relaxing on the beach, and a third in the interior in a small town of Corleone. Yes, the movie the Godfather drew me here, along with almost any other tourist that would visit the town. I found a few things interesting:
1) The city, predictably, has gone through great lengths to shed themselves of their mafia past. Anti-mafia movement is the name of the game, and the tour we took through town focused primarily on the anti-mafia movement opposed to the doings of the mafia. Rightly so- these people are brave public heros and the town of course would want to maintain a good name, but part of me thinks they should embrace both sides. Ham up the mafia aspect a bit, sell some more “Godfather” related souvenirs, lead a tour of an old Don’s villa- easy money. None of these things really exist right now, and the poor town could use the income.
2) Transportation sucks. Trying to get from Palermo to Corleone is a definite challenge, and the only way to do it is by bus. However the bus times do not line up with the guided tours of the city and the last bus leaves at the remarkably early 4:00pm back to Palermo, so one needs to plan accordingly.
That’s about it- the couple of places I hit both were exactly what I was hoping for, and Sicily was well worth the flight from Rome. A couple of final pointers for anyone considering going:
-Try the Etna Rosso, a Sicilian red wine grown on the slopes of Mt. Etna. Very delicious.
- In Palermo, stay at Casa di Amici. They had a very friendly staff in a great location for a reasonable price, only make sure you ask to stay in the main flat. They’re divided into two, and the lesser one sucks.
-The daytime markets turn into night life hubs around 11:00pm. Definitely check out one of them if you’re a night life person.