The Sicilian

by Jonathan Hurcombe
I’m not sure what I was expecting from Sicily. Its history is extensive and its people – passionate and fearless – have inspired some of popular culture’s renowned characters, the obvious being the infamous Godfather – Don Corleone.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel to Italy on numerous occasions, spending time in Rome and the Amalfi Coast. Both equally memorable and abundant in breathtaking features. You can read exquisitely descriptive prose and scan the most beautiful photography of these places, but nothing quite matches burning an imprint of their beauty on to your own limbic system. Sicily, I imagined, would very much be the mysterious and slightly more raw cousin of mainland Italy. This was indeed the case, and it offered some unexpected idiosyncrasies.
Gemma and I flew late at night and as the plane descended a faint outline of the Isle emerged with a nebulous glow of white and orange lights dotted along its coastline. I can be a nervous flier but the decent I don’t mind so much as it stirs excitement and the anticipation of adventure kicks in.
The airport is only a short bus ride away from central Palermo (Sicily’s capital city). Just after you’ve walked through customs there’s a tonne of desks to buy tickets from, make sure you’ve asked where the actual stop is as no one is quick to tell you and if we hadn’t ran for it then it would’ve meant more time in the airport – who wants that?
Normally, I’d have my eyes fixed on my new surroundings to take in any nuances of the local culture, but this would have to wait until morning. The bus terminates at the central stations, which seemed perfect, and it was until technology let us down and maps was unable to pinpoint the flat. It’s a funny thing to contemplate now, but aimlessly traipsing around in the dark in our new neighbourhood felt a bit threatening a first. It reminded me of all those films where a naive and usually drunken stranger clumsily stumbles into a gloomily lit street, the scene cuts to a dog barking and menacing characters appear out of the twilight – our stranger’s doom seems imminent.
Odd then how minutes after we’d met our host and headed out for food the atmosphere transformed into friendly and welcoming. Despite the glitchy start, we’d picked a flat full of character in an excellent area. However, the first guitar duet we witnessed left much to be desired. With or Without You by U2 is not a strong song choice for classically trained and accomplished Sicilian musicians.

 Our host had a penchant for the works of Fernando Botero. These were everywhere. 

Now as we all know, the Italians / Sicilians have a imitable approach to breakfast. It’s sharp, full of fast conversation fuelled by knock-out strength espresso and variations on croissants that’ll turn any butter and sugar abstainer into a fully fledged addict with one bite. For a truly authentic experience head to La Vucciria – we thoroughly enjoyed this place. Image below links to it’s location on google maps. The actual address of the place we visited was: La Bottega Del Principe – Discesa dei Maccheronai. 37.
 It was situated on a narrow street packed full with the dizzying activity of the day. Stalls of fresh fish, vegetables, and fruit added to the vibrancy of the bustling breakfast.
The Piazza Pretoria is located right in the centre of Palermo. It’s a unique spot adorned with an exquisite collection of neoclassical sculptures that evoke a lost era. A special place that acts as a catalyst for the imagination.

At the Church of San Cataldo which dates back to 1160.

A focal point of Palermo – the Cathedral. It’s a delightful landmark that fuses Gothic and baroque architectural styles. I also love the hints of Arabian influences. It’s worth a walk through the crypts and along the roof.
There are some creepy relics to be found in Sicily. One such example being the preserved forearm bones of a beloved saint that are on show for all to come and see.

Arriving on Lipari……..

Gemma and I love Island life – we were hugely excited to head to Lipari. It’s simple to get to and is flanked by a number of other interesting Islands. If you’re fascinated by geological titanic forces of the Earth then visits to Vulcano or Stromboli (continuously erupting for nearly 2,000 years) are for you.
To get to Lipari, we’d very much recommend getting the Liberty Lines ferry service from Milazzo. They run regular hydrofoil boats that are both comfy and speedy.

Sicilian red wine helps us plan…….

Waiting for our AirBnB host to pick us up. Mandatory snooze and bottle of wine required – not to mention the jazzy yoga leggings. They raised a few local’s eyebrows.

First day on the beach… our beloved turquoise blue waters were a welcome sight.

Remnants of an ancient eruption that I think took place about 1,400 years ago.  

Getting around Lipari is best done by car or scooter. I’m a massive motorbike fan so will jump at the chance to ride on two wheels whenever I can. The views are pure magic, you feel on top of the world.
Make sure you have a jumper or coats stowed in a bag or the bike as it can get cold if the weather changes – which it will do quickly higher up.

My best attempt at Italian / Sicilian gestures. 

Rooftop Yoga is fast becoming a practice I aim to pursue in most destinations. 

Practising my public speaking…….ummm minus the audience #awkward 

Back On Sicily,


Isola Bella……..

Alcantara Gorge…….

 Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to scale the heights of Mount Etna. This alone warrants a return to Sicily. Our last days were spent in Catania another of the Islands characterful cities. If you walk around enough it’s inevitable that you’ll discover local treats that exude inimitable Sicilian culture. We found a fantastic outdoor restaurant (map below) The food and wine alone were enough to entice us to stay the entire afternoon relaxing in the sun.
Gemma and I have befriended a sommelier in our local wine shop – an excellent french gentleman, Phillipe. Before we go anywhere we ask his advice on which wines to try. He said a must try is a hearty Sicilian red grape variety Nero D’Avola. This will not be unfamiliar to any wine enthusiast as many wineries now produce this on a vast scale. What is worth doing is exploring the Vineyards that also double up as agriturismo resorts. This is where you get some truly unique wines that offer a unique experience for the palette.


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