by Sacha Bunnik
The coastal drive from Giardini Naxos to Palermo is very scenic and passes a number of attractive towns on the north of Sicily. One of the nicest of these is Cefalu, where Dennis decided to drive into the old historic part of town with its many narrow one-way roads. Let’s just say we are lucky to be alive and that we took out the extra car insurance option.
We had to indulge in some ice cream just to regain our nerve after those driving experiences in Cefalu. The experience showed us again how stress-free a coach tour can be, compared to self-drive.
It is packed with many historic buildings, churches and plazas – enough to keep you well-occupied for the day. The best being the massive and imposing Palermo Cathedral, Palazzo dei Normanni (a magnificent palace), sections of the old city wall and Quattro Canti.
Quattro Canti is very unique as it’s an intersection in the old town that separates four different departments/council of the city; each corner of the intersection has an historic building that has a beautiful ornate façade with fountains and statues.
It seems that each department/council is trying to make their building more ornate than the other three on the intersection.
From Palermo in the north we headed towards the southern side of Sicily to the city of Agrigento which is best known for its amazing Greek and Roman archaeological ruins.
The ancient Greeks built their city on a plateau overlooking the ocean around 500 BC. By 200 BC the Romans had taken over and enlarged the city. This ancient site is UNESCO World Heritage-listed as it was one of the greatest cities of the ancient Mediterranean world, and it has been so incredibly well-preserved. It is home to a great row of Doric temples that are considered to be some of the most outstanding representations of Greek art and culture.
For me, the two most interesting buildings are the grand Temple of Gemini and impressive Temple of Concordia. They are linked by a stone road, that also links other temples and buildings (which are not as in tact or well-preserved as the above mentioned temples). A visit here is so special, largely in part to the backdrop view of the modern city of Agrigento and the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea, it’s a nice contrast to the ruins.
On a completely separate note, I need to add that Sicilians take their food and wine very seriously. During our time we did not experience a bad meal while travelling in Sicily. The produce was always fresh, the homemade pasta delicious and the ice cream is scrumptious.
Make sure you try the small local cafés and restaurants as this is where you will experience the most authentic offerings.
On our last day in Sicily we drove through the rural south of the island from Agrigento to the port in Pozzallo to catch the ferry to Malta. Our next adventure began.
Explore our Southern Italy, Sicily & Malta small group tour here.