In my previous post on Sicily in 4 days you probably noticed there were only two. What I thought was going to be a quick guide ended up having more information than I expected. Thank you to those who have had the patience to wait for “part 2”.
Sicily Day 3
Exploring the Valley of Temples in Agrigento has been a highlight of Sicily for decades. Rising up on the grassy bluffs above the city is this ancient look into Sicily’s past. How far past? Agrigento was originally constructed in 440 BC.
Walk the time-worn Sicilian streets, neighborhoods and Temples of Agrigento and imagine a toga-clad society and how they once lived here. The Temple of Concord is the most visible structure of all the ruins, similar to the Parthenon in Athens; the grandeur of the temple has not lost its imperial spirit. Scattered near the temple are telamons, (human figures that have bodies and faces deeply carved into the columns) which once stood proudly around the structure. Don’t let the busy entry detour you from going in, once past the ticket booths the crowds thin out.
The ruins built over 2000 years ago show a civilization that had important part in trading then became a rich metropolis for its time. That the Valley of the Temples are still standing so prominently, it shows the perfected building skills of the Grecian Empire.
Don’t miss the Christian Catacombs situated between the Temple of concord and the Temple of Hercules. Tunnels underneath the ground dug out with little niches for the bodies of the faithful. The chapel once used by the early Christians still have original paintings reflecting their faith on the walls. Walking around the ruins of Agrigento should take about 2 hours. The entrance fee is 6 Euro.
Next stop will be one you will never forget, the Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina shows the life of the 3rd century so vividly there is no mistaking what life was like back then. Once the retreat for a very rich aristocrat, the rooms and floor mosaics are virtually untouched, in perfect condition.
Due to a flood that covered the historic mosaics in mud, the tiles were protected from wear and tear from sun and storm through the centuries. Start out just outside the Solarium where you will see small red brick aqueducts with roman archways. Ovens were built where water passed through archways that would heat water for the thermal baths. Impressive and very ingenious for their time, the water was also used to heat the floors.
Walking around the aqueduct enter into the first room, you can tell what it is by the floor mosaic. Covering the rotunda’s floor you will see a rather large Grecian man covered in fluffy towels getting a message before entering the baths. This was the start of a fantastic spa treatment. Once you leave the baths the rest of the house is on display. Fishing is the major theme in the large dining room. It shows scantily clad men working (some are said to be cupid’s) from their exquisitely made boats. Hauling in nets with fish above, the sea is filled with aquatic life and winged angelic figures taking care of fish, dolphins, and other sea animals.
Other rooms display the hunt, a corridor showing a trip to Egypt with exotic animal. A favorite is the gymnasium depicting 10 women working out in their bikinis. For those who thought the skimpy suits of today were relatively new will find it interesting that women thousands of years ago used them as workout gear in the gym. Yes, fashion it seems always has a way of coming back around.
If you get hungry there is a large snack bar where you can with umbrella tables under the tall Eucaly
You should allow about 2 hours at the Villa. There are other ancient sites you can visit if you are not in a hurry.
Don’t miss the Villa delle Meraviglie
Take the scenic drive to Taormina thru the Sicilian interior highway.
After checking into your hotel you might want to find a comfy chaise lounge and relax on the beach or next to the pool. If you still have excess energy take a stroll thru quaint Giardini Naxos fishing village, and explore the seaside trinket shops. The town is filled with cafe’s and many excellent restaurants. The nightclubs normal packed to maximum capacity on weekends with DJ’s playing dance music. If you prefer live music, it’s not hard to find a lively club or soothing music at a piano bar.
Sicily Day 4
Taormina is a gem built high into the crevices of coastal cliffs also known as “the island in the sky” by past travelers. Taking the bus that traverses its way to the village gives a magnificent view of two azure bays. There is also the Mazzaro Cable Car with a quick 10-minute lift up the bluffs into town. What makes Taormina so spectacular is the view of snowcapped Mt. Etna Volcano. Photographers will find the best shots from the ancient Greco-Roman Theatre was constructed in 3 B.C., where decorative Corinthian columns frame the mountain. Some days a plume of smoke shows the volcano is still very much alive. The historic arena once used for sports and gladiatorial games, now they bring top name entertainment throughout the summer.
Take the gondola up to Taormina
Taormina is unarguably the most visited tourist attraction in Sicily, as you walk through ancient streets its easy to see why. Marbled with vibrant flowers lining balconies of apartments, add to that colorful fruits and vegetables in wooden boxes stacked outside small markets makes for an enjoyable stroll.
Don’t miss the Tourist Information Office, There is a wonderful display of almost life-sized, lifelike puppets dressed in period fashion. From the velvet clad King and Queen to the Knights in their glory wearing metal suits of armor and ready for fight, these mannequins are the history of Sicilian tradition.
A few more favorites
The main street of Taormina is Corso Umberto. Enter at the ancient archway of the Clocktower Gate, then stroll the winding, narrow streets this lively village. There are plenty of boutique shops that have colorful ceramics, jewelry, and local crafts. Stop off for a tasty plate of Sicilian Pasta or try a fresh-baked pastry with a steamy cappuccino along the way. Pop into one of the many churches and check out the architecture. A favorite is San Nicola also called the Duomo-Cathedral, built around 1400 this rock building houses some very interesting artwork. Starting with a Roman arched window outside the door with a unique tall sculpted cross with the bodies of martyrs climbing up the cross toward Jesus.
On the inside the pink marble Altar, columns and baptismal basins are stunning but the favorite for all is the handcarved nativity scene in a glorious harmonious setting. Also you can’t miss the exceptional Baroque Minotaur Fountain that sits in front of the main doors of the church. The fountain is surrounded by 4 mythical horses that spit out water from their mouths into small basins that watered local animals. It also has 3 levels, the first has 3 mythological Tritons in the middle are holding up the basin with crossed arms overhead. Gargoyles encompass the first level of the basin with heads stretching over the side, protecting their ground. At the top the Minotaur or Triton is wearing a crown.
Sicily has so much to offer that 4 days will not do justice to this amazing island. This itinerary will give you a quick, efficient introduction that will leave you making plans to return soon for another visit.
Suggested Restaurants in Sicily
Trattoria Biondo – Via Carducci 15, Palermo, Ph +30 091 57 36 62. Old Sicilian style cooking. Best pasta’s and pizzas.
Il Delfino – Via Torretta, 80, Palermo, Ph+39 091 53 02 82. Good value, good food with superb Antipasti.
Ristorante Pierrot – Via Marco Polo 108, Selinunte, Ph +39 0924-46205. Beachside dining with magnificent views of the ruins. Fresh seafood, veggies, and pasta. Main courses $10-$25 per person. Nice stop for lunch
Trattoria del Pescatore – Del Pescatore, 92100 AGRIGENTO Ph +39 414342. For seafood lovers this is the place to eat. It is a little out-of-the-way but worth the drive for good food. Price averages about $30 per person.
Al Saraceno – Via Madonna della Rocca,16/18, Taormina, 98039, Ph+39.0942.632015. Well known for the best pizza in Taormina.
Restorante Anfora – Via Denti,5, Taormina, Sicily 98039, Ph (+39) 094224647. Great fish, meats and pastas just off the Corso Umberto
Best Western Ai Cavalieri – Via Sant’Oliva 8, Palermo, Sicily 90141, Italy. Located on a quiet street in a great location near attractions. The Cavalieri is modern with updated conveniences, clean and the restaurant serves delicious food.
Ambasciatori Hotel – Via Roma 111, Palermo, Sicily 90133, Italy. You won’t find a better deal or better hotel in Sicily than the Ambasciatori Hotel. First class service, nicely decorated rooms and a rooftop restaurant overlooking Palermo, makes for a memorable stay.
Tre Torre – Viale Cannatello, 7 | Villaggio Mose, Agrigento, Sicily 92100. Perfect location near the Valley of the Temples, the rooms have ample space and there is a nice pool on the property.
Fatoria Mose – Via M. Pascal 4 | Villaggio Mose, Agrigento, Sicily 92100. Nice change of pace from the normal hotel stay. The minute you drive up to this Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast it feels like home. The rooms are rustic and cozy and clean. Kids love staying here, they can run around and explore to their hearts content. The food is fabulous, dinners are fun as you sit around the table and compare notes with other guests. There are only 7 rooms, make sure you book early.
San Domenico Palace Hotel – Piazza San Domenico 5, Taormina, 98039, Italy. Drawing the most famous names for centuries this hotel is a spectacular stay. Well maintained and extravagant. If you are looking for something a little more special for a few nights then book this hotel. The outside garden is scattered with fragrant roses and jasmine. A room runs about $350 per night.
Caparena Hotel and Wellness Club – My personal favorite place to stay in Taormina. Lovely beach, nice rooms and great food. For more info read my review here.