How to Spend One Day in Sicily

Everyone knows Sicily because of the mafia, but it’s so much more than that. It is the crossroads of the Mediterranean, closer to Africa than Rome, which made it a hub of trade dating back at least to the Greeks. That means anyone who was anyone in the area has been there, built something, and contributed to the culinary culture. Plus it’s warm most of the year so swimming is encouraged, long strolls in sultry Palermo are de rigeur, and boat rides out to the islands will delight you.

Via Vitaliano Brancati, 9, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy
Enjoy your Pasta Alla Norma (one of the most traditional Sicilian pastas with tomatoes and roasted/fried eggplant) like the Sicilians—straight from the eggplant itself! Find a gorgeous (and large!) eggplant in one of the many street markets in Cefalu, slice off the top, and roast it whole. When soft, scoop out the eggplant flesh, and fill it with the Pasta Alla Norma. A perfect one-dish-wonder.

Just be sure to get to the markets early for good produce.
Via dei Biscottari, 90134 Palermo PA, Italy
In the area of the Norman palace, near the market, there are still some little medieval botteghe (shops) below the level of the palace. Via dei Biscottari is where they used to make the pastries and cookies for the king. There is one shop I love to visit where they still make the shells for cannoli by hand. Sicilians love cannoli, of course, filled with fresh ricotta. We have an intense sweet tooth. Via dei Biscottari near Via Saladino
Piazza del Parlamento, 90134 Palermo PA, Italy
by Fabrizia Lanza Within the Palace of the Normans, there’s a chapel of the kings. “It’s sumptuous,” Fabrizia says, “all covered with mosaics. It’s like getting inside a golden box of jewelry.” Piazza del Parlamento 1 This story appeared in the January/February 2011 issue.
Piazza Verdi, 90138 Palermo PA, Italy
You might recognize Palermo’s opera house, the Massimo Theater, from its role in The Godfather: Part III—the movie’s final scenes were filmed here. Though it echoes classical style, the building is young compared to Palermo’s other architectural attractions, built just over a century ago, in the late 1800s. It’s the largest opera house in Italy and the third largest in all of Europe. During the day, visitors can take guided tours (which are offered in English).
98050 Lipari, Province of Messina, Italy
With its small shops and outdoor restaurants, the long Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Lipari Town was made for strolling. The Ottoman admiral Barbarossa wreaked havoc here in 1544; following that, Spanish rulers built the imposing citadel over a Greek acropolis. Inside its walls, the Archaeological Museum, located in an old bishop’s palace, displays Neolithic objects alongside fine amphorae and other Greek artifacts. Next door, a gorgeous Baroque facade draws you into the cathedral with its detailed and colorful vault.

Via Pardo, 29, 95131 Catania CT, Italy
Make a meal of fresh sea urchin at Osteria Antica Marina among the bustle of the fishmongers in Catania. This appeared in the August/September 2013 issue. Image courtesy of Osteria Antica Marina
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