Our Travels through Sicily

After having a wonderful time in Tuscany and Umbria last year with OAT, Overseas Adventure Travel, Jane and I decided to see another part of Italy. Although Sicily is part of Italy, it has it’s own character. Sicilians have their own language and customs. Because of its location, it has been occupied by many cultures and each culture has left something of itself in its customs, food and way of life. Sicily is an archeologist’s dream. While digging foundations for new buildings many ancient relics are uncovered. Fishermen have found ancient Greek relics deep in the local waters. There were Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Romans until the Spanish rule. Structures that were built under one rule were changed many times by each conquering civilization.

Our trip was not only about history, archeology and culture, but also about people. Everywhere we went, our guide made sure we interacted with locals. He spoke with a man in his 90’s who recalled Mussolini and WW2. We spent a day on a farm, cooking, eating, participating in some chores and learning about their family. We enjoyed a home hosted lunch, visited a man whose house was filled with family heirlooms from the 16th century, enjoyed local food and always stayed in beautiful local hotels. One evening, to the dismay of some Sicilians, we were given a talk with Anthony Provenzano, his father was the Mafia “Boss of Bosses” in Sicily and was on the run for 43 years.

On the way to each location, we often chatted with a local resident while as our terrific guide, Marcello, translated. The OAT experience was to be immersed in Sicilian life as opposed to viewing it from the outside. There was so much good food that sometimes I felt we were eating our way through the country.

We also had “adventure.” We hiked on Mount Etna and walked down into a volcanic tube. We rode through the narrow streets of Modica in a 1960’s two cylinder Fiat 500S and we cooked dinner at a restaurant. There were other hikes and a visit to a historic winery. The tour was 14 days of unique experiences. Photos were taken with a small Fuji X30 and an iPhone 6s.

This is Marcello, our tour director, welcoming us on the first evening after landing in Palermo. Here, he’s explaining our upcoming activities for the next morning. Most of us were pretty jet-lagged that evening. Marcello proved to be an excellent tour director. He was very knowledgeable, caring and interesting. He also made sure we were always well fed, comfortable and happy. He was well versed in all aspects of Sicilian life.

Our first walk was through the Palermo markets. Because Sicily is surrounded by water, fish is plentiful. We never ate processed food. All our food was either fresh from the sea or farm to table.

The members of our group are paying attention to Marcello’s discussion of Sicilian markets. We had 16 travelers from all over the USA.

Every kind of fish imaginable was for sale, this photo is a small sampling.

At each location, OAT provided a local guide who met us as we arrived. They had so much to say and never enough time.

A Norman Cathedral in Palermo.

Before we left for Sicily, we read about a Jewish Synagogue being formed in Palermo. Jews were expelled by an edict on January 12, 1492, more than 500 years ago In 2016, the property of a former church was given to the tiny Jewish community by the local Archbishop.

Those who were interested, were able to visit the proposed synagogue space while the remainder of our group had free time.

Our tour guide, Marcello, made all of the arrangements for the authorities to open the space and accompanied us.

To read more about it link here.

We also visited the municipal archives. The photo below is of the official document expelling Jews. Palermo, under Spanish rule, had a thriving Jewish community. When the Jews were forced to leave, all of their property and wealth was sold off to finance Columbus’s voyage to the New World.

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