Perhaps the best destination to discover the wonders of Sicily, and the shortest as navigation, is Messina. Greek colony from the stormy past, first against Palermo, in the late Middle Ages, to contend for the title of capital of the island, then was besieged by the Spaniards and finally by the Bourbons, not to mention the earthquakes. But this did not discourage the Messinese, who rebuilt that pearl of the Mediterranean that today is Messina, a city of culture, gastronomic delicacies, spectacular coasts, as well as the capital of a territory on which some of the most beautiful villages of Sicily are located.
Milazzo, splendid and enclosed between two gulfs, has Greek origins and a strong attachment to the cinema and to the singing art, thanks to its important festivals dedicated. Do not miss the festivals of eggplant and the one of the fresh fish in August, to savor the flavors of its territory.
Castroreale, which dominates the surrounding area from its hill, has a perfectly preserved medieval fabric, made up of narrow streets and steep alleys, with its squares-lookouts that offer 360° views, the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the church of Candelora and the tower of Federico II. A village full of spectacular religious events, such as Candlemas in February and the feasts of the Assumption and the "Cristo Lungo", in August. Not to mention, again in August, the Castroreale Jazz and the Castilian biscuits Sagra (biscuits soaked in lemon granita), a gastronomic event that, together with the majestic Candlemas altar, is worth visiting the village alone.
The perched Novara di Sicilia, founded by the Gauls during the Norman conquest, has elegant sandstone palaces, cobbled streets and views that open up to a nature that seems untouched. It also preserves ancient traditions, such as the game of the ruzzola of the Maiorchino, the traditional cheese with a pungent taste, which is rolled down the alleys of the village. In August do not miss the pasta 'ncasciada and its traditional festival.
Montalbano Elicona was founded by the Greeks, who considered it the mountain of the Muses. It is recognized from afar for its walls and for the castle, the residence of King Frederick II of Aragon. Rich in traditions and diversity, Montalbano is able to give starry skies that hold your breath, like the beauty of the Basilica of Maria Assunta in cielo and the forest-oriented nature reserve of Malabotta. In August there is also the feast of the Madonna della Divina Provvidenza.
Brolo, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and surrounded by the Nebrodi chain, thanks to its particular microclimate is above all the land of lemons, but also of pirates and legends, often set in the rooms of the castle, practically overlooking the sea. Worth visiting the Mother Church, built in 1764 at the behest of the Marquis del Longarino, Ignazio Vincenzo Abate. If you go around the castle you will see the ghost of Princess Bianca Lancia, do not be afraid: she's not evil.
Another frequent destination is Catania, where even before setting foot on the ground, the view of the beaches of its coast will make you immediately understand the boundless beauty of its territory. In the background the Etna, majestic steaming, and facing the sea. A city with a thousand-year history and home to the oldest university in Sicily, Catania was the birthplace of some of Italy's most illustrious figures, such as Vincenzo Bellini, Giovanni Verga, Luigi Capuana, Nino Martoglio and many others. The baroque figure of its historic center, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, will transport you to a timeless dimension. Back to the present, enjoy traditions and cuisine in the shadow of the black elephant, symbol of the city, it's time to discover the villages:
Aci Trezza, a beautiful seaside village famous for its fishing tradition, the cliffs of the Cyclops and the island of Lachea. Here Giovanni Verga set the Malavoglia and, in the village, the homonymous film by Luchino Visconti and Antonio Pietrangeli was set. Aci Trezza will amaze you with the church of the Patron and with the Medlar's House, a museum of maritime traditions inspired by the novel of the realist writer.
Going up to the Etna, we see the walls of Cannizzo of Castiglione di Sicilia, a strategic observation point that allows you to control the entire Alcantara valley and that according to a legend they were torn in two by a thunderbolt. Near Castiglione there is one of the most important examples of Byzantine churches in all of Sicily, the cuba of Santa Domenica. Inside the village there is no shortage of traditions and festivals, such as that of August 10, in honor of the local gastronomy and typical products.
By choosing to get to Palermo, the temptation to stay there will be very strong. A multi-millennial city that has seen the passage of all the cultures of the Mediterranean and has boasted leading roles in the history of the island and of Italy. The testimonies of this passage have given Palermo an artistic and architectural heritage among the richest in the world, including 7 UNESCO sites, 4 national monuments and several archaeological sites. The street foods of the Sicilian capital will bewitch you in a world full of smells and flavors that come from afar. Satisfied and satisfied, you will probably want to sea and maybe discover other interesting things of the territory of Palermo.
Santa Flavia, a small but charming seaside village, has crystal clear sea, handfuls of colored houses on the small ridges that plunge directly into the sea, generous with fish, and a thriving land, rich in citrus and vegetables. Here you can admire the ruins of the ancient Punic city of Solanto, the castle, built by the Norman king Ruggero in 1300, and the historic tonnara, which remained active until 1961. Also of great artistic interest is the Soluntina di Sant’Anna basilica. and in July do not miss the patronal feast dedicated to the saint.
Like Palermo, if you are in this part of Sicily you can not miss Cefalù, a medieval wonder that holds a unique cultural mix. Along the coast towards Messina and placed at the foot of the rocky promontory where you can still see the remains of a Greek temple and the ancient Punic walls, Cefalù will bewitch you with its history and its artistic and architectural heritage. The medieval wash house, the Mandralisca museum and the Transfiguration Cathedral are worth seeing at least once in their lifetime. Finally, in August, do not miss the opportunity to take part in the celebrations of the Most Holy Savior.
Our last landing is Trapani, from which ferries depart for the Egadi islands, in ancient times a land bridge between Africa and Europe and salty splendor of the Mediterranean. Trapani boasts a thriving business of extraction and trade of the famous salt of Sicily. With its evocative view overlooking the Egadi Islands and reaching out towards them, Trapani stands out for its treasures of religious, civil and military architecture. There are many monuments and sculptures, squares and gardens, gymnasiums and museums, and finally the salt pans, which represent an important testimony of industrial archeology. Absolutely to taste, in addition to seafood delicacies and fish cous cous, the pesto alla trapanese, a delicacy based on garlic and almonds. From Trapani we can enter the territory of the great island or discover, taking the sea, the small white villages of the Egadi.
Levanzo, the smallest of the Egadi islands, which we will also discuss in the next issue of the magazine (July 2018), is characterized by a small marina, the almost total absence of rolling roads and a unique scenic beauty of its kind. A real Mediterranean paradise dominated by the Pizzo Monaco. The Genovese cave, on the western side of the island, houses the most important rock paintings in Italy and, in the depths of Cala Minnola, is one of the most important archaeological sites in Sicily, a wreck of a Roman ship. Before returning to the mainland, spend a day of sun and sea in one of the many beaches of the island, such as Faraglione, Cala Tramontana or Cala Fredda, and be sure to taste the Levanzara cabbuccio.