After a thirteen-hour bus ride from Rome, two friends and I arrived in Sicily for our Easter vacation. Though the ride was long, the countryside furnished many sites to see, including vineyards, mountains, and orchards. Due to the overcast sky and verdant landscape, I thought the views from my bus window more Hibernian than Mediterranean. Another aspect of the landscape was the Sicilians’ apparent dislike for blasting channels through mountains. Every time we came to an overhanging cliff or hillock, no matter how small, there was a tunnel hollowed through it, and since our journey led along the island’s craggy shore, we often ducked in and out of these passageways.
On reaching Agrigento, our first stop, a skeleton for a dog joined us in our trudge up and down the streets of Agrigento. She was the first, but not the last, stray pooch to haunt our adventures, for in almost every city we visited, some forlorn canine roamed the streets or napped in the alleyways.
Overlooking the sea, Agrigento is known for its Valley of the Temples, which is actually a ridge of doted by what remains of seven temples. Since we arrived in Agrigento in the morning, we spent the day walking through the ruins surrounded by olive and almond groves. Lying below the temples, in what appeared to be a canyon, an extensive citrus orchard greeted us after a long day in the Mediterranean sun. As we later learned, the gorge was created by defeated Carthaginians forced into labor by the Sicilians victors. Kolymbetra, the name of the orchards, was first created as pleasure ground and an oasis from the sun’s heat, a post it still fulfills.
Our second day in Agrigento was spent on the beach and in eating gelato brioche, which is basically ice cream placed within a sliced sweet bun. (I think I am going to try recreating it when I return home.)
We travelled to the Palermo on our third day in Sicily. From the bus, a peek into a shop that sold both parakeets and live chickens told me that the city would be worth exploring. It did not disappoint. The open-air markets, the tropical beach, and a gorgeous cathedral made the two days spent in Palermo most enjoyable. Besides these sites, there was cannoli. These Sicilian desserts made of fried pastry surrounding creamy centers crowned our first evening in Palermo, as we watched dusk gather around the city’s spires. Between cannoli, its grand buildings, and turquoise water, Palermo I think won the designation of favorite city on the trip.
The final day in Sicily was divided between Catania and Syracuse. Although we had only half a day in each, we took pleasure in views of smoking Mount Etna, Greek and Roman ruins, as well as the Cathedral of Catania to St. Agatha, to whom the whole city has a special devotion. In both cities, we enjoyed exploring their ancient theaters and even reciting a few lines from Cicero’s orations. That night, we headed back to Rome, for in this life, all good things have their end. Yet John Paul II’s beatification awaited us and made parting with Sicily, though sad, endurable.