With vibrant bazaar-like markets and creamy pistachio gelato, white sandy beaches and turquoise sea, lush green mountains and rocky coastal hikes, ancient temples and crumbling churches, is it any wonder that despite plans to explore the whole of the island we got stuck in Western Sicily for most of our seven week stay?
Each region of Italy has its own distinctive cuisine and Sicily in particular has plenty of surprises. Bread is topped with sesame seeds, couscous is found next to pasta on menus, raisins turn up in spaghetti, and gelato is eaten stuffed in a brioche bun—for breakfast.
Earlier that day on our breakfast terrace on Salina we had gazed across the sea at smoking Stromboli, a conical volcanic island, and now we were here, sat on the warm earth on the edge of a ridge peering down into the three craters, waiting for the show to start.
Off Sicily’s north coast we found an island of raw scenic beauty with dramatic volcanic cliffs plunging into the sea, sleepy villages amidst verdant mountains, colourful fishing boats on pebbly beaches, hills covered in wild capers and vines heavy with grapes for sweet malvasia wine. Salina is one of the Aeolian islands, a cluster of seven volcanic islands in the far south of Italy. The biggest island Lipari is the most popular but we chose Salina, a quieter, greener base, its mountains vibrant as the only island with a natural water source. In mid September the summer crowds had left and it felt like we had the island to ourselves.
In Matera you’ll spend a lot of time in caves. You’ll sleep in a cave, eat in a cave, drink an aperitivo in a cave, and even view modern sculpture in a cave. The ancient neighbourhoods, known as sassi, are a series of grottoes carved out of limestone, teetering on the edge of a ravine. It’s one of the most unique and spectacular places we’ve visited in Italy or anywhere in the world.