Note : My mac is broken, that is the reason why I didn’t post last week ! Thanks for waiting patiently !
Every Summer I like to go to Greece and Italy for holidays. I enjoy a lot these countries, especially their amazing islands. They are not only near to my home-country Albania, but they are located in a region which is considered to be the heart of the world. The mother land, who gave birth to our civilization.
But I would make today a special focus to Sicily, a place that suffers unfairly the image of mafia and instability but in fact is a totally different reality. Indeed every year I come here I find it every time more beautiful, more stable, more equipped with infrastructure and services, richer in traditions, foods and with wonderfully hospitable people. Of course there are problems, like everywhere. But I love my Sicily with all my heart.
For my good luck, my base here is at a little town-village named Gioiosa Marea, a quiet and safe place of joy with wonderfully warm water beaches, thanks to the underground geothermal heating coming from earth`s depth, between Etna volcano and Aeolian islands region. You can’t believe, it but u can practically swim at midnight and water is so lovely and perfect.
To start with, the trip from Albania to Sicily is indeed such an experience in itself. We travel by car among amazing landscapes of south Italy between Adriatic, Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas, in a vast territory from Bari to Reggio Calabria. On the way you can see the beautiful traditional stone houses named “trulli”, or “Pianta dei Albanesi” a place populated by Cristian Albanians during Ottoman Occupation of the Balkans. These people emigrated here and maintained language and tradition in an amazing way. Then, we end the trip in continent by passing with the ferry the wonderful channel of Messina, a very inspiring and romantic moment. Everything goes smooth and people are so friendly.
During my stay in Sicily, I like to travel a lot because there is a wealth of history and beauty to see, an excellent tradition of food to taste, unimaginable archeological and historical sites, dramatic and unique natural events and landscape including volcanos. I love Sicily because it is modest but true and honest. It represents an absolute paradise build both by God and people that love their own country.
Sicily is a place almost comparable to the size of my home-country (26,000 km2) but hosting almost double number of population (5 million). Therefore it makes me think a lot on how we can learn from it. Its history includes local tribes that mixed up with Greek and Roman colonies. Latter Germanic, Byzantine and Arab rule shaped further the island’s culture. However there were also Normans, Spanish and Bourbons that built the foundations of what was transformed by Garibaldi in one state unified all together with Italy.
Sicily has at the present time, a rich and unique culture, especially regarding arts, music, literature, cuisine and architecture. It also holds importance for archeological and ancient sites such as the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Valley of the Temples and Selinunte. The island is developed among the national roads and highway which goes as a national ring along coastal areas full of impressive engineering works, bridges and tunnels. Railway also passes there as a symbol of past industrialization. Here most of big cities and living centers are concentrated: Palermo (capital), Messina, Catania, etc. but also the amazing Cefalu, Syracuse, Gela, Licata, Agrigento, Marsalla, Trapani, Barcelona, Milazzo, so on. This Mediterranean coastal magic atmosphere is combined with the beautiful mountains where u can even ski in the winter. There you find forgotten jewel villages or towns with problems but always magic like Caltaniseta, Enna, Caltagirone, Corleone, Camporeale, Campofiorito, and many more. You need to see wineries, historic centers, the perfectly elaborated agricultural landscape and you will fall quickly in love forever with Sicily.
Last but not least the food here is art and magic. In fact the term “Sicily” in itself is believed to derive from the Greek language and is used to identify certain fruits that grow rapidly as the fig tree (sikè) or pumpkin (sikùs). So Sicily would mean “the land of fertility; fertility island” showing its original rich natural and climate potentials. Here one can find perfect combination of tastes from local vegetable, meat or fish, as well as fruits, salty and sweets dishes. Try Sicilian pasta, arancini or pizza and you will love it forever. But you will not resist also to the local ice cream, granita, brioche, casatta or cannoli. Amazing taste, great art! This people have a great idea of what culinary means. I find myself intrigued and I learned a lot here. Wherever I go in Sicily, meeting friends at homes or restaurants, bars and cafés I taste new things and ask from local masters the recipe or photo-document everything. It’s a real life school.
I simply love Sicily, that is all I got to state! I strongly recommend you to not just read about it on my web or where else, but go there one day. Once you go, you will keep going again and again. I’m sure of it!
So I conclude with some photos of places I have been to, and some of the most amazing food I have tried so far and for sure I will cock some of them when I’m back home in Tirana. Just stay tuned!
Photography by Eranda Janku, unless otherwise stated