Sicily, Oh Sicily   9 comments


Jim & Marilyn

Nov. 10 – 23, 2010


“With its idyllic climate, dramatic vistas, and hearty cuisine, Sicily may embody all things Italian—but it is also rich with its own culture that is distinct from that of mainland Italy.”  This quote from Grand Circle Travel is certainly correct, and our 25th trip with this company was just as advertised.



Map picture

We spent the first week in Letojanni at a mountain top hotel on the eastern coast overlooking the sea.  The next week found us in Palermo, which is located on the northern coast.  From these locations we traveled here and there all over Sicily on a well planned and executed itinerary, guided by our excellent tour director, Maurizo.


Save Money: If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure Travel trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer #561413. New travelers instantly receive $100 off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.




Letojanni: 1.  View of the Ionian Sea from our hotel balcony at Letojanni.  2. Breakfast “with a view” at our hotel.  3. Riding the funicular down from the hotel to the beach at Letojanni.



The beach of Letojanni, and always time for a sandwich by the sea.







Taormina: A medieval town that dates back from the 4th & 3rd centuries B.C. It is famous for it’s Greco-Roman theater that affords a spectacular view of Mt. Etna smoking on the horizon.  Taormina was a delightful place to stroll & enjoy & eat Gelato.


Taormina: Views of the Greco-Roman Theater


Taormina: Jim resting at the little church and then leaning on the statue at the Piazza del Duomo.


Taormina: Jim leaning on something else at the Piazza del Duomo.  Surprised I didn’t find him leaning on the fruits!



Catania: Located midway down the east coast of Sicily.  It’s the 2nd largest city in Sicily and the town center is a UNESCO world heritage site.  Catania today is the result of 18th century rebuilding with Baroque style buildings on broad straight streets as a precaution against earthquakes.  It was completely destroyed in 1693 by an earthquake.  Most buildings are made from black lava since it is located so close to Mt. Etna.

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Catania:  The Cathedral of Sant’Agata is located in the heart of the city on the Piazza Duomo. Also in the Piazza is this fountain, the Fontana dell’Elefante, complete with a Lava elephant.


Catania: We enjoyed a walk through the lively Mercato Della Pescheria (fish market).   It is located just off the Piazza Duomo in the center of the city and is open for business every morning.


Catania: After the fish market was the meat market….goat anyone?


Siracusa: Is located on the east coast of Sicily and of all the Greek sites of antiquity outside of Greece, Siracusa was the most important in all of the Mediterranean, and a formidable seafaring power nearly equal to Athens.  At one time, its wealth and size were unmatched by any other city in the ancient world.


Siracusa: The construction of this Greek theater took place about the 5th century B.C.  It is unique because the seats are literally carved out of the mountain in a perfect semi-circle overlooking the stage.  (Photo on the right) This is the area of the Latomie from which Syracuse architects extracted millions of cubic meters of stone for building.  The Ear of Dionysius is one of the most impressive quarries because its shape resembles a human ear.    The cave is more than 200 feet long and has such good acoustics inside that when our local guide sang “Amazing Grace” it gave you goose bumps.


Siracusa:  Located right next to Siracusa is the elegant island of Ortigya.  The beautiful baroque Church of St. Lucia is located in the Piazza Duomo, in the center of the little town.  The Duomo is built on the site of a Doric temple dedicated to Athena from the 5th century B.C.  The Temple of Minerva was then built on top of that.


Ortigya: The transformation to a Christian church occurred during the Byzantine era, when the columns of the temple were enclosed by a wall with eight arches, creating a basilica.  Inside the church the are standing 24 of the original 36 columns.


Ortigya: Every cute little street on the island ended with a view of the sea.



Mt. Etna: It is the largest active volcano in Europe, is presently listed around 10,000 feet and it has erupted frequently in known history.  Some of the most devastating eruptions were in 1381 and 1669, when the lava reached Catania.  The most recent ones took place in 2001 and 2002.  On these occasions the lava flow caused extensive damage to a couple towns on the mountain side and destroyed the ski facilities and the cable-car apparatus.


Mt. Etna: Stopped on the way up to get those pictures of the smoking giant……one of the most active volcanoes in the world.


Mt. Etna:  We are standing in an extinct crater.  The road takes you to 6,000 feet and the parking lot is now sitting on top of the last lava flow (the lava covered the original parking lot.)  You have to get on the cable-car (to the right of the parking lot) and go over the top of the peak to see Mt. Etna, up close and personal.


Mt. Etna:  On the flanks of the mountain are more than 300 vents ranging in size from small holes in the ground to large craters hundreds of meters across.  These small smoking vents were just the other side of the parking lot at 6,000 feet.



Savoca: This little mountain town is located on the upper part of the east coast and is famous for many of the scenes of “Godfather” being shot there.  I loved this little town!


Sacoca:  We walked through the ancient medieval gates up to the tip-top of the town to the church that was the scene of the wedding of Michael & Apollonia in the Godfather.


It was a delightful and scenic walk up to the church and past all the cute little houses that are built on the cliff side.


Savoca: We enjoyed cappuccino at Vitelli’s Bar where in the movie Michael asked the padrone for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and it was also the scene of the reception
















Castello di Lombardia: It is one of the most important medieval fortifications in Sicily.













Palermo: Stretched along a beautiful bay on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.


Palermo: The Cathedral of Palermo was originally built in 1179-85, but has seen frequent rebuilding and alterations.


Palermo: We visited the Palatine Chapel which was the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily.  It was founded in 1132 by Roger II and it combines Norman architecture, Arabic arches and a Byzantine dome and Byzantine styled mosaics….a fine example of the combined Moorish and Norman cultures.


Palermo: We toured the Teatro Massimo, which is the 1874 neoclassical opera house of Palermo.  A fun experience was going to a Marionette show at the Cuticchio Puppet Theatre.


Palermo: It was my goal to eat Gelato at every available opportunity and I accomplished that goal!


Monreale: The Monreale Cathedral was founded in 1172 and is famous for its remarkable interior with the magnificent gold mosaics representing episodes from the Old Testament.  It is a beautiful example of achievement of Arab-Norman art.  A choir was practicing for a concert and it was just splendid to sit and listen to them and enjoy the acoustics.



Cefalu: This enchanting fishing village sits of a rocky outcrop in the center of Sicily’s north coast on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  This little town has retained its medieval appearance and it was one of my favorite places.


Cefalu: The lovely town by the sea.  Against the backdrop rise the lofty twin towers of the Arab-Norman architectured Cathedral of Cefalu built by Roger II in 1130.


Cefalu: A common site all over Sicily was the Italian men sitting on the benches in their Italian hats.


Cefalu: Always time for a cappuccino in a beautiful location.  If you look carefully you will see Jim approaching across the beach.



Agrigento & the Valley of the Temples: Agrigento is located about half way down on the southwestern coast of Sicily, and contains some of the greatest Greek ruins in the world.  Although it is called the Valley of the Temples, all the Temples sit on top of a hill overlooking the valley.


The Temple of Juno, with its restored Doric columns was erected sometime in the mid-fifth century B.C. at the height of construction honoring the gods.


The Temple of Concord is from the 5th century B.C.   With its 34 columns, this is one of the best preserved Doric temples in the world and has the finest example of an inner temple.



The Temple of Hercules is the most ancient temple in the valley and it dates back to the 6th century B.C.



Erice: Another one of my favorite towns was Erice even though it was a foggy, windy and cold day.  This splendid town is on the coast of western Sicily, perched on top of a mountain overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea and has very ancient origins.  It is laid out on a triangular plan and has preserved its medieval character, with fine city walls, beautiful streets, stone houses, small squares and open spaces with numerous churches.


Erice: Entering the medieval city gate of Erice.  Talk about a mystical picture..…I think this foggy picture of the church built in 1314 would qualify.


Wandering around the medieval streets in the fog.


Erice: This Norman Castello Venere is located on the far end of Erice still on the tip top of the mountain, and still in the fog.



Erice: I loved the mystic of the beautiful village in the fog; however, one would wonder how it would be on a sunny beautiful warm day.  Still loved it!



Corleone: We drove in the countryside to the historic hilltop town of Corleone, inspiration for the “The Godfather” book and films.  Beginning in the 1960’s, the town became infamous for its Mafia.


Corleone: The local mafia clan, the Corleonesi, led the Mafia in the 1980s and the 1990s, and were the most violent and ruthless Mafia clan ever to take control of the organization.





We have traversed the highways and byways of Sicily, from the shining sea to the hilltop villages and everything in between.  What a grand tour of Sicily!!



Posted December 13, 2010 by marilynfarmer in Travel

9 responses to “Sicily, Oh Sicily

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  1. Enjoyed your blog of Sicily. We weren’t on your e-mail list, but Wanda forwarded it to us.


    Linda and Bruce Ream
  2. Hi Marilyn and Jim,
    After visiting your travel log, I feel like I know you! Thanks so much for providing such wonderful insights to your trips. They brought back many memories of trips (quite a few duplicates of your trips) taken over 45 years with my husband. I lost him 3 years ago but am still traveling…just not the same now alone, but still enjoyable. In 2008 I revisited China 29 yrs. after my first visit and added Tibet while in that area. Last spring I took an OATs trip to Tunisia. Spending a night alone in a creaking tent in the Sahara was just a little more adventure than I wanted! At the end of March I’ll be off again on GCT’s Sicily and Malta trip.

    • Thanks Lorre Lei, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Those of us that actually travel do enjoy looking at such things. That is one reason we so much enjoy doing the OAT & GCT trips. People in the group are usually travelers and it’s so much fun hearing their experiences. Glad you and your husband we able to enjoy so many years of traveling together. It’s nice that you are still out and about. No need to sit and home and dream when you can be out there doing it. GCT & OAT are really pushing single travel and it’s wonderful because they are seeing that many people lose their beloved travel mates but still would like to “go”. You will love the Sicily trip. Several years ago we did Malta when GCT offered it as an entire trip. It is a grand place. We are heading to GCT Venice, Tuscany & Almalfi Coast in two weeks. Hopefully I’ll get my blog up by the first part of March. Mid March we are doing the Rhine & Mosel river cruise with GCT.

  3. Dear Marilyn and Jim,
    We enjoyed seeing the wonderful pictures and reading the comments on your Sicily trip. We will be taking this trip along with the Malta extension with GCT next month – March 16 –

    We have traveled with OAT and GCT and have enjoyed every one of them. This will be our 9th trip (you are a little ahead of us!)
    D. and M. from Sacramento, CA.

    Dave and Melba Fiscus
  4. Just just wanted to say… CIAO!
    I was born in Palermo in 1983 & grew up between there and Misilmeri just outside Palermo. I’ve been in St.Louis since 1997. But my favorite place were Cefalu & Erice. I’m glad you took the time to enjoy my dearest island, I miss it dearly now that I live in the US but thats life. I hope you enjoyed the people as well as the places. Sicily is too often overlooked by tourists, but its an amazing place.
    Ciao, Ciao da Carmelo!

    Carmelo Gabriele
  5. I enjoyed your blog very much. We are taking our first Grand Circle trip starting tomorrow. The Great Rivers of Europe cruise. I was very interested in the Sicily trip because I think that might be our next one. What time of year did you go? We loved our trip to Italy and are still traveling with friends we made on that trip. My husband loves the gelato too. Is it as good as the ones in Florence? People on our trip could not believe he was getting another one and another and another. I will let you know how our trip goes. Aleita and Jack Wilson

  6. Marilyn – Your trip sounds great and we’re considering taking it next year. How did you travel from town to town – by bus or boat? Can we take this trip by ourselves? What are the advantages of taking the Grand Circle tour?

  7. We’re leaving in a week for the GCT Sicily tour. Your blog certainly adds to our anticipation and excitement. The two of you are fine photographers. I hope our photos turn out half so well. Thanks for sharing.

    Lee and Carolyn Harper

  8. Thanks for your informative comments and lovely pictures Marilyn. As one of the others has said, I, too, feel like I know you!
    I am going to Sicily with OAT in March of 2012 with two dear friends. After seeing your pictures and reading your comments, I am even more excited.

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