Sicily with Sarah Murdoch | Rick Steves Travel Talks
Hello. Everybody my name is Sarah Murdock I work for Rick Steves I've been working here since there 2000, I am a co-author, on the Rick Steves Sicily guidebook as well as a tour guide all over Europe today, I'm going to be talking about my one of my favorite topics which is the, beautiful island of Sicily, so let's, go ahead and get started and check out what we have to know about Sicily first. Of all a couple things about Rick Steeves check out our website for more information about all, of the topics here our tours and also just information, about travels in Europe, and Sicily. As well we, have a wonderful team of tour guides who will take you all over Europe, this is my my. Extended, family 150. Of us and we really enjoy showing you around Europe so coming on a tour is an, awful lot of fun and we. Don't have any fun actually at all you can tell from the picture this, is an actual real group I didn't pay them to look that fun we, have a great time so I hope you can join us on one of our tours of Sicily or Italy or somewhere else in Europe so. That's, our tour catalog and that's got all of our great destinations, in it and let's, go ahead and jump into Sicily so, today, what we're going to talk about is the island of Sicily and we have so many wonderful things to see so. This is something, directly from our guidebook and we're going to cover the most important, topics and cities, of Sicily so we're going to start here at Palermo, we're. Going to take a quick visit to Monterey al which is a Cathedral, nearby then, we're going to head out to the western tip of Sicily, visit, Trapani Mott SIA and a, DJ which are on this western tip then. Head down to agrigento to the, valley of the temples into. The center and in central sicily we're going to visit the villa Romano del cazali then, down into a southeastern. Sicily which is a great place to just sort of relax and see the countryside and we'll see bare goose' then. To see attic ooza which, is the Greek capital of Sicily, from the past, Catania, which is the, second largest city in Sicily. Mount, Etna and terra Mina which is one of the most beautiful I think places in all of the world and then we'll finish off in chef aloo which is a fun little typical. Sicilian beach town so let's go ahead and jump into things, so. Sicily, is a really complicated place, it is the largest island, in. In the. Mediterranean, and it's also the largest province of Italy, but the thing is it has its own identity it's. Not the same as Italy and in fact the people if you looked at their DNA it's, not the same DNA as Italians, so, when you go and you see a Sicilian, person they're not going to look anything like somebody. From Rome for example because they're people who are Greek Arab. French, Spanish, they're, a mixture of all of the different types of blood that landed, on the island and there's been 18, different dominations. Of other, foreign cultures on the island of Sicily so they have a completely, different cultural. Identity, they have their own dialect, and they're actually an autonomous, region within Italy they have their own Parliament, as well so, this incredibly. Unique, identity. That they have is, encapsulated. In this image because this is their symbol they have their own flag did you know they have their own flag it's. A crazy thing they they have the Italian flag but you know Italians. In general have an interesting, thing where they if, you say where are you from they, will say oh I'm, Roman. Okay, that's the city you're from but where are you from oh I'm from lotzie oh well that's a region where, are you from oh I'm Italian Italian, is always last because Italian, is sort of a new concept, they've only been a country for a little over 150, years in Sicily.
That Kind of idea is even more important, because of the fact that they identify, themselves almost as a different culture this, is a symbol that comes from quite, ancient Sicily, this is something that we almost don't know the origins, of and you see it on their flag that's their flag so. What you see here is you've got two colors you've got yellow you got red and, those are colors that we have a lot of different reasons that of, where they may come from it might come from Spanish, colors it. Also may represent, sun there's, a lot of different ideas but in the center is always the same symbol the Gorgon, head with the three legs they call it the tree not Kriya and. That symbol is important, because it's. A symbol, that you see in a lot of ancient cultures the, three legs possibly, represent, the shape of the island because it's shaped a little bit like a triangle, and the Gorgon in the middle is a Medusa, and some people say that she is the embodiment of Mount, Etna Etna. You're going to see a sort of our, mama we think of her as mama Etna and she, makes the fields fertile and there's a lot of Greek mythology that, goes into Sicily because they were so closely connected with the Greeks. So that's, what we think this symbol means I've, seen about I don't know 500 different interpretations, but that's a good one in Sicily you'll find that yeah everybody's, got their own story their own way of thinking about things so that's, the symbol of the island Palermo. Is our first city that we're going to talk about and I absolutely love Palermo, because. It's a city that might be a little hard to love at first glance but, once you start to see it with more of a period, I you, can start to understand, the beauty of this this beautiful city so, let's have a look at the map here so in the map here we've got the. Main drag here via, Roma we. Have via Makeda with Teatro Massimo we. Have the water over here and then, at the very end is the, Palazzo reali that was the palace of the Norman kings so this is the main axis, that you want to kind of hang around in, your visit to Palermo there. Are wonderful markets, this is bolero, over here and over, here is the capo, market and these, are the places that you can go and see the vegetable, sellers that sing when, they try to sell things so it's sort of like being in a market in Morocco or something they kind of chatter and they sing and, they make it very interesting as. Far as museums go it's, they have museums but I would say museums or maybe not the highlight I would say the churches are very interesting. The theater is very interesting, but also just, the vibe of the city the life of the city something. To know about Palermo, you may not know it, was one, of the most important, cities in all of Europe back in the 19th century it. Was as interesting, and powerful and romantic, as Paris, and did, you know that vogner, actually, lived, there for a while and composed some of his operas in Palermo. And it's because this theater here at Roma, seemed I'll show you in a second is one, of the largest theaters in all of Europe so in the nineteenth century this was an elegant gorgeous.
City These, days it's a modern port city and part, of the problem with Palermo, was in world war two it got bombed almost, completely flat the, Americans came through I'm trying to get rid of the Germans and it, really did a lot of damage and the city was never properly, reconstructed. So, we have tons of these ugly sort of high-rises and things like that encroaching, on the beautiful historical, center but. In. These days Palermo, is really regenerating. Itself and, going back to this elegant, feeling. Of the past this, is Piazza. Pretoria but, it has a very funny names they call it the the, area with the fountain, of shame do. You think that's a shameful fountain what's. Shameful about that fountain it's naked. People okay fine, the Renaissance, had lots of naked people but the problem with these naked people is that, this fountain. Was put right in front of this church. And. Guess. What was inside that church cloistered. Nuns. So. The only view that those nuns had from their quarters was of a fountain with. Naked people so. These poor nuns got so put out about having this you. Know fountain, with all these naked people put in front of their convent, that they often went out and tried to solve the problem by sewing, clothes for the figures and putting them on there's, even an urban legend, that an, industrious. Nun came out in the middle of the night with a hammer and chisel to try and rid, them of the male parts that were offensive so I don't, know that that's true but that's a wonderful little urban legend it's a huge fountain though and it makes almost no sense because it just, takes up the entire Piazza. Basically, and, it was imported, from Tuscany, it's, because they're you. Know in the 1500s, there was a governor that came down who was from Tuscany, and he, brought his fountain with him and just plopped it right in the middle of the piazza so this, is the thing that's fascinating, about Sicily is it has such a strange history and everything's kind of woven together but there's always a great story to basically, everything you see in Sicily. And. The other thing about Palermo, as far as this idea of you, never know what you're gonna find this, is their Cathedral, now. When you look at their Cathedral I just want to warn you I'm an architect, and I love to talk about architecture but architecture. In my opinion will show you a lot, about a culture, and the history of a place and what I find interesting about this one is it's, almost a crazy style of architecture it's, a mix do you see the Arab influences. Can. You see that yeah you can see the Middle Eastern influence this almost looks like something that could be a Roman ruin or something from, Tunisia for example and that's, because the this island of Sicily was invaded by the Arabs in the ninth century and they stayed for a long time and they brought a lot of really interesting things with them architectural, styles, they brought sugar, they brought almonds, and oranges, they added a lot of interesting things to the island but they really affected, the architecture, so, from this perspective you can look at this and say okay there's the Arab influence. There's the Norman influence, where it looks like a castle. And then, there's the baroque influence. On the top so that's just sort of plopped on the top so. If I like to think of it sort of as a as a crazy quilt you know every, one of those quilts with all the colors that's, the way I look at Palermo is it's sort of the crazy quilt it's a little bit of all these different cultures. But, it's very different than what you would see first, let's say in Rome you would never find a church like this in Rome because of the influence of the cultures and as. I was mentioning this, was a cultural, capital in the nineteenth century this is a Teatro. Massimo you. Might recognize it from the Godfather have you seen the Godfather I think, you've seen the guy fighting the very last one one of the big scenes at the end is where the daughter is murdered on the steps of the opera and that's, the theater where, she was murdered so above.
That Though this was one of the largest theaters ever built in Europe and this, is where a lot of incredible, operas, were were performed, and that tells you something about how important, the city was at the time the Opera was the main cultural, function, of the elite so, in the nineteenth century this was a real magnet, for the. Cultural elite there's. Also a bit of historic. Culture as well kind of folk culture in Palermo that you can still find people, still paint carts in the traditional, way you'll, see carts with horses going down the streets in the centre of Palermo and in fact they recently banned motor, traffic from the main streets, via. Makeda and part, of via, Vittorio Emanuele, and they put some of these little horse carts that are going around the traditional, ones that and you can kind of have a taste of the old world that way so. The, markets in Palermo I think are really fun because they show you something, different about the local lifestyle and, people really do shop here they really do go every day and they buy all of their different things for their meals but, the markets in Palermo and in Sicily in general are better, than any markets you've seen in Italy are probably even, comparable, to France which i think has some of the best markets these, markets go on and on but the produce, is incredible. It's so inexpensive and it's abundant. And that's because Sicily has this wonderful volcanic, soil you, can grow, anything in Sicilian, volcanic soil they have beautiful tomatoes, and peppers artichokes. Like you've never seen the. Artichokes, can be this, big really. As big as almost a bowling ball. These are brocco lo they're kind of a green cauliflower and these, in reality, are about this big I've never seen one that size in, a grocery store in the United States for sure and. It's so inexpensive you can buy anything you want so if you go to Palermo, or anywhere in Sicily getting, an apartment with the kitchen would be a lot of fun if you're a cook you can go out and buy lots of ingredients if you, like fish in particular the, island is very famous for their fish and at, the markets you can get anything and there's lots of things you've never even seen before there's, lots of tentacles and scales and all kinds, of weird fishy things that you didn't know you could eat so it's, it's a fun thing to go and explore, and see what you can find this. Is one of those mysterious things that I'm never gonna love as much as I love Sicily this, is a local thing they're called feed, India and, they are prickly, pear there's something that I think only Sicilians, can love apparently, you have to eat them when they're super cold there. But if you pick them up with your hands you get all these little splinters, so if you want to try that it's a real Sicilian, treat you have to ask the produce seller though to, peel them and prepare them for you otherwise, you'll be like me with tweezers for two weeks picking the little spines you, can also find a lot of things, to take home so if you're interested in shopping at the markets it's not just for locals you can buy things that are preserved and you can take them home sun-dried, tomatoes for instance are a thing, that a lot of Sicilian, cooks love to prepare so that's.
A Good reason to walk through the market so you can find great culinary, ideas, to take home and street. Food street food is one of the biggest ways to eat in Palermo, eating. In Palermo in general is very expensive. The restaurants, are, ridiculously. Cheap compared, to American restaurants for example if, you want to eat like the locals though you go and you ate street food they, consider Palermo to have the best street food scene in all of Europe and it's. Been a cultural capital in the last few years and the street food scene has been a part of that cultural capital, evolution. This. Is called spin Choni and it's, sort of a big fat. Thick, pizza, and they just sell it it's really greasy and they have it on these little kind of hot plates and this is just guy just hanging out in the market he's got his little stall and he lops, off a little piece and one, of the best parts of eating at the street food stalls in the market is talking. To the people who, are selling, it because they're interested, and there's, not a lot of Americans, to be honest that are travelling in Sicily you're a curiosity people. Are going to look at you they're going to talk to you they're gonna wonder who you are and they, love Americans, so, this is a great opportunity if you're doing a street food tour to talk to the vendors because they really let even if you don't speak Italian or, Sicilian it doesn't matter they speak with their hands anyway right you, all speak with your hands right I'm. Sorry I do this all the time I've been in Sicily for too long, it's. Part of our language, so. You can eat in the day and in the evening there's, a wonderful market called vucciria, and that, is a place where they have a really old-school, food. Market, in the evening it's they have barbecues, like this you see this guy here with his big barbecue and you, go up to the case up here and you pick out what you would like to have a little piece of raw meat and they slap it on the grill for you and one, little insider, tip I learned did you see the big plume of smoke coming, up I thought, this maybe smells good and I thought it kind of is theatrical, but I just thought it was the meat grilling they, go out and they wipe the grill down with fat so.
It Will create that smoke, because. It's a selling technique, it's a way to get people attracted. To what they're doing so, this is all theater that's so Sicilian, though to create drama you know you have to have even in your barbecues, a little bit of drama and. This is what I tried that particular night but you know almost every night they have interesting, street food here so what this is is asparagus, wrapped in bacon and then, these little skewers, with meat I, don't I didn't want to ask what part of meat it was, I'm. Assuming, it was I don't know something I don't typically eat I've. Had intestines. I've had veal penis, I've had I don't even I don't even want to know half. Of it but you have to try it and they have that real snout. To tail philosophy. In Sicily because, it was a poor country in the past you eat everything and in, fact one of the street food carts sells sort. Of a it looks like a sponge, and what they do is they take them the bones and the leftover pieces of meat you can't make anything out of and they process, it into something you can't eat and it's, sort of like a spongy, greasy, sort of thing so you can find all kinds of peculiar. Street foods and I challenge, you okay I'm laying, down the challenge right now if. You are a little leery about eating at the street food stalls because you worry oh perhaps, I'm gonna get food sick or something like this there are restaurants, that actually serve the street food and I want to introduce you to the most typical ones this. One here is called Piniella. And pinnell a is a chickpea cake and that, is really good because they fry it up in these really big rounds and then they cut off little pieces sometimes, you'll see it just in strips, so that's Pannell lay there you're, going to see the Aden Cheney and those are the fried rice balls, deep fried rice balls which are just fantastic and they can have meat inside or cheese more. Modern ones that are kind of hipster out on Cheney have brie and walnut so there's lots of different types you can find and, there's more of that fat pizza this, is for let's, say the advanced, eater. We call it ponycon, Nilsa and it is a spleen. Sandwich. And. If you've never eaten spleen before, you, have to try it when you go to Sicily and. It may not sound it's appetizing, but it smells, so, good you know that smell of a Christmas, roast the most delicious roast of the year that's. What it smells like it smells so, good and you bite into it and you get that wonderful flavor of the Christmas, roast but. Then it sort of feels, like slugs in your mouth somehow. So. I have, tried so, hard to. Love the. The spleen sandwich because all the Palermo Tommy loved it and they all want you to try it and I've tried it all the different ways with cheese without cheese with sauce without sauce and it, still has the consistency, of slugs even if it tastes really good but you should try it it's really worth it and it's very local and you can do this at restaurants, too so that the point is that you can do the street food but if you're intimidated by that if you sit down at restaurants a lot of the restaurants will have street, food items. On their menus as well as. Far as sightseeing, go there's so much to see especially with the churches but the architecture, again is what really blows, me away in Palermo because we have such an interesting mix we have a church that is a Byzantine. Romanesque, Church and then, we have another one this is also a church doesn't, it look like a mosque it. Has something completely, different it's a crusader, Church these are people who came back from Africa and they, built churches based on what they saw but, also the thing is that Sicily was a mixture, of of, different, cultures it was a melting pot and so artisans, and architects that came from all over the, world would come and work in Sicily.
And They, would build in the style but they knew the. Other style of architecture that kind of is a little overwhelming is Sicilian. Baroque this. Is Santa Catarina, there's. What, I guess the best way to put it is when Sicilians, do things they, don't go by half-measures, they, go all the way and beyond so, some of these churches when you get to see this Baroque style it's, a little bit of an assault on the senses and the first time I saw it I felt a little nauseous I have to admit I, like. The. Baroque style I spend a lot of time in Rome and the, Baroque style there is kind of you, know, effervescent. And and dramatic, but they, kind of go a little further here in Sicily so what's. Interesting though every single, little bit of this church is completely plastered. With marble, and decoration, this is that Santa Caterina Church the one with the nuns the cloistered nuns these, were wealthy women who went to this convent. They were the second daughter usually that couldn't be married off because they didn't have a dowry but the family would donate money to the church to take care of the daughter and they had so much money what are they going to do with that money they're. Gonna make their church like a jewel-encrusted sort. Of, decorative. Jewel, box that's. Just, a panel, this big and look. How finely decorated that, is each of these scenes is three-dimensional. It's. A type of mosaic, that they often call Florentine, mosaic where you take semi-precious, stones and you make scenes out of them they're absolutely, glorious and every single, square inch of this church is covered in these, types of mosaics. So it's really a beautiful spot, to go it's a little bit much but, if you can kind of like calm your nervous system all. Of the churches in Sicily, are like this though that come from this Baroque period they are all really. Exuberant in their decoration, a little. More restrained, but something, I really enjoy is this is Monterey la that's that church the Byzantine church outside of Palermo you have to take a bus or a taxi and takes about 20 minutes to get there this is a church from the 1211. Hundreds and this. Is an important church because it was built by their Norman, rulers, and the Norman kings that came from basically, France, they're relatives, of William, the Conqueror do. You realize those people were in Sicily and actually. Louis the ninth of France was related, to the Kings that were here the Norman kings so, it's kind of an interesting connection they, built this beautiful church for. Kind of a variety of reasons, competing. With the the Palermo the. Archbishop. Of Palermo they wanted to create their own marvelous. Church and. Is the, best cycle of Byzantine mosaics, of any, place I know in Europe. I would say even better than Ravenna because, they're almost complete, and when, you go in there and you look you'll watch the, Bible, unfold, in comic. Book-like form you'll see every panel tells a different story and these ones here are so easy to understand, there's Adam and Eve you can see there's, Adam, and Eve in the Garden of Eden now they're being cast out of the Garden of Eden now, they're working in the fields and Eve, is really lamenting, her fur dress you can tell how sad she is just, the sort of emotion. In all of the panels they're, just beautiful to look at but it's wallpapered, like, floor to ceiling the whole thing and it's a mix of Byzantine, art but also Arabic, there's a lot of Arabic motifs because the craftsmen came, from Africa, so, it's a real fusion, art form that's marvelous. Next. Door the in the cloister of Monroe Ali they. Have their own type of masterpiece. And that is all of these column capitals, in the cloister each, individual. Column Capitol is an individual, work of art this, particular one I think you may recognize, have. You had your coffee this morning yeah. Starbucks. It's Melusine a who was it's, a myth about a mermaid and that's actually where the symbol for Starbucks comes from but this was known in the 1200, s and these artists came down and they made a Capitol each one was individual, depending on the artists taste some. Of them told other stories that you know these are the three wise men and they're presenting gifts to the Christ child so, some are religious, some are mythical but, every, single column capital has its own story you could be there for weeks, just looking at each one and the details are very very fine, so the Mauna ala is well worth your time to visit because it, has all of these beautiful things but it's a small site you can visit it in about a half a day, so.
We're Gonna head off now from, Palermo, to the west coast of Sicily, to Chopin II and the area around. It there's a lot of beautiful things to see there our. First stop is suggesting, suggested, is one of the many ancient, archeological, sites that you can visit I have, to warn you if you go to every one of these archeological sites I suggest you're going to be a little Greek doubt at the end because it, is very, Greek, and Roman heavy but particularly Greek, theaters the. Theater of suggesting, is absolutely, one of my favorites, because it, has almost perfect acoustics. The shape of it is so ingenious it, reflects, the audio the audio in every direction so anywhere you stand you, can hear the person standing in the center here. I'm demonstrating for, my tour, group that I'm I was singing for them but I started, off singing really loud so everybody would stop, talking because. They could hear me in their ears it's like it's almost like you have headphones on and then, I started, singing like this and people. In the far corners, of that theater could hear me it's. Ingenious. It really is it's the most incredible audio, better than any theater you'll find in the United States so, this is one of my favorite places to stop because it has in my opinion the best acoustics, of any, of the theaters in Sicily. Also. There you can find this beautiful temple, which is a bit of a strange story because, this temple is not finished this, temple was designed and built to impress, people from, Athens this city wanted help from Athens during the Greek period and the, only way they could make Athens, give them money for a war was, by impressing them with how important, they are so, how do you impress people in the Greek time you build a temple they built it as far as they could build before the emissary, from Athens came and then, they dressed it up and faked it out with with decorations. And then, the emissary, from Athens came saw oh what a beautiful temple and then, they were impressed and they wanted to send money to the people suggest, it and then they never finished it, so. It's just sitting there unfinished, because they didn't meet you they it served its purpose it was like a stage set like a stage dressing and we know that for sure because it never had any Inner Temple you. Should have had they call it the sella or the cello on the inside the room where the the God would have been they never built it so we know it's unfinished and it's a very strange but very famous, story so we know that it did happen that way. Continuing. Past suggested, we end up in a tha which is one of my favorite little villages, it's just this tiny little fairy village on top, of a mountain this. I thought was such a sweet, little medieval town when I first visited there, but what I didn't realize this, was an important, place for the the, cult of Venus in the past and this temple right up here you'll see this, was the Temple of Venus in the past and the sailors would go up there and let's. Say devote. Themselves to the goddess. They. Had when priestesses, up there that would you know perform. Rituals. With the sailors. Not. Sure how to be more delicate about that but but. It was important, because this was a very high point and the boats from all around could see the fire burning so it was almost like a lighthouse so. This is where the sailors would go and they would dedicate themselves to Venus also because they thought that if they dedicated, themselves to Venus she could intercede, with the god of the sea to keep the Seas calm that's, their excuse at least. So. A DJ I think is a lovely place to visit because it's a beautiful, medieval village but it has this real strange mysterious vibe before I even knew about all of this the legends about the cults surrounding, a DJ I got. This strange feeling when I stayed there overnight it has, the most magical. Atmosphere at night it the fog rolls in and there's just a very strange vibe so if you want to get a really different sort of intimate, experience, sleeping, in a DJ I think it's a really fun thing to do the. Other thing I love to do is to visit my friend Maria gramatica she has a famous pastry chef she's famous all over Italy for making some of the most delicious sweets, and, I visit her with my groups and she makes a beautiful lunch she reminds me so much of my grandmother, and, that actually is to scale I'm but I'm 6 foot 2 she's not she's not that short so.
She's A lovely person she teaches us how to make pastries, so we make the almond pastry is just using ground. Almonds, and egg whites and sugar and. These ones I love the names these are called the boobies of nuns. That's. Not a joke, that's. Absolutely, true the other cookie she's making right now are called ugly. But delicious so they, all have these funny names but she's an incredible, pastry chef and she has written her own cookbook and so, she's very well known leaving. A DJ we head down into the town of Trapani and you can take a cable car and that's a fun way to kind of get an introduction. Every. Single one of these cities has their own myth, of how they were born this myth of how this one was born is that the, myth of Demeter and Persephone, comes, from this island and if you don't know that I'll just tell you quickly Demeter. Was the goddess a mother goddess her daughter Persephone, was, wandering around the fields one day and she, was kidnapped by Hades the god of the underworld because, she was very beautiful when. She went into the underworld and she was stuck down there her, mother tried desperately to find her and because her mut her mother was the goddess of the earth she, was the one who promoted. And she dropped her sickle and ran off to try and find her daughter when, she found her daughter she, had to negotiate with Hades to figure out when she could be with her mother and when she had to be with her her eventual, husband, and that, is the reason that they have seasons because when Demeter. Does not have Persephone, she gets very sad and everything turns, brown and dies in. The winter when, Persephone, returns to her mother's care her mother is pleased, and happy and all the flowers bloom the. Town of tropi D has really nothing to see I have to be honest there's no Museum there's nothing cool to go and do it's, just Pleasant it's a beautiful, town it, was recently restored, and, almost everything is just beautifully, white and restored and they have wonderful restaurants, this is a great home base to stand for, exploring, the area around it's very comfortable, the hotels are inexpensive and typically.
Quite Nice and you. Can also get one of their wonderful specialties, as. I said Sicilian, cuisine I think, reflects, that mix, of cultures that cultural, fusion and in, this case the cultural fusion has a lot to do with the Arabic cultures and, couscous. Is on the menu couscous, is very famous in trumpety and not, only do they serve the couscous, but you have to have along with the couscous you see the little silver boat the gravy boat when, I ordered this couscous, and I have to tell you because I don't look Sicilian, I get this a lot even if I speak Italian the, owner has to come out of the kitchen and teach, me how to eat the food they don't trust me because I'm obviously not Sicilian, so they come out with the little bowl and it's a bowl of broth and it's usually a fish broth and they, pour it over the top of the couscous and you don't pour it all on it once. You pour a little bit on and then you eat and you pour a little bit more of the broth on and the the new eat that's how you eat the couscous, in Sicily. And typically, the best kind to have is the seafood couscous. So, that's what we've got going on here and of course the owner as usual came out and had to teach me how to do it so that's, nice, nearby. You can jump in a car and you can drive down south, to masya to the, islands, around the salt pans this, area in the past was very well, off because salt was so valuable, they, didn't have refrigeration, in the past and salt. Was the way to preserve food so, being able to create a way to get, salt was important, and this area of Sicily has been cultivating, these, salt beds for generations, so I know that this looks like the Man of La Mancha of course but it's, not it's Sicily. So, we have here all of the different salts being, collected. And salt, comes in multiple qualities. The, Florida cell is the very first kind that they take off of the top and, then this salt was this, is when I was just recently there they were finishing, up for the season of harvesting the salt and they were starting, if you can see to cover up the salt with, roof tiles, so, they have these funny little roof tiles and every, day they'd cover a little bit more because if you leave it out in the open it's. Gonna get wet and it's going to go back into the sea so, they have to cover it and then they take it away a little bit let by a little bit as they need it and they're very fortunate, because this was a dying industry until. Fancy. Salt became a thing you. Know you, know the fancy salt you get from jamie oliver whatever, the cost $20, for a little jar this is the fancy salt so but.
That's Great for them because it's a local industry that's been traditional, for generations, that they haven't been able to really support until, recently. Nearby. We take a boat from there out to a little island that's in that Harbor very very close only about a 5-minute ride and this is the island of Mattia this. Island is so, interesting, because it's something you wouldn't expect it's, one of the few places to see Carthaginian. Ruins, and if. You know of the Carthaginians, these are people who were the Phoenicians, in the past they floated, across over. To northern Africa and they established. A city at Carthage which was a competitor, to Rome before, Rome became an empire so. Carthage, had outposts. And this was one of their many outposts, there's, not really much of Carthage left because the Romans erased them almost completely from history which was sort of their method of getting rid of their adversaries, but they found here, not really that long ago the Carthaginian. Ruins, of the city that used to be here so, it's something very special, and unusual because you don't see this really anywhere else in Italy it's, a really special Island there, was a family, that was related to the Marsala wine producing, trade. That purchased, the island and built a villa there and then eventually found all these artifacts, so they have turned, their villa into. A museum, and it's a privately owned island it's owned by the people that family still it's called the Whittaker foundation, inside. You can see all kinds of interesting artifacts this one I think is fun because this is a display on how, they got the. Purple dye out of these little shells to make purple cloth and the, reason that's important, is you know the word Phoenician, but, where does that come from it comes from the word for purple, in the past they, were people that were purple clothing and purple, was a really important, and valuable color for clothing bit because it usually symbolized, royalty, or important. Something like this so, those are the little shells that created. That and then you can go out on the island look at all of the different ruins you can walk through and a lot of them don't make much sense here I like to have a local, guide walk me through and show me because. It's a culture, we maybe don't know a lot about so they get to explain what the different parts, of the island were and then you also get to be accompanied, there. Are two dogs that live there Luna and masya and they will accompany you and they follow you around the island it's very sweet not. A lot of people go here actually so this is a great place to go and get in touch with a mysterious.
Piece Of history that, you can't see anywhere else in Europe. Another. Thing I just discovered recently that, I invite, you to do is near by to trap any 1/2 hour boat ride you can get out to the Agati Islands, this is an island called favignana and it, really is a stunning Island crystal-clear blue waters, and these, are old tuna. Factories, this, is where they would bring in the tuna fleets and they would process that because that was the real industry. Of Sicily let's say a hundred years ago was producing canned tuna, canned and packed in oil they. Sort of were, the ones who invented that idea but then of course the tuna industry collapsed, and they, had these buildings, that are left without any purpose, they've repurposed. The buildings now to be museums, so, this whole complex out here is a beautiful Museum on Sicilian, life which. Is lovely and the island itself is just beautiful. And there's hardly anybody there because again it's Sicily, it's a little bit unknown and it's, an island that just hasn't, really been discovered by tourism too much but, so charming the little town square is so adorable you can have a lovely lunch it's very inexpensive you, can rent bicycles and, ride all around the island so this is a really Pleasant thing to do only a half an hour away from choppin E so, there's lots of choices trappin e has an excellent home base to, do a lot of little excursions, into western sicily, we're. Gonna head now down to south to Agrigento. Agrigento. Is home to the famous valley of the temples this, is one of the great experiences in, travel, if you're interested in architecture these. Temples are Greek temple. They are not Italian, temples, they are not temples from any any other culture this is from when assistly, was Magna Graecia Greater Greece, this. Is the temple of concordia it's, one of the most well-preserved temples. And it's, the same thing as the pantheon the reason we have the Pantheon in Rome is because, it was always used it was turned into a church this is the same thing this, temple was used as a church for a long time and they put in a lot of other elements to kind of prop it up to turn it into a proper Church but because of that we have the, original temple and it's never fallen and that's, incredibly. Unusual if you've been to Greece it's really hard to find a temple that is this well-preserved the, difference, however between the, Greek temples and the ones that are Gento is the the stone these, are not made of marble these, are made of a local Sam stone and so they're golden, in color but you have to kind of change the way you look at them if you think about it from a historical perspective because temples, were never white to begin with you, may know this but they painted their temples they painted their statues, so as you walk around the temples in agrigento occasionally, you can find small patches of white plaster, and that's, because all of them were plastered, and brightly, painted so. Change the way you look at them they would not have looked like this in the past this would have look like a skeleton to, people who were Greek so. This wasn't a huge city agrigento, was one of the most impressive cities, in all, of Greece and. Fell just like Perseid or just like like, the like the angels going up to the heavens it got too close to the Sun Icarus, I'm sorry it was Icarus that got too close to the Sun in his wings melted agrigento, was almost the same way it was such a grand an incredibly, large city and then, fell once Greece lost, importance, and the island was dominated, by the Romans and there's very little of the ancient city left other than the temples they're just starting to discover it now you.
Have Beautiful views and one of the things I loved about the walk through the valley of the temples is the, vegetation, you, can see of course those beautiful, cactuses. And those are the feekiee to India you'll see almond, trees you'll see all kinds of beautiful flowers Jasmine it smells, heavenly as you walk through there so, that's something to enjoy as well as the flora and the fauna the, temples. Themselves, are kind of fun this particular one, was. Purchased, by an English, nobleman, and he came in built a little house next to it so, you can go and visit the, house and this is the one column, that was original, still standing from Greek times and then this gentleman is an was Alexander Hardcastle, he reconstructed, part of the temples with his own money because, you know back in the, 19th century you could buy a temple if you wanted to it was ok so too. Bad you can't do it now my. Favorite part though of the whole valley of the temples is something strange though this looks like the Michelin, Man don't you think these. Huge. Giants, they're called Telemann there were hundreds, of them and they went all the way around, a temple that was enormous something, that's almost impossible to understand, the scale this. Is a model that's in the Museum of agrigento so, if you can you can start to get a sense of, the size it, was perhaps, the largest Greek, temple ever built there. Is none of it left and the reason is that it, fell, apart a little bit during an earthquake and then they decided to recycle, it and make a pier at a nearby town to agrigento and that, tells you something about why ruins, are gone it's, not necessarily. That it was earthquakes, or wind, or whatever it, was recycling, people didn't care about these temples but that's a really great source of material to build something else so, they took this away and built a breakwater, in a town called Porto, and pedaling nearby, that's. The scale though isn't that fun that's. How big they are and this is the most complete one so imagine this guy completely painted, covered, with plaster and painted and all of the features of the faces were a little bit different so I love. To have people posed by them it's kind of fun for scale my. Scale models the museum is wonderful too it has a lot of wonderful artifacts. From the past from, Greek times these in fact are all votives. People would buy these at the entrance to temples, they were mass-produced, and you if you wanted to go and bring something and leave it on the altar you. Could do that it's. Similar, thing in Asia. Where you go and you buy flower wreaths before you enter a temple and you leave them at the at the temple it's the same thing in Greek times they would buy these votives, depending, on the deity that they were worshiping and they'd leave them at the temple. Moving. On we're gonna head to the center of Italy or Sicily, and we're going to see the villa Romana del cazali. This, is not a Greek ruin this is a Roman ruin Roman. Times came and didn't really treat Sicily, very well they subjugated the population, and they didn't really take care of the Greek ruins but they built some of their own things and most of the people who live there who were Roman were wealthy landowners. And they created these sort of tracts of land where they would grow, mostly grain this, became one of the ways that Rome, grew to a million people during Roman times because. They grew grain and Sicily and when you have bread and water that's. How you maintain that size population so, this incredibly. Big strange, Palace is in the middle of nowhere and we think it's because it was the palace of a wealthy nobleman, who had a lot of land that grew a lot of grain and things like that the. Other idea we have about him is a little strange we think maybe he was an animal importer, and I'll show you why in a second the way they've restored these that you can see where the, land was in the past before, they found them the land had covered up here because there was a landslide, and it, filled it up and you can see exactly where the land was in the past they excavated, they found the floors and in, the past ten or fifteen years they've, reconstructed the, shelters to look like the building probably looked in the past so, when you walk through and you see these strange wooden ceilings, and domes and things that's, because they're trying to reconstruct, it to look like it the ancient Roman house that it would have been in the past, the. Floors are magnificent, they're a little hard to see because they're very pastel, in color but. They have these wonderful catwalks. That go all the way around it so you can stand over the top and you can look down and they have nice little plaques in front, of each to explain the topics, typically. There's an animal theme though you can see in each of these Reed's that they're animals, this.
Is One of my favorites this, there's a whole hallway full of these animal themes and this one is elephant, they're loading elephants, onto a boat to transport which makes us believe that perhaps this is somebody who imported animals. To Rome for, the games in Rome it's very possible so that's one of the ideas this entire hallways. Full of these but one, thing that a person on a tour pointed out to me I thought was interesting is the, outfits, that people are wearing they're. All dressed in such incredible, detail you can see the details of all of their different costumes, and they come from all over the known world at that time so you see different outfits of different kinds, of people from the Roman world so all the little day-to-day, details, those are the fun things to look at in these mosaics, this. Is a hunting scene you've got the hunters in the center and they're roasting a turkey can you see the turkey we've, gone out hunting down here and the scene up here above is of them dedicating, themselves to the goddess Diana who's the the goddess of the hunt so, lovely little details about Roman life. And everyone's favorite the bikini girls so. Nothing. Changes, in the world I think these, are young ladies wearing bikinis, and and they're competing, in athletic, games so. Just like the Olympics it's sort of like the Olympics of the past and the winner gets a crown and a, palm frond so we, kind of know who the winner was, so bikinis, you didn't invent them in the 1960s, the Romans did. Ragusa. And southeastern, sicily our next topic and that's moving on from the the villa del Kasauli area you can leave agrigento, hits, the villa del Kasauli and then you can head and sleep in the Ragusa area as an easy date there's, again not a whole lot to see in this town it's just a very pleasant hill town and it's really lovely, Sicily. On this entire corner, of the island. Were rocked in the 1600s, by an earthquake and that destroyed. A lot, of these towns in southeastern Sicily, but, that's a good thing in a sense because that meant at the beginning of the 1700s. Most of these towns were reconstructing. And they, all did in that crazy Baroque style so, that's one of the reasons people love to go to southeastern, Sicily to visit Noto and Ragusa and Shaklee because, you see these wonderful. Architectural. Masterpieces. From the Baroque period so. This is the one in Ragusa this is their Cathedral, and. The old town is called a bluff so this is regular ze bla I think this is the most pleasant part of Ragusa this is where I like to stay there's, Gardens, you can kind of walk around it's got a lovely pace to it kind of quiet but lovely and. Then you can take this staircase there's a crazy staircase, you can go up it'll take you probably about a half hour 40 minutes to walk you can walk from eyeblood down below to the new city which is called Ragusa superiore. It's above the, old city and that's the Baroque city and, there's just the staircase itself, is a lot of fun because there's masterpieces. Of architecture. All along the way and you get beautiful views down into the valley at. The top you'll find the, cathedral and, this, Cathedral is funny because they. Built it after a big earthquake and you can tell look how funny it is it's squat, and the, walls are really thick because they were very afraid of another earthquake and they have this base underneath, it with the shops so this is old-fashioned, earthquake proofing this was what they thought they could do with seismic retrofitting, in a way so, brand new Cathedral and they built it a squat and strong as they could. There's, a real East little site there that I want to draw your attention to it's a museum in the Town Hall that's probably no bigger than this room it's a very small Museum it's a museum dedicated to, Italy, in Africa, when Italy had colonies, in Africa which, you may not even know that they did it's, just a local person from Ragusa who has collected all of these costumes, over his lifetime and he, got a space in the city hall to display them and sometimes. It's not open and you knock on the door and the somebody, comes the custodian, comes and lets you in and they'll walk you around and show you the. Different artifacts this is one of the things I love doing when I'm researching guidebooks, especially, is to find these funny little things you wouldn't know about otherwise but, what a lovely treat to go in and learn about a piece of Italian history that I actually knew nothing about.
And. Then moving on from red goo so you can do a lot of day trips you can head on - no - no. - is the, one baroque, gem I think most people love coming here because it's sort of baroque Disneyland, I guess you could say everybody. Goes there especially Italians, on the weekends and you park and you walk down the Main Street and every. Single building is Baroque. And they're all really, exuberant, and beautifully done so this is a popular destination if, you're interested in that style of architecture and. Then you can head over to Monica, Monica, is nearby and it's, another hill town it also has that style but, there's a more, interesting thing, than the architecture, in Monica and that's the chocolate, Marek, and chocolate is different, than any chocolate you've ever had it's one of the first chocolates, ever made in Europe and they, make it in a strange way that creates sort of a chocolate outside that looks chalky and on the inside it's granular, so it's got Grant greens of sugar and grains of cocoa bean and it's, I think the best chocolate I've ever had so, I try, all of them and I bring all of them home with me so I absolutely, encourage, you to go here and try all of them to figure out which is best you have to do the experimentation. While. We're on the topic of food I just want to tell you a little bit about the highlight of Sicily, which is the food I think what I do more than anything mare is eat and when I start talking to Sicilians, we'll talk about politics or religion or the weather and eventually. We end up talking about food and I guarantee you if you sit on a park bench in Sicily and you listen everybody. Around you is talking about food and there's. A good reason the food is fabulous from the fish to. Those out on Cheney you can take cooking classes when, you're there this is my group doing a cooking, class on how to the rice balls and. You have these wonderful pasta dishes but it's not the kind of pasta dishes that you might be used to this is pasta pasta, dish with an, octopus, sauce which. I'd never heard of before but they use everything they have they use the the ingredients from their farms and the ingredients, from the sea as well, this. Is a wonderful, lunch - nice, simple lunch fresh, vegetables, cheese salami things like this you can eat so well in Sicily, and the weird thing is that you don't gain weight because the food has no calories in it right.
The. Pizza is different - this is a trap anaise pizza, I love, trap eni's pizza it's really kind of thick and crispy, but it's cut into tiny little pieces for reasons I have yet to discover I don't know why but, this is the style of the city of choppin e they cut their pizza and I love eating it in these tiny little squares, that's how you eat it the. Wine is a highlight, and I highly recommend going to a winery there's lots of wonderful wineries, around at nough there's also some on the western side of Sicily but the wines there are becoming very popular it's, sort of chic now to drink Sicilian, wines so, I encourage, you to have wine with every meal because it's good for your heart isn't it it's healthy and I'm not joking when I say their food has no calories and the wine is good for you Sicilians. Live to be older than any, other race. Of people on the earth I think there there's a town in Japan that can compete, with Sicily, but they have some, of the longest living humans, on the planet so, they, know what they're doing eat the sweets - because they know what they're doing right no, calories in the sweets either these are those almond pastries I was talking about there's Cassata the, pasta, really there's all these beautiful things you can have that. Are sweets that are so famous if you don't like Italian sweets which I find bland frankly, I like French sweets better you've, never had Sicilian, sweets because remember, those Arabs brought the. Sugar and the almonds, and the citrus, and they make fantastic things. With them so, this is a real highlight your dentist will not thank you for going to Sicily or maybe they will because you'll enrich. Them a little bit when you get back but yeah it's good stuff my, favorite thing about Sicily, as far as sweets go is this this, is breakfast. I'm. Serious, this is breakfast, this. Is what Sicilians, eat for breakfast this is granita, and brioche. A granita, is like a slushie and they make it out of almond milk or they make it out of coffee or they make it out of fruit juices. You can have it with whipped cream and a warm egg bread, bun I know, that sounds weird but you take it and you dip the warm egg bread into the granita and you eat that and that's what you have for breakfast especially, in the summertime and when, I took my son here that's what we had for every meal and it was wonderful it's really good and it's healthy too because you know if it's fruit it's fresh fruit so, I love, the green ITA's and I highly recommend you find a good place to do that because that's a real, specifically. Sicilian, treat this. However I cannot, abide I have to tell you my Sicilian friends for years have tried to convince me that this is good and I do not believe it this is gelato on a bun. This. Is in an abomination, in my opinion I have, tried it I have attempted to like it and I think it's, just wrong but if. You really want to be Sicilian, about it go and you'll you'll see it every gelato shop they'll have a pile of buns on the countertop and you can just ask for the bun and they'll think you're an amazing local, so even, if you don't speak Italian if you're eating gelato in a bun they'll be like ciao and, think you're Italian so it's you. Should try it I don't, like it but you should try it we're. Gonna move on now to see it a cuza on the coast so we're heading to the eastern, coast of Sicily static. Ooza is one, of the the highlights, in terms of Greek ruins. In Greek architecture because this was at, a certain point in Greek history mmm more important, than Athens the. City rivaled, Athens in its scale with a number of people and with all of the architectural. Treasures that they had so this was a very powerful place in the past this, little island here is called ortygia and this, was the the kind of capital, the main center. Of ortygia of. Syracuse, in the past, these. Days this, little island of ortygia has, become a kind of a tourist hotspot, because it was sort of a little scary in the past and they put a lot of money into renovating, it and during, the 1600s, this was also destroyed, and kind, of rebuilt in this Baroque style and, so in the past 10 years they've restored all of these beautiful baroque, churches and, buildings and so on this one is deceiving, though this is a church you'll, find the rune remnants, of Santa, Lucia inside and that's interesting, but you think it's a baroque church from the front right you. Walk around the corner and you see this is that, a baroque church no. It's, a baroque church on the front you. Go here and you see that it was a Norman, cathedral. Fort during. The Norman times and here, you can see it was a temple, so.
They Took a Greek temple they filled it in during the Norman times turned it into a cathedral fort, so it was a defensive, and religious, building. I know that doesn't make sense but it did back then and then, they pasted it a brutal facade, on the front so, this is Sicily, right here in a nutshell if you can look at one building and understand the island this is the building to look at, you'll. Find these Greek ruins all throughout, Syracuse. This is again still ortygia right, in the center of town when you first cross that bridge and you go to the market this is in the middle it's a temple to Apollo so you see these wonderful ruins, of ancient, Greece everywhere, you walk I love. How beautiful the, sea is there I just sitting along the banks and looking, at the sunset it's, a beautiful, place and it's floating out there in the middle of the Mediterranean so it's very peaceful you can swim there during the summer time too they have catwalks where you can jump off and you can swim if it's, warm so just the environment, of or today is lovely I like. To eat at the market the, market has a famous sandwich, guy's name is Andrea and he will make you a sandwich while dishing out all kinds, of life, advice usually love advice if you're a man and if you're a woman kind, of you know flirting with you a little bit so I go there and enjoy talking to him but this is a sandwich right here do you see that in real. Life sighs, it's this big and that, sandwich, for two halves is five euros, so. That gives you a sense that's an unusually inexpensive, place but that gives you a sense of how inexpensive, the food in Sicily is because food is part of their life there it's not for rich people food, is important, and having hearty good food is all about the culture they. Also have though a wonderful archeological, park on the actual, main lines you have to go to the mainland and this is called the Neapolis, and in Annapolis, this. Is unusual I know I've shown you a bunch of Greek theaters this one here is a solid. Piece of stone this, is carved, into the side of a cliff so. At the time that Syracuse was the most important city they made the most important theater and they still use it they do Greek tragedies, here during the summertime it's. Incredible, that 2,000. Years later something is still in use in, that same area they have a really strange thing their work worries that they used during Greek times to, build all of their temples and theaters and things like that and, inside. Of those queries is this strange thing we called the ear of dionysius, and, it's, just a fun sort of geological. Feature and, you go inside and. You. Can hat stand and sing there and the acoustics, are marvelous, and they say it's called the ear of dionysius because, Dionysius was kind. Of like a king almost of Syracuse and they say he would sit, on top of this, cave and listen to try and listen, in on people's, conversations because. The acoustics were so good so that's, why they call it that. Also. In Syracuse I highly recommend visiting the puppet museum and getting to know the culture of Sicilian. Puppets, these nights that, they have these are the Knights of Charlemagne, they are folk tales that came from French troubadours, and they stuck around and, this is still a story cycle they teach their children and they, do these wonderful puppet, shows this is one of the best ones and all of Sicily that you can visit and they're, fantastic, the the puppets they growl, and they fight and mate they're always fighting of course there's always sword fights they have dramatic, scenes but everybody's waiting for the fight because, the sword fights are amazing, and they behead, people and. There's sound. Effects, and lights and they really have taken it to the next level this is great even for adults even if you don't have a kid with you everybody's, a kid on the inside I know and you, want to see this this is a lot of fun they, even bring the puppets out and they show you how they walk so if you take a look here you can see there's only two, wires. There's one for the head and one for the arm and that's, how they gesture, and do all the fighting and what they can do with those gestures is incredible. They seem like they're alive and real people when they're up on stage so. I really recommend doing that when you're in Syracuse, it's by far the best puppet, theater, Catania. Is our next stop in Catania, is just, a main city a lot of people need to know well because it is a connection city a lot of people fly out of there's a wonderful, Airport. There only 10 minutes by car to get to it's very easy up I like the city it's a little gritty, I think, of it as Naples younger brother it's, tiny but, it's a lot like Naples it's crazy, and it's, real there's, nothing touristic about it in fact the tourist office when I talk to them about writing this Sicily book they had no idea what.
I Was talking about there, they don't know who rick steves is they've never they don't understand tourism they handed me a DVD that said understanding. Tourism, and I was like okay this is what you give people who try to get tourism going so this is not a touristic City it's a real Sicilian. City it's the second-largest on the island and it's made of black stone do you see their Cathedral, if you look closely it's made of lava stone because this is at the foot of Mount Etna I'll just go back quickly this is from the top of one of their churches that's how close Mount Etna is it's on the slopes the, mountain, has flowed. Lava over the top of the city on multiple, occasions but when Etna erupts erupts really slowly so, nobody ever gets killed by this but, they often have to read redirect, their streets, and cities and things like that the, fish market there is one of the highlights because it's loud and noisy and real people come out there with just chests, of fish directly. From their boat and they scream and sing I see, it at a hotel nearby here once and I didn't know, what was going on at five o'clock in the morning when there was such a cacophony, I thought there was a street fight going on but. It wasn't it was this market so this is the real deal and walking, around their market you get an absolutely. True sense of what Sicil