Traveling and visiting new countries has become part of our daily lives. With all the sophisticated lifestyle we take pleasure in, it is easy now to go out and discover the world.
For those who are interested in history and culture, Sicily is definitely the destination sought. Having been ruled and controlled by great powers and empires ranging from the Phoenicians, to the Romans, Byzantines, Greeks, and reaching the Arabs, and Normans, you will be dazzled by the beauty of its Cathedrals, and Fortresses. Each wall, each drawing expresses a multi-ethnic story. Although Sicily today is considered part of Italy, it still has its own distinct culture. In fact, Sicily is a melange of cultures set on an island, and to profit from its exquisiteness you need to plan your trip ahead of time.
We spent two weeks in a house with a pool in Balestrate, a small village next to Palermo, the capital of Sicily. As tourists with five kids, we wanted to make the best of our stay, and enjoy our time. We set our schedule and decided on the cities, historical sites, museums, and other interesting locations we wanted to explore and followed it. We always made it a point to have the children and us relax by the pool either in the morning or in the late afternoon.
Many people wonder how we managed a vacation with five, but let me tell you something: Kids simply love to explore, even if they are toddlers. So the rule is easy; take the decision of enjoying it and positive vibes are spread around you. That is exactly what happened!
In old Palermo, there are many places to visit. It is vibrant and even chaotic, with its labyrinth tiny roads, and the ancient buildings kneeling onto each other like ageless friends supporting one another. Palermo, on its own, is an eclectic museum of the Mediterranean and Northern European civilization. One remarkable memory was while we explored its tiny roads we could observe the Sicilian’s daily conducts by simply looking through their widely opened doors and windows. So in one house we saw an old man was fixing his bed and in the neighbouring one a lady preparing her lunch. Isn’t that extraordinary?
Next, we went to Corleone where we visited the C.I.D.M.A. museum (International Documentary Center of Mafia and No Mafia Movement) in which we learned all about the Sicilian’ s struggles and fear during the most violent and brutal rule of the mafia clan between 1980 and 1992. Their rights have been abducted and so was their freedom of speech until 2006. It was great to undergo such an experience where our passionate guide could make us live those times through his words and narration. The boys were dazzled by the stories and learned a lot of interesting information.
Erice is a splendid ancient town located at the top of the mountains of Trapani district. We took the cable car to reach it, and the minute we entered its gate, we felt that we have been transferred back in time. You would think that a knight could come out of its narrow alleys on his white horse. I was delighted that the boys discovered the palace and touched the stones of that prehistoric monument which they have learned about in their history class.
We also, visited Monreale, which is a typical old Sicilian village as well. The uniqueness of those miniature alleyways is spectacular. The twins were overjoyed as they roamed around and followed the pigeons with excitement.
The Cathedral of Monreale is one of the greatest prevailing Norman architecture. It is as if two churches coming from different cultures put together. It is simply glorious.
Mazara was our last destination. Like all the other Sicilian villages, it has been concurred by many civilizations and it was ruled by the Arabs for a long period of time. So it was not a surprise to hear the Arabic dialect on the streets.
This originally Phoenician city is now one of Italy’s main sources for fishing. We enjoyed eating freshly captured pink jumbo shrimps and of course the children could not let go on having different types of pasta plates.
No one visits Sicily and misses on enjoying the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. We spent a lovely afternoon with all five of them as they played with the sand and jumped into the vigorous waves. As the boys built a huge sand castle, the twins were busy filling in the buckets for them.
With all those exploration we also devoured Sicilian food and gelatos. Aubergines, tomatoes, basil, and courgettes are the essentials of their cuisine. Being a person who loves vegetables, I savoured the food provided.The ice cream served in a brioche bun is simply mouth-watering.
We had an ice cream almost every day. The cannoli sweet is not to be missed either. It is a Sicilian pastry served during Carnevale season and it is a symbol of fertility.
Finally, we admired the scenery as we moved around. Vine fields stretch along both sides of the high ways. Meadows with cows and sheep grazing in them were like portraits in front of us.
We came back feeling physically weary, but happy and content and mostly fulfilled with new experiences and information. And most importantly we have built sweet memories along with our five.