Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sicilian architecture, mostly!

After working hard all summer it was finally holiday time at the end of September, so I took off to Sicily for a week of quality food, scenery and weather. And it didn't disappoint - first stop was Catania, which I arrived in about 9pm and promptly headed out for some fettuccine alla norma (pasta with aubergines and tomato sauce, which I later discovered is a local speciality) and to marvel at the beautiful architecture. The next day I had a few hours before my bus left, so I went back to the main square to sketch the cathedral.

Then it was on to Taormina, a small beach resort on the side of a cliff just up the coast from Catania. After checking into the smallest room ever in an otherwise quite luxurious hotel, and plastering myself in suncream, I headed down to the beach via an interesting hillside path. Typically the beach by this time was actually in the shade, but still good for a nice swim and very picturesque with a little island just about joined to the mainland by a small rocky causeway.

The next day I headed in the opposite direction, further up the hill to another village which overlooked Taormina and the coast, and had great views over to Mount Etna. I sat in the shade in some castle ruins and sketched the rooftops until hunger got the better of me!

After 2 days in Taormina my next destination was Petralia Sottana, a small town on the edge of the Madonie mountains in northern Sicily. Most people had been saying to me "Why are you going there?" and "How are you going to get there??" but undeterred I continued with the plan - in the end it was actually a pretty straightforward, if long, journey. While there I failed to do any hiking in the mountains proper (my map-reading and orientation skills let me down!) but did have some nice walks in the countryside around the town. When I first arrived and asked for directions to my hotel, I was told it was just after "the church". I passed about ten churches before I found it, and concluded that the below is officially THE church.

Next stop was the big city Palermo for the last 3 days - typically chaotic, hot, beautiful. No sketches of the city unfortunately so this last one is Cefalu, a beach town 1 hour by train from Palermo which has the most fantastic setting, just below a massive 270m rock which you can climb for amazing views up and down the coast. After the climb and a very satisfying picnic lunch of arancini (deep-fried risotto balls - delicious, really!) and cassata (sponge cake with ricotta and candied fruit) I went back to the town for a wander and a swim and a sketch of the harbour.