Dreaming of your next Easter holiday? Are you fancying for something exotic but flying several hours is already depressing you?
Sicily is your answer.
If the Europeans of the eighteenth and nineteenth century travelled all the way down to Sicily facing bandits, bumpy roads, flooding and never ending winding roads, there must be a reason, do not you think?
Is it the mix of spicy and sweet flavor of the atmosphere of the Sicilian cities and towns?
The dimension of magic and sorcery which wraps you once you are there?
Or again the excellent food of incredible colors and tastes and the robust red wines smelling of sun?
It is really difficult to say but for sure this little triangle in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea was, is and will be an amazing place you need to visit once in a lifetime.
And there is no better moment to visit it than Easter holiday and no better place to start your visit than Agrigento and its Valley of Temples.
Agrigento and the Akragas ruins: the Valley of the 10 temples
Let your spirit dance at the delicate sound of the marine breeze blowing through the almond branches of the Valley of Temples.
Agrigento lies close to the site of the antique Akragas, the ancient city founded by Greek colonies on the South East coast of Sicily. The name comes from the nearby river rich in crabs at that time.
Rich and powerful, Akragas had massive Doric Temples whose ruins can still be admired and attract thousands of visitors each year:
Temple of Heracles
Temple of Olympian Zeus
Temple of Juno
Temple of Concordia
Temple of Castor and Pollux
Just to name a few ones
Sicily and its nuptial veil
Make sure you visit the area by Easter time, at the peak of Spring season: the almond trees will welcome you with a thin white layer of almond flowers and the lightest marine breeze will spread the little flowers all over the place.
The “Almond Museum” is the proof of how relevant almonds are to the economy of the area and to the full appreciation of the valley wonders.
The passionate “Almond Museum” researchers collected approximately two hundred different species of almond having origins in different areas of Sicily and created a park covering 5 hectares.
This natural museum has no equal anywhere else and it is a great laboratory for didactic and natural activities of different kinds.
Get lost in it and let your spirits be relieved by the bitter sweet perfume of these historical trees.
The Holy week of Agrigento: the tradition of the 7 churches
Easter time is not just the ideal time to visit Agrigento and the temples or a feast in the calendar: it is a “state of mind”.
Easter celebration requests a complete and sophisticated preparation which culminates in the “tour of 7 churches”: each devoted Christian Catholic is due to visit seven churches on Thursday before the Easter Sunday.
This tradition turned into a real rule dates back to the Middle Ages and even before.
Though quite rigid if your devotion is not so immense, do not get discouraged.
You can be sure Sicilians have already thought of alternative solutions: you can reduce the visits to five or even three.
Just make sure to go for unfair numbers.
And through these visits you may be so lucky as to be rewarded with a unique experience: reading the devil’s letter.
What can do a devil in love?
The legend all locals will reveal in a whisper is one of the most incredible one you will ever hear.
It seems the devil fell madly in love with a virgin, a forbidden fruit and the most desirable one of course.
He disguised himself as a noble knight. The virgin refused the knight as well and the poor devil decided to try a last trick: he wrote her a love letter.
Just a few can say to have been so lucky as to have seen the piece of paper and they all report it was no more than a mess of geometrical figures, marks, lines and associations of words with no real sense.
Did the devil win the girl defenses? No one knows.
No other written traces of this legend have remained. Maybe the girl was overwhelmed by tenderness and she offered the handsome knight her beauty.
Very likely the letter was simply a pretext to justify her retirement from earthly issues, voluntarily or not this remains a mystery.
Easter wreath and chats
You cannot praise yourself with the title of “real Sicily connoisseurs” if you fail this final test: the weaving of date palm leaves, white ribbons and jasmine flowers.
Let’s go through the preparation for the proof:
a. Code dress: wear your most sober clothes, black dress welcome, and black sheer stockings the best.
b. Attitude: sitting in small group of 2/4 women.
c. Place: at street corners, in the far away corner of a city square, just outside the home threshold.
Now, if the previous conditions have been accomplished you are ready to start: weave the palm fronds with the jasmine flowers and the olive branches and create long Easter wreaths. It is easy, isn’t it?
It looks pretty easy when admiring these local women moving their hands rapidly and creating these little floral decorations yet you must have a great manual ability and what makes it even more complicate is that part of the game is weaving while chatting.
The Easter wreath is not just a hobby and a tradition of the Holy Easter Week: it is the online community alive in real life.
Women get together and talk about any topic they consider worth of: last bride wedding dress, foreigners who have just moved to the city, the children school and food.
Sicilian slow food
Food is a fundamental chapter in Sicilian life and in every Italians’ life. Italians are all gourmet by nature, a natural talent.
If you mean to be recognized as a “sicily food expert”, this is the basic gastronomic dictionary for you:
a. Macco (maccu di favi) mashed fava bean, very energetic and light.
b. Tagano (Taganu u Aragunu), a typical Easter specialty made of eggs, tuma cheese, minced meat and pasta.
Try to get an invitation for the Easter Monday and you will be offered this spicy and perfumed dish.
c. Minni di virgini, a cake made of pasta frolla, cinnamon, milky cream and zuccata originally created for the wedding ceremony of a Palermo nobleman, they are now well known all over Sicily and even further.
d. Sweet cous cous with pistachios, dried figs, sultanas, walnuts, orange marmalade and chocolate in pieces
This is not the ABC of Sicily food; this is just a fragment of the “A” letter and you will soon discover how vary and rich the cuisine of Sicily is.
Visiting Sicily is always a full experience: prepare yourself to be challenged by new panoramas, breathtaking views, unusual tastes, showy colors, exotic sounds and open your soul to embrace the antique beauty of a land conquered by all but never really tamed.
Cover Photo by Wikipedia