Unconventional Sicily, a journey beyond the ‘common’ places

Unconventional SicilySicily is an island renowned worldwide, yet it holds its own secrets! The most famous locations are marked on every map and are all over social media, but there are countless hidden gems whose uniqueness can leave visitors in awe. So why not start a journey to discover ‘Unconventional Sicily’? Sicilian Secrets invites you on a journey designed for those who love to see beyond the ordinary. Let’s go!

Small villages, mysterious castles, breathtaking coastal views…How do you imagine your Unconventional Sicily? This island always knows how to surprise those who choose to visit and explore it beyond the typical destinations. Those who approach with curiosity will create unforgettable memories, discovering a side of this destination that remains hidden yet no less fascinating. If you’re looking for real gems to add to your wish list, keep reading and take note of the five treasures Sicilian Secrets has selected for you.

Acquaviva Platani, the literary village

Have you ever been ‘at home’ with a Nobel Prize winner? If the answer is no, it’s worth noting a rural (and literary) village in the province of Caltanissetta. Welcome to Acquaviva Platani, a hilltop village boasting two stars among its residents: Elio Vittorini and Salvatore Quasimodo, the latter being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. These two celebrated Sicilian authors lived here for a period of their lives, a significant chapter, as they even immortalized Acquaviva Platani in their works.

Unconventional Sicily
Acquaviva Platani – Credits: commons.wikimedia.org / Davide Mauro

Leafing through ‘Conversations in Sicily’, Vittorini tells us: «And I thought of Acquaviva as very far away in space, a solitude at the mouth of the mountain…and my mother said it was a terrible summer and that a terrible summer meant not a shadow for all those kilometers, cicadas bursting in the sun, snails emptied by the sun, everything in the world turned into sun». Quasimodo did the same, leaving us verses that still resonate on bookshelves today, an echo of his youth: «And it is still the call of the ancient horn of the shepherds, harsh on the white ditches of snake skins. Perhaps it breathes from the plateaus of Acquaviva, where the Platani rolls shells under the water among the feet of olive-skinned children». An Unconventional Sicily made of prose and lyrical verses, ideal for those who love to lose themselves among the narrow streets of villages and the pages of books!

Giarratana, the Pearl of the Iblei

Let us now move southwards, specifically to the slopes of Monte Lauro in the province of Ragusa. Here, another charming village awaits: Giarratana. You may have heard of it, particularly in culinary circles, as it is famous for its onions, specifically, large, delicious onions that are perfect for roasting. However, this destination offers much more than just a delectable dish. Boasting a history that stretches back to ancient times (with initial settlements by the Siculi dating back to the 2nd millennium BC), Giarratana is also home to numerous churches, monuments, and…hidden treasures! According to legend, within the walls of a fortress built in the 18th century, complete with prisons and stables, noble proprietors concealed a substantial cache of riches.

Unconventional Sicily
Giarratana Onion – Credits: commons.wikimedia.org / Cavarrone

And since no one has yet discovered this hidden treasure chest, who knows…you might be the lucky one! But while you wait for fortune to favor you, there is plenty to explore in Giarratana. Start with the central ‘U Cuozzu’ district, where the ancient streets showcase the village’s history and local traditions. Then, visit the Mother Church of San Bartolomeo, a stunning architectural gem with Renaissance frescoes, and Palazzo Barone, now home to the Iblean Museum of Emigration. This is the charm of the unexpected!

Capo Rama Nature Reserve, where the sunset is a brush stroke

Our tour of Unconventional Sicily continues, this time taking us to an area between Palermo and Trapani, specifically to Terrasini. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince once said that he loved watching sunsets when he was sad. The final hours of the day are imbued with nostalgia, but they also carry the magic of time. If you are looking for a destination that will steal your heart, follow the sky and head to where the setting sun seems painted by an artist.

Capo Rama Nature Reserve – Credits: commons.wikimedia.org / Bjs

Situated in the Gulf of Castellammare, the Capo Rama Nature Reserve is a pristine oasis that can be summed up in one word: untouched. This sanctuary is home to rare plants such as the spiny oak (a rarity in Sicily!) and the dwarf palm. Birds chirping will accompany you as you approach the majestic cliffs that rise over 30 meters, dropping directly into the deep blue sea. Close your eyes and be guided by the sounds: the wind, the waves. The silence. This natural heritage must be protected for future generations. A dream made real.

Marettimo, the Castle of Punta Troia

Feel like taking a boat trip? Well then, all aboard because the next stop (spoiler alert!) is only reachable by sea. We sail towards Marettimo, among the Aegadian Islands, in search of a castle with a somewhat controversial reputation. After landing on the island and navigating through a sometimes challenging walk, you’ll behold the Castle of Punta Troia framed by a breathtaking panorama. But what does this fortress represent? It’s an edifice built on the remains of a Saracen watchtower, later converted into a prison where mainly political prisoners were held. An ‘odious prison’, it was called, given the inhumane conditions within, and now it serves as the Museum of Prisons.

Castle of Punta Troia – Credits: commons.wikimedia.org / sctkirk

But there’s more to the story. Legend has it that in times past, a beautiful girl from Marettimo became the object of desire for a prince, and the two fell in love. But the girl’s sister, blinded by envy and jealousy, decided to kill her by throwing her into the sea from the castle’s cliff. Stricken with grief, the prince first avenged his beloved and then took his own life by leaping from the fortress terrace. Moved by their gesture, the God of the Sea took pity and granted the two young lovers immortality by transforming their bodies into the two promontories of the Camel Rock. So, dear romantics, blend the tenderness of this tale with the picturesque views of Marettimo. Doesn’t it make you want to lose yourself amidst the myriad shades of blue in this Unconventional Sicily? Mythical.

Alcara Li Fusi, a haven for hikers

Are you passionate about trekking and long walks? The final stop of our Unconventional Sicily is tailored just for you. Let’s explore Alcara Li Fusi, in the province of Messina. One of the defining features of this village is its rugged and rocky terrain, with Castel Turio perched atop a particularly steep promontory. Yet, it’s also a place where water flows abundantly, and one cannot help but notice the monumental Abate fountain, adorned with 24 spouts gushing with water.

Insolita Sicilia
Alcara Li Fusi – Credits: flickr.com / Massimiliano Purpura

As you stroll through the alleys, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard, with numerous religious buildings lining the streets. But for those seeking adventure, there’s a challenge awaiting: the ascent to the Rocche del Crasto, over 1,300 meters above sea level. What do you need? Strong legs and well-trained lungs. You’ll have to tackle a long series of steps carved into the rock, but the view will make the effort worthwhile. Let nature envelop you, set your sights on the horizon, and seek out the sea.

Everyone ready for an exciting journey in this Unconventional Sicily? Our news does not end here. Sicilian Secrets always tells you about some new stories on this blog. And if you wish to stay updated about our news and read our next articles, follow us on Sicilian Secrets’ Facebook page and Instagram.

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