An island on the periphery of two worlds, as much north African as it is European, there is no doubt that Sicily is extraordinary. Despite the tidal waves of people coming and going, and although it has been fought over, occupied, and looted, it has still managed to foster a culture in which is just so quintessentially Sicilian.
As a stepping stone between Africa and Europe, Sicily’s abundance of culture is clearly witnessed in the island’s diverse architecture. Walk through many church doors to see a collision of heritage, with many of the current Christian buildings having been built in the fifth century BC.
Upon close inspection of the architecture, you will be transported back in time to when the Ancient Greeks, first came to Sicily. The temple of Athena in Syracuse is a shining example of this, featuring the tall stone columns reminiscent of the Parthenon. Since the Greeks arrival in Sicily, the island has also felt the effects of the Roman empire, being ruled by the Romans for over six centuries, Sicily was corrupted and looted of its many treasures.
The story does not stop there, as the Byzantine culture began to spread across Sicily. Seeing many of the religious buildings being adapted into churches. This period was then proceeded, by a steady influx of Arabic culture in the city of Palermo in the 9th century. In which is still beautifully present in Palermo’s luxurious cathedral, as columns of a previous mosque are still visible along with inscriptions from the Koran.
Another excellent lens through which to view Sicily is through its Limoncello, Coffee, and Granita, moreover, they are all valid reasons to visit Sicily. But what makes Sicilian cuisine tick, is its inherited aspects of all cultures that have existed on the island of Sicily over the last two millennia. Although its cuisine has an Italian essence, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, Arab and French influences from Norman invasion at the beginning of the 11th century.
The Ballaro market in Palermo clearly demonstrates this collision of cuisines. A bazaar during the height of Arabic culture in Sicily. The market was an epicentre of trade and aided Sicily in becoming the most multiethnic state in the whole of Europe. Here you can find many of the goods in which we perhaps take for granted today, such as almonds, pistachios, saffron and couscous.
These assorted ingredients allowed Sicilian cuisine to flourish. Upon arrival in Sicily, indulge in the delights such as arancini, a delicious saffron-infused rice ball, with various fillings depending on your whereabouts on the island. Pistachio anything, from ice cream to pizza, and a personal favourite pasta all Norma, a pasta dish created in Catania, made with tomatoes, fried or sauteed aubergine, grated ricotta cheese, and basil.
This monumental island’s vast array of architecture and collisions in term of culinary delights, speaks of Sicily’s pride in its kaleidoscopic culture and diverse heritage. And although it has a scarred past, this island has embraced the best parts of its occupiers, culminating into something truly unique, distinct and remarkable.