I am sure you have a place in the world that you never get tired of. Somewhere you want to visit time and time again and would probably refer to as your favourite cruise destination. I do. In fact I have several and I wanted to begin a series of blogs that would highlight them from a personal perspective. There are many information sites out there but nothing quite compares to the account of another person who, just like you, simply loves to travel.
Let me start with the gorgeous Mediterranean island of Sicily. I have visited Sicily twice now and I must admit it really is one of my favourite places.
My first stop here was in in 2008 and we docked in Palermo which sits on the northwest side of the island. It was a blisteringly hot summer’s day and I had opted to explore the Capuchin Catacombs. Certainly not one for the faint hearted but if you want to experience something entirely different from a typical shore excursion then I would highly recommend it. The plan was to start here and then head back towards the ship through the main city so that is exactly what I proceeded to do.
The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo are burial catacombs that have been in use since the 16th century and aside from being a tourist attraction they are an extraordinary part of Palermo’s history. They came to be because the Capuchin monastery outgrew its original cemetery and monks began to excavate crypts below it. In 1599 brother Silvestro of Gubbio was mummified and he still rests in the catacombs today. Originally they were intended only for the dead friars but in the following centuries it became a status symbol to be entombed in the catacombs and now there are thousands that rest here. As I said it is not a place for the faint hearted but it was an experience I will certainly never forget.
The city of Palermo is a great place. Full of life and culture and some rather impressive architecture too. Palermo Cathedral is an absolute must see. It is also the city’s main church and is characterized by the presence of different architectural styles due to a long history of additions and improvements, the last of which occurred in the 18th century. I have seen a fair few cathedrals during my travels but I must say the exterior of this one is nothing short of breath-taking. The workmanship is incredible.
Savoca (Via Messina)
My visit to Savoca was in November 2011 and this beautiful town remains one of the nicest places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting and should I call into Messina again I would certainly go back.
It is quite a distance from the port so it would probably be best to visit as a group or via an organised excursion but it is certainly worth the journey. The views from high up in the hillside are wonderful and you can see the ocean appear in the distance, almost as if someone had just opened a zipper within the surrounding hills. It really is beautiful.
I decided to take a visit to Savoca as the small medieval town along with Forza d’Agrò, was the location for the scenes set in Corleone of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Being a huge fan of the movie series was the first draw for me but the promise of beautiful and traditional Sicilian countryside was the second. It almost felt like you had stepped back in time and we were the only group of tourists there. It was absolutely perfect.
Bar Vitelli in Savoca, which is still a functioning establishment, was featured in the Godfather Part 1 as the place where Michael Corleone asked Apollonia’s father to meet his daughter and it is full of artefacts and memorabilia from the movies. We also took a short walk to the church of Saint Nicolo where Michael and Apollonia were married.
It is a picturesque place and I would highly recommend a visit. Our visit was also enhanced by the fact that it had rained in port all day yet we had been blessed with glorious sunshine high up in the hills.
Both of my visits to Sicily have been very different and I enjoy that about travel. Of course we enjoy seeing world famous sights in places like Rome and Pisa but sometimes going off the beaten track and immersing yourself in something a little more unusual is just as rewarding. Sometimes even more so.