Sicily: An island infused in its own individual take on that good old-fashioned Mediterranean charm, dipped in a staggering display of emerald countryside, fringed by milky, duck-egg blue palettes of water, awash with history…
Having previously explored a lot of mainland Italy, my fiancé and I were delighted to spend part of our Mediterranean adventure on the island of Sicily last summer.
My first view of Sicily presented itself in the form of the tantalising Messina skyline, which was a charming mismatched jumble of intriguing architecture. A sweep of beige and sand washed buildings sprinkled the horizon, broken up by an eye-catching array of church steeples and domes. A fascinatingly old-fashioned city at first glance, Messina, in my opinion, boasts all that promotes Sicily for the beautiful, cultural island that it is so well renowned for.
Despite the overcast morning, Messina twinkled its welcome as we stood affront of the town at the harbour side. The clouds parted and the shell of the clam was prised open to reveal the pearl of Messina.
With an extensive history of travelling across many fascinating European locations over the years, I am often asked about my favourite destinations, favourite recollections, favourite places of recommendation to strike up awe.
The day I witnessed the Astronomical Clock in the centre of Messina strike its heart-stopping midday chords across the town will forever send tingles down my spine, and remain one of the travelling reminiscence I will never forget.
Doused in sudden breathless silence, I felt unable to tear my eyes away from the scene ahead. An example of pure classy exquisiteness, the display put on by the Astronomical Clock at the turning of midday was quite simply one of the most magical and emotional moments of my life. The combination of the music, the effortless splendour, and the whole tentative atmosphere surrounding the perimeter made the hairs on my arms stand up on end.
I won’t spoil the sacred secret of the pure majesty for those who haven’t yet been blessed enough to witness it, however, I will just say there is nowhere else in Sicily to be once those initial chimes have rung out in dramatically important composure.
The square in which the Messina Cathedral and Astronomical Clock are set is shrouded by bursting viridescent trees. Stunning steeds pull carriages around the town, their hooves clattering regally on the cobbles The square makes for a lively yet peaceful area to drink in the vibe of the city, and is a great place to start your journey through Messina and indeed Sicily.
The different dimensions of Messina make for an ideal morning of exploring. The city spirals up and down a slope, and the further you head up into the town, the better and more unexpected the panoramic views. The rich scent of the sea is quite pleasantly always dancing on the air, and always within sight. Walking around the steep streets of the higher city, one will be treated to a vast arrangement of attractive monuments, including the Temple Christ The King, and the striking Chiesa del Carmine.
A drive into the engulfing hillsides of Messina was on the afternoon’s agenda. It was during this particular expedition that we encountered a very different perspective of the island – an element that rendered us speechless all over again. It was fast becoming clear to us that Sicily had more to offer than had originally met the eye.
Endless fragrant fields and sun-doused farmland filled our vision as we ventured higher into the mountains. Delicate yellow wildflower swayed gently in the breeze for as far as the eye could see, back out towards the shoreline. We were magicked into another world entirely between those hills, far, far above the town.
We took the coast road back down to the town, which ran parallel to the shoreline of Mainland Italy across the water. During our descent back to Messina, we passed through many quaint fishing villages, their beaches made up of shingle and shells, little boats bobbing on the almost-transparent water beyond.
Our original plan for our time in Sicily had actually been to indulge in the wonder of Mount Etna, however, this was not meant to be. A few weeks before our visit, the mountain suffered a small eruption, resulting in our trip being called off. This loss actually turned out to be our gain, as we were able to dedicate more time to marvellous Messina. (It has also given us an excuse to return to Sicily – as if we needed any encouragement!)
While Messina is a city steeped in olde-world wonder and history, it also beholds scatterings of modern elements, with its contemporary cafes lining the streets, and its areas of pure retail heaven.
People watching comes naturally, and the art of simply kicking back and relaxing is an easy pastime to partake in Messina – just take your pick of trendy cafes, grab a refreshing glass of lemonade, and bag yourself the perfect spot. We spent an hour or so sat outside a cafe overlooking the square, accompanied by a cold drink and glorious flecks of afternoon sunshine dappling our legs.
What is it the Italians say? ‘La dolce far niente: The sweetness of doing nothing.’
The thing that struck me the most about Sicily was its traditional aura. A sensational mix of beach, countryside, jaw-droppingly charismatic old towns, and a unique history behind it, Sicily is an island that stands out from the crowd, but in such modest fashion. It’s quietly confident, and doesn’t need a lavish party scene, theme parks, or even a pulsating, attention grabbing capital in order to gain fans. Those who fall in love with Sicily and all that it shyly has to offer will remain attached for life, and will scarcely ever come across a place of comparison again. No matter what kind of holiday one is hoping to embark upon, Sicily has the answer.
Cara Jasmine Bradley
is a 24 year old creative writer from Manchester, who combines her love of travelling with her passion for writing. At the age of 21, Cara travelled solo across Europe, and eventually secured a job in a small fishing village in Ibiza for the summer. It was here that she discovered a very different side to the ‘party island.’ From this revelation, she has since been inspired to write many articles about the ‘hidden gems’ of Ibiza, which showcase the island in all of its laid-back, ‘off the beaten track’ glory.
European cities are Cara’s preferred travel speciality, especially those in Northern and Eastern Europe. Together with her fiancé, she enjoys exploring ‘outside the box’ destinations and immersing herself in different cultures.
As well as travel articles, Cara is also particularly keen on writing children’s fiction.