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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Q?

Have you always lived in Sicily?

A.

I was born and raised in Messina. Then I lived overseas for nine years, working as a tour guide in Australia, New Zealand, France, Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina. Since 1999, I have lived in Sicily, where I work as a Licensed Tour Guide & International Tour Escort/Manager.

Q?

How did you become a tour guide?

A.

My passion for travelling inspired me to become a tour guide. Ever since I was young, I have been a backpacker exploring the world. My first trip was to Brazil the day after I turned 18. Over the years I have taken many courses in Archaeology, Languages, Botany, etc., including a tough government examination to be licensed as a guide.

Q?

Which is the best season to travel to Sicily?

A.

Every season offers something special. However, I love Sicily in the spring. The weather is moderate, and Mediterranean wild flowers bloom everywhere, a beautiful show for all to appreciate.

Q?

What does Sicily offer that travelers cannot find in other parts of Italy?

A.

People who have traveled on the Italian mainland will find Sicily to be full of pleasant surprises. The uniqueness of the island has not been promoted as much as a region like Tuscany. So it is less expensive, warmer, friendlier, and more exotic. Everywhere are the effects of the Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman, and Spanish cultures that once called Sicily home: it's Italy with a totally different flavor.

Some scholars say Sicily has the best-preserved Greek ruins in the world, and certainly this is true. Our Greek temples and theatres date back 2900 years but are still in excellent condition. The beauty of our mosaic-filled churches, showing the skill of many Arab craftsmen, equals that of other famous Italian churches. Plus, do not forget the golden beaches surrounding the island.

Q?

Italian cuisine and wines are world-renowned. So what is distinctive about Sicily’s?

A.

Our cuisine is wonderful. The combining of the many different flavors and spices from the Greek, Arab, Spanish, and Italian settlers has helped Sicily to develop its own specialties. (Click on this link to Mamma Pina's Recipes.)

The wine industry is improving every year. While the island’s weather provides excellent conditions for growing grapes, only recently has Sicily developed sufficient expertise in bottling and exporting wine. For example, the Nero d’Avola grape grows only in Sicily. Although many wine drinkers compare it favorably with the Syrah, the wine remains relatively unknown. In my opinion, perhaps somewhat biased, Sicily produces wines equal to those in Tuscany and at a much better value.

Q?

What are the most common misunderstandings, particularly among Americans, about Sicily and Sicilians?

A.

In the past, Sicily was very poor with much immigration to other countries (especially to the US), but conditions have changed. Sicily has become prosperous, and now people are immigrating to Sicily. The economy is very diversified, and Sicily has many exceptional services that sometimes surprise but also please travelers.

Another misunderstanding concerns the Mafia. While some travelers worry about how they might be affected, such experiences – for sure – will not occur. They will see no signs of the Mafia, only the monuments erected to honor those who have worked to end its influence. In fact, Sicily has one of the lowest crime rates in Italy. Travelers to Sicily quickly discover that the stereotypes are false.

Q?

If a tourist has only one week to spend in Sicily, what would you recommend?

A.

With only one week, concentrate on the highlights. Start by spending two nights in Palermo. This capital city is a magical place with Arab influences everywhere, especially in the many open-air markets – like a huge suk, but in Europe. Its many monuments honor the historical importance of the Arabs, but Palermo also has magnificent Baroque buildings. Next visit Monreale and its exquisite Cathedral. Then spend one night in Agrigento just to enjoy the Valley of the Temples at night. This light show should not be missed by anyone! Now travel to Siracusa for two nights, especially if you are interested in Greek archaeology and history. Once Siracusa was more powerful than Athens, which explains the many beautiful Greek ruins. Here too Archimedes, the famous Greek mathematician, lived and was killed. However, do not forget the beach where General Patton landed with the Allied troops in 1943. Finish your tour with two nights in Taormina, the true gem of Sicily. Its elevated position creates infinite loveliness by combining the marvelous blues of the sea and sky, the miles of curving coastline, and the picturesque mountains. There you can also see the majestic Mt. Etna, to which you should dedicate a half day. This city truly represents the land of Dolce far niente - the sweet of doing nothing. Your week will provide a short introduction to the island. However, for a better understanding and appreciation of Sicily and Sicilians, try to visit for ten to fifteen days.

Q?

Do Sicilians speak a dialect of Italian or a different language?

A.

Sicilians speak an unofficial language, which we call the Sicilian dialect. It is very different from Italian. First of all, it is a mixture of four languages: Arabic, Spanish (Castillan or Catalan depending on the area of Sicily), Italian, and French. In the western section of the island where the Arabs dominated, people speak the dialect like "singing a song." Yet in the eastern section where the Greek and Spanish dominated, the speech becomes more "clipped." Amazing but true - sometimes we natives have difficulties understanding each other! Unfortunately the dialect and its traditions are dying because younger generations learn only Italian. Still in little villages and towns you can hear the Sicilian dialect but not very much in big cities, especially those with many tourists. If you have the chance to meet some rural Sicilians, try to guess which language they are speaking!

Q?

What do you enjoy most about leading tours of Sicily?

A.

I love all of Sicily, and I love to take people around the island, especially to places where we can find the "true and unspoiled Sicily". I want travelers to leave with an increased knowledge and appreciation of Sicily: a combination of flavors, colors and fragrances unique in the Mediterranean. As we say in Italian, "Provare per credere!" - "Try it to believe it!"