Exploring Southern Italy and Sicily

I took the Overseas Adventure Travel trip Sicily’s Ancient Landscapes and Timeless Traditions and gained tremendous depth and insight into Southern Italy and Sicily. I’ve written about much of it, but there were some additionally special moments on that trip. OAT also offers another trip , Southern Italy and Sicily that includes some of the same cities plus the Aolean Islands.

On the Puglia pre trip, one incredibly special destination was the UNESCO world heritage site of Albarello. The white, round, dome shaped houses, over one thousand of them in fact, built in the 1400s, were eye candy to this weary traveler. I loved the fact that they were structurally sound but built without needing any mortar because of the round groupings of limestone which holds the house together and keeps it warm. The limestone roofing has turned grey over time because of lichen growth, but other colors have emerged as well. They became abandoned around the 1950s and now some are B and Bs, some are shops. One man prided himself as looking like Anthony Quinn, and let us inside to look, but I think his was a money-making venture based on tips people left. However, just like the turf houses in Iceland, these dwellings were pretty much tiny houses.  

In Palermo, for me it was Holy cannoli, Sicily! We had a talk with two sons of Mafia bosses. One spent his entire life in hiding because his father was a Mafia boss who is either now in jail or ultimately was killed there. The other one came from the same part of Corleone, but his family got a taste of that life and decided to move away from it. They both had incredible stories to tell, and I wished it could have lasted much longer. Both were experts, but I wanted to hug the poor guy who spent his life in hiding, with no friends, and who was not even able to go to public schools until he was much older. Even then, he was older than his classmates so really did not fit in. I did not ask him, but I am guessing his relationship life is very different as well.

This entire phenomenon is something I have seen before; how people make decisions they think are for the good of their family or their country, but ultimately, they cause more pain. I have seen this in Germans who had family members who worked directly for Hitler. They could hardly live with themselves once they had a full understanding of history. And I saw it in these two men as well, one obviously more than the other. It amazes me (although it should not) that the desire for money or power usurps a general understanding of what is right and wrong. Although clearly the lines are less than blurry for people who have no moral compass and ethical understanding.

The historic opera house in Palermo was another great time spent with an 8 Euro walking tour. The catacombs used to be a thing to see, but those were closed immediately post-Covid. We had three free hours at the end of the day to do what we wanted, and since our walking tour ended at the opera house, it was perfect. I sat across from the opera house listening to a busker perform some of my favorite songs just prior, then went into the opera house for a tour. We could hear them practicing La Boheme in the third largest opera house in Europe. The acoustics were phenomenal. It really was the perfect ending to the day. No rush, basking in the sweetness of doing nothing, listening to some of my favorite music. 

There is also some joyful street art in Palermo.  Much of it brings the ancient city to life. There are many remnants of World War Two as well, since not all the buildings have been restored nearly 75 years later, and Palermo took some pretty heavy bombing. Sicily is a fascinating, multi-faceted part of Italy that has shown her colors in many ways. The streets of Palermo can be lively, but what always grabs me are the doors and the balconies, as well as decorated corners around homes . I am sure they have many stories to tell. I just loved one sign we saw one night advertising a business… which is to celebrate both weddings as well as divorces. How much richer and more colorful does it get?


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