Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saint Lucy: Back Home after 1000 Years

Today, December 13th, we celebrate the feast of Saint Lucy. While in different parts of Sicily people commemorate their beloved and renown Sicilian saint with arancini (stuffed rice balls), cuccìa (boiled wheat berries), gateau di patate (local cottage pie), and panelle (chickpea fritters), instead, the city of Siracusa, Lucy's hometown, is getting ready for a historical event. After almost a thousand years (since 1039) Lucy's relics will return from their long exile in Venice!

Early tomorrow morning Santa Lucia's relics will be escorted by the State Police from the Church of Saint Geremia and Lucia to Venice Airport. Then she will fly over to Catania Airport and from there the police will escort her mortal remains to Siracusa. However, she will only stay in her hometown for a couple of weeks. On December 22nd, she will be flying back to Venice.  

Viva Santa Lucia! Sarausana jé! These will be the words with which the citizens of Siracusa will be welcoming her back home, albeit only for a few days...

Yes, "long live Saint Lucy; she is Siracusan!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hottest November Ever

Sicily just experienced the hottest November since records have been kept (two hundred years ago) and October was one of the hottest on record as well. The lack of substantial rain since May has decimated the olive crop and sent the price of oil soaring. It may be another week or two before daily highs dip much below 70F (21C), and most days last month saw temperatures over 72 - a scirocco over the last weekend jolted temps up to 84 degrees. The average daily high temperature for November in a "normal" year is 66 (19).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Uninsured Travel Services

We've received requests about advertised, low-cost day-tour services - the kind that do private excursions to places like Segesta and Mount Etna - and whether they are regulated by law. The main question is if they are fully insured for your safety.

Unfortunately, some are not insured to the extent they should be. Even a few that are advertised on major travel service websites do not carry proper insurance for clients.

Why? Because they are not registered, licensed tour operators. Therefore, some don't even qualify for certain types of liability and accident insurance.

The problem: They lack insurance coverage for injuries that might occur between their parked motor vehicle and the site you must walk to from the car or bus, for example the walk from Segesta's parking lot to its temple.

The (partial) solution: At the very least, ask about this detail before reserving their service.

Some who offer such services are not actually commercial firms but non-profits, typically "cultural associations," which Italian law refers to as an associazione culturale. Just be careful. These folks are readily identified by their ridiculously low prices. (We wouldn't be surprised if they offered you a low-cost trip to the moon!)

The excursions and tours undertaken by such associations may, in themselves, be perfectly legal, but apart from the insurance issue the organizations' personnel, not being licensed tour guides, might not be permitted to lecture groups at major historical sites. This is another factor to bear in mind.

All the travel services advertised on Best of Sicily which offer transportation are legitimate, fully-insured companies. We wish that all travel-oriented websites could say the same thing.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Women of Sicily

In response to popular demand for a place to purchase the book in Sicily, Jackie Alio's Women of Sicily is now on sale here. It can be purchased from Libreria del Corso in central Palermo.

This title will be on sale via the internet from Amazon and other vendors in early March 2015. It can be pre-ordered.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sicilian Genealogy and Heraldry

The first, much-awaited book dedicated to Sicilian family history research is now available from Amazon and other vendors. First released in Europe in 2013, it established a new Dewey catalogue category in the British Library.

Sicilian Genealogy and Heraldry is a complete guide for the serious researcher and a great general overview for anybody tracing their roots in Sicily.

It is equally useful if you're simply exploring the concept of a Sicilian identity.

A number of copies have been sold online. Order yours soon as the first American print run was only a few thousand books - but the publisher has informed us that there will be another printing in January.

This volume is worth its weight in gold. (Read more)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pre-order The Peoples of Sicily!

Scheduled for arrival in stores by November 1st, The Peoples of Sicily is now on sale by pre-order from Amazon in the United States. Barnes & Noble, along with Amazon UK, will have it online soon.

Jackie Alio's book, Women of Sicily, to be released in March, is available for pre-order from all three online stores.

Yes, both books have been published for distribution to libraries and schools. Here we are referring to retail sales. Book launches (presentations) by the authors are being planned for London and New York in 2015.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Golden Sicily Tour 2015

We offer a number of tours - almost every week of the year - and a favorite is our Golden Sicily Tour. For 2015, there are high season and low season rates, so prices are lower during the cooler months.

Maximum group size is just 18 participants and the average is 10. This is a one-week tour. Worth thinking about.

If you're looking for a slightly shorter tour, Sicilian Impressions may be perfect.

There are discounts if you reserve before 2015.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Twin Site

A few visitors may have noticed that Best of Sicily has a "mirror" site at bestofsicily.info (the main site is bestofsicily.com). There are several reasons for this, and most revolve around the cryptic, arcane world of search engine indexing.

Our site has seen an increase in traffic in recent months, from an average number of unique visits of around 5,000 per day to something approaching 7,000. With this, the site has come under attack from hackers (with their automatic spiders and other programs) launched from servers in China and the Netherlands by companies in New Zealand and elsewhere selling prescription drugs. As one of several security measures, we have launched the "clone" site. This will not change your experience with Best of Sicily, but it may ensure that we are still available for you to read.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Sicilian Culture

With over 5,000 visits per day - and sometimes twice that number - Best of Sicily appeals to a wide readership. An increasing number of readers turn to us for information on Sicilian culture.

Over the course of 15 years, we have become the web's point of reference for Sicily. It is a responsibility we take very seriously.

In cooperation with Trinacria Editions, we have published several books, and we are planning a few more for 2015. No Mafia fiction or erotica, just interesting topics that reflect the real culture of a real place.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Do it now!

If you plan on coming to our island this Summer, RESERVE YOUR HOTEL RIGHT NOW!

For tours - this Summer or during the Autumn, check out our Sicily tours page.

Friday, July 11, 2014

St Rosalie Festival 2014

It has begun. Palermo's Saint Rosalie Festival runs through Tuesday night. (Local banks, public offices and some stores will be closed Tuesday.)

Information is available on the festival site. Unfortunately - but typical of "official" Sicilian tourism promotion - it is only in Italian. Fortunately, online translation sites can translate it into your language.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Money!

Sicilians love to talk about money. This week, the head of a national political party visiting the European Parliament decried the wasted funds sent to Sicily, which end up in the hands of corrupt politicians, outside "consultants," or even the Mafia. He said that the European Union should stop sending "development" money to Sicily.

He's right!

Here's a recent example. A few days ago, treasury officers (the Guardia di Finanza) sequestered the assets - bank accounts, buildings, computers and expensive automobiles - of an "entrepreneur" who had started up a telecommunications services company with millions in public money. Accusations range from fraud to misappropriation of funds to tax evasion to labor law violations (many employees were hired "off the books" and paid for only some of the hours they worked).

The point is that this kind of person never should have been considered for public financing. There wasn't even due diligence to investigate his academic credentials.

And he is just one of many.

Let's cut off the public money being sent to Sicily's charlatans!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The History of Sicily

It's coming soon. (Yes, it's been a long wait.) With its simple title, The History of Sicily is exactly what its name implies.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Deaths at Sea

Over the last few weeks, some six thousand (yes, 6,000) refugees have arrived in Sicily and on the nearby islands on ships and small boats. Many have died attempting to reach Sicily. In at least one case, a mother in a boat that was sinking had to decide which of her young children to save.

The Italian government claims to lack the funds to assist them, yet tens of millions of euros disappear into the pockets of our nation's corrupt politicians each week.

For now, there is no simple solution to the problem. The refugees arrive from various parts of Africa - some make their way to Tunisia from sub-Saharan regions - where mere survival is a daily challenge.

Our editors can do little more than make the problem known, and express our difference of opinion, indeed our disgust, with those who publish sites dedicated to Sicilian travel (villa rentals and tours) who, in their own selfish interest, conveniently - and not very humanely - pretend that the problem doesn't exist.

One imagines that such people have never had to choose the life of one child over another.


Monday, June 2, 2014

The Hotels of Summer

Summer in Sicily really begins in early June and lasts into early October... It's already beach season.

If you're planning to visit "on your own" (not as part of a tour group), check out our Sicily hotels page, featuring a selection of hotels - and some better bed & breakfasts - around Sicily. These are easily reserved through Booking, part of the Priceline network.

Summer is "high season," so reserve early!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Segesta, Erice, Piazza Armerina Tours

It's amazing how many requests our tour department gets for regular (scheduled) excursions from Palermo for Segesta and Erice, and of course Piazza Armerina. In other words, tours that visitors can simply join.

So they finally decided to include these Palermo Excursions among their services. These are the only regularly scheduled excursions of this kind offered by any tour operator in Sicily.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Joan and Jackie

No, the title of this post doesn't refer to the Collins sisters...

Our editors were looking at Best of Sicily's statistics a few days ago and we noticed that the last two weeks saw a certain page buried in our Magazine getting more visits than most of the other magazine articles. It's a profile of Joan Plantagenet published ten years ago. No need to describe it as the work speaks for itself.

It was written by historian Jacqueline Alio, an occasional contributor to the site.

An advance copy of Jackie's book, Women of Sicily, finally found its way to our office. We've seen hundreds of books on Sicilian history, published in Italian as well as English, French and German, but nothing quite like this one. Actually, I had already seen it, and posted about it in early April. It was our other five editors who had not yet seen it and were amazed at its content. Roberta Gangi said it was the best book she's ever seen about Sicilian women.

We highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Street Safety in Sicily

This is the "high" tourism season in Italy, and if you're planning a visit – even a one-day shore excursion in Palermo – this may be a good time to peruse our travel safety page.

There's no cause for paranoia. Sicily is safer than many places. But in the cities, watch your purse and smart phone!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Holidays

This year the Italians celebrate three legal holidays around the same time. Easter Monday, April 21st, is a national holiday when banks and most stores will be closed. A few pastry shops may be open and - in the evening - a few restaurants.

Friday, April 25th is "Liberation Day," the principal national holiday, marking Italy's "liberation" from Fascism, though the Americans and Brits who defeated the Germans and Italians will not be mentioned in the official festivities. (An ironic point is that in 1943-1945 our beloved Italia was, in effect, liberated from itself, but let's not go there...)

Then there's May Day, Thursday, May 1st, the socialist labour day, when there won't even be public bus service. In other words, virtually nobody will be working that day. Except, of course, bakers and others who operate their own small businesses.

The good news is that there won't be any other major holidays until August. June 2nd, Republic Day, isn't taken too seriously by anybody.