Saturday, May 28, 2011

More Refugees at Lampedusa

Boatloads of Libyan (or Tunisian) refugees arrived off the coast of Lampedusa last night, a total of 347 persons. About 900 have arrived from Libya over the last week. There's no telling when the Libyan civil war will end. This week the Russians offered to mediate with the nation's "official" leadership in search of a peaceful exit strategy following much bloodshed.

The Lampedusans are worried that the current state of affairs could destroy their summer tourism season. They have good reason to be concerned. In practice, however, the situation - serious though it is - need not complicate a holiday in Lampedusa or even Malta.

As we've mentioned elsewhere, the war has had little direct effect on life - or vacations - here in Sicily. Bizarre perhaps, but true.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cleanest Beaches in Sicily in 2011

It's almost beach season and this year several beaches in Sicily have received the blue flag rewarding clean waters. Most of these were also recognized for the award last year and all are in southern or eastern Sicily along the Sicilian Channel or Ionian Sea. While it didn't make the list, San Vito lo Capo beach (on the northern coast) is one of the overall favorites in Italy according to international popularity surveys such as those conducted by Trip Advisor.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bed and Breakfast in Palermo Castle

We recently published an article on a secret medieval tower in Palermo. The article does not mention that it is possible to visit this unique place if you stay at the bed and breakfast located there - though a link ad appears on the same page. This is operated by Count and Countess Federico. (Shown here is an arched two-light window and four loopholes on one side of the tower's exterior.)

Most of the tower is of late 12th-century construction - the Federicos have historical connections to Frederick II - but the lower part is actually a segment of a protective wall built along the Kemonia River by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. The ambience of the small but comfortable apartments in the tower is typically medieval. While Sicily offers numerous accommodations in historic settings, Palazzo Federico is a unique example of this kind in the city of Palermo.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Magazine 2011

This month's issue of Best of Sicily Magazine is online, featuring articles on the (unfortunately) continuing war in Libya, Nebrodian swine salami and the extinct-but-interesting Branciforte family, whose distinctive coat of arms is shown here.

Reading about Sicily can't compare to actually visiting our island. If you reserve before May 20th, there's a 100 euro discount on our tours of Sicily scheduled this autumn. That's almost US $150 or UK £90. Check out our tours of Sicily on the page dedicated to them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day 2011

Following Britain's royal wedding, this weekend's "other" European big event, which will attract its share of royalty (though mostly Catholic), is the beatification of Pope John Paul II. This is the second step en route to sainthood, following veneration (a less formal process) and culminating in canonization. Venerable, Blessed, and then Saint.

In Europe at least, traditional events in church are still a big draw.

May 1st is, of course, labor day in Italy and certain other countries. Here in Sicily, this means that fewer stores will be open for business than on a normal Sunday, though pizzerias and kebab restaurants will be open in the evening as usual. There is no public bus service except for airport buses.

This year, with Liberation Day (April 25th) falling on Easter Monday - already a national holiday - and May Day on a Sunday, public employees have complained about being "cheated" out of two holidays. At the risk of sounding cynical, it could be suggested that even on a "normal" work day, many of Italy's "workers" only work a little between coffee breaks, and by law they get generous doses of vacation time (averaging around 35 days per year) so they really don't need any additional days off in these times of financial austerity. Anyway, Republic Day - the next national holiday - falls on a Thursday, June 2nd.