Sunday, February 13, 2011

Finding Tour Guides in Sicily

As much as we love various Sicily travel sites, we're obviously a little partial to our own. One useful thing you'll find on Best of Sicily are tour guides in Sicily. This includes tour guides in Palermo and, of course, guides in other parts of our island.

The whole idea is that even independent travellers sometimes enjoy having a guide once in a while, even if it's only for a day. That's why we publish the guide page.

There are also some specialists in things like family history tours, and we've even listed a guide in Malta.

Our partner, Sicily Concierge, is offering some exceptional travel & hotel packages in Taormina and Palermo through the American Express Selects® programme. Realistically, Taormina is easy enough to see on your own, but the package does include an excursion to Mount Etna. If you visit Palermo for a few days, a personalised guided tour might be a perfect way to discover the ancient, medieval and baroque history of this fascinating city.

Whatever you decide, come to Sicily this year!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sicilian Ricotta

For such a simple food, ricotta (Italian cottage cheese) seems to be suffering something of an identity crisis these days, and people are beginning to use the wrong kind of milk to make it. It's an important ingredient in certain Sicilian pastries, so this milk product (it's not actually a cheese) deserves at least a little attention now and then. Here in Sicily the "real thing" is made from the milk of local sheep. Don't accept substitutes. Roberta Gangi, our resident culinary expert, has finally written about Sicilian ricotta.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Richard "Lion Heart" in Sicily

For a few months in the Middle Ages there were three kings in Sicily. Whichever version of the chronicles we accept as accurate, the time was certainly eventful. The most famous of the monarchs was, without a doubt, Richard I of England, the Lion-hearted. Like Alfred before him, he is one of the few English kings remembered by his nickname, even if he didn't often speak English.

French, in one form or another, was the language the three kings spoke to each other. Philip II was King of France - though Richard ruled much of the country - and Tancred was the last King of Sicily, even though he was illegitimate and his reign was brief. Richard's sister, Joanna (or Joan) was married to King William II "the Good" of Sicily. The illustration shown here depicts her with Richard and Philip. Read about Richard Lionheart's Sicilian adventures en route to the Third Crusade.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jousts and Tournaments

Roberto Savona, one of our resident medievalists, has written an article about jousts and tournaments in Sicily. These live on, in a certain sense, in the annual palios of Piazza Armerina and elsewhere.

Sicily is well known for its antiquities - especially those from the Greek period - but there is much to be seen that remains from the Middle Ages too. A "second golden age" flourished during the Norman-Swabian period, from around 1070 to 1266. Tournaments were part of it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gaetano Mosca and Elitism

Elitism wasn't always a dirty word, though it may never have been a very nice one, either. Gaetano Mosca, a Sicilian, popularized a theory of elites and social hierarchies as part of a wider political philosophy rooted in the work of Marx and even Plato. His work was translated into many languages and has become a defining standard in the field of sociology. Read about Gaetano Mosca in the February edition of Best of Sicily Magazine.