A Visit to Palermo, Sicily’s Capital City


Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


Palermo is the Sicilian capital and the city is known for its architectural masterpieces, but Palermo is also home to some very friendly local Sicilian people. Although it is a large city with a population of over 600 thousand people, travelers will find Palermo is an enjoyable place to wander on the streets and explore its neighborhoods.

With only part of a day to explore Palermo  I was able to see some of the highlights and get a sense of the people here, enough for me to know that I want to return when I can spend more time.  Even though the Mafia has a strong presence here despite the Italian government's efforts to defuse it, I did not feel afraid in the city because of the heavy visible police presence. Wandering around night however is a different story according an Italian friend of mine who is a police officer in Sicily. Teatro Massimo, Palermo, Sicily

Wandering around Palermo's historic district I immediately recognized the Teatro Massimo, in Piazza Verdi. It is Italy's largest theatre and was the filming location for the final climactic scene in the Godfather III film. Today live opera, concerts, ballet and other performances use this venue after over 20 years of restoration work. Guided tours are available Tuesdays through Sundays for eight euros.Church of St Ignatius of Olivella, Palermo, Sicily

The Church of St Ignatius of Olivella is a huge church which is a well-known landmark of Palermo in the historic area. Built between the years 1598 and 1732, this church is an amazing work of Baroque architecture. Unfortunately while I was there the church was closed so I was only able to appreciate the exterior.

The family-run shops and cobblestoned winding streets of Palermo are what excite me.  A look above gives a hint to the local culture and lifestyle as the balconies are decorated with   flowers and laundry is hanging out to dry.

 Walking along not far from St Ignatius Church I came across the shop of a shoemaker, and the friendly owner, Gino Conciauro, welcomed me inside to watch the other shoemaker cutting the leather for a man's pair of Sicilian shoes. It was incredible and the next time I go back to Palermo I will definitely stop in to see Gino at his shop is on via Monteleone.Apartments in Palermo, Sicily


Another of my favorite experiences in Palermo was shopping at the outside marketplace. The locals were so friendly and not at all pushy. Anything you might need was available and the prices were reasonable. They seemed genuinely pleased that an American was shopping in Palermo.


I will be visiting Palermo again next spring and hope to see La Martorana, Palermo's famous 12th century mosaics church in Piazza Bellini. See there is always a reason to return to Sicily!

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Follow Margie on her blog at margieinitaly.wordpress.com


Taormina Italy – A Shopper’s Delight

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Taormino Corso Umberto, Sicily, ItalyTaormina is Sicily’s most famous resort, situated on the beautiful Ionian Sea on the northeastern coast of Sicily. Visitors come here for the weather, the culture, the food, the ambience and the shopping.

Corso Umberto is the primo shopping street beginning at Piazza Sant’ Antonio and ending at Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II.  It  is usually crowded with tourists who do not seem to mind the prices. There is no lack of variety in the shops along Corso Umberto and the items for sale range from regional hand-made ceramics to fine designer clothing to delicious dolci perfected in Sicily. Here is an idea of what you can find on a shopping day in Taormina.


Taormina has several shops which offer a wide variety of beautiful hand-painted ceramics from Caltagirone. Known as the Sicilian capital of ceramics, Caltagirone is less than two hours away. I have lingered in these shops on more than one occasion trying to decide from among the abundant selection. Although the prices are more than in Caltagirone, the ceramics are still a good buy compared to what I would have to pay in the States.

*Carlo Panarello is one of the recommended shops which sell hand-painted ceramics plus other things. You may even be able to watch the process in the workshop here, which is situated at Corso Umberto, 122.

*Giovanni di Blasi at Corso Umberto, 103 also offers ceramics of high quality from Caltagirone.

Taormina,Sicily, ItalyJewelry

If you are interested in jewelry, Taormina has unusual pieces of fine coral jewelry in brilliant colors of scarlet and pink.  A few of the shops offering quality jewelry here are:

*Kiseki Jewels at Corso Umberto, 55

*Sebastiano Rapisarda Gioielli at Corso Umberto, 74

*Monili di Guglielmetti Renata at Corso Umberto, 71

* Romano / Emilio at Corso Umberto, 75

There are shops selling marzipan in all shapes and almond wine called “vino alla mandorla,” which I had to buy. It is made in the nearby town of Castelmola.  In Taormina you can find local products not found elsewhere, such as items made from lava rock from Mount Etna which is Europe’s most active volcano and can be seen from Taormina. Some of these items include earrings, ashtrays and little pots shaped like volcanoes.

Clothing Boutiques

Clothing boutiques and shoe stores are plentiful featuring the latest haute couture from Italian designers. If you are looking for chic fashions from Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, Gucci, Armani or Fornarina, you can find them on Corso Umberto. Some of the clothing boutiques lining this street include Parisi, Musumeci, Chien and Royal Blue.

Dolci from Caffe Wunderbar in Taormina Sicily, ItalyDolci and Pasticceria

Sicily has the best sweets and especially the cannoli which are my favorite. Here are a few places on or near Corso Umberto to stop during a shopping break for a wonderful treat.

*Bar Trinacria is located just off Corso Umberto and has a great selection of gelato as well as cannoli and other Sicilian pastries to die for. I have fond memories of a cannoli and cappuccino under an outdoor covered area while it was raining.

Caffe Wunderbar Taormina, Sicily, Italy*Caffè Wunderbar – One of the most famous places in Taormina to have a granita, cappuccino and cannoli among many other dolci. This is a must for anyone who has never been to Taormina.

*La Torinese is a deli that has been in Taormina for over 75 years and has a great selection of cheeses, wines, breads, grappas, sliced meats and pastries.

*Bar Pirandello on Via Pirandello is a great little place to stop in and have a Panini and of course a cannoli. Homemade cookies made from pistachios from nearby Bronte are sold in bags to take home, a nice feature.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


Reaching Taormina’s Beaches by Cable Car

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

The beautiful Sicilian resort city of Taormina is perched high on a hill affording spectacular views of the Ionian Sea. Since its beaches are at sea level Taormina operates its cable car system, or funivia, to transport you there and back. 

I never rode a cable car until I took the ride in Taormina and the two minute trip was a great way to enjoy the panoramic vistas. This aerial tram is a very efficient way to travel between the historic center of Taormina and the beautiful beaches below.

Beautiful Ionian Sea, Taormina, Sicily, ItalyTaormina’s two beaches are the pebble beach of Mazzaro just below Taormina. The southernmost area of this beach is usually the most crowded especially during the high tourist season from May to October.

The other beach is on the small island called Isola Bella which means “beautiful island.” Isola Bella is a tiny island just offshore and it has its own beach which can be accessed at low tide by a narrow strip of sand connected to the mainland. Like most beaches in Italy this is a rocky beach but nevertheless attractive to sunbathers.

I have never been to this beach but when I stayed at the resort of CapoTaormina which is at the tip of a rocky point below Taormina, I was mesmerized by the views of Isolabella and the beautiful blues and greens of the sea here.

On Isola Bella there is the Nike Dive Center  which offers PADI dive courses and is conveniently located within a few minute boat ride from the dive sites. Caves, canyons and sunken Roman ship are just a few of the intriguing diving adventures offered.

The funivia consists of two sets of four cable cars traveling in both directions. As four are moving up toward the center of Taormina, the other four are descending at the same time. Up to 680 people can be transported every hour for the cost of seven euros round trip.

Cable Car Taormina, Sicily, ItalyEach cable car holds 12 people and the system operates every day of the year. Cars leave every 15 minutes and the operating hours are from 8 am to 1 am Tuesdays through Sundays and from 9 am to 1 am on Mondays.  Approximately 850,000 people a year use this cable car system in Taormina.

The summer months are very busy in this resort city and the traffic can be at a standstill at times. The cable car is a welcome option to reach the center of the city rather than driving and trying to find a parking spot.

Because of the cable car system staying in Taormina without a car is very doable as the majority of hotels are in the historic center of Taormina and the best way to see things is on foot. The cable car will transport you to the beaches and back plus provide one of the best views along this coastline.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


Giardini -Naxos: Where the Locals Go in Sicily

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

The small seaside Sicilian town of Giardini-Naxos is not well-known but it is situated just next to the very popular resort city of Taormina on the Ionian Sea.  It is a beautiful stretch of beach and has lots of great reasonable priced restaurants, so it is not surprising that this where the locals hang out.

Giardini Naxos and Bay of Giardini - View from Taormina Sicily, ItalyHistory

Originally called Naxos, this village was discovered in the year 735 B.C. as a Greek colony by the Chalcidensians. Eventually it was destroyed and in the Middle Ages the name was changed to Al Kusus during the Arab invasion. Afterwards the Normans came and the name changed again, this time to Kisoi and then Schiso.

Due to the numerous citrus orchards surrounding this village, it finally became known as “Giardini” and was then actually a part of Taormina.

In 1846 King Ferdinand II was responsible for making it an independent commune with the name Giardini-Naxos. Almost 25 years later after the Messina-Catania Railway opened the economy of Giardini-Naxos began to develop more than simply a fishing port.

Today this once small maritime village has become one of the hotpots for tourism in Sicily.

Giardini Naxos Boats along the seashore, Sicliy, ItalyPort and Cruises

Giardini-Naxos has a port where private boats as well as cruise ships depart. Since neighboring Taormina does not have its own port, the port at Giardini-Naxos is also considered to be the port of Taormina. In fact sometimes it is called the Port of Giardini Naxos-Taormina.

With 140 boat slips the port offers all nautical services including assistance at sea. Cruise lines anchor in the Bay of Giardini and tender in to the port here as well. Oceania Cruise Lines sails in the summertime to various ports in Italy and surrounding locations and can frequently be seen docked in the bay. From the beach and docking area, you can look up and to the north and see Taormina up on the hill.


I love the road along the seashore, appropriately called Lungomare which means along the sea, because on one side I can see the ocean, one of my favorite things, and on the other side are all the restaurants, shops and endless possibilities to have fun.

A few years ago my Sicilian friends Angela, Teresa and Angelica introduced me to a great friendly casual restaurant here called la Bussola. It is a casual place serving pizza and everything else with both indoor and outdoor seating. October was a little cool for outdoors so we ate inside.

Giardini Naxos La BussolaNot only were the prices very reasonable and so much less than what I had found in mainland Italy, but the food was fantastic, from pizza to pasta and anything in between. The best thing about La Bussola  was the feeling of belonging thanks to the owners who were very friendly and made us feel at home. I liked this place so much that I have returned again and again whenever I have been to Sicily. It pays to know where the locals go for an experience so much better than the average tourist!

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


Savoca – Sicily Filming Location for Godfather Movies

Savoca winding roads, Sicly, ItalyGuest Post By: Margie Miklas

Most travelers to Italy have never heard of Savoca, a small village in the hills of Sicily. Yet this commune is famous for being the filming location of several scenes in the Academy award-winning Godfather II.  Not far from Taormina, Savoca is an easy day trip if you are up for the winding and sometimes treacherous roads leading up to the town.

Because the real town of Corleone was too developed at the time of the filming in the early 70’s, the moviemakers chose to film in Savoca instead. Two of the major attractions there are Bar Vitelli and Saint Nicolo Church, or Chiesa di San Nicolò. Bar Vitelli is where Michael Corleone met Apollonia’s father to ask for her hand in marriage. Chiesa San Nicolò is the church where Apollonia and Michael were married.

Savoca view of coastline, Sicly, ItalyBoth times I have been to Savoca I felt like I was one of a handful of people in the town, it is a very small village with a population of less than 2000, and easily walkable in an hour or so.  It is so quiet here, far from the business of the resort town of Taormina below. The views from Savoca are awesome as you look down on the Ionian Sea and Sicily’s eastern coastline. As is the case in many of these small villages, the locals speak Italian and Sicilian only. There is a small tourist office where I was surprised to find someone who did speak English.

Bar Vitelli looks exactly as it appeared in the film, right down to the hanging beads in the entrance door.  The tables and chairs are not the same as those from the film but are arranged so that I had to sit in the one where Michael sat. Inside the proprietors are happy to make a lemon granita no matter the time of day. Memorabilia from The Godfather lines the walls in a back room, sort of taking away from the ambience, yet this is the draw here for many people.

Savoca Chiesa di San Nicolo, Sicly, ItalySaint Nicolo Church sits high on a hilltop and can be seen from different vantage points. In front of it is the winding road that Michael and Apollonia walked along with all the wedding guests. There are two other churches in this small town and one of them was decorated for a wedding during my last visit. The priest informed me that weddings happen in Savoca every day and not just on weekends.

A neighboring town, Forza d’ Agro, also was a filming location for a scene from Godfather II. The Church of Sant’Agostino was featured in the scene where Vito escapes back to the U.S. Some scenes from the sequel, Godfather III, also were shot in Forza d’ Agro.

Savoca Bar Vitelli, Sicly, ItalyAside from the interesting filming locations in Savoca, the village is very appealing and peaceful. The homes are built on hills and I can only imagine how difficult everyday life is here for the local Savocesi people. The drive to Savoca is totally worth it for the views and the history especially for movie fans.


Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


Catania – Travel Destination in Sicily, Italy

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Catania is Sicily’s second-largest city and has a population of 300,000. Visitors sometimes choose to stay here because of its proximity to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. Catania’s rich Baroque architecture however makes it a fascinating travel destination on its own.

Catania has been almost completely destroyed on more than one occasion. Much of the destruction occurred in the 17th century when most of the city was covered in lava, and then only 24 years afterwards, in 1693 a devastating earthquake killed two-thirds of Catania’s population. Afterwards the result was massive rebuilding of the old part of Catania in the Baroque style of architecture. Many of these buildings and monuments were built using lava, so the appearance of the grey structures make for great sightseeing when traveling to Catania.

Cathedral, Catania, Sicily, ItalyElephant Fountain,Catania, Sicily, ItalyCatania Cathedral

Piazza del Duomo is the center of Catania and declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dominating the piazza is the Catania Cathedral, a magnificent piece of architecture. Dedicated to Sant’ Agata, Catania’s patron saint, this cathedral was built on the site of an 11 th century church which was demolished in the earthquake.

Elephant Fountain

Standing high in the center of Piazza del Duomo is the Elephant Fountain, which has become a symbol of Catania and its most famous monument.  Built by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini in the 18 th century, Fontana dell’ Elefante is known as “Liotru” by the Catanians. The elephant is made of black lava stone and on top of the elephant is an Egyptian obelisk with a globe above it and an inscription to Sant’ Agata.

Villa Bellini, Catania, Sicily, ItalyVilla Bellini

For one of the best views of the city and also Mount Etna from Catania walk up the hill on via Etnea to the beautiful public gardens of Villa Bellini. There are 17 acres of exotic plants and trees and walking here presents a welcome break after a day of sightseeing. It is a great alternative to the stone buildings that make up much of Catania and provides an opportunity for a rest from walking the cobblestoned streets.

Roman Amphitheatre, Catania, Sicily, ItalyRoman Amphitheatre or Teatro Antico

In the center of the city at Piazza Stesicoro is what remains of a 2nd century B.C. Roman amphitheatre. At the time of its glory it could seat up to 17,000 spectators and it was the only amphitheatre larger than Rome’s Colosseum. According a plaque at the site, the amphitheatre was abandoned by the end of the 5  th century, “stripped of the lava wall-blocks for the construction of the Cathedral by the Normans”  in the 11  th  century and for the city walls by Charles the 5  th in the 16 th century.

Catania’s airport, Catania-Fontanarossa Airport is the busiest in Sicily with more than six million passengers in 2010. Considered to be the gateway to Sicily’s eastern coast, this airport makes it easy to arrive into Catania from other cities in Italy as well as Europe. Catania has a lot to offer besides being simply a gateway to Mount Etna. The city is rich in history and architecture and well worth a travel stop on your Sicily itinerary.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Plugin from the creators of iPhone :: More at Plulz Wordpress Plugins