Trending in Sicilia
October 9, 2016
Trending in Sicilia: What to look for; what you can’t leave behind
I’ve just finished a brilliant week on the isle of Sicilia. Stepping into an old Sicilian street, you may see caged canaries in display windows, vendors selling an assortment of colorful herbs, and fresh fish piled high in the market. The strong scent of citrus leaves mingles with the smell of swordfish in garlic from a trattoria. Although the older Sicily, or “Sicilia Eterna”, still exists, anyone who thinks that’s the “real” or “only” Sicily is definitely behind the times.
Horns sound as girls with tight jeans and long, black hair rumble through the streets on the way to meet their friends for a day trip through the countryside. Their bikes are plastered with “Mafia: No Grazie” stickers that their grandmothers would never have dared to display. Many of the older generation of women would have hesitated to even step out on the street, except for church, but now groups trek throughout the island and enjoy cycling in the city. You may remember the days when southern Sicily was stuck in its ways, filled with poverty and “plagued” by the Mafia. That certainly isn’t the case now: Palermo has promoted travel and tourism, and the old image is now passé. If I had any doubts, an hour at the Anti-Mafia Museum in Corleone last week swept them out of sight. Transparency reigns, in fact it’s right in your face through the outstanding documentary photography of Letizia Battaglia.
With so much variety in one place, it can often be overwhelming to decide what you can’t live without. For many centuries, Sicily has boasted its fertile soil and agriculture. Because of this, some of its most famous exports and products are cheeses and treats, such as biscotti ennesi, biancomangiare, braccilatte, buccellato and pignoli. Don’t forget to check out Sicily’s famous cheeses, made from fresh sheep or cow milk, like caciocavallo and pecorino. You can bring these back to the US as long as they are vacuum packed. Looking for handcrafted items? Artifacts are quite popular, as well as ceramics and antiques. The Moorish head pictured in this blog is found at the restaurant of Villa Athena, but these fellows (and sometimes their girlfriends too!) jump out at you in every town. Caltagirone is the most famous town to find cermaics. Agrigento is also famous for leather, and there are many upscale clothing and accessory street stands around the area, and throughout Sicily. Some of the best items can be found in Palermo, a capital always bursting with new ideas and different shopping options. If fashion is your niche, stop by Corso Vittorio Emmanuele. This area, known for its wide selections, also boasts food products, including locally made marmalade, wine, sauces, and flavorful olive oil.
If you want to purchase clothing that resembles Sicilian fashion, remember that during the summer and early fall, they wear similar clothing to Americans. During the fall, Sicilians prefer breezy, more formal, and traditional clothing. Black becomes popular again, and patterns and lace return. Flowing knee-length skirts are very prevalent right now, as are loose printed pants. Many millennials wear dresses with a current cut and traditional patterns, such as polka dots and stripes. One of the most current trends is head wraps (like headbands), which come in a wide variety of colors and textures, and can be purchased on almost any street corner.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”