SICILY is big. Sicily is dirty. Sicily is dangerous. NOWAY! Sicily is AMAZING! I had a crazy trip which I didn´t plan. Actually, I never plan my trips. I just go and get lost on the streets and enjoy the places at its best. On this blog post, you will not read the best places to visit or any other top lists. Instead, I will talk about all my adventures and how I enjoyed my trip as a solo female traveler. I hope you can find some inspiration or just avoid to do the things what I have done but enjoyed anyway 🙂 LET´S START!
I have heard about the Sicilian people before that they are different than the people from other parts of Italy. I must say they are CRAZY, FULL OF LIFE and real WOMANISERS. I didn´t need to observe this on the island, the plane was already crazy. People were talking, smiling, making jokes, and asking questions. I am used to this kind of culture since I am from Istanbul but I have been living in Germany for six years, that´s why I am not used to have this intimacy with strangers anymore. However, I enjoyed it and got some useful tips from locals.
First Day in Palermo
The first thing what I did after arriving to Palermo was to drink an Italian coffee and a Lemon Granita (simply shaved ice with sugar and lemon) on my way to the hostel. Of course, I asked for an Italian cigarette, tho. No worries mom, I still don´t like cigarettes. It was just a company for the delicious Italian coffee. Actually, I didn´t want to talk about my coffee pleasure now, anyway… My hostel was just in the middle of the city center, called Balarm Hostel which I booked through Hostelworld. It was quite nice and comfortable. I liked the balcony in the room where I drank coffee every morning.
After arriving and throwing my bag to the room, I went out for exploring the city during the day light. There was no one else in this six people room, so there was no other possibility than going out by myself. Closing the internet on my phone, just followed the way down. From the first moment on, I fell in love with Palermo…With the architecture, with its narrow streets, with smiling people, and the weather although it was October.
Coincidentally, I came across with the Botanical Garden of Palermo. Since I am not a huge fan of botanical gardens, I didn´t get in but found a cafe just in front of the garden and ordered Pasta alla Norma which is one of the simplest and most delicious Sicilian foods, made with by frying thinly sliced eggplants. However, the street food of Sicily is the best but I will talk about it later.
On my way, I decided to ask a local the way for the main touristic places. I chose a young man who could give me some interesting tips. But he offered me something better… He wanted to show me Palermo. Of course, I accepted his offer. In the beginning, we couldn´t communicate well. I was speaking Spanish while he was mixing Spanish and Italian which I didn´t understand properly. He brought me to all these famous places, beginning from Norman Palace, to the Cathedral of Palermo which impressed me with its large building, unique architecture, a true melting pot of styles. It was much nicer on the outside than the Norman palace!
This Sicilian guy was explaining to me all the history of Sicily and talking about the Cathedral or I THOUGHT SO. Since I didn´t understand any word, I tried to speak English and FINALLY, we realised that we both can communicate in English. It was kinda weird that we never tried English before. However, it became WEIRDER after that moment. I began to understand him and also what he was talking about. I think he was the most religious or holy guy of Palermo because he was explaining everything with Jesus and God. I respected his opinion but it was never ending how he combined and explained everything with God. Even why he and me met. So, I must say that people in Sicily are so religious.
Then, we continiued and arrived to the Quattro Canti crossroads, known as the “Four Corners”, marks the intersection of the two main streets of Palermo, the Via Vittorio Emanuele (the street where the cathedral is located) and the Via Maqueda which leads to the Massimo theatre.
All these symmetrical facades are built on the same model: at the base, a fountain representing the seasons; at the first level, the statues of the kings of Palermo and at the last level, the representations of the 4 patron saints of Palermo.
From the Quattro Canti, we took the Via Maqueda, leading us straight to the Teatro Massimo, another main sightseeing in Palermo. It was Italy‘s largest opera house. Today, the theatre keeps hosting world-class operas. The tickets are pretty expensive, but the theatre also organizes guided tours every day, and it allows you to access the Opera Terrace for a 360-degree view of Palermo. I didn´t pay any entrance, instead, chose a cafe in front of it and drank a Sicilian bier with this Sicilian guy who were still with me.
After that, we decided to go around a little bit more and found a restaurant where I wanted to eat my favourite pasta, Pasta Carbonara, which was a big failure. I definetly recommend you to eat the street food in Sicily. Back to this guy, he was still explaining the miracles and the God. I was kinda tired and was talking about spirituality and being agnostic to stop him because I can also talk too much but it didn´t work. So, I said that I have to go to hostel because I was exhausted. Actually, he was a very nice person, like a holy or something, really! He brought me to my hostel and asked for my phone number. I gave it to him for his kindness but we never talked again after this day.
Second Day in Palermo
Waking up to the sunny morning of Palermo, I decided to head to the famous Beach Mondello. Besides, there was a new guy just next to my bed. Actually, I prefer to meet locals or international travelers except Germans since I live in Germany. Please don´t missunderstand this, I just want to meet other cultures from different countries However, I mostly meet Germans. This innocent looking blonde guy was from Bavaria, Germany and asked me to join me. I was planning to spend my time alone on the beach after this holy Sicilian guy, but this new guy was kinda SO ambitious to join me although I was only going to the beach.
So, I showed him some main attractions on our way to the beach and then we arrived to this beautiful beach with its fine sand and clear water. Some locals had already recommended me Mondello and it was really worth it to go there. We grabbed some beers and street food Arancine which is perhaps Sicily’s most iconic food. Arancine are balls of creamy risotto, deep fried in breadcrumbs and filled with whatever your heart desires and it costs less than 2 EUR. Popular fillings include ragu, spinach and mozzarella, prosciutto and mozzarella, pistachio cream, butter and speck. I still can´t forget how it tasted.
This innocent looking Bavarian guy from Germany was a nice person. We talked about many things. I enjoyed his friendship and I was so glad to hear that he has a girlfriend. So, I felt safe that he will not be touchy because I was not interested in him. However, after a while, his eyes began to look in a different way. I know what that meant of course. It was so annoying. Even this innocent looking guy want to cheat on his girlfriend. He told me that he never felt before like this since he has a girlfriend and it is for him so unique to feel like this…What a CLICHE!!! I heard these words in my life, maybe from every man who has a girlfriend and want to CHEAT on her. So, please don´t ask me why I don´t have a boyfriend! No one is honest. If you are not in an open relationship or some other stuff, why do you cheat on your girlfriend? How did he find the courage, I still don´t understand. So, guys, please be honest with your girlfriends, if you got bored or search for adventure, talk with her and find some solutions. But what I like with German guys: If a woman says no, they accept it. So, we were normal again, kinda… Not to forget to mention: It was October and I swam there. It was perfect to swim. Italy is really a dream.
After swimming and trying to get a better mood, I decided to explore the NIGHTLIFE in Palermo. Arrived to the hostel, changed my outfit, I was ready to go out. However, this German guy was also ready and following me. We went to La Vucciria where I ate delicious street food Panelle, Sicilian chickpea fritters, and potato croquettes.
During the daytime, La Vucciria is a marketplace with many stalls selling fresh fish, but also souvenirs. At night, however, La Vucciria comes alive, and the bars along the cobbled streets all open their doors, even more street food stalls show up. This ancient market used to have links to the Mafia, although I certainly don’t think this is the case anymore, However, you can prefer other markets such as Il Capo and Ballarò. These markets are the hubs of the Palermo nightlife. In La Vucciria, you will find any kind of person. From artists to musicians, from tourists to university students, from hippies to gothics… La Vucciria is home to everyone, and this strange mix of people, all party together on the cobbled streets until the sun comes up.
After enjoying this place, we went to the hostel back but I was not tired so I met the other travelers in the kitchen. If you are lucky, you can meet so many interesting people at hostel. This time, I was not lucky and there were only young people, kinda teenagers or I am so old. But the summer season is always good, actually. October is a dead month for many hostels. However, we drank together a bottle of wine. After a while, these sweet young boys tried to be flirty in a childish way as if they are in a competition. So, I went to my room and checked TINDER for some locals. I must say, I am not a Tinder fan but while travelling I like to check people of the city. Many of them wrote me that they invite me to their restaurant, bakery, even Spa Center or they wanted to show me the city. One of them had the best offer. He wanted to bring me to the famous Mountain Pellegrino where you can see the best view of Palermo. So, I answered him.
We met just in front of my hostel at 3 am. I know, you will tell me I am crazy or stupid and it is dangerous but I always follow my intuitions. He was a real gentleman and so handsome. 🙂 Even, he told me that it is not so clever to go with a stranger to a mountain but I could trust him. After this weird talk, I was sure that I wanted to go to this mountain with him. Ok, I had checked him on Instagram and saw his profile, his family and friends. So, I was not so blind, however it could be still dangerous. So, we went to the top of this mountain by his car. It took almost one hour. We were the only people on this mountain. The view was breathtaking…
I think it was one of the most romantic moments of my life. He was a real gentleman. After enjoying the view, he wanted to bring me to one of his favourite Sicilian cafes where I tasted delicious Sicilian food and then he brought me to his favourite place for homemade Ice Cream when the sun comes up. After that, he brought me to my hostel. Such a gentleman I will never forget…
Third Day in Palermo and First Night in Catania
Waking up to an another sunny day in Palermo, thought that I enjoyed this city at its fullest so I am ready to leave…However, I forgot a place: Ballaro Market, one of the largest market of the city where you can find fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, cheese and more. And all this at reasonable prices!
So, I packed my bag and was ready to leave for the market. Can you guess who wanted to join me again? This Bavarian guy! I think, he convinced himself to cheat on his girlfriend with me, but I am on GIRLS´ side. He got no chance for it, so he could join me, he was behaving like a good friend, tho. So, we went to the market and ate some fresh food after that headed to the train station to buy a train ticket to Catania. It took six hours until Catania. I was SO GLAD that I bought some Arancini before taking the train.
We arrived to the hostel which was in the city center. Catania was so beautiful and romantic. I fell in love with the city from the first moment again like I fell in love with Palermo. I wondered why there were ELEPHANT statues or pictures everywhere. I didn´t know that Catania is the city of Elephant. Really, the elephant is considered as an important icon of the city. When the elephant was made it was named after the magician, which through time became Liotru. For this reason, people of Catania have considered the fountain to be a magical statue, able to protect the town from the eruptions of Etna.
When you are in Catania, you must visit the tallest volcano in Europe, ETNA. So, I was determined to visit it. In the evening, I went to the rooftop bar of the hostel to meet some people. My Bavarian friend was also there. So, we met other people and grabbed some biers of Catania.
All of them were willing to go to the ETNA next day, but ETNA was closed for many days because it was raining during the whole week. So, I hoped to have the chance to go there because I didn´t have another day for it….
First Day in Catania
Luckily, ETNA was opened on that day! However, only me and this Bavarian guy were still interested in going there. So, we rented a car but we didn´t know that people in Catania drive so crazy. While he was driving, I was kinda getting panic attack. We almost had a car accident. I think I will never get in a car in Catania again. Arriving to ETNA, we had to wait for an hour to take the cable car. Taking the cable car, we reached 2504 m in just 15 minutes. From that point to the top, it took only a few hours. It was quite enjoyable, especially it makes so much fun walking down on the ashes, but at some parts, it was not easy to breathe.
Second Day in Catania
Unfortunately, it was already the last day of my trip. So, I didn´t have much time to see the city. But the city is so compact. So, I could visit many places in a few hours. Packing the luggage, I visited the main tourist attractions in Catania: Piazza del Duomo where you can see the symbol of Catania: The Elephant’s Fountain.
After that, the cathedral: Duomo Di Catania. The Palazzo dell’Universita which houses the old university. Last, I went for a walk to the fish market, the Pescheria, just behind the piazza del Duomo. Guess, who was with me all the time again: This Bavarian guy. I will be honest. He tried to get closer a few times but I was able to stay calm and reject him regularly. 🙂 He brought me to the station and we said goodbye. Despite some weird situations, overall, we had a great time together.
In sum, Catania was wonderful; the architecture, the people, food, everything was amazing but I had no time to enjoy it anymore. If you want to visit this magnificent island, you can plan to visit also other beautiful cities which were recommended me by locals: Ragusa, Taormina, Trapani, Syracuse, Cefalu.
I hope you enjoyed my post and found some inspiration to visit this beautiful island!