#1185. Don’t be silly, go to Sicily!

By Pascal Ollier | Travel Photography

Mar 31

While the island of Sicily is “technically” part of Italy, it is somewhat a world of its own.

If there is one word which can characterize it in my mind, it is contrast.

To begin with, it has historically been occupied by numerous populations, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Normands, you name it.

Geographically, it is a volcanic island with spectacular landscapes, as well as the (Mediterranean) sea.

Mediterranean sea, morning view from Siracuse

As contrast number three, if this looks peaceful to you, when you land in Palermo, you will see a big monument as you come out of the airport, in memory of Judge Falcone whose motorcade was blown up on the highway some thirty years ago…Another judge (Borsellino) was assassinated the same year, after famous General Dalla Chiesa had been brutally murdered by the same Palermo mob in 1982.

Still today, many street posters bearing pictures of both judges keep reminding visitors and locals the same that the mob is on everybody’s mind.

From a visit point of view, while some of the art/monuments go back hundreds of years back, some “works” (if considered as such??) are very recent.

Isn’t contrast one of the significant keys to a successful shot?

Early this year, desperately looking for some sun rays after a low light December, we packed our cases and off we went.

We landed in Palermo (west of the island) and drove directly to Catania (dead east of the island).

Elephant fountain – the elephant is deemed to be the protector of Catania

Catania offers contrasting views.

A lavish old palazzo in Catania.
Contrast anyone? Yes, this is the same city.

Southern cities with their own style can be charmful and offer some good photographic opportunities. Remember we are close to year end and the climate is gentle enough to allow laundry to be hung outside to dry. Nice when you are still in Europe!

3D anyone? Did you say 3D?

After a couple of days, we decided to visit the Etna volcano, which is occasionally (very) active, including spectacular eruptions.

January at an altitude of over 2.000 meters, snow is quite present

That side of the volcano can be reached by car and then cable cars are available to climb to close to the summit.

Depending on the wind, you may or may not see some fumes coming out of the crater.

After Catania, we reached our furthermost destination, Ortigia, which is a peninsula off Siracuse.

Piazza Archimede, Ortigia, Siracuse

This little jewel of a town is clearly isolated from the rest of the island and where numerous sights can be visited.

Apollo temple, 6th century BC. History beckons. Palm trees illustrate the gentle temperatures, in contrast with cloudy northern Europe.

One of the important economical activities of the island is of course fishing and boats can be seen close up.

Fishing, anyone? The Lady of Tears is ready to take you on board

But what is most spectacular in Ortigia is the city centre

This pedestrian wearing a mask reminds us that Covid was still lurking
The traditional Christmas tree was still up as we just entered the New Year

Since the flights from Belgium were only reaching Palermo, we had to drive back across the island to catch our flight home; we took the occasion and spent a little time there before leaving, enough to visit some of the beauties, but also to emphasize yet again the contrast Sicily offers.

Spectacular, but a little cleanup would be most welcome, right? Vespa tuktuks are everywhere in Palermo

Byzantine times did mean there are numerous sights to visit.

A palette of coulours full of contrast, would you agree?
All that glitters is indeed gold!
Did you say ornate?
B&W works well too imho – and helps hide in how much need of cleaning some buildings genuinely are
Is there such a thing as too much gold?
Craning your neck (or having a tilting screen) is the only solution to catch that ceiling

Of course, this is just a short take of what can be enjoyed in Sicily, not to mention food including fish, crustaceans, pasta and the famous Sicilian cannolo, crisp, light tube-shaped pastry dough filled with sweetened ricotta cheese, pistacchio crumbs, chocolate chips or candied fruit.

Many other places deserve a visit, like Piazza Armerina and its famous mosaics, Agrigento, Segesta, Taormina…but that will be on another visit.

Scala dei Turchi (Turkish stairs) named after the Saracen pirates (Turks to the locals) who took shelter in this area less beaten by the wind
Taormina, Greek Roman theatre, second century BC
Time to say good night: Teatro Massimo, Palermo

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  • Dallas says:

    Pascal, wow thank you for sharing your excellent images. The alley shot is Gallery Quality IMHO. Seeing them makes me want to get on a plane to visit straight away. You have made good use of the wide angle yet again congrats. Take care Dallas

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you for your compliments, Dallas.
      I continue to use my 9mm, and to enjoy it, and am now comfortable with the kit around the latter with a 21 and a 35 which, to me, is still reasonable to lug around weight wise.
      Again thanks and hope that with travel easing, we can meet in the flesh soon. Take care.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Sigh – when I was younger, and had the time and the opportunity to head further south down the Italian peninsular, all of my Italian friends cautioned me not to. So I’ve only ever seen Sicily, Naples, Capri, etc through the lens of someone else’s camera.

    I therefore have to thank you for sharing these marvellous photos.

    Too much gold? That thought got me into a heap of trouble.When I unmasked the Vatican for the priceless relics in the Museum from ancient Egypt, and suggested that perhaps it might be more appropriate somewhere else – maybe all those sarcophagi could be sold to a museum and the proceeds used to help the poor . . . . .I never heard the end of it!

    But it is lovely to look at..

    What I still struggle with is the notion of one group (the “haves”) fleecing another group (the “have nots”) – and then sitting back smirking, thinking they’ve done something wonderful (perhaps – but rarely – if ever!)

    Never mind – this is not the time or the place for such a discussion.

    Ceilings – with you 100% – on our trip through the Loire valley, I fell in love with the blue ceilings in some of the chateaux – made from crushed lapis lazuli, and more expensive than gold!

    That was several years ago – I didn’t have a tilt screen then, Nikon has been a bit slow in introducing them – so I lay on the floor instead. I know that the tilt mechanism has its own problems, if you use it too much you might need serious repairs or a replacement, but it’d take a fair thrashing to get to that stage. In the meantime, I’ve had back surgery and lying on cathedral floors to photograph the ceiling is simply out of the question, for me at least. So I now have one camera that will give me full “tilt” options.

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you Pete. As always, your kind words mean a lot to me (as I am sure to all contributors bar none of DearSusan).
      I totally agree with you that full tilting screens may be a trap as they can wear out. Moreover, they are somewhat not as quick to use compared with orientable screens which you need not turn around to adjust.
      The optimal hinge is yet to be developed.
      Meanwhile, I look forward to your next contribution. Take care.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Pascal, here’s one from the “New Age” that hit me i the back of the neck. An alternative to tilt screens, and you still don’t have to lie on the floor of the cathedral.

        Get yourself a mirrorless – lie it on the floor of the cathedral – patch in, with an APP, from your cellphone – use the cellphone as the “viewfinder” and – in addition – as the “remote” for your mirrorless. If there’s ANYTHING wrong with the framing of the image – the composition – anything at all, you can just move the camera on the floor (not the cellphone in your hand) and you’ll be immediately able to see if it fixes “whatever” so you can punch the button – the button on the APP on the cellphone!

        BANG – the technological issues surrounding screens that tilt in all directions no longer matter – except of course for hand held shots.

        • Pascal Ollier says:

          Pete, you are absolutely right. One of my mentors, Steve Kelby, swears by a little artefact called the platypod, which is basically a flat piece of metal on which you can screw a ballhead to welcome your camera. Not convinced yet, though especially as they are dear in price. But the idea to remotely manage the camera on the floor with an app is certainly something worth investigating. Thanks!

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Thanks, Pascal… very nice photos, assumed use of this UWA 🙂
    Dallas is right, this kind of post creates a sort of urgent need to go there 🙂
    And sunny days are one of the healing things, right?
    Having studied Ancient Greek and Latin in school for years, I always dreamed of visiting Sicily, and the North-African coast… one day, who know 🙂

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you Pascal. I appreciate your positive comments.
      Any plans to come to Brussels? In the fall, Autoworld will feature a 75th anniversary show for the prancing horse…even though not all readers are car fans ;-).

      • Pascal Ravach says:

        Alas, not for the moment; I am now in Saigon, will return to Quebec in May with a boatload of work awaiting; but I really plan to see my aunt in Bruxelles (sorry, still prefer my childhood way of writing it to the way electronic maps set peace by using English :D) either this Fall, either next Spring… would love to enjoy a beer on a terrace with you! Might I ask your email so I can contact you when I go there?

        • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

          “still prefer my childhood way of writing”

          I am with you 110% – I detest the way people from other countries presume to “re-spell” names from a country they’ve probably never even been to!

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    Thank you for sharing a fascinating journey with us – definitely a place of interest and many contrasts.

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you Ian! I am grateful for your kind words. I hope I was able to instill some motivation for you as for others to go visit. Take care.

  • Philberphoto says:

    Mamma mia, che bellissimo! Veramente meraviglioso! E pazzo bello! (Crazy beautiful!) how do they say « kudos » in Sicilian?

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Wow, Pascal! I’ve traveled in Italy, but have never been to Sicily; however, it’s on my “must see” list now thanks to your stunning images. I love the idea of showing contrasting scenes, and find that I’m very attracted to the “seedier” side of things, although the interior shots of the Byzantine buildings are amazing too. Kudos!

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Dear Nancee,

      You could hardly pay me a better compliment than tell me that this post of mine has made you put Sicily on your list of visits. When that time comes, I hope this special blend of atmosphere that has touched me will be present for you too. And more importantly that the Sicilians give you their special welcome. Again, thank you for your kind words, they do mean a lot to me. Take care.

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