SICILY is an island that lies about 2 miles off the toe of Italy. It has a very rich and diversified history thanks to being at the crossroads of Mediterranean trade and exploration. The many archaeological sites that lie among Sicily's vineyards and olive groves provide a visual reference to the cultural influences of the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Normans that settled on this small island. Even today Sicily has become home to many refugees from Tunisia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. The museums hold immense collections of statues, pottery, mosaics, tools - the art of Sicily's cultural past.
THE tour of Sicily began in Palermo and ended in Catania. Along the way, we visited Baroque churches, climbed up lava strewn Mt. Etna, savored the fresh cuisine, gazed upon the dead in the catacombs of Palermo, listened intently to a son of a former Mafia boss, and hiked dusty roads surrounded by wildflowers and vineyards. We raced through the narrow, winding streets in vintage Fiat 500's, visited amazing archaeological museums, and sat in a dark replica WWII "bunker" complete with the sounds of sirens while "bombs" shook the structure.
WOW, what a journey...
Regions of Sicily
An OAT experience
One evening in Palermo, we were invited to a discussion about the Cosa Nostra, aka Mafia, of Sicily. The discussion included a brief history and slideshow of the Mafia. We were introduced to a young man, Angelo, who is the son of a past Mafia boss. He described his life growing up, his relationship with his father, and his current day struggles to lead a normal life not associated with the Mafia. He has been criticized for participating in these "Mafia tours," although, it is only a closed discussion through OAT. An interesting, though somewhat inaccurate, article from 2015:
Godfather's Son Giving Guided Tours of Sicily
His father has since passed away, but the stigma remains for the son. FYI - on May 22, 2017, a Mafia boss was gunned down while riding his bike in Palermo. (web article: Mafia Boss Slain )