It really doesn’t matter if you are about to visit the eastern or western part of Sicily – both sides are equally attractive in terms of culture, monuments, picturesque necks of the woods and delicious food. It is said that the west, where Arab influences can be easily and strongly visible, is more chaotic, while the east is more organised (maybe with the exception of Catania!), because Greeks dominated in this area. The western part of Sicily is also famous for some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy!
In this article I have already shared with you the most beautiful places in Eastern Sicily, and today I am taking you on an adventure through the most beautiful necks of the woods of Western Sicily, i.e. Palermo, Cefalù, Mazara del Vallo, Saline di Marsala and Scala dei Turchi with the Valley of the Temples.
Some abandoned, almost crumbling tenement houses located in the immediate vicinity of ancient buildings or rich, beautifully decorated villas are quite a normal sight in Palermo, although the city is more or less full of contrasts. There are many reasons why you could visit the capital of Sicily. Let’s enumerate some:
- incredible markets, which traditions date back to the times of Arab domination,
- rich and crazy nightlife,
- tasty street food,
- a countless number of fascinating monuments, which are living traces of many different cultures intertwined through the island.
In addition, Palermo is very well connected with Poland – there are many direct flights, such as Ryanair from Wrocław, and it will be a great starting point for exploring the western part of Sicily (but remember about renting a car!).
Cefalù was often mentioned as one of my favorite holiday destinations by my Sicilian friends. And it comes as no surprise as this ancient village, overlooked by a rocky promontory, has a beautiful beach and crystal clear water that impressed so much even my friend from Mexico! And she was really demanding when it comes to standards 😉
When you are on place, it is worth visiting the Cathedral, which was added on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a monument of Arab-Norman architecture in 2015. Its interior with Byzantine golden mosaics are very impressive!
It is worth knowing as well that Cefalu is well connected with Palermo. By train it will take you not even an hour and it costs 6 euros. Here you can read a more extensive account of this place (and others around Palermo).
Mazara del Vallo
Having no experience of visiting North Africa but still dreaming of it? Don’t worry! All you have to do is go to Mazara del Vallo, the most Arab corner of Sicily. This intriguing city, which is located less than 200 km from the coast of Tunisia, is famous for the largest fishing fleet in Italy, and over the centuries has come into contact with many different cultures: Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Arab and Norman.
We arrived in Mazara del Vallo on a beautiful October afternoon – the thermometer indicated at least 24 degrees and the sun was shining with all its strength. We didn’t know where we could park our car, so we asked the man who was running the local cafe for advice. And you probably know how it ended – his help exceeded our expectations. Without a second thought he got on the scooter and told us to follow him. That guy personally lead us to the right place. Sicilian hospitality and cordiality know no bounds!
Eventually we went for a walk around the city and with each passing moment I fell more and more in love with this town. We could spot the sea on one side, Baroque monuments on the other one, and there were also some colorful mosaics and Arabic details within the eyeshot.
I am not going to hide that the main reason why we visited Mazara del Vallo was my desire to get lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets of the old Arab district – the Kasbah, which a lot I had read about before! A walk through the Arab kasbah, which is inhabited by the Tunisian community, was like a gate to a completely different part of the world. During our way, we passed atmospheric buildings in bright colors, numerous Arabic-style mosaics and street art made by local artists, promoting respect for diversity.
Mazara del Vallo is a great example of Arab-European integration and proof that such different cultures can function side by side, creating something incredibly beautiful together.
Saline di Marsala
I heard about Saline di Marsala for the first time during a cooking show hosted by Sicilian nonna, who was passionately telling me about the culinary pearls of this extremely rich island. She said that in Western Sicily there is a magical corner where sea salt is mined, which has a completely different taste and smell, and sunsets in this area are one of the most beautiful lifetime experiences. Then I saw this photo:
And I then I knew that when I come back to Sicily next time, I have to see this place by myself! And that’s how it happened 🙂
Saline di Marsala is less than 4 km from Marsala. What are the mysterious salinas? These are pools filled with sea water. For centuries, sea salt has been extracted here using traditional methods. In summer, the water naturally evaporates, leaving salt in the tanks, which is then collected by hand and placed in such mounds.
The pink color of the water during this period is said to be due to shellfish that live in a highly saline aquatic environment. If you want to find such an intense pink, go there in the summer 🙂 I got to Saline di Marsala in mid-October and I was a bit late – the water still had a delicate shade of pink, but you had to strain your eyes to see it.
And be sure to come here for the sunset – magic in its purest form!
Scala dei Turchi and the Valley of the Temples
Scala dei Turchi, or Turkish Steps, are white, high, limestone cliffs, located 15 km from the town of Agrigento. This is probably one of the most “Instagram” places in Sicily and an absolute must-see for everyone. Especially because there is one more great place nearby – Valle dei Templi, or Valley of the Temples, where you can see one of the best preserved Greek Doric temples in the whole world. You can read the full report from this fascinating corner of Sicily here.
What else is worth seeing in the western part of Sicily? Certainly Trapani, where I went especially for pizza, the medieval town of Erice and some wonderful places by the sea, which I will definitely visit next time: Scopello, Castellammare del Golfo, Riserva dello Zingaro, San Vito lo Capo and the famous island of Favignana.
And what are your favorite places in the western part of Sicily?
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