Find out about our highly acclaimed expert-led food tour of Sicily that explores the island’s rich history and cuisine.
Sicilians are, on the whole, immensely proud of their heritage and traditions. The local dialect (which is actually closer to being a separate language than a mere dialect of Italian) is often the first language learnt as a child, and the regional variants can be enormous: a conversation between a Palermitano and a Catanese can occasionally lead in an unintended direction, as words that are innocuous in one dialect can be very rude in another…
Sicilian Music and Dance
This pride in their background is also clear in the sheer number of traditions and handicrafts that are still practised in modern society. Sicilian music can still be heard live in bars, at festivals, or during wedding celebrations; songs can be downloaded or purchased on CDs in local shops; dances, although now slowly disappearing, are still remembered. This music is played on instruments specific to the island, and is often fast, up-beat and extremely distinctive: a fitting soundtrack to life here.
Sicilian Painting and Pottery
This colourful soundscape is matched by the vibrancy of Sicilian painting, which is most memorably displayed on the traditional carts (every square inch of which is covered in bright colours, and often feature a central scene of Knights fighting Saracens) and the pottery produced in many centres across the island. This is always richly coloured, and varies in form from strictly utilitarian vases and kitchen utensils to display quality versions of the same, and even to objects of everyday life that would normally be crafted from wood, steel or plastic.
One of the most unusual Sicilian folk traditions is the Puppet Theatre, which uses wooden marionettes clad in metal armour and balanced with strings and wires to act out episodes from the Norman conquest of the island. They do battle against Saracens, or vie with each other in epic tales of chivalry, and although the limitations imposed by a set stock of characters means that there is much repetition in subject matter, the fact that the dialogue is always improvised means that no play is ever quite the same.
The important thing to bear in mind is that each region of Sicily specialises in its own specific handicrafts. These often include lacework, woodwork, ironmongery, weaving and basketry, but can also include the creation of unusual rugs or even paper – Siracusa famously produces papyrus, one of the only places outside of Egypt to do so, and has a museum dedicated to the process.
Wherever you are, if you see a shop in a back alley festooned with local goods, and have a few minutes to spare, step inside to have a look. Even if you don’t buy anything, you will have had a chance to see the broad range of traditional goods that that area of this most traditional of islands has to offer.
As well as our food tour of Sicily you can also join us on our Exploring Sicily tour which provides an unforgettable encounter with the island’s long history and culture.