10 Best Landscapes to Photograph in Sicily
Sicily is a hot destination for 2019.
The buzz of curious travelers electrifies the streets and piazzas of the Mediterranean’s largest island. Whether looking for Andrea Camilleri, the perfect cannoli, or Don Corleone, it’s no surprise the summer and fall are great times to catch Sicily at its best. Especially if you are flapping shutters on your camera between popping arancini.
From one resident in Sicily, here are my top ten places to visit and photograph while you’re sojourning on this magnificent part of Italy.
The name of the town comes from the Arabic meaning, “the city of pottery jars.” Dominated by the Arabs around the year 1050, the craft of pottery-making has existed in the town since antiquity.
Caltagirone is not to be missed.
This village perched high on a clay plateau was the catalyst for Sicilian pottery. The moors knew how to work the clay and introduce a new form of glazing.
One look at the Santa Maria del Monte and you’ll get a better idea of why pottery is so important to the city’s identity. Each one of the 144 steps is dedicated to a moment in time of Caltagirone’s history. No two steps are alike.
And in the summertime, flower and candle festivals are held on the steps, designing figures and animals to the enjoyment and amazement of the townspeople.
It would be difficult to make a list of photogenic Sicilian places without mentioning Taormina.
Built on the saddle between to small peaks, the name Taormina comes from the greek “tauromenion” meaning “bull,” with the peaks resembling bulls horns.
Taormina was a defensive move by the Greeks living in Giardini Naxos who were constantly defeated by the colonies at Syracuse. Taormina soon became a toll town where the passage from Messina to Catania was paid to the local noble families. It was during this time the town flourished.
But Goethe in the 19th C. brought notable fame to the city. In his book, “Italian Journey” he gave meritable praise to Taormina and Sicily in general: “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.”
The church of Santa Caterina, the Duomo, the old Synagogue, and – of course – the ancient Greek Theatre make for stunning photography subjects
No European volcano can give you more natural beauty.
Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. However, daily seismic monitoring allows the adventurous photographer access to the mountain’s highest summit. These upper elevations offer surreal views over the rest of the island, most significantly above Catania.
The extinct cones from ancient eruptions create a suggestive atmosphere. And the hues and colors of past lava flow change color throughout the day. More red from the iron ore; more blue from the cobalt.
Speckle that with a few random tree groupings having survived the last eruptions and you have the dichotomy of nature: that which mother nature giveth, she taketh away.
Just south of Taormina lies the beach village of Giardini Naxos: home to the first Greek colony of ancient Sicily.
Although Taormina rivals its small coastal sibling in rich architecture and stunning views, Giardini Naxos has the most exquisite beaches. With small watering spots like Isola Bella, Naxos is a quiet photographer’s paradise on your way through the eastern coast.
Grammichele is countryside gem not too many people know about.
Beginning with its particular hexagonal structure, the main piazza is a geometrically perfect example of “rational” architecture. After the destruction of the ancient Greek village of Occhiolà in 1693 (also today worth a photo-stop_ Count Branciforti decided to give this unique city on of the biggest hexagonal piazzas in Europe).
Grammichele is a perfect place to capture the locals in action.
If you happen upon this village on a Sunday, get ready for plenty of image capturing. The families of Grammichele will flood the piazza just before lunchtime with plenty of smiles, laughter, and gelato.
Lipari and the Aeolian Islands
Etna is not alone in its raw geothermal power. The Aeolian islands are an extinct volcanic chain extending north along mainland Sicily.
During the early morning light, you can capture the cones of these ancient volcanos.
Take a trip to Lipari and see the local fishermen in action rowing into the harbor and mending their nets. Lipari is a village trapped in time, making for timeless images.
Yet another imposing and impressive hilltop-town is the beautiful village of Monterosso Almo. Considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Monterosso will impress you with its Bizantine frescos and historic churches.
Still more fascinating is the prehistoric necropolis at Calaforno. These stones set in the middle of a great forest were the burial grounds for the ancient tribes of the area, and a refuge for persecuted Christians during the Roman Empire.
More Sicilian character, more Roamn influence.
Contrada Margi is the small grouping of houses between Giarratana and Ragusa. It lies in the bottom of the valley of the Hyblean mountains.
Here, the Romans housed their beehives – as the contemporary archeological sites attest too. Still today, high on the hillsides, you can walk the original Roman road which ran from Siracusa all the way to Trapani, passing through Contrada Margi.
Not stopping in Ragusa Ibla to marvel at the powerful Baroque architecture would be a loss of the lens!
Rosario Gagliardi was the local architect in charge of restoring Sicily’s beauty after the 1693 earthquake. Studying Bernini’s works, Gagliardi created the movement known as “Sicilian Baroque:” demonstrated eloquently in Ragusa Ibla’s Duomo of San Giorgio.
On the last Sunday of May, you can attend the three day festival of San Giorgio just in front of the Duomo. For lively movement in your pictures, be sure to capture the residents oft he town as they carry a massive statue of San Giorgio and his horse through the tiny streets in the evening.
Val di Noto
You can spend weeks in the Val di Noto photographing architecture, people, and Sicilian farm life.
Make sure to take the time and get great images of the UNESCO protected dry-stone walls. They extend for miles over the hillsides and are unique to this corner of the island.