Sicilian festivals are veritable culture, food and wine events.
10 Jun 2020
When we travel, we often spend our time visiting monuments and museums, ticking off a long list of must-see artworks. But what is art? Do you live exclusively inside the four walls of a historic building? In Sicily, art is also on a plate. In Trapani, between a museum and a baroque balcony, you can tuck in to a bluefin tuna kebab that will make your taste buds soar. In Noto, flowers become artists’ galleries you stroll around while sipping a glass of local wine.
Together, let’s look at some headline festivals and cultural events where food and art mingle, merge and become one.
Spring comes to the city of Baroque and rose-tinted stone. In Sicily, this season is an explosion of colour, as the winter musk-green hues become a riot of different shades, before stabilizing in the typical yellow-gold colours of Sicilian summer. On the third Sunday in May, Noto blooms and dresses itself in thousands of flowers for its annual flower display. The origins of this festival date back to 1980, when flower-display artists from Genzano and Noto came together. It was in the town of Genzano, in the province of Rome, that this new picture-making technique first evolved. The contrast of flowers in the town’s streets conjures up a powerful effect: Via Corrado Nicolaci becomes the backdrop for the flower display, above the Church of Montevergini and the Palazzo del Principe Nicolaci Golden Villa. Organization of the event is a complicated process: first, sketches must be made, then templates drawn on the road, and only then are they filled in with thousands of flowers. Preparing the flowerbeds takes plac
e throughout the night before the festival, so Noto falls asleep its usual Baroque self and wakes up to a floral magic carpet.
Vinorum, Termini Imerese.
Our journey to streets in bloom and spicy fragrances makes its next stop at Termini Imerese, a city of Greek origin which is famous for its ancient spa complex. It is here that the Iauru e Duci cultural association promotes typical local products in a series of events that include “Vinorum”. The event features wine- and gourmet-food makers large and small. Over the two-day festival, visitors enjoy guided tastings and food-wine combinations, with wine provided by wineries and oenologists from all over Sicily. Events include rediscovery of the strong, mineral, salty flavours that make this island so mystical and full of contrast. Vinorum is an attempt to forge a future out of tradition, regenerated to trigger a process of improvement and innovation. The journey here is not just gustatory, but also sensorial and spiritual. The location for this journey, Termini Imerese, does not commonly feature in tourist guides, which means it is ripe for rediscovery.
A Fruottula, Cefalù.
Standing on a rocky promontory in the province of Palermo, Cefalù is one of Sicily’s most stunning medieval villages. A Fruottula’, also known as the Bread Festival, is one of its oldest traditions. The name refers to a type of poem written specifically to be put to music. This composition, sung either by a soloist or a choir, can cover a number of themes ranging from the religious to the secular, satirical or irreverent. The festival symbolizes the symbiotic relationship between Sicilian territory and human toil, which is represented in a procession of floats prepared according to tradition with flowers and local products of the soil. Cefalù returns to how it looked a hundred years ago, its streets filled with songs and recitals. The celebration opens the doors to summer, uttering a wish for prosperity while not forgetting the island’s roots, the people who have passed through here in the past, and the people lucky enough to come here in future.
We lengthen our stride and in the blink of an eye we find ourselves in Trapani, for the eleventh edition of Stragusto. This festival of Sicilian street food and markets is an event that every summer fills the streets with sparkling new fragrances. Organized by Trapani Welcome and the “Trapani Centro” tourist organization, the festival promotes street food culture and its master-craftsmen. Sicily’s creative cuisine bursts with flavour because it is a fascinating culinary tradition influenced by countries near and far. This is why, once again this year, Stragusto transports visitors into a whirlwind of different and sometimes unfamiliar flavours from Florence, Palermo, Puglia, Tunisia and elsewhere in the world. This is Sicily at its most international and open, respecting its own traditions while absorbing new ones, enriched and strengthened by mixing with surrounding cultures.
Swordfish Festival, Aci Trezza.
The island’s tastiest summer festivals conclude with the Swordfish Festival, a typical Catania area extravaganza. Aci Trezza is a long seafront made out of sinuous lava stone, a balcony that looks out over tall sea stacks. The story goes that one-eyed giant Polyphemus was blinded by Ulysses as he attempted to make his escape. Hellbent on revenge, he threw rocks as big as mountains at the hero’s moored ship. Ulysses managed to escape, but the stacks of rock are still there, floating in the dark waters. This year, the colourful Swordfish Festival celebrates its 31st birthday at Scalo di Alaggio, the small village’s port. Come and enjoy the open-air grilled fish on homemade bread seasoned with local artisanal oil, all against a backdrop of music, crafts stalls and the seaside. And of course a glass of fresh, spicy white wine to wash it all down in this sun-baked, lavic land.
Where to stay in Sicily.
For your festive holiday filled with good food, you deserve a stay that pampers you properly. That’s why we suggest staying at Gruppo UNA Palace Catania | UNA Esperienze in the heart of Catania, just twenty minutes from Aci Trezza, or at the UNAHOTELS One Siracusa hotel, only 40 km from the city of Noto, making them idyllic yet strategic locations for discovering the beauties of Sicily.