The island of Sicily sits on the foot of Italy. It is the largest of the islands in the Mediterranean and holds what I would call a traditional sense of community. You may think of Sicily as just the place where the mafia originates from, which is true to an extent, but my time there was not as a tourist, or a traveller, but as a member of the communion, and not in the religious sense.
My first trip to Italy was with my partner at the time. She was born and raised here but took to study abroad. Once we arrived I was introduced to her friends and family, all of which seemed to have known one another for a lifetime. This is where my first sense of traditional community came from. Growing up in London usually your friends and family stay fairly separate. It's not very common for these two parties to often mix so openly and with no sort of awkward social barriers. Friends are just as much as family as your blood ties are.
The first few days I spent in Sicily were in one of the many towns near the City of Catania. The town of Giarre and its local communes (smaller towns which make up the area as a whole). Here is a showcase of my favourite images I took exploring these towns.
Grandfather holding is grandsons hand as they watch the water for fish. Riposto Harbour
Old crate among the breakers.
Corso Italia - The main road which connects Riposto to Giarre.
Chiesa Maria SS. Della Provvidenza - Church that sits above a museum. Macchia
Statue of San Vito Martire. Macchia
Abandoned Stadium now used as a place locals go to exercise. Giarre
The evenings spent in Sicily were mainly with friends and locals. The youth here tend to meet up and spend their evenings out on the streets, usually not to drink or go to eat but just to generally sit about and socialise. Popular spots are the beaches, where in summer time all the young people go to relax and watch the sunrise.
Sunrise through the clouds.
One of Sicilys most famous landmarks - Mt Etna, is to this day a very active volcano. I was lucky enough to watch it erupt during my second visit to Sicily at night. Unfortunately I was to far to get a good enough photo from where I was, but just imagine a pitch black sky with glowing red lines falling slowly down. This was all you could see as the volcano itself had no light on it, yet the lava lit up the sky in a red tint. This was a sight I would never forget.
However, I did manage to go for a hike in the day time across the volcano when it was settled. I went with a group which was led by a tour guide which is recommended as there are areas on the mountain that you are not allowed to go.
Hardened lava, layers of it form over the years creating a desert of rock across the bottom of Etna.
A peak of land untouched by the molten lava. You can see the trails where the lava has flown around it and hardened over time with the volcano smoking in the distance.
Markers for the guides to know they are sticking to the safest path across the volcano
With the main outdoor activity out of the way, I thought it would be best to next see one of Sicilys main cities - Catania, on the eastern side of the island. The symbol of the city is u Liotru, or the Fontana dell'Elefante, assembled in 1736 by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini. It portrays an ancient lavic stone elephant and is topped by an Egyptian obelisk from Syene.
There was definitely a lot to see in this city, and much is still yet to be explored by myself. What I will say is that the main plaza in the centre of Catania is stunning and the churches and architectural sites there are worth the visit.
Basilica della Collegiata, Catania
Basilica della Collegiata Interior
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world in my opinion. It's vast history goes thousands of years back, and its cultures still flourish to this day, even in the most simplest of places far away from its most popular destinations like Rome, Venice, Naples. Sicily holds its own.