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  • Lisa Grisanti

Snapshot of My One Month Journey in Spain, Italy & Sicily

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

Agrigento, Sicily

Welllll, what a month it was! As some of my followers already know, I took the entire month of July to travel to Barcelona, Spain and nine cities/towns in Italy and Sicily. I have always wanted to travel for one month and had not done so since I was 10 years old and my first trip to Sicily with my great grandmother. It was my first time in Barcelona, fourth time in Italy and fifth time in Sicily. Here’s a snapshot of my trip (I will be writing about each place in more detail in later blog posts) and the breakdown in chronological order with some highlights. I experienced AMAZING food, beaches, views, hospitality and accommodations at all of the places I visited.

1) Barcelona, Spain – 12 days. Definitely my new favorite city! Barcelona has everything: a great beach, nightlife/dancing (including for the bachata & salsa lovers like me or just watching an intense Flamenco performance), shopping, food (I tried 24 different plates of tapas in one night on the “Food Lovers Tour” and had the best omelette ever at El Quim in the La Boqueria Market, arts/culture (Picasso began his career here with many of his early paintings (as a teenager) on display at the Picasso Museum and had his first solo exhibition in Barcelona at just 19 years old!), public street art, architecture (seeing La Sagrada Familia should be on everyone’s bucket list. Breathtaking!), sports (go Barca!) and an efficient city-wide bike sharing program, metro system and taxi service. I am also hooked on “cortado,” (espresso with a little milk) and I ask for a side of ice, pour it in to drink it chilled, on the blistering hot mornings in Barcelona in July. I stayed at three different accommodations while in Barcelona: Airbnb apartment in the bohemian El Born neighborhood, a hotel on Las Ramblas (main strip) and a B&B in Gothic Quarter near the Cathedral. I will be writing a separate blog post with information and web links on all of the places (accommodations) I stayed at (9 different places while in Europe). All were great in different ways, accommodating and a good value. But, a word to the wise, you MUST have the stamina when traveling to different cities through Europe as there is navigating and taking trains, taxis, buses, and sometimes overnight ships (which I did from Naples to Sicily) all while wheeling and hauling luggage in the heat. More on this in my upcoming blog post “What To Expect When Traveling a Month Abroad to Different Places.”

2) Venice, Italy – 4 days. Venice is a photographer’s dream. Just taking photos is fun because everything results in a great picture! There’s no place quite like Venice. It’s charm of the grand St. Mark’s Square, its ancient buildings and neighborhoods, the uniqueness of a city built on water with your only transportation being boat or on foot and the mystique of the city in the evening. Want to escape the tourist crowds in central Venice (San Marco) for the day, go to Lido Beach (free) about a 30 minute water taxi ride from San Marco then head over to Burano (a quaint village with all the houses painted different colors) about a 40 minute taxi ride from Lido.

3) Padova, Italy – 1 day. Town is a 30 minute train ride from Venice. I went to visit the Basilica of St. Anthony (many Catholics pilgrim here). The Srovegni Chapel (with Giottos marvelous frescos) is also located in Padova. A cool town with a great youthful vibe (university here) and big main square for outdoor lunches, dinner, gelato and bar hopping. Not packed with tourists even in the middle of July. Appeared more locals than anything. Accommodations less expensive than anywhere else I stayed during this trip. About $55 for a B&B (B&B Torresino, 1/2 mile from Basilica) including breakfast close to Basilica with a large room, double bed, view and antique charm.

4) Naples, Italy – arrived into the train station in Naples, only a quick stop here. Naples train station is a hub (if moving on to further south of Sicily (which I was to Positano) and its not one of the stations you want to hang around too long in. I’ve been told there is more petty theft (pickpocketing) here than in other parts of Italy but I have never had a problem here.

5) Positano, Italy – 3 days. The beaches, amazing views, hospitality and the food. I experienced the best view of my life from my room at Hotel Casa Albertina. Note: you must have some stamina for Positano in the summer. I walked up 73 stairs to get to my hotel and up/down about 150 stairs to get to and from the beach. Avoid the tourist restaurants (there are several that are overpriced) and instead get a great meal for about $12 at mom and pop place (built into the cliff as you walk down to the smaller beach: Spiaggia Fornillo or a slice of pizza and gelato at Bucca Di Beppo on the main large beach Spiaggia Grande.

6) Agrigento, Sicily – several hours. I went to The Valley of the Temples, the most visited archaeological site in Sicily.

7) Vallelunga, Sicily – 3 days (5th time here). Food, family, and feel-good simplicity. Birthplace of my great grandmother. Small town in the middle of Sicily, about 3000 residents, no tourists. Here to visit family on my paternal side. Most authentic experience. You can’t help but realize quickly what are the core values here: Family, meal time and loyalty is very important here and all of Sicily. Attended 25th family wedding anniversary, and 3 hour lunches and dinners in the home of my family there and toured their glorious garden with everything from lemon trees, to fennel, grapes, and tomatoes. It was my third time staying at Rosemarie’s Tasca’s B&B on Regaleali Wine Estate, wonderful accommodations & hospitality in the countryside, just 10 min. drive from Vallelunga. Especially love the food in Sicily: eggplant prepared a variety of ways, grilled squid and other seafood, cannoli and all desserts made with ricotta (REE-koth-AH), arancini (rice balls usually with mozzarella, peas, seasoned ground beef & tomato sauce inside, and granita with brioche (crushed flavored ice served with a roll, sometimes warm, the combination is delish!) and on many mornings, coffee granita (with real coffee, tastes stronger in Sicily) was my go-to morning drink inside of a regular cup of coffee.

8) Palermo & Mondello, Sicily – 7 days. I stayed in Mondello, a beach resort town, about 30 minutes from the city centre of Palermo. It is HOT in Sicily in the summer (I’m talking over 100 degrees) so this visit, I wanted to be very close to the beach. I was a 7 min. walk to the beach & stayed at Mondello Holiday B&B (great view, service, hospitality and accommodations). I can’t say enough about the hospitality of the owners Silvana & Renato who made my stay even more enjoyable. Mondello is for the beach with its landscape of Mount Pellegrino, granita, seafood, and relaxation.

Palermo is a little different with its bustling nightlife, designer shopping, “street food” (that is what they call it) and outdoor open air markets where you can find anything from fruit, fish, shoes, souvenirs, costume jewelry and more for cheap and less when you bargain with the vendors. Head to La Maqueda (the street in front of Teatro Massimo) open to pedestrians only, for people watching, shopping, “street food” and bars/restaurants or to “La Vucceria” the area near San Domenico Church where you look like you are walking into an alley but then it opens up to a little square of bars sprawling with outdoor seating in the summer, pumping music (often times popular American music), street food vendors and animated talkers (after all, they’re Sicilian!). Greeting someone in Sicily, you will likely get a quick kiss on each cheek, one side then the other. There are many historic sites to see including the Cathedral. If visiting in the summer, early morning for sightseeing is best as it gets very hot by late morning; early afternoon. My family is in Monreale, sort of a suburb of Palermo and about 20 minutes up the winding roads from Palermo central, with great views. Had another wonderful birthday here spent with family. My first birthday here was turning 11 years old and here I am, many years later, still celebrating my birthday in Sicily.

9) Castellammare, Sicily – one day to visit family there. Near the sea, about one hour drive from Palermo. If you are lucky enough to visit family here or stay with a host family, you can hopefully experience baking pizza and bread in the backyard brick oven, long dinners including ricotta & sardine sandwiches, fresh vegetables & assorted cheese/olives, watermelon (a staple after dinner that precedes dessert) and dessert of ricotta filled cakes and pastries (my experience while visiting my family there).

10) Rome, Italy – one day (4th time here). Yes, you must see the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Vatican (which I have experienced in the past) while here but it was great on this trip to experience the lesser known like the Monti neighborhood, where you will find cobblestone narrow streets with restaurants, vintage and boutique clothing shops, and many locals congregated in the square on a Friday night.

I will be writing more detailed blogs about each place in upcoming blog posts as well as a list of the nine different accommodations where I stayed so tune in for more!

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