Enna and Caltanisetta provinces
If you feel like Taormina, Cefalù and San Vito lo Capo are for the rookies when it comes to Sicily, we bid you welcome to Enna and Caltanissetta. Here you will find winding roads cutting through the sparse landscape of sun-scorched, macchia shrubland-covered hills, where the rosemary grows as tall as a person. The rosemary competes with thyme, lavender and wild fennel in dominating your aromatic senses. The landscape changes drastically, however. One minute the cypresses and grazing cattle will remind you of Toscana, the next the eucalyptus will bring your mind to the Australian outback. To see all this you will have to make a detour from the autostrada, however, from which you will mostly see yellow wheat fielded valleys, that turn deep green during the more humid winter months.
Life here is more laid-back than in the intense coastal towns, and you will probably have to turn your engine off once or twice to let a shepherd cross the road with his flock of sheep. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy Sicily as it was a hundred, and in many ways a thousand, years ago.
The autostrada A19 between Palermo and Catania cuts right through the provinces and the town of Enna, providing good and easy communications with the rest of the island. The town of Enna could be one of the highest in Europe, with a view of the grand volcano Etna. It serves as a good starting point for you to start discovering the rest of Sicily’s relatively unknown inland. But make sure to visit Castello di Lombardo before you leave! This medieval fortress is actually built upon an even older Arabian fortress and is truly a sight to behold. Also enjoy lunch at one of Enna’s rightly renowned restaurants, like Tommy’s Enoteca or Paccamoa Bio Bar.
Tradition and (agri)culture sums these regions up quite nicely. But those seeking culture in the form of art also have something to gain from a visit. Outside of the town of Piazza Armerina lies Villa Romana del Casale. The villa is comprised of a number of buildings, and in order to take it all in, one would be wise to set an entire day aside. It boasts the richest, biggest and most complex collection of Roman mosaic in the world, and was built upon the ruins of an even older villa at the dawn of the 4th century. This time period is said to be the start of the Sicilian’s distrust of Rome, i.e the government, for that is when the Sicilian farmland was divided into enormous properties amongst various wealthy Roman landowners. Romana del Casale is said to have been a center for such deals. A lover of culture and history may forgive this land theft when taking in the thousands of square meters of astonishing floor mosaic forming gorgeous patterns and pictures. For example,” you will find the renowned Sala delle Dieci Ragazze, also known as The Bikini Girls. It portrays a number of women performing various sports. There are also more mythological motifs, such as Odysseus in the cave of Polyphemus, as well as the great deeds of Eros, Pan and Hercules. Try and make sure to visit the villa off-season though, for it tends to get quite crowded during the summer.
The town of Caltagirone is about 30 minutes by car from Piazza Armerina and is well known for its production of traditional handmade decorative pottery. You will find evidence of this spread throughout the quaint mountain town. You should (and probably could) not miss the fantastic staircase that works its way up the town to the church of Santa Maria del Monte. Every step is decorated with exquisite ceramic details, and no step is the same as the last one. The history of the town as a center for ceramic art stretches as far back as the time of the Greek rule of the island and evolved further during the reign of the Arabs and Spaniards.
If you don’t require a house close to the sea, these regions offer very affordable properties with beautiful views of tall mountains and deep valleys. Why not get one with a pool? It is also a great opportunity for those looking for farmland with the possibility of animal husbandry.