Your Italian Travel Tips… UNESCO Site in Sicily, Cefalù: When Yellow and Blue Don’t Make Green

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! Here is another of my favorite blogs with unique travel tips that I would like to share.

About once a month, I will reblog a post about lesser-known sites or places to visit in Italy under the title “Your Italian Travel Tips.” The post for April was written by Donna Fenice, a travel blogger who writes the blog Loving Italy’s Gardens, in which she shares stories about her Italian adventures, which all start with her desire to visit Italy’s gardens. Her tagline is, “Exploring the regions of Italy, one garden at a time,” which gives her articles a truly unique perspective.

In her own words, Donna says:

Gardens and Italy are my favourite things.  My love of gardening came first.  As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved puttering around with plants and dirt.  My love of Italy came much later and was totally unanticipated.  Years ago, OK, decades ago, as a student at the University of Toronto, I signed up for the ‘Third Year Abroad’ program.  My subjects were French and German so the plan was to spend the 1st semester in France and the 2nd in Germany.  I had a wonderful time in France, but…

I decided to get as far as I could from the bone-chilling dampness of December in France. Geography and my meagre resources dictated Italy.  I made it as far as Umbria in Central Italy, where in the town of Perugia it was possible to enrol at the Università per Stranieri (University for Foreigners) for 40,000 lire ($40 Canadian) on a month-to-month basis.  That first month stretched into a few more and then to a move to Florence, where I lived for almost five years.

Now I live in Toronto, Canada and visit Italy, and occasionally France, as often as I can, seeking out the gardens and lesser known places, as well as the famous ones.  I prefer to stay in B&B’s and agriturismi and have found that a stay of three days gives me time for lots of fascinating and enjoyable conversations with the owners and staff, who often speak very little English and are curious and eager to talk to la signora canadese in their language.  Over the years they have also given me countless tips about memorable places I would never have found or been able to get into on my own. And finally, I travel solo, something which invariably horrifies foreign travellers and delights the locals.


In the post to follow, Donna relates a wonderful adventure she had when she visited the Sicilian town of Cefalù. I love how she crafts her tale of this visit to Sicily, as she describes experiences getting to know the “ins and outs” of Sicilian daily life intertwined with her descriptions of the people and the beauty of the town. Sicily is the Region of Honor for 2018, and Cefalù is a UNESCO city. Read on, and I’m sure you will enjoy her amazing insights and beautiful photos of this unique city in Sicily.

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on and Learn Travel if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel

Loving Italy's Gardens

For a long time I wasn’t a fan of the ‘golden hour’, photographese for the brief period before sunset and after sunrise when everything is tinged with a warm, soft golden hue.  As far as I could tell, the only thing those golden rays did was dull the light and turn gardens into sickly yellows.  Then I went to a small fishing village on the north-east coast of Sicily and saw what all the fuss was about.

Cefalù (chay-fah-loo) is the site of the third cathedral in the UNESCO  triumvirate of Arab-Norman cathedrals.   (The other two are in Monreale and Palermo). It was only 120 k west of Tindari (post to come), but the coastal road was a lot more coastal than I’d expected and while it wasn’t ‘eternal’, which is how one commentator on Trip Advisor described it, it took a lot longer than I’d anticipated.

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