“And anyone who has once known this land can never be quite free from the nostalgia for it.” – D. H. Lawrence [on Sicily]
I first got acquainted with Sicily in the summer of 2015, and never imagined a place to creep so deep into my heart. My introduction to the triangular island with its fertile soil, sweet treats, and sincere people was perhaps even more special because it began in the unassuming town of Milazzo.
Not many tourists frequent Milazzo, other than to board a ferry to the Aeolian Islands. It’s not a place that’s all over the front pages of travel magazines or Lonely Planet guide books, neither does it saturate people’s Instagram feeds. But it is, however, one of those unexpected places where you’ll have a local Sicilian experience you’ll never forget.
This how you can make the most of your time in Milazzo and truly experience Sicily like a local:
Embrace the hospitality
Sicilians, in general, are known for their hospitality. But I’ve experienced – first-hand – the warm hospitality of the locals of Milazzo. The hospitality and gatherings usually revolve around food which is awesome if you, like me, love food and desire to explore a new destination by eating your way through it. Nope, not even ashamed to say that.
When the locals invite you over for lunch or dinner, you can expect a feast that’ll make you wonder if you perhaps didn’t know it’s someone’s birthday. You can expect to meet not only your friends’ parents, but also their grandparents, uncles and aunts, and perhaps even their siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews and great aunts or uncles. It makes me rethink the word “hospitality” I’ll tell you that. The world needs more of it.
If you are lucky enough to befriend some locals in Milazzo, you are sure to be a recipient of many dinner invitations, lunch invitations or future holiday invitations, for that matter. Who knows? Also, don’t be alarmed if a neighbour knocks on your door with a basket of fresh fruit or a steaming oven dish with Pasta alla Norma or some other local specialty to make you feel right at home. The people of Milazzo are hospitable, warm, and generally just plain cool.
Savour the natural beauty
If ever you bump into a Sicilian outside of Sicily (usually in the North), you can expect at least one complaint about the weather up North. And I understand it all too well: ocean, mountains and great weather, Sicilians have it all.
Around Milazzo, they also have volcanoes. Off the coast of Milazzo, you can see a part of the conglomerate of seven small volcanic islands, aka, the Aeolian Islands.
An outing to the Aeolian Islands is a must when you’re in the area – beaches with black sand and inviting Mediterranean waters like you have only ever dreamed of, await you.
Then there’s also the alluring pebble beaches (which can keep you busy for hours on end, collecting pretty pebbles while bronzing in the sun) and plenty swimming spots around Milazzo including two of my favourites, Lido La Fenice and Baia del Tono.
One of the marvels of Milazzo is its peninsula, better known as Capo di Milazzo. A protected area, its main attraction is the various walking routes and impeccable sea life and swimming spots such as Piscina di Venere (Venus’ Swimming Pool). I recommend going as early as possible to make the most of having the place to yourself. Also, don’t forget your snorkel gear!
Enjoy all the Sicilian food
Back on the topic of food. I could talk about it all day: cannoli, granita, pasta alla norma, parmigiana di melanzane, pistacchi, arancini, caponata, involtini (I know you’re getting hungry by now), clams, swordfish (actually, seafood in all its forms)… okay, this list can go on forever because you will never run out of drool-inducing food in this place!
There are also a couple of local food festivals like the fresh fish food festival and the eggplant food festival, to name just two, in and around Milazzo.
Learn about the history
If you’re a history fan, you’ll find Milazzo intriguing. Dating back to 716 BC, it was founded by settlers from Zancle (modern-day Messina) and was, over time, inhabited by the Greeks, Romans and Arabs, among others.
The castle of Milazzo which towers out above the town is said to be the biggest castle in Sicily and it covers almost 14.000 square meters.
Milazzo is simply the perfect summer spot – away from pressing crowds and queues and filled with all things good – all things Sicily.
It seems whenever I find myself longing for something, it very often turns out to be Sicily… In the words of D.H. Lawrence, “And anyone who has once known this land can never be quite free from the nostalgia for it.”