If you are looking for unknown and charming places to visit Sicily in December, read my travel post and you’ll discover some hidden gems of my loved island. Obviously, you can visit these places in the other seasons, also. However, the month of December is another important time to explore Sicily. Thankfully, in the last month of the year, the Sicilian weather is nearly always mild, up to Christmas, with a temperature that can also be around the 20 degrees! If you are fortunate, you can also make a stop to a Sicilian beach. Anyway, this article will let you find the best (even cheap), unknown places to visit my island in December.
The first charming and unknown place to visit my island in December is Mineo. I visited this small Sicilian village some weeks ago and advise that you visit it, also, because Mineo, located in the province of Catania, amid the stunning Noto Valley, is a medieval and baroque town at the same time. Today, the village has less than 6.000 inhabitants, but its charm is still untouched. Mineo is a small town nestled on a small hill at 500 meters above the sea level. It is amid Caltagirone and Palagonia and dominates the lowland of Catania. To reach it, I crossed a chain of bends, but at last, I was very happy to visit it. Mineo lies down the two hills of the Iblei mounts, and from there, you can easily reach Catania, Ragusa and Syracuse. The village was founded at the age of the late Roman Empire. The charm of Mineo depends on its glorious past, witnessed by churches and palaces and by the life of famous Sicilian writers, such as Luigi Capuana.
Going through the lanes and the alleys, which, with the internal courtyards, recall a medieval structure, you’ll get the impression that time has stopped. The necropolis, the rocky villages, the castles and the large citrus groves scented with orange blossom, elicit incredible emotions and feelings which are worthy to be lived.
During my trip to Mineo, I visited one among the most beautiful churches of the village, namely the one of Santa Maria Maggiore (see the image). That is a magnificent church placed on the top of one of the above mentioned hills, namely the Northern hill. The building rises on the ruins of an ancient medieval castle and is the first Christian church of the village. Its origin dates back to the III century AC. In the beginning, it was a pagan temple dedicated to the Sun God. When the locals became Christians, the temple was turned into a Christian church. To visit this magnificent church, you must ride an uphill path along a narrow lane. As soon as you arrive, you’ll see the external medieval courtyard and a large entrance. Enter the church and you’ll find a stunning christian building with baroque details, columns and the typical paintings of a cathedral. When you exit the church, you’ll ride the reverse downhill path. As soon as you turn the angle, you’ll see the palace of the municipality of Mineo, in front of you, the main square with the bars, and alongside you, the shop of a Sicilian artisan who makes original wood furniture, such as wood kitchen and living room. I advise that you visit this shop to admire the best of the Sicilian creativity. At the end of this visit, maybe you bring to your home a small wood table made in Sicily. To book a pretty accommodation in Mineo, click here.
Furthermore, on the occasion of Christmas holidays, Mineo hosts a traditional living nativity scene called Christmas in the Alleys. That is very picturesque representation of the nativity of Jesus staged in the ancient and evocative alleys of Mineo. The living nativity scenes are split into a tour, where the several scenes are hosted in different small lanes. The tour starts from the main square of the historical center along the alleys of the same downtown . During the tour, you’ll enjoy the immense artistic value of the ancient Sicilian buildings and will be immersed in the picturesque alleys where you can taste the dishes of the old peasant Sicilian cuisine, such as Sicilian bread, olive oil, Sicilian cheese, wine and blood orange juice. This way, you’ll discover the true scents and flavors of Sicily.
The second, really, unknown and charming place, to visit my loved Sicily (in December and not only) is Gualtieri Sicaminò. That is a small medieval village in the province of Messina, located near the Gulf of Milazzo. The village, which has 2000 inhabitants, is surrounded by green olive and orange trees. The municipality consists of a downtown and two districts: Soccorso and Sicaminò. Gualtiero torrent, which gives the name to the village, crosses the town, splitting it into the two areas connected among them by four bridges. Among them, you can admire the Old Bridge (Il Ponte Vecchio – see the image) which stands out with its all artistic magnificence. Since the town is in the area of the Pelorinani mounts, I advise that you wear winter clothes , in December, in order to enjoy your winter Sicilian vacation without discomfort. In Gualtieri Sicaminò, you can admire several ancient and picturesque churches, such as Annunziata Church, Assunta church and the Mother Church.
They contain stunning wood crosses and paintings of the Virgin Mary. You can also admire the medieval palaces and chapels that let you breath the magical atmosphere of the village, with its scratched tiles, the ruins of the walls, the unused stairs that witness the glory and the beauty of a lost time. The most interesting tourist attractions of the Village are Cataolo waterfalls (see the image). They are in the district of Sicaminò, in the most charming medieval zone of the village. The waterfalls are a place with a peerless beauty and a breathtaking natural sight.
On December 6, you can also see the Festival of Saint Nicola from Bari, the patron of Gualtieri Sicaminò. The Festival starts in the previous nine days with the evening masses. In the last three evenings, the locals go to the surroundings of the town and knock the doors of the houses to ask for nuts and figs. On the day of the Festival, instead, you can attend the traditional “Nocciolata”, during it, joyful people throw over 1000 kg of nuts from their balconies overlooking the square of the cathedral. That is an ancient Sicilian tradition which is renewed every year in December and in the last Sunday of August. To book accommodations in this village, click here.
Sutera, a small village in the province of Caltanissetta, is the third unknown and charming place to visit Sicily in December. The town is surrounded by the mount of San Paolino and seems to emerge from the fog. Nowadays, Sutera has only 1500 inhabitants and although it is regarded as a village lost in time, its landscape is very evocative and offers breathtaking sights, along with unforgettable events that retrace the most ancient Sicilian traditions
. In this village, every angle is history, culture, art and legend. Sutera appears to visitors with piles of lava and clay stone houses, where is also a maze of small lanes that recalls the foundation of the village. The town derives just from the ancient legend of Dedalo, a Greek architect who escaped Athens and the maze of Creta to find a shelter in the primitive village of Sutera, always made of mazes. Sutera lies on the cliff of San Paolino mount. The mount emerges from a romantic landscape of lawns and fogs, quietly dominating the small houses on the valley floor.
On the occasion of Christmas holidays, Sutera hosts one of the most ancient Sicilian traditions, namely the gallery of the paper nativity scenes. Many of these scenes date back to the early years of the past century and many images also date back the XIX century. To create these picturesque nativity scenes, the artists cut out the paper to create three-dimensional, coloured and showy figures that you can observe from every side. The gallery is hosted at the anthropological Museum of Sutera for the entire month of December and until the early days of January. To find an accommodation in Sutera, see here.
The fourth unknown and charming place to visit Sicily in December is Ragalna. That is an enjoyable and picturesque village in the southwest side of Etna mount. Thanks to its favorable position, it is also called “the terrace of Etna”. From there, you can see a large landscape which stretches from the valley of the Simeto river to the gulf of Augusta , up to arrive in the city of Enna. Ragalna is an Arab, Norman village which has the same charm of the most known Arab and Norman Sicilian cities. Due to the short distance from Catania, Ragalna is the ideal village to visit the Eastern area of Sicily. In Ragalna, you can attend the festival of the extra virgin olive oil that will be held on December 2, 2018 at the Santa Barbara square. That is a street market of local and typical Sicilian products, where you’ll enjoy stunning creations by the Sicilian artisans and taste delicious dishes seasoned with the original extra virgin olive oil from Sicily.
To find and book a cheap, picturesque and snowy accommodation in Ragalna, click here.
The latest charming destination, to visit Sicily in December is Custonaci. That is a real Sicilian village lost in time made of picturesque grottos that host another stunning living nativity scene. Custonaci is in the province of Trapani, in the heart of Western Sicily and near the beach of San Vito Lo Capo. I talked about this magical village in detail here.
Visit these wonderful and unknown places in December and as soon as returned to your home, let me know with a comment if you enjoyed your trip. I’ll be happy to publish your experience.
Photocredits in order of appearance:
Facebook Fan Page of Santa Maria Maggiore Church – courtesy of father Tino Zappulla
Rete.comuni-italiani.it – Giuseppe De Domenico