Sicily Side Trips


Thanks to Carmelina, who operates Sicilian Experience, we had one of our best excursions yet, on the back roads of Sicily. She told us about an Art Hotel, where the owner, Antonio Presti, had commissioned well-known contemporary artists to create room interiors that would enhance the visitor’s experience. Presti also initiated the Fiume d’Arte, a sort of sculpture park or open air museum that follows the Tusa river into the Nebrodi Mountains.
From Sant’Ambrogio, we took the coast highway 113 south to the small resort town of Castel di Tusa, where we found the hotel, Hotel Atelier sul Mare facing the small, peaceful harbor. After a short tour of the hotel, we decided to take the four hour (or more) scenic drive to see the Fiume d’Arte, in search of the nine different works that were created by various artists from 1986 through 1990.
The sculptures were created to reflect and enhance their surroundings and help bring greater recognition to this beautiful, but little-known part of Sicily. They vary in style and materials, but all of them have been created on a large scale and often can be seen from a great distance.
One of the pieces is a labyrinth on a quiet hillside where one can take a meditative walk while listening to the bells of the goats grazing nearby. Another favorite of ours was a long, cement wall with more than a dozen different ceramic works. There wasn’t much space to park on the road, but we stopped anyway to get a closer look and take pictures. The drive meandered through lush green hills, climbed up high into the Nebrodi Mountains through several tiny hill towns, and then wound back down to the sea.
We didn’t expect to find any restaurants in the small hill towns, but we asked some mechanics we saw, and sure enough, they directed us to a perfect little cafe in the town of Mistretta. Primavera is actually a full restaurant, with a wide variety of freshly made “take out” choices. Since a large group of Carbinieri in full dress uniform were having a big lunch, we opted for the “take out”. We selected the panini, with their home-made bread that had the best crust ever. In Sicily, you never know where you’ll find an amazing treat.
Although the map for the sculptures was not quite accurate, we were able to find most of the works. We enjoyed a leisurely pace and adapted to our peaceful surroundings. The tour took us up into the hills between Cefalù and Messina, where we could witness daily life in the Sicilian countryside. It was the perfect way to spend our last day in Sicily.
Below: sheep grazing, Bob & Ruth taking photos, our favorite wall, wall detail, hill town in the Nebrodi Mountains






About msraaka

I am an artist, writer and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there and other countries in Europe. We love to travel, but especially to stay in one area and get a better sense of place. I love learning languages, so I continue to study Italian, French and Spanish so I can communicate a bit more with the locals. Even learning the basic greetings can make a big difference.
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