Sicilian Sisters Travel: an interview

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Tourism in Sicily is an exciting and constantly developing industry to be involved in with many new companies coming up with new ways in which to experience the island.

Recently one exciting new company has been founded by two Sicilian sisters born in Sicily. Francesca and Giovanna have returned to their island home after several years of education and work in the USA they have returned to help people discover their beloved homeland.

Sicilian Sisters is an online travel boutique which offers dream vacations to Sicily and Italy. Based on a unique connection to the island, the two sisters and best friends want to share the beauty of their heritage to the rest of the world.

Francesca and Giovanna kindly agreed to answer a few questions in a recent interview:

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Tell us about Sicilian Sisters Travel. How did it come about and what’s your philosophy about Sicily?

We were born and raised in Sicily. Our Papa’ is Sicilian, our Mamma Sicilian-American.We were born in a bi-cultural, multilingual home. This defined immediately the course and rest of our lives. We welcomed and entertained international visitors in our home in Sicily from an early age and traveled often to the USA and around the world to visit family and friends. 

In 1997, we moved to the USA to pursue higher education and spent 18 years there. Until this year (2016) when, longing to indulge in the beauty and slow paced lifestyle of our beautiful native island (Sicily), we decided to move back to our home here. Whether we had planned or not, it was always our pleasure to advice, suggest, accompany visitors around our island and slowly throughout all of Italy. 

Travel is in our DNA and through the years, we have been fortunate and grateful to be able to travel the world, develop a sensibility towards the needs of the international traveler, learn a few languages and expand our portfolio of connections.

We are delighted, honored and truly happy to be able to share our love, passion and knowledge of all that our island and country can offer to the senses of all embracing visitors!    

What services do you offer?

We can work with clients in a number of ways:  you can either join one of our group tours….or we can design a journey especially crafted for you, your family, business, etc…..or if you have already booked a few services (for example flights and hotels) we can assist in the planning of all other additional travel services such as cooking classes, wine tastings, Italian language courses, private guides, entrance tickets, train tickets, lunches, dinners, pastry demonstrations, tastings, cycling, sports, wellness experiences…..we are really creative and flexible and can assist really in anything related to travel in Sicily and Italy to match your exact wishes and desires and budget.  

Why should someone come to Sicily for their holiday?

Many people know or have traveled to Italy already – and though it’s a country of immense beauty, of poets, artists, musicians, ideal for foodies and wine lovers as well as scholars of the expressive Italian language and it will always offer peculiar experiences to its visitors (….and we can help you in the design and planning of your first time or a returning journey to Italy by the way with our connections throughout the boot)……we were born and raised in Sicily, it’s our native island and it has been a personal commitment through our entire lives to simply share the most beautiful and unique layers of our island with others.

We believe that Sicily is the “island of a thousand scents and colors.”  It is an island whose complex and extraordinary natural beauty mixed with a multitude of dialects and traces left from many civilizations has created a kaleidoscopic culture, people, history, language and cuisine.

Our island functions on “island time” and to best understand it, we always recommend that you have a different “tempo” when you come here to allow yourself to be immersed in its layers, to get a glimpse of a powerful history, to have your palates ignited with a “gusto” developed over centuries and your eyes filled with colors and senses inebriated by natural scents such as jasmine, orange blossom, pistachio, honey, pomegranate, prickly pears….

To travel to Sicily means to be exposed to Sicilian hospitality and generosity, to live a few days like Sicilian kings and queens did in extraordinary noble palaces or villas, to soak in the Sicilian sun and sea, and lavishly be reminded of the meaning and significance of eating well and feasting together around the dinner table, to learn about a rich archaeological and cultural history and much much more….

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What are best things to do in Sicily in each season? Could you break it down for us, what should we be doing in a visit in the summer, fall, winter and spring?

We will answer this question in reverse.

Sicilian summer lasts from about May through October so in these months, we certainly recommend planning a vacation that focuses on a location by the sea in one of the numerous stunning beaches around the island or in its surrounding islands (Aeolian, Aegadian, Pelagian, Pantelleria) – and intertwine cultural as well as other fun experiences.   

In our late fall (October and November) – you will certainly enjoy partaking in vineyards visits, wine tastings, cooking classes, pastry demonstrations and Italian language courses perhaps….always a must are cultural highlights as well.

In winter and spring….slower tourist season here, you would enjoy “living like a local,” travel is cheaper, the weather still so pleasant – the perfect time to enjoy all of the above at slower pace, with tourist attractions less crowded.  

What is your own personal favorite site to visit?

This is a very difficult and nearly impossible question to answer because we appreciate all seasons and all destinations for their uniqueness and diversity……but if we had to highlight a few “musts” while in Sicily…..you must visit at least once in your lifetime:  Taormina, the Baroque corner in South Eastern Sicily (Modica, Noto, Ragusa, Scicli, etc.), you must taste pastries and street food in Catania, you may enjoy a romantic sunset walk in the idyllic ancient city of Ortigia, also salute Mount Etna, learn about the history of Sicilian Kings and Queens in Palermo, visit the magnificent Valley of Temples in Agrigento, deepen your knowledge of Sicilian wines and cuisine, and take a few extra days to explore the Aeolian Islands – one of our favorite destinations in the whole world. 

What is your favorite taste of Sicily?

This is another very difficult question because our Papa’ was a Chef in the USA and our Mamma is an incredible cook…..we love fresh seafood prepared in a number ways, we love eggplants and fresh basil, tomato sauce made with Pomodori from Pachino, we enjoy a good glass of Nero d’Avola or Shiraz or dessert wines like Zibbibbo and Passito, we adore ricotta and pistachio and honey, we love almond or lemon or prickly pear “granita” (Sicilian ice) for breakfast in the summer. 

What is your favorite off the beaten track destination or experience?

We love to share the picturesque fishing village where our maternal grandparents were born: Brucoli.  It is literally a three street village but so restorative for a day out:  enjoying some time at the beach….lunch in one of the few delicious seafood restaurants overlooking the Mediterranean Sea….. a refreshing mid afternoon granita…..and an aperitivo by the water at night………….Mt Etna at a distance, the entire Bay of Catania before your eyes. It is a very simple, tranquil yet idyllic destination.

The autostrada to Messina as seen from Taormina

Francesca, tell us about ‘My Sicily’ …

In 2012, my first book “My Sicily” (255 pages) was published in the USA.  It is written in English with a few Sicilian proverbs, extracts of language.  It was a travel memoir where I intertwined personal childhood memories and cultural, culinary, identity, linguistic notes on my favorite places around the island.  Sicily is not mine, it belongs to the world and all those curious or interested in learning more about our culture and island….and to all the sons and daughters of Sicilian immigrants worldwide.  I entitled the book “My Sicily” because I narrate “my” personal reflections as I associate them with each individual place.  Thanks to the book, I enjoyed traveling across the USA on a 55 stop book tour, was invited at the Sicilian Festival in San Diego, received two Sicilian Literary Awards (in 2007 and 2013), met extraordinary people and learned even more about Sicilian culture and identity in the USA.  During the journey, I launched a blog to document it and through the years it has grown to welcome almost 39,000 followers worldwide who follow my writings and literary experiences.  I am so grateful.  My sister who has a passion for photography and her own business (https://giovannamignosa.smugmug.com/) designed the book cover, map of Sicily and entire book. There are a few literary projects brewing at the moment, but I can’t reveal them just yet. I invite anyone interested to follow my facebook page:  Francesca Mignosa Author or my blog  https://francescamignosa.wordpress.com  

How would you describe Sicily in one sentence ….

“Sicily is the island of a thousand scents and colors” (My Sicily, 2012) when you think you know all of them….its charisma will show you a few more….we look forward to sharing and discovering more with all of you.  Grazie.   

We invite you to visit our website   www.siciliansisterstravel.com and our Facebook page:  Sicilian Sisters Travel.        

You can also email us at siciliansisterstravel@gmail.com 

Thanks so much to these charming Sicilian Sisters for finding the time to talk to Sicily Inside and Out.

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Images c/o Sicilian Sisters, Sicily Inside and Out library, Flickr and Sicilian houses image from Tibor Janosi Mozes