Travel advice: a Sicilian reading list

Hello friend,

I’m gradually working through your travel questions about Sicily. It’s taking me a while but I’m loving it.

Be sure to send any of your general questions to:

Don’t expect detailed travel itineraries, lets just keep it general. I’m happy to point you in the right direction if you are planning a trip.

Here’s this weeks query.

Hello Rochelle,

I came across your site while scrolling for information on travelling in Sicily. I’ll be there in a month – travelling by car with my husband. I’ve read Norwich and The Leopard, but I am looking for more about contemporary culture and life in Sicily—any suggestions? I like out-of-the-way-off-the-beaten-path things to do and see, so I’m open to any recommendations you might have.

Thanks! I look forward to reading more of your writing/work.


Hello C.,

Thanks so much for your question. I’m happy you asked me about reading more about Sicily. Since I am a massive bookworm, this question is perfect for me to answer.
I may have read most things written about Sicily or by Sicilian authors, as Sicily has been my obsession for over two decades.

I have an extensive Sicilian reading list that I am updating for my web page, which I hope you look at once it is done.

But I’ll give you a few general suggestions since you are after something more contemporary.

I always recommend Andrew and Suzanne Edwards‘s great general guide, Sicily: A literary guide, as a great place to start as it takes you through the island through its contemporary writers and offers many insights for visitors.

Joseph Farrell’s Sicily cultural history is a general introduction to Sicily’s history and culture for first-time visitors. It’s like a mixture of a travel guide and general history. Farrell is an academic, so his book is thoroughly researched and rich in information. Yet the writing style of Sicily a cultural history is anything but dry and educational; it is an effortless read. Generally, it is a good read and takes you effortlessly through Sicily’s complex and long-winded history.

Jeremy Dummett’s books Syracuse: City of Legends and Palermo City of Kings: the heart of Sicily are two wonderfully in-depth history books about these two specific Sicilian cities if you are interested in this kind of thing. While his books focus on Palermo and Syracuse, their histories are very much a reflection of the entire island’s story. I interviewed Dummett a few years ago, so go over and look at our interview.

I think Sandra Benjamin Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History is the best in-depth and complete academic history book about Sicily. Once again, if you are interested in history, Benjamin is an academic without being too difficult to follow. She does a fantastic job telling the story of Sicily’s rich and immense history. It is a long read, but I found it all thoroughly enjoyable.

John Keahey. Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean is a remarkable journey through contemporary Sicily. I think this book is precisely what you might be looking for. It is an insightful, observant and informative journey through modern Sicily.

John Keahey is an American journalist passionate about the Italian peninsula, he has written extensively about Italy, and his journalistic storytelling approach makes his books all beautiful experiences to read.

Keahey has fallen in love with Sicily so much that he has written a second book entitled Sicilian Splendors: discovering the secret places that speak to the heart, which takes us a little bit off the beaten path. He reveals his little hidden gems around the island.

I recommend his Italian-themed books; his writing is a joy to read. I spoke to Keahey a few years ago; look at the interview here for more.

My favourite travel memoirs are those by Theresa Maggio: Mattanza: Love and Death in the Sea of Sicily and The Stone Boudoir: Travels Through the Hidden Villages of Sicily. I think they might be out of print, but you could try to see if they are available in your local library.

I love how Maggio writes about Sicily, and her connection to the island is very personal.

I was so impressed with the precise and poetic writing style that I interviewed with her a few years ago; read more about this journalist, Italo American and lover of Sicily here.

Brian Johnston A summer in Sicily is a fun little travel book showing off his experience visiting Sicily over one summer with a friend.

He is a very experienced travel writer, and his insights and observations about Sicily are fascinating and definitely on point.

I did a brief interview with him a while back, so take a look if you are interested, here.

Since you mentioned you have read the Leopard, I recommend David Gilmore‘s biography of Giuseppe di Lampedusa. It is a beautiful read and gives you great insight into the novel’s background: The Last Leopard: A life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

A classic read about Sicilian politics and the mafia has to be Peter Rob’s Midnight in Sicily, it’s a little dated now, but it still is a fantastic read. Rob captures the complex history and gritty, decadent nature of Palermo.

If you can get a hold of an English translation of Sicilian writer Roberto Alajmo‘s loving portrait of his native Palermo, also titled Palermo. It is full of insights into contemporary Sicily and is an honest and intimate depiction of the Sicilian capital.

As for Sicilian authors in translation, you must read Leonardo Sciascia; take a look at the astounding political thriller and the real story of The Moro Affair, and his short story collections Sicilian Uncles and The dark wine sea will take you through Sicilian folklore, language and distinct perspective

And, of course, feel free to read anything by Andrea Camilleri; he was behind the Inspector Montalbano series, and his love of Sicilian dialect and understanding of Sicilian ‘dolce vita’ perspective makes his Sicilian-themed books a joy to read.

Camilleri started writing for theatre and t.v, so his writing has an excellent command of storytelling; he was an undeniable master of the novel form and a very proud Sicilian who was able to showcase the theatrical nature of Sicily.

Well, these are some suggestions off the top of my head. Be sure to subscribe to my blog or see my reading list later.

Also, I have just started a weekly newsletter from Sicily, where I share a little post card from the island with other random things that come into my mind; there is a free version if you are interested. Click here.

I hope this is helpful, and enjoy your trip.
Buon Viaggio
Regards from

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