A Guide To Sicily’s Hidden Gems, As Told By Italian Electronic Duo Mathame

After two very long years of travel restrictions and border closures, travel to Europe is truly back in full force — just in time for our Fall Travel Hot List (check last year’s edition here)! In the initial days of the pandemic, Italy was one of the countries hit the hardest by Covid-19 but since June of this year, the borders have opened without restrictions. Meaning even if you want to hit the peninsula for just a few days between travels, you can do so without the need to quarantine upon arrival or take a single Covid test. And as a result of these loosened restrictions along with flights dropping like crazy this fall, traveling through Europe in general and Italy in specifc is poised to be very big this year.

Italy is full of cities and small villages worth visiting — Rome, Venice and Milan come to mind — but few offer as condensed an experience as Sicily. Great beaches, beautiful geography, ancient ruins, and amazing food. Sicily has everything you’d hope to find on the mainland all packed into 9,927 square miles. But if you’re going to visit the island off the tip of the boot, you’re going to need some great recommendations to get your journey started.

To help provide a well-informed guide, we hit locals who know the area well, electronic duo Mathame. Few artists make music as dreamy, textural, and of another world as these Italian electronic beatmakers. The duo, consisting of brothers Amedeo and Matteo Giovanelli, craft cinematic and moody electronic soundscapes that transport the listener through a world of icy arpeggiated synths, heavily treated vocals, and emotionally propulsive beats, best exemplified by their latest single, “Come For You.”

The duo cites their hometown, Sicily’s Mt. Etna, as a major source of inspiration for their sound, which makes total sense as Mathame makes music that is at times sparse before it explodes into something enchanting, moving, and highly emotional. I’ve never watched a volcano erupting, but if I did, I’d want the moment soundtracked by this band. We linked up with the brothers to learn more about Sicily’s hidden gems and get some travel suggestions for when you find yourself on the island.

Best Place In Sicily to grab a bite to eat?

La Vecchia Posta

In Sicily, food is the answer. But the Etna area is special because raw ingredients from the ground are filled with volcanic ash that is full of nutrients for vegetables. So imagine dope vegetables ready to be cooked — that’s why everything is so sweet and full of taste. If we are talking about meat and fish: for meat, the community of Etna had a very special way to cook meat, like wild pig of Etna, but the king is the fish: at the foot of Mount Etna.

Our favorite place is La Vecchia Posta, in Mascali, the best fish on the entire slope.

Best place to take in the sights/nature?

Valle del Bove

Nature, however, is the undisputed queen. On this side of Sicily, nature is not what you expect from a sea island, the volcano is another place. Moon landscape, forests, big rocks of lava, it’s one of the places in the world where you can ski and see the sea at the same time. The best places are Valle del Bove, the Craters, Nicolosi, and Linguagloss — where nature seems to disappear but is there pulsating with huge volcanic eruptions and snow at the same time.

These are actually mystical places where absence reveals the presence of something infinitely greater.

Best place in Sicily to grab a pizza

Delizi Del Palato

Sicily is about a different kind of pizza, very different from Neapolitan pizza. Here it is done with semolina, a substitute for wheat that is more strong and wild. So you will find different pizzas, fried pizzas, and a lot of versions of street food. On this side of Sicily, there are a lot of pizzerias but where we connect is Pizza Pino.

As every Italian knows, there is no way to judge the best pizza: it simply doesn’t exist. The best pizza for us is something really subjective. Usually, the best pizza is the one you eat every week, the one you’re most connected with. That’s why that pizzeria — next to our previous house — is the best in Sicily!

Best place to get lost and wander?

The Inland

There are so many places where you can get lost and wander. For example, the inland gives glimpses out of time and out of this world, dry desert and just a few villages, very similar to each other, with farms and flocks of cows.

You get lost there and you lose time, it seems to be frozen at the beginning of the century.

What is one thing people visiting Sicily have to experience?

Visit the Aeolian Islands

Absolutely, one thing to do is to visit the Aeolian Islands, a day but absolutely worth it, this is the place where the Mediterranean and volcanoes are in a unique and absolute setting. The hidden gem, on the other hand, is the Alcantara gorges, a river near the sea with rapids and Mexican cenote scenery, where you can have a full day’s adventure and rails very wild on the rapid.

Where are the best places to stay in the area and why?

An Agriturismo in Etna

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Claudia (@jclaudij)

To stay, instead of Taormina (a bit touristy), for a rawer experience, we would suggest a family-run agriturismo on the side of Eastern Etna, where you can relax watching the volcano and wait for the next eruption, experience great food and have a perfect sleep with the proverbial hospitality of a Sicilian Family. You will see, the hospitality here is a religion.

From morning to night, describe the perfect Sicily itinerary.

Living The Mt. Etna Lifestyle

A typical day would be to get up by the sea, enjoy the sylvan beach of Calatabiano, San Marco, and then have a lunch of fresh fish directly from the fish market. Get some rest at the sea and then in the afternoon, go hike to Mount Etna with your cameras and video equipment. You will have an incredible experience but you will need a local guide (there are many) that can bring you to the next level of the hiking session. And then, the Etna tour will make you hungry, so, going down from the craters, stop in the evening and refresh yourself with the family cuisine of Etna’s agriturismi, where you can sleep under the starry sky.