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Culture Shock: Ten Unexpected Experiences In Sicily

By Edited Nov 26, 2016 1 8

There are many things that tourists tend to associate with Sicily; the most common are cute boys, designer clothes, and luxurious beaches. Sicily does happen to have those, but as it usually is in a new place, there’s more than meets the eye. If you are planning on visiting, here are some things to think about.

Raining Sand

Sicily sits as the bottom of the boot of Italy, just above the Tropic of Cancer. On average, the temperature raises to above eighty degrees through out the summer, falling to the fifties in the winter and spring. The rain rarely falls in the summer, but when the rain does fall, the air is musky and warm, all the while being cool and refreshing. During the spring, sand is often carried over from the Northern tip of Africa and falls with the rain. Every surface is then slightly dusted with orange, chalk-like sand, some surfaces being dustier than others.

Rocky Beaches

Sicily has many beaches, some of which have sand, while others have tiny rocks that are frequently lapped at by salty water. The rocks that sit just off the coast are the center of attention: The rocks, covered in moss and filled with holes and crevices, are easily climbed. Many climb the rocks and manage to meet at the top, only to jump just moments later: rejoicing in the feeling of cool wind rushing through their hair until they are swallowed by water once more. But one might need to be careful which beach they go to: some beaches are like a majority of state side beaches that require clothing, while others allow it’s tourists to strip themselves of all restraints and enjoy the sun.

Umbrella Girls

The temperatures, as stated earlier, can rise fairly high and the heat tends to be set on high intensity, making the fair ladies on the side of the road sit under big beach umbrellas, flaunting all they have to offer. But these ladies aren’t just sitting on the road as eye candy: they’re really escorts referred to as umbrella girls by a majority of the American tourist population. They sit on the sides of all roads, from the main roads to the hidden back roads that Sicily seems to be laden with. It would pay to be extremely careful about who you park next to, because some of the cars house these ladies and their guests. 

Body Odor

There is many a man in Italy who believes in strength in smell. Body odor, commonly referred to as BO is found strong in the streets of Sicily due to extreme heat and the belief that the ability to withstand these odors is manly.

Mismatched Buildings

The streets are fairly busy through out the day and the buildings are stacked up close together down narrow avenues and roads. The buildings and apartments that stand side by side do not match one another in color, style, or size: some buildings use rod-iron gates as doors and others use heavy wooden doors; some windows are round and clear, while others are geometrically shaped and translucent.

Mount Etna

Beyond theses Sicilian cities, is the magnificent volcano, Mount Etna. In the winter, the tip is covered in snow, seen from miles away; when the snow melts, the water carries down lava rock pieces that are a significant part of Sicilian history. In 1928, an eruption occurred that wiped out nearly every building in Mascali. Before that in 1669, one of the most devastating eruptions in Etna’s long history occurred, wiping out nearly ten villages, and destroying part of Catania. The story is told frequently and many shops carry statues and plaques made of lava rock as small pieces of memorabilia.

Tree & Field Burning

Miles upon miles of farmland are spread across Sicily, extending from coast to coast, touching the fields of many towns and cities. The fields are frequently burned to make soil richer and more felicitous to the plants.


Occasionally throughout the winter, small, round, chunks of ice fall from the clouds and splat against the ground in an odd pattern of plunks and plops. The hail is unexpected and falls in temperatures of even sixty degrees Fahrenheit, springing smiles from just about everyone.

Days Off & Shopping Malls & McDonald's

The Sicilian population often takes breaks throughout the day, closing down their shops for a few hours before reopening: and occasionally, they won’t even open due to unmentioned holidays. In Sicily, the day doesn’t start until the day is almost over. The night life is crazy: teenagers and adults stand laughing and talking without a care in the world, prancing through the streets merrily enjoying what life is granted to them. During the day, the markets are lined with booths that carry fresh vegetables and fruits; most of which are familiar, but there are some that you have most likely never even heard of. With the crops, there are also freshly cut and cleaned meats just waiting to be taken home, right next to the seasonings and clothing stands. But the most common place to find teenagers and some fashion friendly adults is the mall, but one thought to keep in mind about any shopping mall is the height of your car and parking: When you drive to the mall in your favorite truck, keep in mind which area of parking you want to go to; there is underground parking where the truck barely fits, or roof parking where your truck has to climb a narrow spiraling ramp to the top, the latter being extremely terrifying and not recommended. There is a reason Sicilians have smaller cars and it is clear in situations such as these. Many of the malls have McDonald's: yes, McDonald's has extended its reach to the ends of the earth and back. However, the malls also cater several café and shops of Sicilian delicacy. Many of the major stores, specifically furniture stores, require you to walk through the entire building in a preordained path that is a maze like construction, which just so happens to last for at least an hour depending on how fast your pace is.  


When taking a photo by the famous sites of Sicily, don’t be surprised to find several men posing behind you as if you were photographing them. While they may not think you're snapping photos of them, they will realize they’re going to be in the background and will pose to make sure they look good.

An After Thought

While there are some more extraordinary facts about Sicily that are not being mentioned, such as the symbol of Sicily or the great ruins, please keep in mind that these moments have been chosen due to the disbelief experienced when touring through Sicily.  



Dec 6, 2011 9:05pm
Wow - I've been to an awful lot of places, but I've never been to Sicily. Sounds like a great place to go. I'll put it on my list!
Dec 7, 2011 7:25am
You definitely should: Its really a blast.
Dec 7, 2011 2:22pm
It sounds great, but I could do without being manly if it means smelling the filth of others!
Dec 7, 2011 3:45pm
I've been to Sicily last summer (Trapani actually) and it was lovely. We didn't visit the Etna or anything, but it was such a wonderful experience! The cities, the outer lands around Palermo, it was amazing.
Dec 7, 2011 6:19pm
Sicily is definitely an amazing place; I'd go again in a heart beat.. If i could. :) Palermo was one of my favorites right next to Cefalu and Catania.
Dec 16, 2011 1:13am
Raining sand sounds like an interesting experience. I heard Sicily is a wonderful place.
Nov 8, 2012 5:15am
Having lived in Sicily, off and on, for the past twenty-plus years, I'd like to add to McGivneyC"s comments. From a male perspective, the girls are also "cute."

The umbrella girls typically are not Sicilian or Italian but, rather, Eastern Europeans and Africans who are enslaved into the sex trade by the Russian and other mafias. Be warned: having dealings with them is a violation of the UN's Trafficking Protocol and other international laws.

The furniture store mentioned can only be the IKEA, no other stores in Sicily use the "maze" alluded to.

The people here, for the most part, are warm and gregarious and have a high sense of community and a great pride of their heritage. The Sicilian language is spoken by the indigenous and its dialects change from town to town.

The sand in the rain from Northern African is called the, "scirocco" and I've seen the sand arrive without the rain on many occasions. I once collected a pickle jar half-full of the orange sand from my small balcony without any rain. Though typically occurring in March and November, There was once a sirocco in mid-July that brought an intensely hot wind the likes of which no one had ever experienced before. It was like standing in front of a huge hair dryer and the temperature rose to 120 degrees F.

Feb 7, 2013 11:13pm
What you say is very true! However, the furniture store was not an IKEA, i have been to one in the states and its very similar to the one i went to. Not sure if the store adopted IKEA's maze like design or not, but it most certainly was not an IKEA. :) Never experienced the hot winds you described at the end, but 120 degrees sounds miserable at best. I definitely loved the friendliness of the Sicilian culture! Thanks for the input! :)
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