Shopping and Crafts
Here’s a quick tour of shopping crafts in Sicily.
It's easy to find old artisan workshops in Sicily, the custodians of traditions handed down from generation to generation: for example, ancient crafts like the processing of obsidian are still practised on Lipari in the Aeolian Islands, and on the island of Pantelleria. This ancient and fascinating volcanic glass, used to make sharp weapons in ancient times, is today turned into highly-prized jewellery and small decorative objects on this wonderful island.
Trapani and the surrounding area have a precious, unique coral: artisans engaged in processing this gem make jewels and objects with very specific shapes, carrying on a centuries-old tradition. In Trapani itself, the Museo Pepoli holds an invaluable, ancient collection which shows it in all its glory.
Gold is also red in Sciacca, in the province of Agrigento! The techniques for processing Mediterranean coral have been handed down through time and are today interpreted in an exceptional way by the artisans of Sciacca, in a combination of modernity, Sicilian tradition with good taste.
You’ll find them in Palermo, Catania, Siracusa, and pretty much all over the island: Sicilian puppets. These marionettes depict knights from the Carolingian cycle, the heroes of Sicilian Puppet Theatre, which is listed in UNESCO’s list of oral and intangible cultural heritage.
Sicilian artistic craftwork includes the celebrated, very elegant ceramics of Caltagirone, near Catania. They’re so closely linked with this Sicilian town that they’re actually the origin of its name (Qal’at al Ghiran, in Arabic, means “Fortress of the Vases”). There are myriads of small shops and workshops in this small town’s alleys, and there are beautiful vases, plates and tiles for sale, plus decorations, statues and candlesticks, and much more besides. The Museo Regionale della Ceramica is also definitely worth a visit, with its unique, extensive collection of Caltagirone’s artistic ceramics, from the 4th millennium BC to the contemporary era.
Next, there’s Erice, in the province of Trapani, where the ancient and fascinating art of rug making still continues. In the past, many women actually owned looms and created veritable masterpieces from small pieces of cloth and coloured scraps in their own homes. Today, you can still buy really colourful ones in a wide variety of sizes.
In Santo Stefano di Camastra, and in the small coastal villages which connect Palermo with Messina, you’ll find some really famous ceramics.
It’s pleasant to walk through this sunny town’s crowded streets and colourful shops and admire the decorated lava inlays and ornate fountains all around you, and the beautiful majolica tiles on its walls. The city’s Museo della Ceramica also has an interesting collection on show at Palazzo Trabia.
Palermo, a stone’s throw from the Cathedral, there’s the Mercato delle Pulci. This can be reached on foot from almost any point in the city centre. This market, located among artisans working in sheet-metal workshops, is a real treasure trove. The antiques market is both a local and a national one and offers items and furniture at attractive prices. You can also find more recent pieces, both vintage and modern. On Sundays, a good alternative is the flea market in Piazza Marina.
For those who are more interested in fashion and the latest trends, the big cities like Palermo and Catania, plus Siracusa, Ragusa and Taormina in the area around Messina, have exiting offers on purchases related to fashion: there are boutiques, single-brand shops, perfumeries and workshops of young stylists scattered throughout their most elegant streets.
In the middle of Sicily, in Dittaino in the province of Enna, you’ll find shops of the best Italian and international brands.
Food and wine deserve a section all to themselves. As well as the delights of street food (with arancini* in pole position), there are hundreds of Sicilian specialties enjoyed worldwide which can be purchased in specialised workshops or stores. There’s Cassata, cannoli, chocolate from Modica, biscuits from Monreale, genovesi pastries from Erice, frutta martorana (marzipan sweets), mostarda di fichi d’India a prickly pear preserve), pistacchios from Bronte, biscuits from Castelbuono and black bread from Castelvetrano, plus granite and Sicilian wines. These are just a few of the many delicacies. Original flavours which manage to convey something of the island’s soul, ideal for taking back home!
Looking for the perfect souvenir? Here are a few ideas for you!