Last year on Easter I was taking a last-minute flight to Palermo, the largest city in the Italian island of Sicily. As it is almost a year since I’ve been there and it was my first trip just for pleasure after the pandemic, I want to celebrate the lessons I learned while traveling by sharing with you some wellness tips related to lifestyle, beauty, and food that I learned from Sicilians.
Also, I will fill this text with some photos taken during the trip, in care you are also wandering what can you visit in Palermo, Sicily
Social wellness lessons learned while traveling in Sicily
Always express your positive feelings
Probably the most inspiring moment I witnessed in Sicily was while ordering a gelato. The shop was a family business, and the salesman saw his wife coming near him. So, he looked at her with an affection that you could almost touch in the air, and he told her “Ciao mi amore. Ti amo!”. They were both past their 60s based on their looks, yet while I was eating my gelato, I witnessed a love so strong that it could have been just as well the first day of their marriage. I envied the strength of their connection, that passed so gracefully the test of time.
While in Palermo, I learned that Sicilians have such great relationships with all members of their families because they always express their positive feelings like love, appreciation, gratitude, excitement, etc. They are not afraid to speak their minds and put their hearts on the sleeve.
At the same time, their “fights” usually end with optimism and peace. By expressing their feelings all the time, they somehow managed not to put so much weight on the ones that hurt their well-being. Keeping our feelings inside us, without getting them out there into the world, makes it harder for us to let go of the negative ones, such as anger, fury, hate, envy, jealousy, etc. And this affects our wellness.
Therefore, the first wellness lesson learned while traveling in Sicily is to let the people around you know how much you love them. Thank them for being around you. Show them kindness. Share their joy. Spread your happiness with them. And do not keep the negative feelings inside you when the occur. Let these negative feelings out as soon as possible. This way they will fade even faster than they occurred. And you will feel less stressed and more in touch with your inner self.
Use your body language
Have you ever struggled expressing your thoughts to someone else? Or making them realise the intensity of your feelings? In Sicily I learned the secret to never be in one of those two situations again. The secret is body language, especially hand gestures.
There are two secrets in using them. First, the larger the space you extend your hands to, the strongest your feelings are. Secondly, the fastest you move your fingers, the more excited or impatient you are. Just think how you would suggest just with gestures to someone to slow down. Or that their request is unreasonable.
Facial expressions can be misleading, but body language and hand gestures in particular are the foolproof method of expressing what is inside your mind and soul. And they will help you feel more optimistic.
Material possessions are meant to be used, not kept in glass case
I am not sure Italians are actually aware they are teaching others this lesson or even that they do not value their material possessions enough. However, I learned this lesson while watching their cars. I don’t think I ever saw during the 5 days spent in Palermo a single car without a scratch, dent, damaged, or chipped paint. At the same time, I almost never saw a car with one of those marks in Germany and in my country, they are a rarity.
My mother loved her first car so much that she spent at least 15-30 minutes after each longer trip to vacuum its inside. And another hour per week she left it at a local car washing service to be cleaned manually both inside and outside. I think she might have loved the car more than she loved herself. Until she had a car accident caused by another driver and that completely ruined the trunk to the point it was too expensive to repair it.
My grandma cannot throw away anything or use anything she thinks is valuable. She still has even today some less common and slightly more expensive chocolate I bought her a few years ago. It is well past the expiration date, and she had never tasted it. She wants to keep it for good.
Material possessions come and go. I will take the Sicilian approach to them and use them fully while I can still do that. My social and emotional wellbeing is significantly higher when using this approach to material things surrounding me.
Apparent chaos can have its own internal order
Have you ever seen traffic in Sicily? After only a few minutes I was almost certain I would not be able to survive for five days in Palermo without being involved in a car accident. And I will never have enough courage be a driver there. There is even an entire TripAdvisor forum top just on Sicilian traffic and why it is so bad.
Sicilian traffic is so chaotic and aggressive. Drivers often cross on red light or simply ignore traffic laws. Also, they go with their cars even through the narrowest streets possible, where there is barely enough space for the car windows. If a pedestrian is also on this street, there would not be enough space for both (the car or the person) to cross at the same time.
Still, in five days I saw no car accident. And no traffic jams. This chaotic driving style is making traffic a nonexisting problem.
The same thing can be seen in other aspects of our lives. For me, it is always present in the way I am organizing the things in my home. It seems like a general chaos most of the time, but in this chaos, I find everything fast. After tidying up, I struggle finding the things I need. Chaos can be sometimes only a mask of order.
Time is relative, and this is not a bad thing
People in Sicily have a relaxed and flexible approach to time. Which is something I always struggle with when I visit Latin countries, because I am obsessed with being punctual. Yet, there were a few situations in which I saw the benefit of this relationship with time.
First situation is during lunch and dinner. They spend so much time at the table, that they get to completely savour the meal. Mindful eating is a general rule in Italy.
And the other one that I actually enjoyed was the public transport. Time schedule is so relative for busses, that they can be even one hour late or early. And some of them must be waited for in the street and signed to stop, otherwise they will just pass by you. On the first day, I was really annoyed with this aspect because I was very tired and had to wait for a second bus. The first one didn’t stop at the station, and the second one arrived around 40 minutes later than the scheduled time. In the next four days, instead of waiting for the bus I took the fastest option of walking. And this was great for my health and for my general state of well-being. I think this might be one of the reasons why I saw almost no over-weight person in Sicily.
My conclusion after the trip to Palermo is that the Sicilians relative perspective regarding time is a miraculous “ingredient” for improving physical, emotional, social, and spiritual wellness all at once.
Personal and environmental beauty wellness lessons learned while traveling in Sicily
Always dress up
While being in Sicily I saw almost no man not wearing a suit. And if they did not wear a suit, they wear an elegant shirt. And their skin was amazing, which is a sign of very good skincare routine.
During the day, I was so tired of visiting and walking, and I was wearing my sneakers and my most comfortable jeans. At the same time, almost all local women were wearing very high shoe heels and dresses or skirts. I gave up wearing the clothes in my luggage and went shopping on the first evening because I felt too informally dressed for the streets. All this while I was wearing clothes that are considered semi-formal at home.
However, I must say I found Italian fashion and style fascinating, inspiring, and motivating. I felt a cultural pressure to keep up with the latest trends, but at the same time I felt inspired to improve myself in this aspect. Locals dressed up not only because it was the social norm but also because it was the best means of expressing their individuality and creativity. And I was so sorry for not using fashion myself enough in this way too. Traveling thus improved significantly my social wellness.
If you ever thought fashion is just another thing you should not worry about, pay a visit to any place in Italy. You will be wowed by the style of locals. And you will rethink your vision about clothes and your general look when going outside. Which will boost your self confidence in time and your emotional wellness.
There can be beauty in everything if you change your perspective
This point occurred to me while I was thinking about the narrow streets between high old buildings from Palermo. They look so beautiful when admiring them as a whole. However, when looking closely, at each window there are personal clothes hanging to dry, and sometimes even personal lingerie. Most window tarps were old, dusty, and broken. And the buildings’ structures and general appearance look like the possibility of falling during an earthquake is high.. In this general state of decay at a small scale, the bigger scale still looks beautiful. I cannot imagine Sicily without those buildings and without those tarpaulins at the windows.
Every time I think of this type of view, I remember how changing the perspective can bring beauty to surface even in the worse context. My emotional and spiritual wellness is depending on this view of the world, and I am grateful for traveling to Sicily and this concrete example.
Appearances can be deceiving
I don’t think I had ever seen more garbage on the streets than in Sicily. I saw people cleaning the streets in the morning, and less than one hour later they looked exactly the same. The street markets that are so famous in Sicily are also some of the most unhygienic places I had ever seen.
Yet, the food from the Sicilian market is one of the best you will find on the island. The interiors of the buildings have amazing designs. The customer service is amazing.
Thus, exterior appearances can indeed be deceiving, and seeing the whole picture before forming an opinion can save you from misplaced prejudices and wrong judgement of situations. This is another thing I am trying to follow in my daily life and for which I am grateful to Palermo for reminding me during my visit.
Healthy (and not so healthy, but delicious) foods for your general wellness discovered while traveling in Sicily
The relationship Italians have with food can improve both your physical and emotional wellness, as they pay a strong attention to flavours, quality of ingredients, healthy food combinations, and taste, while also cultivating a relationship with the food through the mean of mindful eating.
The best desserts are not made of chocolate
I admit. I am a foodie. More specifically, a dessert lover. While writing this article and going through some photos taken in Italy, I remember about their desserts, especially cannoli. And OMG, I looooove cannoli. My second favourite thing to eat after sweets is cheese and mixing both of them together in such a perfect desert is not a tentation that I can resist. So I ordered some cannoli from a local Italian restaurant with a home-delivery app. One classic, one with pistachio, and one Gianduia (which has extra hazelnut in its filling). I couldn’t decide on one, so now I have to call now my brother and my boyfriend to come visit me and help finish them.
In case you do not know what cannoli is, it is a traditional desert from Sicily made of a pastry tube filled with a cream usually made with ricotta cheese and mascarpone. It should not be served warm, but at room temperature or cold, and this is the reason why you will not find it in summer months to buy.
But cannoli are not the only amazing desert they have. Italian gelato is worldwide famous. And I say gelato instead of ice cream because Italian gelato has a much denser and softer texture, and it has less milk among ingredients. It worth mentioning granita as well, which is a fruit puree with a texture somewhere between a lemonade and an ice-cream.
So be aware of the strong possibility of gaining weight while visiting Sicily. Italians create amazing desserts. And traditional desserts can boost your emotional wellness while traveling.
Best pizza is Margherita
This is not a myth. Margherita is the best pizza you can eat while in Italy, regardless of where you go. The combination of simplicity, tradition, quality ingredients, and authenticity make it the best pizza you can get. For me, a bonus point is also that it has no meat, as I am a vegetarian.
At home I was used with fluffy, thick pizza crust that all restaurants sell. I was surprised in Sicily to see they only serve really thin and crispy crust for their pizzas. I couldn’t even pick it up in my hand without the slice falling apart. But the flavour was amazing. In its simple recipe which contains only three ingredients (mozzarella, tomato sauce, and fresh basil), Margherita makes every ingredient shine. It is full of flavors and has a creamy, rich texture. Since eating it in Sicily, it became my favourite pizza flavour. And I must say it is also probably the healthiest pizza you can find out there.
Conclusion – Wellness traveling in Sicily
Wellness is a state of mind. It starts with your everyday thoughts and choices. Wellness traveling can be the solution to broaden your mind and to see things from a different perspective. This is what happened to me during my trip in Palermo, Sicily. Among the wellness tips I learned from Italians probably the most important ones are trying to always see things from multiple perspectives, being flexible with rules and time, and always expressing my feelings. All those lessons will certainly have an impact on my physical, emotional, social, mental, and environmental wellness.
What do you think about Palermo and Sicily? Had you ever visited Southern Italy? Please let me know your opinion on this article and the wellness lessons you learned from your traveling experiences in the comments below. And do not forget to subscribe for some exclusive content and discounts.