I always assumed people romanticised Italy; there is no way a country can host that much history, culture, and natural beauty without any drawbacks other than excessive tourism. However, in the brief time I spent in Sicily and Puglia in the summer of 2021, I was proven wrong.

My uncle, having just moved near Palermo, invited me and my siblings to visit. The train from Rome to Palermo was impressive enough, yet stepping out of the car into the rural town of Buseto Palizzolo presented a scene right out of a movie.

The place we stayed at was hosted by the most welcoming people I had ever met. The image below shows the last breakfast we shared before moving on; it was like having four grandparents constantly worrying whether we had eaten enough.

We spent days walking the countryside, following dirt road after dirt road, passing one vineyard after another. The only signs of technology were abandoned telephone poles and sparkling wind turbines peeking over the rolling hills. Ruins of baglios, ancient fortified communes, dot the fields of Trappani, basking in the golden afternoon light.

We spent some time in Cretto di Burri, which i am surprised does not get much attention. An ancient town called Gibellina, destroyed in the late 60s by an earthquake, was filled in by concrete save for the roads, which now provide visitors with a walkway through the polylithic landscape. Named after the artist that conceived the Cretto, the white concrete spans nearly 85,000 square meters, bringing to mind thoughts of desolation, introspection, and a sort of tension.

Nearby, the ghost town of Poggioreale, abandoned after the same earthquake, lies untouched, save by time and the elements, a testament to the fate of Gibellina had it not been for one artist’s dream to create a concrete testament to the ruined town. All in all, we saw just other people on that visit.

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After a week we left Sicily for the mainland. Twenty-four hours in Napoli then we headed east for the region of Puglia.

Although we stayed in Ceglie Messapica, we travelled all over the south of the ‘heel’ of Italy, making the most of our time there. Town after town, beach after beach, I came to realise that my expectations had been completely wrong. While, of course, there were a number of tourists, at the end of the day, they were not as many as I expected, whether due to the pandemic or else.

Amazing sights, even better food, and a population that is extremely warm and friendly. I’d urge anyone reading not to underestimate Italy as I had.

All images were made on a Leica M4 with the compact and versatile Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2.5 PII on ILFORD HP5 PLUS.

~ Simón

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Simón Ducos

Simón is a photographer based in the U.A.E., although he is currently travelling and working on personal projects. He began using film in 2017.

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  1. Wonderful story and images. But, how did you get a Leica to work with a Voigtlander lens? My understanding was that the camera would refuse to fire unless a Leica lens was on it. 😊😊😊

    1. Hi Ken. M-mount Leicas such as the M4 can take any M-mount lens, of which Voigtlander, Zeiss, and several other companies make buckets of different options for!

  2. Simon,
    You has the best kit for your Italian sojourn. Totally manual, compact and the logical extension of the Leica concept. Grab ‘n go! We were in Northern Italy in 2016. It had to be my favorite vacation of all time. I carried my M4-P, 35mm Summicron, an exposure meter & a small journal. I needed nothing else. We were treated to good company, excellent food & wine, and timeless beauty. The people just know how to navigate everyday living.