Gibraltar’s English charm
Gibraltar offers a “quirky blend of Anglo tradition, Andalusian ease, and small-town bonding,” said Spud Hilton in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Though the 21.5-square-mile peninsula at the mouth of the Mediterranean is geographically connected to Spain, it remains one of the last outposts of the British Empire. That heritage is “slathered liberally across the landscape like Marmite on toast,” from its red double-decker buses to streets with names like Parliament Lane and Winston Churchill Avenue. I ate steak-and-ale pie at the oldest of Gibraltar’s 360 pubs, Star Bar, where a Union Jack was draped from the ceiling. At the Angry Friar, a “hotel-room-size pub,” I sampled British brews. Then it was time to explore Gibraltar’s limestone peaks, especially the Upper Rock. It “juts tooth-like from the sea,” and from the top—though it’s only 1,400 feet up—you can see clear across to Africa.
Sicily’s cleaned-up retreats
Guests can get “a frisson of horror and excitement, overnighting in places filled with ghosts” of Sicily’s criminal past, said Joshua Hammer in The New York Times. Since 1996, the Italian government has “peacefully repurposed” former Mafia hideaways into tourist properties. The 17th-century farmhouse now known as the Agriturismo Portella della Ginestra once belonged to Bernardo Brusca, “the capo of one of Sicily’s most brutal crime families.” Brusca may have hidden there, amid the green meadows of the Jato Valley, plotting his crimes. Now, this “two-story villa of beige stucco and stone” is the center of an organic farming commune. A nearby inn was once the dwelling of the “Sicilian boss of bosses,” Salvatore Riina. “Perched on a rise over cactus groves and stony meadows,” the stone farmhouse features a 70-person dining room serving local fare.