Gillian whiten – SICILY May 2022
In years past Italy’s classic cities of Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan have attracted tourists from around the globe whilst Sicily quietly produced their wine, grew almonds and pistachios and dined on the finest Seafood. However, just prior to the Pandemic the word had got out about this Islands picturesque coastline, beautiful towns and numerous attractions.
I traveled to Sicily last when I was 11 but always wanted to re-visit and once restrictions lifted it seemed the obvious choice for a holiday that had it all……. beautiful towns perched on cliff sides, wonderful Beaches, archaeological sites, a vibrant agri-tourism culture and the famous Etna, one of the most active Volcanoes in the world. For one of my first post pandemic trips out I couldn’t think of anywhere with only a 2.3 hour flight that has so much to offer.
I had to choose where to go and considered some of the small beach resorts on the West Coast, perhaps combined with the lively Capital City of Palermo. I looked at the architectural towns of Ragusa and Syracuse in the South but in the end choose the hilltop city of Taormina which has a bit of everything,
Sicily and especially Taormina met my expectations with hot early summer sunshine, food you travel miles for and scenery that is breath taking. I really enjoyed by trips south to Syracuse, with its ancient ruins, and of course Etna, a living volcano.
I decided to have a car hire for the duration of the trip because of the flexibility it will offer and my husband and I used the car for all of our trips out from Taormina. However, I have to say car parking was difficult in all the places we visited and it may make sense to take a transfer from the airport to hotel and book excursions to visit all the attractions. I suppose it depends very much on what you prefer.
We drove to Etna, which actually erupted that evening, causing quite a stir with locals and holiday makers alike. Etna is always busy and the cable car up to the top is approximately 30 Euros per person. You do need to dress for the cold as the temperature is around the zero degrees mark or lower, expect queues, but these do move quickly and it is well worth the wait.
A visit to Etna takes around 90 minutes to drive, but for anyone that doesn’t want to take their life in their hands with the Sicilians driving, excursions are easily booked through the hotel on arrival.
We also visited the wonderful Alcantara Gorges which is a botanical and geological park. This was a super day and the walk around the Gorges is both peaceful and beautiful….and well worth a visit.
A visit to the beautiful cities of Messina and Syracuse makes for the most beautiful days out with Churches, town squares and Piazzas…again parking is a struggle so these are best booked as a tour.
One of the highlights of the trip was the hotel and the warmth showed to us from the staff. Can you believe they even paid a parking ticket for us?
I booked through Prestige Holidays and the Hotel Villa Ducale http://www.villaducale.com/en/ is a small luxury boutique hotel and is perched above the old centre of Taormina, boasting what has to be the most incredible views across the Sea and magnificent Mount Etna. It does have a very intimate environment and the staff are accommodating and so friendly and nothing is too much trouble.
The Junior Suite room had a wonderful patio with 2 large loungers, a table and chairs and the most stunning views. A wonderful airy room with eclectic décor which was both charming and restful. The outlook is ultimately one of the most unique selling points for this property without being stuffy and imposing.
Their typical Sicilian Breakfast was taken in the restaurant with a vista that changes daily according to the light. This was a mix of wonderful pastries and cakes, all hand-made, cheeses, yoghurts, and a plethora of fruit and jams to compliment the freshly cooked croissants.
The hotel does offer a shuttle bus that runs from the hotel to Taormina and back approximately 5 times a day down to the town and the same back. This is a real boost as I managed to get a Car Parking Ticket, as trying to park there is very difficult, then the shuttle bus is worth its weight in gold. This is great for going into the town for a lovely evening meal.
There was nothing not to like about Sicily and I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to you so I suggest its best you give me a call as I can make sure you book the right holiday. in the meantime, here are my top tips for the Taormina area
Sunsets at Castelmola…..a little village set above Taormina where the sunsets are stunning. Sitting with a glass of wine in one hand and an olive in the other – my idea of heaven.
When you go into Taormina, steer clear of the main restaurants on the town square by the Church. The cost of a cappuccino or a drink was double of those just along the way or down one of the little quaint cobbled side streets.
The Restaurant at the Villa Ducale is superb, the food is fresh and tasty and again I cannot imagine a better view for a delicious evening meal.
If you fancy a day on the beach…… visit Gardini Naxos, the next resort along from Taormina where they have a long, sandy beach. We used the Sayonara Beach Club for 2 days. 15 Euros per day for a lovely big umbrella and 2 beach chairs. They have changing rooms, a restaurant and will deliver drinks and food to your bed chair! We even had a massage on the beach was a lovely treat