Sicilian Places' staff explore some of the best bits of this island in the Med.
Earlier this month, Gill; our Trade Relations Manager went on a trip to Sicily with some of the ladies in Commercial and Reservations. Here’s an account of her whirlwind five days, and some of the highlights of their trip. You never know, it may inspire your very own holiday to Sicily this summer.
Pulling away from the car hire depot in Catania, I’m reminded of how colourful and stylish the Sicilians can be as we pass two women styled within an inch of their lives in their carefully colour co-ordinated outfits and accessories. This flair and grace is prominent throughout the island not only from its people, but the spectacular architecture and décor that visitors flock to see.
We were lucky enough to stay at the 5* Deluxe Grand Hotel Atlantis Bay in Taormina. Located in Baia delle Sirene, it was the perfect setting overlooking the calm bay with turquoise water that you can only dream of. Breakfast was enjoyed overlooking this each morning which went wonderfully with our freshly baked pastries and fruit salad!
Above: Gill & Joanne about to indulge in a tasty breakfast
There are plenty of restaurants and hotels to choose from in this area but we chose Ristorante Castellucio, where we enjoyed a fabulous meal in which ended with us being serenaded by some Sicilian guitarists.
The main town of Taormina is located on the top of the cliff which can be reached by cable car or a short taxi ride. This beautiful historic town has plenty to offer visitors with its cobbled streets and array of boutiques, restaurants, cafes and hotels - not to mention the remains of the Greek Theatre which is a must see at only €10 per person.
Above: The Greek Theatre in Taormina
Mount Etna was present throughout our whole trip, dominating the skyline but no more so than when we visited it. As the largest active volcano in Europe I felt a mixture of excitement and fear as we drove round the volcano. I asked our guide what would happen if it erupted ‘right now’. ‘It’s okay’ he said, ‘I’ll just call my mate with a helicopter!’.
We drove up to just below the main crater where suddenly you go from winding roads to a mini resort with a shop, restaurant and café and lots of people eager to hike up the volcano. We opted to take the easier walk around a small crater at about 2000 metres above the sea level, which gives incredible panoramic views of the Ionian coastline. There is a harder alternative route but having seen people slowly clambering up, we decided against it.
Above: Joanne, Lydia, Gill and Stacey about to ascend Mount Etna.
Here's a personal snippet from Joanne, Sicily Product Executive: “Ready with our comfortable shoes, water and a jacket we were collected by our tour guide at 9am excited for our trip up Etna. The drive started with us going through the local villages from Taormina and making two stops on the way. One was at Zafferana Etnea where we could take some beautiful photos of the church with the volcano behind, we picked the perfect day as we had clear blue skies making Etna look amazing with the mist on top. After a brief stop here we were lucky enough to be recommended a local family run honey farm where we all made a purchase. We have never seen so many types of different honey! Continuing with the drive along the windy roads we were wowed with the stunning views looking over Sicily, we made a ‘selfie stop’ to capture Mount Etna behind us whilst it was still in full view… once we arrived at the top we walked around the crater looking at the different colours of rock created when lava has erupted in the past. We were so shocked as the panorama was HUGE! Overall the half day tour was amazing, it is something we highly recommend.”
As with all excursions, a trip to Mount Etna can be organised easily through your hotel during your holiday and we would highly recommend it.
As well as visiting lots of stunning hotels and self-catering villas, we visited Modica, the ‘home to a thousand churches’ or so we were told. To me, this pretty town summed up exactly how I expected Sicily to be. Cobbled streets lined with apartments and houses clinging to the cliffside creating an impressive sight looking down into a valley of beige baroque architecture. It really is a beautiful sight and well worth a visit.
Above: view over the rooftops of Modica
Dating back to the 12th Century and formally a monastery amongst other things, Eremo Della Giubiliana is an intimate 5* Deluxe hotel. Its heritage remains intact with original features and artefacts which are featured throughout the hotel. With only 19 rooms, a personal service and rich history, we immediately fell in love with this hotel (it wasn’t hard). The hotel has a certain charm about it as do the staff. They couldn’t be more helpful and passionate about the hotel and have created an ambience that money can’t buy.
To top it off, we were invited to take part in a cookery class. Cannoli, a popular Italian desert, was our challenge. Armed with an apron and a lot of enthusiasm we set to work, following carefully what we were shown by our Sicilian chef. It was a real eye opener in terms of what goes in to making such a common desert, but I’m pleased to say that the Cannoli was a success! We thoroughly enjoyed devouring the end result but thinking back, the chef didn’t have one….I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything though right?
Above: the making of, and finished Cannoli creations!
Our last few nights were spent at the 5* Grand Hotel Minareto. This hotel really does have it all. A beautiful bay for the beach lovers which is part of the Plemmerio Marine Reserve, plus a great pool area and spa to relax in.
The jewel in the crown is the view across the water of Ortigia and Mount Etna beyond. It is spectacular, and the fact that you can get a water taxi from the hotel to Ortigia is even better. You can enjoy this view from one of the hotel’s several terraces but my favourite place had to be from one of the Jacuzzis which lit up at night. It would make the perfect romantic setting.
By the time we left we were head over heels in love. It’s a great property to use as a base to explore this magnificent region but also gives you everything you could wish for from a hotel. I would go back here in a flash!
You can book your very own holiday to Sicily with the destination specialists, Sicilian Places.
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