Lucia, from Italy, describes memories of her holiday with friends in Sicily, and the hidden gems they found along the way.
Inland views across Savoca
As you know, the most beautiful places are often hidden, and are waiting to be discovered as a hidden treasure; this is the case of one of the authentic pearls of Sicily – Savoca.
Savoca is a really small village in the North East of Sicily, which is 25km away from Taormina and only 4km away from the nearest beach. I had the chance to discover it thanks to a friend of mine, who is from Messina, 5 years ago after an afternoon spent along the beautiful beach of Ali Terme. This is another pleasant discovery in Sicily, where you can see amazing views of the Calabria region, and where I had my first thermal bath experience.
Views across Savoca, and down to the coast.
In fact, when I approached this beach, I was surprised first of all by the strong smell of the sulphur, because this small village, as it is stated in its name, is famous for the thermal baths and mineral springs. Secondly, I was surprised by how it was different from the beaches I am usually accustomed to; there weren’t sun umbrellas and loungers stuck one to each other like sardines, but you could relax on a paradise beach made up of pebbles, where you could lie in the sun on a beach towel, listening to the sea. The cold but crystal water of the Ionic sea was refreshing, where you can also do snorkelling and admire the rich population of the sea.
Although, don’t be afraid as this is not a desert beach, you can find families and groups of friends that between one bath to another can play beach volleyball in the volleyball court. Moreover, if you are hungry you can find nearby restaurants or cafes, where you can enjoy some typical Sicilian food, such as arancini. If you are thirsty you can try a refreshing granita, but to taste the flavour of the Sicilian lemons, as well as to refresh after a day spent in the downtown beach, you should go to Savoca for the special lemon granita.
Savoca is a destination that can attract people for different reasons. When my friends and I got there, I was immediately fascinated by the stunning views of the sea between the hills and by the layout of the village; made up of narrow streets framed by lush and colourful prickly pear cactus that in certain points made me think I was in the middle of the countryside.
The cactus that framed the road
Passing through one of Savoca’s alleys, first we chanced upon the Church of the Capuchin Monastery, a 16th-century building which inside preserves beautiful paintings, among which Madonna and the Baby among the angels with St. Francis e St. Clare stands out above the biggest altar. Then we went to the basement of the church, as we saw a trapdoor in the floor of the sacred building, thinking that there could be a crypt. We entered the basement through another door, and were surprised and a bit frightened as we didn’t see the tombs and/or gravestones we expected to see, but instead some mummies in their original clothes – stated to be the bodies of the monks and nobles of Savoca.
After leaving the church, we continued along the path we chose into the small village, and we ended up in the main square, Piazza Soffia, with a terrace overlooking the below countryside and sea. Here, a famous cafe is located, Bar Vitelli. At the beginning, we thought it was an old village café full of ivy, even if it was placed inside an ancient noble palace in Sicilian neoclassical style, belonging to the most important family of this village, Trimarchi. When we crossed the doorstep, we discovered we had entered the set of the The Godfather film, as the walls were full of pictures related to this film: this cafe was the place where Michael Corleone asked Apollonia's father to meet his daughter.
Bar Vitelli, in Piazza Soffia.
Furthermore, in Savoca you can also taste the special granita ca ‘ zzuccarata, the authentic handmade lemon served with traditional crisp biscuit topped with sesame seeds. We immediately asked for this as soon as we sat at a table to refresh from the hot temperatures, remaining enraptured by the strong flavour of the lemon.
Crisp biscuits and granita.
After this lovely break, we continued our tour, exploring the other beautiful and hidden spots by going up and down along the nice alleys of the village; the next stop was at the Mother Church, a 12th-century building with Romanesque capitals, restored towards the end of the 15th-century thanks to Trimarchi, proved by the marble coat of arms above the door of the church. This is the main church of Savoca, and a small church like many of the others. The next church we visited I particularly liked, because it seemed like a fortress with notches, built just on a big outcrop of rock overlooking the below countryside. This church is a three naves building called Saint Nicolo Church, but it is commonly known as Santa Lucia Church, as it preserves some artefacts of the real Santa Lucia Church, such as beautiful paintings from the 17th-century like the Madonna del parto. Moreover, this church was another location in which the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece was filmed – the scene of the marriage between Michael Corleone and Appollonia.
The Mother Church
Saint Nicolo Church
Saint Nicolo Church
After this, we decided to come back home as the sun began to set, but as it was around 9:30pm, we began to get hungry too and ended up in the square of the Bar Vitelli again. We noticed some tempting dishes with sheep’s cheese with pepper, dried tomatoes, black olives, cold cuts and bread, and we couldn’t resist the sight. We sat again at a table outside for an Italian aperitivo, by drinking a really good prosecco wine accompanied by that delicious high-quality food in the magic atmosphere of the sunset.
Our snack for the evening.
Lucia (right) and Alba (left) enjoying some prosecco.
Lucia and Alba outside Bar Vitelli
In this really small village, I experienced some of the best times, made up of small tastes of the fascinating culture, stunning landscapes, and obviously delicious food of the real authentic Sicily – far away from the chaos of the more touristic places.
Anyway, regarding food and in particular granita, if you’d like to taste others flavours other than lemon, it’s worth going to Briga Marina, which is 23.5km from Savoca, and visit the famous café called Bar De Luca. This cafe seems a common village café as it is spartan, but as the saying states, looks can be deceiving. Once you have a granita there you’ll surely want to come back, as you’ll remain captivated by the taste, whatever kind you choose. When I was on holiday, I was lucky to stay a few steps away from this café, and I stopped every morning at Bar De Luca for breakfast. Cappuccino and biscuits or croissant are usually what I choose in the morning, but my friend suggested I try a granita for breakfast. I was skeptical, but the first time I tried it I ended up having granita and brioche for breakfast every morning! In the evening, I sometimes tasted their fantastic ice cream cones or ice creams in brioche, which was another “sweet” discovery of my holiday in the paradisiacal Sicily.