Holiday Destinations - Sicily
- Credit: Archant
Sicily is a seriously stylish island and a wonderful place to visit in the spring or early summer. Jill Nash writes
What isn’t there to love about Sicily? This magnificent Italian island is brimming with art, archaeological ruins, breathtaking scenery and beautiful beaches, not to mention great food. Its unique location, at a crossroads between Europe and Africa, and its illustrious past results in a quirky mix of Greek, Arabic, Norman, Spanish and French cultures. Temperatures start to rise in spring to the mid-20°C’s, and with fewer tourists, this is one of the best times to visit the island.
Culture vultures won’t be disappointed by Sicily, boasting as it does plenty of archaeological ruins and historical sites, such as the ‘Valley of the Temples’, in Agrigento, the large Greek theatre and Doric temples at Segesta and the toppled ruins at Selinunte. A day visiting Syracuse is certainly not to be missed. This archaeological site is home to a staggering number of well-preserved Greek and Roman remains. The main attraction is undoubtedly the Greek theatre that dates back at least until the 5th Century BC. It is amongst the largest ever built: its 59 rows could accommodate up to 15,000 spectators. The theatre is still used today for an annual Greek theatre festival running from the middle of May to the end of June.
Sicily isn’t short of stylish towns and cities. Taormina is one of Sicily’s hot spots, yet it retains an air of exclusivity. With its beautiful upmarket boutique shops, gorgeous theatre (Teatro Greco), splendid cliff top location and luxurious hotels, it is often a highlight of an itinerary for many visitors. It can also namedrop famous visitors such as Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna and Gerard Depardieu (who allegedly owns a vineyard on nearby Pantelleria). Taormina has also an incredible mix of restaurants, from the humble pizza or a plate of scrumptious Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, there are countless trattoria options around the Corso Umberto, and plenty of wine bars too.
Beach lovers won’t be disappointed by Sicily either. The vast coastline provides hundreds of sandy beaches and secluded coves, particularly around Taormina (Lido Mazzarò) and the Golfo di Castellammare by san Vito Lo Capo – which is also part of a large nature reserve. Near the small fishing village of Mondello is Mondello Lido, just 9 kilometres from Sicily’s vibrant capital Palermo. Its white sandy beach runs for 2 kilometres from Monte Pellegrino to Monte Gallo. Mondello’s bars, cafés, nightclubs and hotels line the shore. In the evenings, join the locals in the seaside restaurants featuring fresh seafood - delicious mussels, clams and octopus - and afterwards take a stroll along the waterfront.
Climbers and walkers will love the varied and hilly interior, punctuated by mountain ranges - and of course the backdrop of the stunning active volcano Mount Etna, which can be hiked to the summit (only with an experienced guide) and unless there are tides of flaming lava rolling, it is also possible to ski on the slopes of the volcano too. The volcano is the largest active in Europe and has the longest period of documented eruptions in the world, and to wander around Etna’s summit craters is undoubtedly a unique and fascinating experience.
Surrounding Sicily are several island groups, which are also wonderful places to explore, should you have the time. The Isole Eolie (Aolian Islands) to which Panarea, Lipari, Vulcano and Stromboli belong, are masses of volcanoes poking out of the sea off the coast of Milazzo. These are hugely popular places for day-trippers from Sicily and are accessible easily by boat or, if you are feeling flush, a private yacht. Panarea itself has stunning views of the bellowing volcano Stromboli, from across the sea and is increasingly a popular place to stay for Hollywood’s glitterati.
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As Sicily is just a short flight away from the UK, it is incredibly accessible for everyone, and a wonderful choice for families, groups and honeymooning couples.
Places to Stay
Sicily isn’t short of wonderful accommodation, from statuesque palazzos, beach retreats, luxurious villas to agriturismi (farm stay accommodations) -there are plenty of options for all budgets.
Verdura Resort & Spa, situated between the historical sights of Agrigento and Selinunte, is a successful blend of high-end luxury accommodation, edgy style and yet extremely family friendly at the same time. With its 6 tennis courts, 8 swimming pools, 9 restaurants, and 70 bicycles, everything is covered without sacrificing a five star service. Prices start from £230 per room night for a spacious deluxe room. roccofortehotels.com
Villa Aphrodite, situated on Panarea, is an incredible choice for a small group who want a chic hideaway. The glorious views of nearby Stromboli are simply breath-taking, while the pool and terraces also offer views of Panarea and are good spots for reading, dreaming or aperitifs. The villa accommodates 8, with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and prices start from £4,500 per week. thinksicily.com
Villa Ducale, is one of Taormina’s most romantic hotels. This villa is an oasis in the centre of the town. It has beautiful terraces, gardens and a Jacuzzi, and rooms are decorated with frescoed walls and painted ceramics. There is also a handy shuttle to the beach. Room rates start from £165 per night. villaducale.com
Direct flights to Sicily are available from Thomson, who operate a weekly service from Manchester to Catania. thomsonfly.com