“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything” Goethe.
Sicily is not a region, it’s a continent! Pristine beaches, active volcanoes, greek theatre, fish markets, baroque cathedrals, natural reserves and the tastiest Italian cuisine, all in one island. Sicily is a maze for the senses, a kaleidoscope of colors, smells, voices that will leave you mesmerized.
Taking advantage of the convenient connection with Catania we decided to pick two gems of the surroundings, Taormina and Panarea.
Taormina is a picturesque small town, one hour drive from Catania airport, idyllically perched on a rocky promontory high above the sea, this is why it’s also called “Terrazza sul Mare”. Known worldwide for its Film Festival, it’s home to the second largest Greek theatre in Sicily and it’s one of Italy’s most popular summer destination. Rent a boat to get a hint of Sicilian Dolce Vita, stroll around its alleyways to soak up the atmosphere at sunset and make sure you will indulge in a granita or two.
Panarea is a dream! Imagine white flat-roofed houses covered in bright pink bougainvilleas, tourists lolling around barefoot enjoying the quintessence of the Italian “dolce far niente” and the view of the majestic Stromboli volcano fuming in the distance. This exclusive and chic island is the smallest in the Aeolian archipelago (no cars are allowed) and it attracts VIPs and celebrities, who come in the summer for yachting breaks and romantic escapes. Rent a boat and go explore secluded rocky coves for late-afternoon swim but make sure you will be back in the island for an Aperitivo at Hotel Raya during the sunset.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best area is Mazzaro’ Beach. It’s the best location to enjoy both the beach life and in 5 minutes cable car you can be in the heart of the city.
- Belmond Sant’Andrea Hotel and VOI Grand Hotel Mazzaro’ have the best beach locations in Taormina.
- Hotel Raya An icon of the entire island, this boutique hotel will make you forget any standard of luxury you have experienced before. Elegant simplicity, whitewashed walls and a majestic natural hot spring infinity pool are just few of the reasons why Raya will captivate your senses.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN TAORMINA
- Rent a boat from Mazzaro’ and go explore Isola Bella and the sea caves
- Stop for lunch at Il Barcaiolo at Mazzaro beach and indulge in a glorious raw fish plate and their signature sea urchin linguine
- Don’t miss a visit to Taormina Greek theatre and stop for a granita at Bam Bar on the way back (their menu changes on an hourly basis, depending on the fresh fruits supplied by local farmers)
- Stroll around the Taormina alleyways at sunset and admire beautiful Italian ladies doing their “struscio” (a walk in the main alleyway all dressed up)
- Enjoy an Aperitivo with a Spritz and Arancini in Piazza IV Aprile
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN PANAREA (PLUS BONUS)
- Wake up at sunrise to experience the beautiful view of an active volcano from your window
- Go for a walk from Hotel Raya to Spiaggetta Zimmari and experience the lavish Mediterranean nature in every corner, stop by San Pietro Church
- Get ready for a 45 minutes hike to reach the dreamy water of Cala Junco
- Rent a boat and go explore the smallest island off shore Panarea like Dattilo, Basiluzzo and Lisca Bianca
- Indulge in the best Sicilian food at Hycesia, historical and iconic restaurant of the island
- Join a night excursion to Stromboli to see the volcano in action
- Aperitivo with the best view is at Hotel Raya
BEFORE YOU GO
- Public transportation is not really an option in Sicily as you won’t be able to move around and find taxi easily. We definitely recommend to rent a car at the airport. It might take some time as rental cars are always very busy there.. a good deal of patience is alway a good idea in Sicily… this island has its own rhythm, but there are always good way to kill time… Let us tell you a little secret: There’s a kiosk that serves delicious street food right in front the rental car center.
- Get ready to speak with your hands! English is not so common, but if you add some hand moves to your speech you’ll might have some chance to be understood
- Go off season… Weather will be mild from May to October… avoid July and August, way too many tourists around, everything is fully booked and over-priced
7 FOODS TO TRY IN SICILY
Gambero Rosso di Mazzara: The famous Sicilian red prawn is the champ of Sicily’s dining tables. Smooth texture and unmistakably sweet taste, you must try it raw, better if brushed with local citrus fruits.
Sea urchin linguine: another staple of the costal Sicilian cuisine. A pasta to die for with its briny ocean yet delicate taste. The tasty sauce is just made of garlic, olive oil and local fresh sea urchin pulp. Simply unique.
Capponata Siciliana: It’s just a side dish but you can’t miss it! A flavorsome mixture of locally sourced vegetables, celery, onion completed with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts. You won’t stop ordering it.
Granita Siciliana: the religious ritual of Sicilian breakfast wants you to start the day with a fresh granita accompanied with the local croissant (“brioche col tuppo”). If you want to fell local go for the almond one, the most famous and appreciated in the island.
Pistachio Gelato: The most prestigious pistachio in the world is grown in the little town of Bronte. No wonder pistachio gelato in Sicily is the tastiest in the entire peninsula!
Pasta con le Vongole: Another masterpiece of the Mediterranean cuisine. Chose one made with the clams called “veraci”, meaty and flavorful.
Cannolo Siciliano: Leaving Sicily without trying its world famous pastry is a crime. Deep fried pastry filled with sweet goat ricotta cheese and chocolate chips.. glorious!
TRAVEL TIPS ON SICILY
In Taormina, book well in advance the hotel as they fill up quite quickly especially in Mazzaró bay.
For an amazing boat trip ask for Carmelo At the Mazzaro beach. He is an experienced fisherman that will take you on an unforgettable boat trip around the rock formation and sea caves. When aboard ask him to try his home made almond liquor.. cheers!
The only embarkation point for the aeolian islands is Milazzo. You can reach the speedboat harbor by car and leave your vehicle in one of the several private parking around the area. Costs are reasonable and there is 24hours surveillance. Don’t forget to book on-line the ferryboat at least 1 week in advance as there are few trips per day and the crowd at the port ticket office might be overwhelming
Pack lots of sunscreen. Sicily is a stone throw away from Africa and during summer the sun can get really dangerous!
Whenever you are in Sicily ask for the best seafood restaurant advices at the local fisherman harbor.. the local fishermen are always extremely helpful and they know very well to whom they sold the best catch of the day.