It’s been a while since I posted anything (boo!). I’ve recently had a bit of a career change and have been super busy with that. But that’s no excuse for being tardy – I really must do better!
I thought a nice sunny post on my recent travels would brighten up your day since summer still hasn’t really arrived in the UK! If you are looking for some holiday inspiration, look no further than Sicily. I spent some time there in May and it’s one of the best places I have ever been. It often gets overlooked as it’s not on the Amalfi Coast or in Tuscany but that’s part of the charm. Sicily seems quite untouched compared to other parts of Italy. The people are so friendly, most of the island is unspoilt and beautiful and the food and local produce are to die for. I loved the mixture of Greek, Arabic and Roman influences visible everywhere.
The best times to go are May and September as there are less tourists and the beaches aren’t overcrowded. May was particularly nice as there were so many beautiful wild flowers in bloom and the temperature wasn’t too hot for walking about and sightseeing. We stayed in a fantastic villa near Ragusa which was perfect for us as we got to mix relaxing by the pool, reading and cooking with busier days exploring.
We only managed to explore the South East of Sicily; I really can’t wait to go back and visit the rest of the island. If you want to see as much as possible in one trip, I would recommend flying into one of the airports (Catania or Palermo), hire a car and spend a day or two in each town before moving onto the next place. Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea so there’s a lot to see. Driving in Sicily wasn’t too bad. We had one or two scary moments in narrow streets and hairpin roads but of you stick to the motorway as much as you can, you’ll be fine!
We stayed in this gorgeous villa I found on Airbnb. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was perched at the top of a hill, so the views of the countryside were amazing. It also had its own pool and a lovely garden bursting with wild flowers and cacti. It had a great outdoor dining area and the sunsets were really magical.
I’m sure anyone who has been to Sicily will tell you unbelievably good the food is. Every bite of fruit tastes like sunshine and the tomatoes are truly out of this world – they have so much flavour! There are also treats aplenty with delicious gelato (my favourite flavours were pistachio and ricotta) and granita for sale everywhere.
I loved these pistachio and chocolate dipped cannoli from Nonna Vincenza. There’s a shop in Catania airport in case you need an emergency supply to take on the plane!
I got really into Campari while we were away (when in Italy and all that) which was a perfect aperitif for watching the sun going down at night. These little bottles were great with lots of ice and a slice of orange. Red sunglasses optional.
My husband loves to cook (lucky me!) so we had a great time shopping for local ingredients and cooking at the villa. Here are a few of the tasty treats we had:
These little pastries were amazing and filled with combos such as tomato and cheese, spinach and meat ragu – great fast food! We loved the fruit and vegetable vans that toured around the towns. We got all of the goodies in the picture below for about €3. Can you imagine that?! Such great value and everything had just been freshly picked.
I’m getting hungry now, so it’s time to talk about something else! Here are some of the places we visited and really enjoyed. If you get the chance, visit the Unesco listed Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. It’s Sicily’s most popular archaeological site and is home to some very impressive Greek ruins, including the best preserved Doric temples outside Greece. The site is split into two areas – the eastern and western zone. The eastern zone houses three amazing temples: the Tempio di Hera, Tempio della Concordia and Tempio di Ercole – definitely the highlight.
We also took a trip to Syracuse which is located right on the seafront and has lots of lovely winding alley ways and streets leading to beautiful and impressive piazzas (Piazza del Duomo) and baroque architecture. The old historic town is called Ortygia, so head there first for a wander about. There are lots of bars, trattorias etc there and you can walk alongside the sea, which is nice. I preferred some of the smaller towns in the area as Syracuse is a little more touristy but it’s definitely worth visiting.
Don’t forget to visit the Parco Archeological della Neapolis – you’ll find the 5th century BC Teatro Greco there. There are also some lovely views of Syracuse from the top of the park. When we were there it was being set up for the forthcoming season of open air theatre.
I enjoyed visiting Noto, a pretty place with a lovely historic centre. Like many towns in the area, Noto was rebuilt in the 18th century after an earthquake. Noto is quite compact, so it’s nice to walk around and pop into the numerous cathedrals and churches and sit for a while and watch the world go by with an espresso.
We sampled some super tasty gelato from Corrado Constanzo which is supposed to have the best gelato in Sicily. We also had a delicious lunch at Trattoria Al Buco – I had the Pasta Alla Norma, which was excellent. It had been on my to do list as this local dish is from the east coast of Sicily and consists of pasta with aubergine, tomatoes, basil and grated ricotta salata cheese.
Our villa was located close to Ragusa Ibla, a crumbly historic town perched on a hilltop. Piazza Duomo is at the centre of the town with lots of alleyways and streets twisting around it. The views are wonderful because off its hilltop location and I loved the architecture.
There is also a nice park, Giardino Ibleo, full of palm trees which is a nice place to sit and cool down with some granita. Also check out the gelato from Gelati DiVini as it’s very good and they have some really interesting flavours. We went to Restaurante Duomo for a tasting lunch and it was amazing. It’s known as one of Sicily’s best restaurants. It was great value of money as it was only about €40 for the tasting menu at lunchtime – a nice little holiday treat! If you decide to go, remember to book in advance.
And lastly…a blog post on Italy wouldn’t be complete without an obligatory photo or two of my favourite car. One day I’ll be zooming around in one of these…
And a spot of…errr…budgie busking on the streets of Noto.