I have travelled to Italy quite a few times and it is in my top 5 of all countries in the world. I think Sicily may be my favourite part of Italy. Possibly because of the amount of amazing food and wine there. I do think this has been my favourite food destination ever – driven my being able to have ricotta at every meal and then finishing most meals with cannoli.
If you are heading to this wonderful island here are my top 10 things you should do:
- Stay at Hotel Gutkowksi in Syracuse
This hotel is a fantastic find. Very reasonably priced at 110 pounds for a double it is beautifully minimalist. The location is fantastic – just on the edge of lovely Ortygia and across from the waterfront. The restaurant has a great restaurant where you can get dinner and a fab breakfast. Their breakfast was the highlight of the breakfasts on my sicily trip. Super fresh local ingredients – tomatoes to die for, fresh boiled eggs, amazing juice and great coffee.
The rooms are lovely – minimalists and clean and as I was there in August I particularly appreciated the fantastic air conditioning.
They have a great terrace where they serve Granite in the afternoon. I would highly recommend heading to some of the foodie/deli shops nearby and grabbing some local wine and cheese and meat and having pre dinner drinks on the terrace – it is lovely.
The staff are very friendly and were very helpful in organizing transfers and trips
2. Go shopping in Taormina
This is definitely the place to go shopping in Sicily. It has a fantastic mix of classic Italian names you know like Furla and Coccinelle and super cute local stores filled with handmade shoes and handbags. The main street is really the best place to go – I didn’t find as many good stores in the back streets. Handbags and purses are the things to buy here. My favourite was Serapian where I got a stunning matching handbag and purse. The upside of visiting Taormina in the heat of August was that there were quite a few sales on.
There are also many places to stock up on tasty Sicilian food products such as olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
3. Take an early evening stroll around town wherever you are.
One of my favourite things about Italy is the nightly promenade. I love how the Italians frock up and look fantastic – immaculately groomed and tailored and with such attitude. They seem to treat the main streets like a catwalk – and it is all ages.
4. Ricotta and Cannoli
Oh my gosh the ricotta in Sicily! I made it a goal to have ricotta at every main meal and I did pretty well in delivering! Hotel Gutkowski will help you get started with fresh ricotta on the breakfast buffet. Try it with some of the fresh honey and mix it up with some eggs. Then at lunch try it on pizza with some sicilian aubergine – fantastic combination. Dinner means ricotta cannoli – one of the best things that I have ever eaten. The food is amazing in Sicily – it is one of the best food places I have ever been. But don’t limit yourself. Make sure you have every possible flavour of cannoli – chocolate, vanilla, pistachio. It is a genuine tourist experience so don’t be shy!
5. Head to Mt Etna
Mt Etna is stunning. I originally planned to climb Mt Etna – however the August weather put me off. Having said that I had of course forgotten that you start the climb quite a bit above sea level where it was much cooler and this would have been fine. Indeed I saw many people climbing from the cable car. However it looked very steep and the scenery quite same same so not sure how interesting a trek it would have been.
The bus took me up to the base of Mt Etna with a stop for Sicilian food products on the way. Once there you take a cable car and then a small bus up to the summit. From here you can wander the summit on your own.
It is quite stunning. The summit itself is an unusual and very photogenic landscape. There are also some fantastic views over Sicily. It is very light physically – just wear fairly sensible shoes. After checking out the summit you then head back down the same way. I was back at the main bus station in Taormina by mid afternoon.
6. Boat trip to Stromboli
There are ALOT of boat trip options on The Aeolian Islands! You can visit all the islands, you can hop on the main ferry, you can pretty much go anywhere – again spoilt for choice is the theme of these islands! I had recently done on full day boat trip in corsica which was rather crowded so was in the mood for something that wasn’t a 9-5 commitment with 100 other people. We wanted to go mid afternoon, to just go to stromboli, and of course to be able to have some wine! We headed down to the Malfa port and just asked. It wasn’t cheap but we were in a group of 4 so we could split things (was about 280 euros).
We headed out mid afternoon. Going to Stromboli means you get to sail past some of the other islands. We stoppped on the coast of stromboli and jumped off the boat into some of the loveliest clearest water I have ever swum in. The boat took us to Stromboli about one hour before sunset. We saw its startling black beaches, the home of dolce and gabbana was pointed out to us (very important) and we got to have a wander around stromboli which is lovely. And of course we had a cocktail before returning to the boat!
Once back on the boat dinner was served – very impressive to serve pasta on such a small boat! Oh and of course we had some wine! We then settled in to watch the volcano bubbling away. It was a bit difficult to see but we did see something! As we were there in August and it was very hot I had decided against climbing to the top of the volcano (there are many day trip that offer this from Salina). I was then quite jealous of the head torches I could see as we were in our boat. If the weather was cooler I think this would be a great thing to do.
We were back in port and a quick stroll to the hotel by about 10pm – a lovely lovely experience.
7. Eat at Hotel Signum Malfa Salina The Aeolian Islands
I ended up eating here twice. First was a bit of a lunch recce visit to check it out – and it looked amazing and did a mean simple lunch. So we all headed back for a big 3 course dinner extravaganza and it was fantastic! The restaurant atmosphere is wonderful – we sat outside and it is quite magical. The service as fantastic – we ended up facebook friends with the manager! The food was amazing – simple wonderful clean flavours. However the highlight was the Malvasia wine. I had been dying to try this famous dessert wine since arriving on Salina. this was the place to do it! There was almost a ceremony in the pouring of the wine and it was absolutely delicious! Do not leave the Aeolian Islands without trying this wonderful dessert wine!
8. Have a Granite in Lingua
Lingua is a tiny town on the island of Salina. There is a bus that goes around the island and leaves once an hour so we hopped on this for the scenic 30 minute trip to Lingua from Malfa. I have to say there isn’t alot in Lingua – a cute little waterfront that is worth a stroll. But we had heard all about the famous Granite so we of course had to go! And it was fantastic! There were SO many flavours! Again the first world problem of too many fantastic options in the Aeolian Islands reared its head!
9. Have a sunset drink at the Hotel Santa Isabel terrace bar Malfa Salina The Aeolian Islands
This is THE bar to go to for a sunset drink! The view is absolutely stunning. It is a lovely outdoor bar with cocktails and a nice wine list. And best of all they put on some very tasty snacks! It is usually quite busy but you should still score a seat – definitely the place to go and watch the sun come down in the Aeolian Islands!
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