Whether you’re picking a path through ancient ruins, unravelling spaghetti in a candlelit trattoria or picnicking in a field of orange trees, holidays to Sicily offer up a snapshot of ‘la dolce vita’
This triangle-shaped island at the bottom of Italy’s boot is a constant travel award contender. In fact, Condé Nast Traveller readers voted it ‘The World’s Favourite Island’ in 2009. And it’s easy to see why this romantic slice of Italy has clocked up so many devotees over the years.
It may be small, but Sicily is perfectly formed. Medieval villages, Roman ruins and sprawling countryside make up the island’s interiors, while vineyards, olive groves and lemon trees march down to the coastline. Then there’s Mount Etna to think about. Sicily’s volcano is the tallest in Europe and, at 10,890 feet, it towers over the cities below.
The big three
Taormina is the Italy you see on postcards. Its sand-coloured buildings are hidden behind vines and flowers that spill over balconies. And, at its centre, a Greek amphitheatre overlooks the beach. Down the road from Taormina is family-favourite Giardini Naxos. Cefalu is another big-hitter. This place flaunts a maze of backstreets and a collection of ancient Greek ruins, like the Temple of Diana.
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Size-wise, Letojanni doesn’t come on a grand scale, but its narrow sweep of Sicilian coastline certainly maximises its exposure to the sandy shore. It’s a haven for holidaying Italians as well as international tourists, and part of the appeal is the pace – it’s more siestas and sunsets than clubbing here. And it’s also really close to upmarket Taormina, dubbed the Monte Carlo of Sicily.
Silent squares where not a soul stirs, washing flapping from balconies, and silver-haired locals gossiping on their front porches – picture a provincial Sicilian village and you could almost be in Lascari. For its quaint charm, it was picked to appear in the Oscar-winning film, Cinema Paradiso. And its lofty perch in the Madonie Mountains towards Sicily’s northern tip means you can sit and watch the Tyrrhenian Sea flickering in the distance.
On the south-eastern slopes of Mount Etna, Santa Venerina is a deliciously relaxed Sicilian town edged by terraced vineyards and virgin woods. It’s best known as one of the Cities of Wine, but makes all kinds of artisanal products. The range covers limoncello and grappa, bottled at the local distillery, to almond biscuits and cakes on sale at the local shops. Plus, it’s in striking distance of Mount Etna’s smoking peaks, as well as some of the best beaches on Sicily’s east coast.
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