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Our European Product Manager Alison adores Italy and one of her favourite escorted tours is our Sicilian Escape. From stunning hilltop towns and coral blue water to delicious food and wine, she tells us why you can really relax on this beautiful idyllic escape.


Sicily being an island, conjures up images of a bright yellow sun streaming across turquoise coloured waters dotted with small yachts and fishing boats. It also has a fascinating past-culture of Roman and Turkish history leaving behind comprehensive ruins to explore. 

Being an island nation, the food is heavily influenced by the sea and locally grown produce so the culinary dishes served are freshly caught in local waters and served with the minimal number of ingredients to create a delicious meal. Accompanied by local wines cultivated on the slopes of mount Etna, which dominates your view as you land into Catania and follows you as you head  along the coastline.

Exploring Catania


Whilst the island is quite large and needs a good week to travel around, the region around Catania is quite compact and has a lot to offer. So much in fact that you can base yourself locally and find plenty to keep you occupied for a week without even pressing further afield. This is what we do with our Stay and Explore Itinerary Sicilian Escape, based in the pretty town of Giardini Naxos, just below the famous hilltop town of Taormina which attracts many visitors each year. 

Taormina


Enjoying free time


It is so much more than a beach holiday as you have the ambient setting for your free time and evening strolls and a carefully considered selection of half and full day outings to show you the best parts of the area and introduce the Sicilian culture. Travelling with one of our knowledgeable tour managers is like having a guide book at the ready for personalized recommendations with suggestions and support should it be required. Joining an escorted tour takes all the hard work out of planning and leave you to enjoy the local flavours and history stress free. It also means if you are travelling alone there is company to be found right from the start and no chance of feeling left out.


From our family run hotel, you get sea-views for breakfast and a lovely setting to return to at the end of the day for a pre-dinner drink or Aperativo as the Italians call it. We start our week with a leisurely half day visit up to Taormina, so our guests can get their bearings and benefit from the knowledge of a local guide and our genial tour manager will point out the local bus stop as it is then easy to return at leisure on your free days and explore at your own pace- whether it is the pretty shops and cafes that attract you in or the Roman theatre that commands exploration. Whatever you do the views out to sea will never be forgotten.

I remember my first visit to Taormina when I was introduced to a typical local snack when we stopped for a refreshing glass of local granita- ice shavings flavoured with local fruit juices such as pomegranate and served with buttery, warm brioche made fresh each day in the local bakeries- as they have been for decades.

Sicilian granita and brioche
  

Disover the past

I have already acknowledged Mount Etna and its fertile slopes, but you are also very close to Syracuse and Ortiga with the Greek theatre and further impressive archaeological ruins and magnificent cathedral square. The easiest way to soak up the atmosphere after a guided tour is by one of the local cruises that sail along the harbor as you sit back and relax.

Our final included day out is an undiscovered gem in the botanical gardens at Radicepura and their biennial festival celebrating garden design and landscape architecture. A guided tour around the gardens will answer all your questions- the selection of Mediterranean plants and flowers is amazing and I enjoyed looking out for the artwork interspersed amongst the fruit trees and scented herb beds.

You really got to use all your senses here as after looking round there was time to sample some locally produced drinks before carrying onto the baroque town of Acireale with its waterfront castle for a spot of light lunch in the buzzing square- bruschetta with rich red tomato toppings or creamy mozzarella with salty Parma ham slices and pungent basil would be top of my choices. Something light as a hearty three course meal awaits you back at the hotel each evening.


Syracuse Greek theatre

Saluti!


We have been very careful to make sure that there is plenty of free time to explore the local area and make your holiday perfect in exactly the way you like it to be. If you are feeling more adventurous and want to get closer to Mount Etna, we offer an opportunity to visit and walk along the lower slopes before visiting one of the local vineyards to sample their impressive range of wines and local produce. I loved the crisp bubbly and delicious rose that was perfect for sipping on a hot afternoon as you watched the work getting done in the fields. It was lovely to be able to sample some of the locally produced pesto, vinegars, marmalades and honey knowing that it had been grown just steps away - perfect gifts to take home to share your experience with family and friends.


Vineyard on slopes of Mount Etna

I left Sicily feeling very relaxed, having enjoyed the sunshine, indulged in memorable meals and visited such a mixture of attractions and none too far from the hotel- a true Sicilian experience in a very refined manner. I cannot wait to return.

If Alison has tempted you with our Sicilian Escape you can see full details of this European tour here.

Article published on: 2nd July, 2020

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Alison

Alison has worked in the travel business for more than 20 years. Her holiday highlights include a Kenyan safari, chatting with Barbadian cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers at a match in Bridgetown, and watching baby black-tipped reef sharks chasing waves in the Maldives.

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