Sicily is an explosion to the senses. A magnificent jewel that embodies the colours and tastes of the Mediterranean- the wonderfully sour lemon granita and the sweet ricotta filled cannolo to name a few. The scents of the island oozes sensuality to engulf you in a world of pure beauty. 1,637km of jagged coastline with a perfect scenic landscape, where in the far distance, the eye wonders to Pantelleria, Lampedusa and the Aeolian islands. Sicily is a melting pot of myths and legends fuelled by the dominant volcanoes of Etna and Stromboli and the cool flow of the Alcanatara, Simeto and Imera Settentrionale rivers. The island is packed with nature reserves, 84 to be exact, 4 regional parks and 7 UNESCO world heritage sites, creating an intriguing and mystic atmosphere. No wonder it’s a constant source of inspiration for the greats: Francis Ford Coppola, Luchino Visconti, Pirandello, Verga, Tomasi di Lampedusa, Quasimodo, Sciascia, Camilleri and Montalbano.
The Greek amphitheatre dominates Taormina and somehow seamlessly blends with the Arab and Norman architecture, all perfectly suspended in time. When I arrive in Taormina, I cannot help but immerse myself in its fascinating history and the wonderers of past inhabitants. Take for example Lady Florence Trevelyan, an English noblewoman and cousin to Queen Victoria who arrived in Taormina in 1884 and subsequently married the mayor of the town. She had an English garden built in her name that mirrored her eccentric and lively personality. Not only is the garden steeped in history, but the villa itself is a Victorian masterpiece. Villa Comunale has attracted many artists over the years, apart from its history, it’s also a place where you can enjoy a glorious sunset. The villa has helped cement Taormina as a city loved by many.
In the wonderful Piazzetta, in the centre of Taormina, my gaze turns to the majestic Etna, (“a muntagna” as the natives call her) and my eye begins to wander right down to the bay of Giardini Naxos where the ice-cold water of the Alcantara river meets the sea (another popular destination north of Etna which has an incredible winery nearby). At the foot of Taormina lies a wonderful pebbly beach where you can admire the crystal-clear waters. At the edge of the beach, where your foot touches the sea, there is a small path that leads you to Isola Bella which is a small islet surrounded by nature and rocks. Isola Bella is open to visitors, and you can reach the beach by cable cart from the town centre.
As I begin to walk down the characteristic Corso Umberto, filled with boutique shops and Italian designer classics, I notice again how seamlessly the old intertwines with the new. Macomba bar is great if you want a lively atmosphere and BAM bar is a must (the almond or orange granita is divine). How can I not mention Il Kisté, behind Piazza Duomo (whose name comes from Greek meaning container), the restaurant amplifies the tastes, ingredients, wisdom and tradition of the Sicilian kitchen. Morena welcomes me here for lunch with her kind and elegant ways and tells me about the dishes on the menu.
The afternoon is beginning to unwind, and I keep getting lost among beautiful churches and characteristic streets. For an aperitif, I head to La Plage Resort on the beach by Isola Bella. It’s difficult to find the right words to describe the beautiful view of the entire bay and the incredible exclusivity of the resort.
I head back up to Taormina and behind a few hairpin bends, I reach Villa Mon Repos, an elegant villa dating back to the 1900 (once Taormina’s first casino in the 60s which became a symbol of the hedonistic characteristics of that decade) is now an exclusive boutique hotel. Here I meet Carmela, wedding planner of Sicilian Bride, who tells me that she is finishing the arrangements for a wedding that will take place shortly. The location is beautiful. The mood of the wedding? Well, that could only be Sicilian of course.
The day is coming to an end and it couldn’t have ended better than this: a fantastic jacuzzi with a view of Isola Bella from the terrace of one of the two apartments at Sparviero Luxury Suites, which I chose for my short stay in Taormina. The next day, I prepare to reach Catania airport but not before a quick pit stop in Giardini at the RG Naxos Hotel, located on the romantic beach of Recanati. The hotel has a large congress centre, an outdoor swimming pool which the water seems to perfectly blend with the blue of the sea and a private beach. I have a hearty breakfast on the terrace with Etna gazing down at me. My journey ends here, but my return to Sicily awaits me.
The closest airport to Taormina is Catania. From London, direct daily flights are available from Gatwick and 4 weekly Luton airport and flights from Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester.