Road Trip Around Sicily

Sicily is filled with what seems like a never-ending ‘to-do’ list and is the ideal holiday locations for both families and couples alike. Bustling with an exciting mix of extraordinary archaeological sites, exquisite eateries and crisp white beaches, it has so much to offer to all its visitors.

Day 1 – Fly  into  Catania – From here pick up your car and make the scenic 1 and a half hour drive down the coast towards south east Sicily. The South eastern tip of Sicily is home to mile after mile of largely unspoilt sandy beaches and a series  of  UNESCO World Heritage Sites for you to spot along the way  to  Torre  Marabino. Set in the lovely south-east corner of Sicily, less than 10 minutes  from  Ispica and about 4km from the nearest beach,Torre  Marabino is about half an hour  from  Modica, Noto and the Nature Reserve  of  Vendicari, and less than an hour’s drive  from  Ragusa  and  Siracusa, so it is an ideal base for exploring. It is in a wonderful elevated position, with views over its lush gardens, the crops and rolling landscape, to the sea in the distance,and  Ispica.
Day 2 – Wander across  to  Noto and  explore  Parco  Archeologico  della  Neapolis,  declared  a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains thousands of tombs dating back to 1000BCE. In addition to the necropolis, you’ll find  the  Neapolis or “New City” archaeological park, which contains monuments from Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and other periods. Then take a long stroll through  the  Naturale  Orientata  Oasifaunistica di Vendicari. Watch for birds (there is known to be over 40 different types!), walk kilometres of natural trail, and get away from it all in total peace. There is no better place to end the day than  at  Torre  Marabino's hotel restaurant. Growers of organic vines, olives, fruit and vegetables, they certainly know their food. Torre  Marabino’s well-known restaurant spills out onto lovely terraces, in summer, and it is absolutely top-notch for the service and for the classy, fine food extraordinaire. Sicilian and Mediterranean specialities are transformed by Giovanni’s creativity and diners are in for a gastronomic delight. The wine is superb, supremely drinkable and exceptionally good.
Day 3 - A day of culture is at hand – Head to the sort of place that drives English poets to grab their paper, pen, and ink, Fonte Aretusa has legends galore. A nymph of the same name became the fountain itself, or so they say. The spring itself feeds  the  Cyane River; the image of freshwater emerging from the ground and soon feeding into the sea fascinated writers like Milton, Pope, and Wordsworth. Papyrus plants grow abundantly in the pond here. Grab an ice cream and spend some time watching the ducks. Following on make your way  to  the  Duomo  di  Siracusa, one of Sicily's most notable religious monuments, features intricate Baroque architecture and a rich historical legacy. On the Isle  of  Ortigia near the southern coast of Syracuse, the church is a large repository of religious relics, statues, and the remains of saints. Architect  Andrea  Palma designed the large outer columns along the facade, which were completed in 1753. Explore the inner areas of the church, such as the fifth-century Temple of Athena. For the evening, head for the sea-girt old town, Ortygia, wandering through its tight narrow streets, lined with oleander, pretty baroque balconies, tempting glimpses of blue sea and fabulous shops and bars. Have dinner at the harbour,the  Porto  Grande, site of a great sea battle  between Siracusans and Athenians in 413 BC. Today, there are only about 120,000 people living there  and  Ortygia, the small island, which is connected to the main part  of  Siracusa by bridges, still feels as if it is a miniature version of history, with almost 3,000 years of the past crammed into it. Noted for its dry, warm climate,  Siracusa is a delight to stroll around and feel part of its history, at any time of the year.
Day 4 – Take the day to  explore  Siracusa, once one of the most powerful cities in Ancient Greece, has retained its ability to awe, while the towns of  the  Noto Valley,comprising  Noto,  Ragusa (Michelin star restaurants),  Modica (Aztec chocolate recipes),  Scicli  and  Caltagirone (ceramics), are of immense architectural importance, shining examples of Sicilian Baroque extravagance. Of huge importance to the Greeks, with a population of 500,000, Siracusa competed with Athens to be the most powerful city of the Ancient World. Explore the ancient dramatic performances at the Greek Theater, originally built in the fifth  century  BCE and now inscribed on the World Heritage List. With the largest cave every build by the Greeks, though only traces of the 67 rows remain the site still regularly hosts performances in the sunset with its acoustics still perfect for a true amphitheatre setting. Venture into Ear  of  Dionysius (Orecchio  di  Dionisio), a limestone cave that's shaped like a human ear and known for its excellent acoustics. The cave is 23 m (75 ft) high and extends 65 m (213 ft) back into a cliff. It has plenty of history and quirky stories that I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy hearing on your visit. And finally to finish off the day, descend into a maze of tunnels, filled with early Christian tombs beneath the ruins of a Norman church at  the  Catacomba di San Giovanni.
Day 5 - Explore the cute town  of  Modica, arguably one of the most interesting slices of Baroque in this corner of Sicily. It certainly is at the very centre of the main Baroque towns. It spreads up two sides of a steep ravine, like layers of a cake. Dramatic and beautiful, its tiers of houses cling to the hillsides and churches dominate the skyline. Known as “the town of a hundred churches ” its bells ring the passing of time, but  Modica seems not to notice, feeling as if time has stood still somehow. Its main street is full of incredible and fascinating architecture, which creates a breathtaking backdrop – you simply cannot help but be impressed by it. Not only  is  Modica famous for its art and architecture, but also for its chocolate. They still use the ancient Aztecs’ traditional recipe and a chocolate festival is held each year, in March. There are some specialist cafés and shops where you can sample the town’s peculiar flavoured chocolate – try the  famous  chilli chocolate! Finish off your exploration  discovering  Ragusa. Probably best know for the  Inspector  Montabano TV series, Nowadays, everyone wants to visit the area of south eastern Sicily to experience their own  Inspector  Montalbano Holidays, in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the main man, or getting involved in a little bit of mystery in the narrow streets and alley ways of the fascinating towns where filming takes place. Ragusa Ibla and its twin hilltop town, Ragusa, feature in the opening credits of the programme, as the camera swoops round and on to the stunning 550m  long  Ponte  Guerreri viaduct. Ragusa is almost split into two  with  Ragusa Superior (the new town built after the earthquake in 1963) sitting proudly on the top  and  Ragusa  Ibla (the old town) etched into the hillside further down. With 3 Michelin star restaurants to pick from you will be spoilt for dinner choices! But make sure you keep a spot  for  a  gelato!
Day 6 – Time to make the first big long road trip, but this one is unlike any other, it is not a tedious drive but rather an history discovery trek of such! On your  way  to  Cefalu drive past the Roman Villa and stop over at  the  Piazza  Amerina  ‘The Roman  Villa’  a  UNESCO heritage site, boasts incredible mosaics telling the story  of  the  Roman’s past being probably the most Roman part of the island. As you make your way up make sure to drive past and stop  at  the  Lago  di  Pergusa set  amongst  the  Erean Mountains range. Perhaps also the perfect stop for a picnic! We recommend driving through the  town  of  Cefalu to scope it out before your explorations as there is so much to see and do before you land at Santa Anastasia! In a magnificent setting, between the pretty, coastal  town  of  Cefalu, which is about 7km away, and  the  mediaeval  town  of  Castelbuono, set amidst the beautiful mountain  scenery  of  the  Monti  Madonie, Santa Anastasia is an unusual  and  special  agritourist hotel, deserving of its five-star  agriturismo rating. A glorious, old country estate of 500 hectares, with views of the rugged Sicilian countryside, which stretch down to the sea, it is only a ten minute drive from the coast. However, it is very tempting just to relax by the large swimming pool, which has stunning views of the landscape.
Day 7 - Cefalù offers a great deal, including sandy beaches,winding  Mediaeval streets flanked with all manner of shops, excellent restaurants serving the freshest of fish and last but probably first, its unique Norman cathedral. This  mediaeval town offers the perfect combination, it hugs the shore, with  its  picturesque  fishermen’s cottages and narrow, winding streets. Visit the heart of the town to see a Norman cathedral with interlacing pointed arches supported by granite columns. Take a walk along the cobblestone streets to find traditional Sicilian shops and delicious cooking. In summer, it bustles with life, day and night. It is full of atmosphere. Very close to the motorway, it is also an ideal base for exploring the island. The lookout point  of  La  Rocca can be reached from the town's main street. Follow the street signs to the rock's path  and  the  Tempio di Diana. Halfway up the path, you'll get a view of the town. Head farther up to the entrance of the temple's ruins and the ruins of the ancient Greek settlers who were first  captivated  by  Cefalu's Coast.
Day 8 - Boat trip day! North of Sicily, the  Aeolians are astonishingly beautiful, hugely varied and undeveloped. Dominated by volcanic mountains, rising steeply from the sea, their rich soil encourages a profusion of flowers, shrubs and greenery. Vulcano has sulphurous mud baths, which warm the sea. Lipari, the main port, is thriving and pretty. Fertile Salina teems with flowers.  Scenic  Panarea is the smallest.  Stromboli, with its constantly active volcano, bursts with colour. Alicudi  and  Filicudi are the most distant.  Lipari is not as far flung as you might imagine and our clients have always been amazed at the seamless travel arrangements we make for them. Bars line the sea front. Shops and restaurants are scattered through the picturesque streets. Eating out is a feast and the seafood is superb. Be enchanted  by  the  Aeolian Islands – sit in a boat at night,  just  off  Stronboli, and watch red-hot lava leap into the sky and then trickle down into the sea. Visit the surreal  scenes  on  Vulcano – folk dressed in slippers and dressing gowns, wandering across the harbour to immerse themselves in the hot mud pools. Sit  in  Lipari’s harbour and watch the world come and go. You’ll love it.
Day 9Take the journey on the train for a day in Palermo. Nowhere is Sicily’s exciting past more evident than in its capital city. Originally Phoenician, then a Carthaginian colony, built on a natural harbour and beneath the  towering  Monte  Pellegrino, its setting is as dramatic as its chequered history. At the heart of the city is  the  Baroque  Quattro  Canti (Four Corners), which divides the historic centre into four parts, all of which are accessible, on foot, from here. Wherever you go, around every corner, behind  every decaying  façade, there are wonderful things to discover – Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman,  mediaeval, Baroque,Art  Nouveau – in a maze of time and style. Palermo hints at the mystery of its way of life, with an atmosphere, which excites and feels exotic. It is a truly enthralling city.
Day 10, Cefalu ->Taormina The perfect coastal drive! Take a detour up into the  Parco  dei  Nebrodi, it includes the most important and largest woodland areas of Sicily (about 50,000 hectares ) and the most gorgeous Lake. Then take a pit  stop  in  Savoca  at  the Vitelli bar for lunch (Godfather film fans will recognise this bar from the movie!) and finally land in  Taormina. Perfect for visiting the mighty Mount Etna but also the dramatic town  of  Taormina idyllically perched on a rocky promontory high above the sea. Taormina has been the most popular tourist destination in Sicily for a couple of hundred of years, ever since it became an integral part of the Grand Tour and is one of my absolute favourite people watching towns. There are a number of incredible hotels here for you to stay at; If you are after luxury and 5* we  recommend  the  Metropole  hotel  on  Taormina’s narrow main street, the beautiful and sophisticated  boutique  Hotel  Metropole is THE place to be with an incredible infinity pool. Or if you want something slightly cosier and true in Italian style then a  stay  at  Casa  Turchetti is a must with its incredible views over the town!
Day 11 - Mount Etna Exploration day. Does it really  need  an  introduction…? Its enormous, very active and incredibly impressive! Spend the day meandering around on either a organised tour or walk, it is a great hike and the views are totally worth it! And worse case you can always fall into a winery nearby to recover! As for dinner there are plenty of incredible places in the  centre  of  Taormina so take your pick!
Day 12For a slightly slower pace day visit the gorges cut by ancient lava flows which make for ideal  trekking  at  Gole  Alcantara  Terralcantara. Cold-water springs rush through the gorge's floor, so wear non-slip shoes and clothes that can get wet.  On  the  Alcantara Trail, you'll be given a wetsuit so you can swim through the deeper waters of the gorge. Check online for overview of guided tours, resort rates, events, and activities. Try to spot the several species of birds and lizards on this small island. Relax on the rocky beach or at the bar. The natural beauty of this spot has earned it the nickname "the pearl in the Ionian Sea. Plenty of fishermen will be offering you boat trips as you wander by and cracking jokes or making you laugh by blowing into shells, it is very amusing to experience!
Day 13Go and enjoy  views  of  Taormina and Mount Etna from the ancient Greek Theatre, an open-air theater dating back to the third century. The theater once featured nine seating sections that could hold up to 10,000 spectators. Most of the original seats have disappeared over the centuries, but the wall surrounding the rows of seats has survived. The proscenium and its back wall are exceptionally well-preserved. Remaining fragments of architectural decorations help reveal the theater's Corinthian architecture. When the site was an amphitheater, it hosted battles between gladiators and wild beasts. In the medieval ages, the site served as a palatial residence. It now is home to cultural events and musical performances. In the evening kick back and relax with a  glass  of  prosecco overlooking this beautiful part of Sicily from a rooftop terrace and reminisce on your trip.
Day 14Home time! We completely understand that you will not want to leave but you can always go back again and we will be more than happy to plan Road trip part 2 for you!


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