Five Days in Sicily
Ok Sicily...i am in love!! i told a friend this weekend it is my new south africa...wine, beaches, mountains, valleys, chocolate, baroque towns...and that is just in the tiny south- eastern corner we explored...here are some notes from our trip...
We flew on www.blu-express.com to Catania (we did the long term parking thing @ FCO - which was 79 euro for 4 days...it does get cheaper after 6 or 7 days - expensive but cheaper than a taxi) and rented a car from www.carrentalexpress.com...(remember to print out your voucher - we didn't and it wasn't a problem...just took a little more time)
Siracusa and COS Vinyards
From the airport we headed straight to Siracusa (for the most part we found road signs MUCH more straightforward than rome)...the city cicero declared the most beautiful in the world...we wandered the greek amphitheater (great for kids - lots of stairs and caves) and then headed to the island/isthmus of Ortigia...we didn't stop here...but should have...it looked spectacular...beautiful architecture and crashing waves...
Next was Noto...a UNESCO heritage site...with a very recently restored baroque church...all of the buildings are in a beige-y/orang-y sandstone so have a completely different feel than rome...the famous Cafe Sicilia was closed! we had a good lunch at Ristorante Trattoria al Carmine, VIA DUCEZIO, 1.
The signs heading for ragusa/modica out of noto were nuts...it works (and our friend's GPS agreed) but it felt like a wild goose chase...just keep following the signs and you will get out!
We stayed for two days at a very cool vineyard called Locanda COS with a view of Etna (www.locandacos.it) they grow and process their wines - completely energy independent and with no chemical fertilizers...one is aged in clay amphorae - like the ancient greeks...the kids had a great time roaming the grounds - there is a hedge maze and lots of space. The owners, aSsicilian noble family - Ochipinti - organized a tasting with their winemaker and a tour of the almost completed winemaking buildings...the sister (forgot her name) made delicious breakfasts both mornings in the main building next to a roaring fire...
DO NOT miss this town...is about a 2 hour drive from COS vineyards...the valley of the temples is extraordinary...stunning greek ruins in fields of blossoming almond trees with sweeping views of the sea...truly magnificent! we spent the day with the owners of our apartment so didn't do much else...our friend had lunch at the beach in Eraclea Minoa and said it is was the highlight of the trip...i would recommend maybe staying in agrigento for a few days...
Modica and Ragusa
The chocolate town...Modica creates an unusual type of chocolate confection, like the aztecs...it is chocolate, sugar and spices, with no added fat...so it has a grainy texture but intense flavor...walk up the corso umberto I and stop in as many shops/cafe's as you can stomach...they all have free samples!!
Then climb up the 300+ stairs to the chiesa st giorgio..where there are relics and a statue of the town's patron saint, George, another UNESCO baroque treasure...we had a quick lunch here, around the corner from another San Giorgio church, and then headed back to COS.
We stayed on the navy base at sigonella as we were traveling with embassy friends...Mount Etna...we took the approach up the mountain with very stark lava fields...at the top there are souvenir shops and trucks selling honey (again lots of free samples!) and a crater the kids can slide into...you can rent (i think)/buy sleds and snow boards and maybe ski's we took the ski lift up another level (there is still about a kilometer to go to the top, but we were not prepared for snow mountain climbing) which was 17 euro p/p...the views out over Taormina are amazing...we took the other way down the mountain, through the honey town of Castiglione di Sicilia and headed to Taormina...there is another greek amphitheater here at the top of the town - that we didn't visit...we drove along the seaside road looking for a spot to have a drink with a view....not easy in the off season...we ended up at the train station!
A quick visit to the ceramic town of Caltagirone...the steps to the top of the town are covered in ceramic tiles...and the streets are lined with shops selling plates and pots and tiles...
www.concierge.com (search sicily)
www.lovesicily.com (good brief guides)