Resorts In Sicily
Holidays in Catania
Catania, the capital of Sicily and just a short drive away has a vibrant music scene, often in glamorous settings such as Mercati General which features warehouses and pressing rooms in a restored 19th-century winery.
There are many smart cafés and bars in baroque squares, so when eating out is a must. Try the local speciality Pasta alla Norma, made from macaroni-like penne, tomato sauce, sliced aubergines and topped with salty ricotta.
Via Etnea is the main shopping destination in Catania and is lined with shops selling numerous types of local as well as branded merchandise. The street also has lots of churches as well as imposing buildings, some of which are architectural wonders. Locals like to stroll around the street at a leisurely pace in the evenings and so it is a good place for people watching.
Things To Do
In Catania you'll find history preserved around every corner, from Baroque churches to crumbling Roman ruins. Although perhaps the real highlight is the world-famous food, including a dish made to honour Catania's most famous son, Vincenzo Bellini. Our top tips for exploring the Sicilian city that lurks in the shadow of an active volcano are:-
Plan your day in Piazza Duomo
This attractive square is the heart of the city, with views down its main axes to Etna in the north, the Baroque quarter in the west, the sea and port to the south and the railway station and seafront to the east. The Fontana dell’Elefante, with its somewhat saggy baggy elephant carved in black lava and surmounted by an Egyptian obelisk, has been adopted as the city’s symbol. Lined with fine Baroque buildings designed by Vaccarini in the early 1700s, it’s a lovely space to enjoy a coffee, a spremuta (juice), a Sicilian pastry or an ice cream as you plan your day.
Celebrate Vincenzo Bellini, a favourite son of Catania
The famous 19th century composer was born in Catania in 1801 and is celebrated lavishly throughout the city. See his tomb in the cathedral and his statue in Piazza Stesicoro, both of which quote his greatest operatic hits. The house where he was born has a small museum of mementos including scores, a death mask and models of scenes from his operas. And where better to enjoy the spectacle of one of his operas than in Teatro Bellini, a renowned opera house? Finally, to revive you after your pilgrimage, you’ll want to eat a plate of Pasta alla Norma, which was fashioned by Catanian chefs in honour of Bellini’s most famous creation and features a heady mix of tomato, aubergine and sheep’s milk ricotta.
Fish out the Pescheria
This wonderful market is located at the western edge of Piazza Duomo, just behind the Fontana dell’Amenano. The sound, colour and scents are intoxicating, and this is a true working market full of traders, chefs and housewives, not simply a tourist display. You’ll find live lobsters and seafood, swordfish standing guard over a rainbow array of sardines and anchovies, glowing oranges and cedro, outsize lemons peeled and sliced for you on the spot with the sweet pith contrasting with the sharp flesh. There are sheep’s heads complete with horns, and cheeses in all shapes and sizes. Enjoy today’s catch in one of the trattorias round the edge of the market.
Go up Etna
It’s hard to take in the sheer bulk and height of Mount Etna until the cloud and mists roll away and its snowy cone and black slopes burst onto the horizon, filling out the top of Catania’s main street, Via Etnea. Although it’s a tourist magnet, there’s a real fascination in this all too active volcano and the lush landscape it has spawned. There are lots of opportunities to explore, from a gentle trip round its flanks by train to a full scale and relatively serious walking expedition. One of the quirkier options is to ski on its slopes, crosscountry or downhill. It’s just too dangerous to go to the summit cone, but you can feel the force in the heat through the soles of your shoes and the plumes of smoke that burst from the fumaroles.
Holidays in Giardini Naxos
Just south of Taormina is the beautiful resort of Giardini-Naxos with its wide, curving bay. The beach is one of the most popular in Sicily, offering a choice of watersports, or those who prefer to relax in style, there are sun loungers and umbrellas to hire. The long promenade is lined with shops, cafes and bars so cool down with a beer or a delicious ice cream.
Holidays in Taormina
In the 20th century, the dramatic resort town Taormina was home to expatriate artists and writers including D.H. Lawrence. Marlene Dietrich, Truman Capote and Cary Grant were regular visitors and these days the A-listers arrive for the annual film festival in June. Taormina is a perched 800ft above the Ionian Sea, and there are dozens of bars, restaurants and chic boutiques in Corso Umberto, the pedestrianised main thoroughfare. It is also easy to get to the beaches by taking a three-minute by cable car. The town’s ancient Greek theatre was built in 3BC and summer visitors can enjoy opera, ballet and music in this impressive amphitheatre - although views over the sea and snow-capped Mount Etna provide their own drama.
Things To See
Taormina has plenty of attractions, but by far the most impressive is the old Teatro Greco (which is more Roman than Greek in appearance owing to a Roman first-century redesign). The views from there are absolutely magnificent - with the sea and the beautiful coastline on the left of the horizon and Mount Etna, with its still active volcano, towering up in the landscape to the right. The amphitheatre is also the site of an international film festival and several theatre productions every summer. Other things worth seeing include the Palazzo Corvaja, a building of Arabic origin which today houses the tourist office and a museum of local folklore; an impressive 12th-century clock-tower on Piazza IX Aprile; and the public gardens, which were created by Florence Trevelyan, a Scottish woman who settled in Taormina in 1899.