SICILY | Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea filled with a rich and varied landscape, stunning beaches, and culinary delights. It boasts a rich history where people of diverse ethnicity have left their mark. From relaxing by the beach, indulging in fresh and flavoursome cuisine, exploring ancient towns or hiking on Mount Etna, Sicily has something to offer almost everyone.
We flew from London Gatwick to Catania airport via EasyJet (approximately £100 return) and were based in Cefalu, a stunning city on the north of the island. We only scratched the surface of this magnificent island over the course of a long weekend and can’t wait to return. If you only have a short amount of time to spend in North Sicily, here are our recommendations.
Stay In A Villa
We booked an incredible villa through The Thinking Traveller who specialise in luxury villas across Sicily. From the time of booking through to our arrival at the villa, we received incredible service. Leading up to our holiday, our local coordinator supported us in planning excursions and providing extremely thorough directions to the property. Pre departure we received a detailed area guide and map in the mail and leading up to arrival we kept our local contact up to date on travel delays. She even contacted our rental car company to ensure they stayed open beyond their usual hours for us. The villa was extremely well appointed with a stunning infinity pool overlooking the picturesque town of Cefalu. We enjoyed cooking at home and eating al fresco at the ample outdoor space. Evenings were spent soaking up North Sicilian sunsets and enjoying the stars and planets light up the night sky.
Explore The Beautiful Seaside Town Cefalu
Cefalu, which is dominated by a huge rock formation known as La Rocca, is a wonderful place to spend a day. You can visit beaches, enjoy great food, shop in numerous boutiques, and end the day with a sunset cocktail and dinner overlooking the Mediterranean. For pizza and beer check out Tivitti and for delicious local cuisine with a great view, go to Kentia and grab one of the terrace tables.
Sail Along The Mediterranean Coast
We sailed from Cefalu port and spent a full day exploring the Mediterranean coast. The cost was €60.00 per person through Cefalu Sailing which included two skippers and a traditional Sicilian lunch on the boat. We were treated to some homemade Sicilian white wine. The day included numerous stops to swim in the Mediterranean, snorkelling, and a breath-taking sail past the town of Cefalu, giving us an entirely different perspective than our stroll through the town the previous day.
Taste Wine At Abbazia Santa Anastasia
We arranged for a tour and tasting (€20.00 per person) at the lovely hilltop estate of Abbazia Santa Anastacia. Abbazia is small producer featuring top quality wines. They offer several options but we went for a tasting of their biodynamic range. Biodynamic viticulture takes organic to the next level. It is not simply a method of production; it’s a philosophy that involves a commitment to completely natural methods. Our tasting included four wines: Chardonnay, Nero d’Avola, Syrah, and Cabernet. During the tasting, we enjoyed a seasonal light lunch overlooking the vineyards (€27.00 per person).
We arranged door-to-door transport from our villa (no easy feat to get to with a minibus!) to the winery with Marika from Sicily Taxi and Tour. She and her partner Antonio were very friendly and hospitable and the transport was very comfortable (€250.00 for a group of 9).
Tour Mountain Etna
Mount Etna is Europe’s highest and most active volcano, so was a must-see during our visit to Sicily. We travelled with Etna Moving by 4×4 from the village of Trecastagni to the Etna National Park. Along the way we enjoyed the unique landscape and foliage of Etna. We saw chestnut trees, broom plants (a beautiful brush covered in yellow jasmine-scented flowers), and ancient lava flows. Our dedicated guides Marco and Fabrizio gave detailed but entertaining explanations of Mount Etna and its history. We particularly enjoyed getting to travel through time seeing how the different lava flows shaped the landscape. Next, after equipping us with helmets and flashlights, Marco and Fabrizio took us into the Cassone Cave, a pitch black lava tube, inside of the mountain. Towards the end of the tour we went trekking around the Silvestri Craters offering incredible views of the unique landscape. We finished the morning with a vegetarian friendly Sicilian picnic consisting of super fresh olives, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes, and very tasty homemade bread.
Learn How To Cook Sicilian Food
The Thinking Traveller helped us arrange a half-day private cooking lesson at the Villa Palamara just outside Cefalu ($113 per person pre-paid). We’ve taken several cooking classes and the Sicilian Food Lovers class hosted by Cinzia and Antoniois one of the best we’ve done. We started the morning with an espresso enjoyed out on the terrace of the beautiful property, then headed inside to suit up in aprons and get down to business. We were taught to cook a variety of Sicilian dishes including tomatoes stuffed with local ricotta cheese, capers, and almonds; fresh pasta made with traditional alla Norma sauce; locally sourced pan-seared tuna; sweet and sour onions (the group’s favourite side dish); and a lemon crème for dessert.
After enjoying our delicious four course meal, we took advantage of the beautiful grounds and countryside pool at the Villa Palamara estate with a tour of the property and a swim to top off the day.
Stop For Dessert
We stopped at Fiasconardo, which has a reputation for selling some of the best pannetone around. It is located in Castelbuono, a charming medieval town. Castelbuono features an Arab-Norman castle from the 14th century that provides a good vantage point of the surrounding hillside. Fiasconardo is not just for Christmas treats, they also offer some of the best ice cream in Sicily and a delicious selection of Sicilian pastries, Limoncello, and jams.
During our next visit to Sicily, we look forward to exploring more of this enchanted island including its ancient archaeological sites and the impressive beaches and charming towns on its east coast. Thanks to Eve and the team at The Thinking Traveller for all their support in ensuring we had a fantastic holiday!