4th June 2019

Sicily: Sometimes nick-named God’s Kitchen is an island not to be missed this summer

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, is rich in culture, fine wines and a distinctive cusine. It is also one of our favourite European destinations, especially off season.

Separated from Italy by the Strait of Messina, Sicily is blessed with a mild climate and diverse topography, and is home to important archaeological and ancient sites, as well as Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe.

Pantelleria by sea, Sicily

Palermo, the flamboyant capital, has a wealth of museums and baroque churches and has strong Arab influences, seen in its souk-like markets. Avenues and squares are lined with majestic date palms, while the former fishing village of Mondello provides the city with a beach facing the Tyrrenhian Sea. Up above the city, on the slope of Monte Caputo, accessible by cable car, spectacular Monreale affords panoramic views.

Wine tasting in a local winery, Sicily

Elsewhere on the island Agrigento and Syracuse are steeped in Graeco-Roman culture, as is Noto, which is also a baroque masterpiece that will delight the cultural aficionado. Dolce & Gabbana will hold their next major fashion show in Agrigento on 6 July 2019, having privatised the entire Valley of the Temples through which the catwalks will be set up.

Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily

On the island’s eastern side, beautiful Taormina, with its stunning Greek theatre, together with ocean-front Taormina Mare, is the best-known resort town, with fine hotels, restaurants and shopping. The financial capital, Catania, a little further to the south, has a wealth of historic buildings: palaces, monasteries and a cathedral.

We love it all and strongly recommend travelling with the island’s top host whom we have known and worked with for years. Visit the fishing town of Mazara del Vallo, in the province of Trapani on the western coast, and dine at the fish market, which turns into a candle-lit restaurant after dark. See the floodlit temple of Agrigento; visit famous wineries, cruise to offshore islands and savour a unique cuisine which includes the typical sweet ricotta-filled biscuits called cannoli, believed to have been introduced to Sicily by the Arabs in the 9th century.

Benanti winery, Sicily

Sicily is surrounded by groups of idyllic islands. We love the energy and life of the Aeolians notably Stromboli, Panarea and Filicudi where the yachts of the affluent Milanese cruise in summer. We marvel at the clarity of the azure ocean at Favignana, in the Egadi Islands to the west of Trapani.

A member of our senior team recently returned from a fascinating trip combining the mainland with the island of Pantelleria, located midway between Sicily and Tunisia. Here, in a land of capers, cactii and the sweet dessert-wine, Moscato di Pantelleria, a special experience is to be found. The stone-built dammuso are the traditional white domed island houses, of which the most famous are within the summer-home compound owned by fashion designer, Giorgio Armani. A recently opened boutique-hotel is perfect for a few days’ sojourn after touring the mainland, and ideal for a group takeover.

 

Whether you stay put in a beachfront hotel at Taormina Mare, with a day cruiser at your disposal to visit the Aeolian Islands, or tour the island in pursuit of its historical and cultural side, there is so much Sicily has to offer to the most seasoned and experienced travellers.

 

Our mission is to reappraise the top hotels and seek the new; to check out the finest villas and authentic restaurants; to discover any unexpected and unmissable locations; and meet the people who matter, the special people on the ground who make all the difference. People like Maria at San Lorenzo with her bakery where wonderful home-made bread is drizzled with the finest olive oil. Or Maddalena, the senior cook at our favourite villa on mainland Sicily, who collects herbs and vegetables from the garden every morning.

Do it the Nota Bene way and you won’t be disappointed. Go in early or late summer to enjoy Sicily at its best, and let us plan something unforgettable.