Hi folks, Dave Pryde your Personal Travel Counsellor here from my home in
picturesque St Fillans, in Perthshire. It’s clear from the order numbers and in
particular from the repeat business that you all agree Chiara’s initiative to
offer exciting menus from around the world is fabulous! Who doesn’t enjoy a
great meal, especially when it’s carefully prepared with the very best of
Which is not unlike a holiday………….and that’s where I can help! I specialise
in planning bespoke trips to any and all corners of the globe. After
circumventing the globe for her inspiration for the past few weeks, Chiara
headed “home” to Liguria and luckily for us, her Italian theme is set to
continue this week!
If you’re like me and have been involved in regular quizzes throughout
lockdown, then you will definitely have come across this question – what is
the largest island in the Mediterranean? The answer?………………Sicily – but
don’t let the label of “biggest” put you off, this is an absolutely stunning
island with all the look and feel of so many of the beautiful islands that
speckle the UK market’s favourite holiday destination; yes, ‘The Med’ rules!
Last September, I had the privilege of taking my wife on a special trip to
celebrate her birthday. Sicily had been on our Bucket List for some time and
we finally made it, in a Twin Centre with Sardinia! And what a trip we had –
our ten days touring the island were among the best we have spent
anywhere, there is so much to see and do here and the scenery is jaw-
dropping! A great place to start your trip here would be in the capital,
Bustling, colourful and hugely entertaining markets are a must-see here, the
stallholders all try to outdo each other and go to great lengths to make sure
you are having fun as well as shopping! The central Ballarò street market
and the Vucciria, near the port, are two of the best known.
Stunning architecture is everywhere and the contrast between the day and
night experience is remarkable; by day, the sun glistens off perfectly sculpted
buildings and at night, the place is completely different but every bit as
spectacular. South west of the Vucciria market is the 16th-century Fontana
Pretoria, a fountain decorated with statues of animals, sea monsters and
gods. Further west at the Catacombe dei Cappuccini there are mummified
corpses dating from the 1500s to the early 1900s. Near the harbour, the
Castello a Mare Archaeological Park was once a fortified complex and is used
today as a concert venue.
One of the most impressive buildings in this beautiful city is the huge
neoclassical Teatro Massimo, renowned for opera performances. Film buffs
will recognise the impressive staircase to the main entrance from Godfather
III, the last of the fabulous trilogy following the exploits of the Corleone
family. But do take the time to go inside to marvel at the sheer scale of the
auditorium; if you actually get the chance to see an opera so much the
One of the first things associated with Sicily in many people’s eyes will be The
Mafia, or Cosa Nostra as the criminal syndicate is known here. This doesn’t
mean the city isn’t safe; you are more likely to see evidence of the anti-Mafia
feeling than encounter mob violence. You can also help local businesses and
restaurants by getting hold of a “pizzo-free” city map and eating, shopping
and sleeping in establishments that have signed up to an anti-extortion
Going back to the movie theme, many visitors to the island have Corleone on
their Itinerary. There is nothing wrong with this town for a brief visit, just
don’t expect to recognise any movie locations as none were shot here! The
spectacular hilltop town of Savoca on the East coast is one of the most widely
recognised ‘sets’ from The Godfather movies, Bar Vitelli arguably winning the
prize as best known; this is where Michael met his future father-in-law whilst
accompanied by his two henchmen and you can actually sit in the seat he
occupied at the café entrance………….I did!
Our road trip took in an overnight stay near historic Agrigento, a couple of
nights in the picture-postcard hilltop town of Ragusa, made famous in the
Inspector Montalbano TV series, and then the cruise port of Taormina – if
you have visited somewhere more spectacular than this, please drop me a
note! The sunsets here are beautiful as my snap below shows…………
We concluded our tour in Cefalu on the North coast. All of these places are
perfectly located for exploring the surrounding areas and an itinerary along
these lines will enable you to cover almost all of the island - and there is
plenty to see! One key travel tip, make sure your SatNav is set to main roads
only, you do NOT want to get off the beaten track here, the roads then
narrow from two cars width to less than one and the locals park as close to
their homes as they possibly can – to be honest, driving anywhere on this
island is not for the faint-hearted!
Back on the road………….Agrigento is a hilltop city on Sicily's southwest shore.
It's best known for the ruins of the ancient city of Akragas in the Valley of the
Temples, a vast archaeological site with well-preserved Greek temples. This is
a very popular tourist spot, if you’re going, get there early!
Ragusa – we just fell in love with this wonderful place – is a hilltop city in the
south east and the place to head for here is Ragusa Ibla, the old town. This is
home to many baroque buildings, like the stunning Duomo di San Giorgio, a
grand church with paintings and stained-glass windows which is transformed
at night with incredible lighting. There are also sweeping views from the
Giardino Ibleo, a beautiful public park with churches and fountains. There is a
miniature train circling the city with hop-on, hop-off stops and this will
provide welcome help to get you negotiate and cover as many as possible of
the incredibly steep streets!
Taormina is an absolutely stunning hilltop town (yes, another one!) on the
east coast of Sicily. It sits near Mount Etna, still an active volcano today
where you will find various trails leading to the summit. You will definitely
want to consider a half day trip there. The town itself is known for the Teatro
Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theatre still in use today. Near
the theatre, spectacular cliffs drop to the sea forming coves with pristine
sandy beaches. It’s down here that you will also find a narrow stretch of
sand connecting to Isola Bella, a beautiful tiny island and nature reserve.
Taormina is arguably one of the jewels in Sicily’s crown – it does get
exceptionally busy as it’s a cruise port but it’s a must-see on anyone’s trip
Our last stop was Cefalù which is yet another picture-postcard location on
the north coast. Seafood lovers will be in their absolute element here. The
city is also renowned for its Norman cathedral, a 12th-century fortress-like
structure with elaborate Byzantine mosaics and soaring twin towers. More
spectacular beaches at the likes of Mazzaforno and Settefrati can be found
nearby, just to the west.
Sicily is quite literally the crossroads of bygone and present civilizations.
Historically, it has absorbed a vast array of cultures from the likes of the
Phoenicians, the Romans and the Greeks. As you travel around, you will
come across examples of all these influences. However, add in the gorgeous
scenery, the mouth-watering food and the warm hospitality of the local
people and you will find this is an outstanding destination to begin or
continue your love affair with Italy!
I hope that has whetted your appetite from a travel perspective and I hope
this has inspired you to give it a try! Just remember, in the light of all that has
recently happened in travel, it will be best not to take any chances and book
different bits and pieces as you find them online - when it comes to holidays,
only spiders need the web, stay safe and book with Dave instead!
Drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact
details and I’ll give you a call to get something sorted for 2021.
Where are we off to next week, Chiara?