A clash of Greek and Roman ruins, golden sunsets on lush vineyards, cliffside fishing villages, a warm and welcoming culture, world-renowned cuisine and the largest active volcano in Europe, all on the largest island in the Mediterranean. Oh and so yes, that means beaches. Sicily just seemed the natural choice for a spring holiday.
Some of its most well-known cities include Palermo: the culture-and-architecture rich capital of the island; Syracuse: the birthplace of Archimedes, with the warmest temperatures and full of history; Agrigento: the southern plateau town between two rivers near the Valley of Temples, some of the largest and most breathtaking Greek ruins in Europe; Catania: the family-friendly seaside town at the base of Mt. Etna; and Taormina: Catania’s posh, dramatic cliff-side northern neighbor.
Our interests and itinerary settled us in Taormina (though Syracuse was a very close second). Taormina is the choice location for celebrities and luxury travelers, and it is easy to see why. Famously gorgeous views between the deep blue Mediterranean and the imposing Mt. Etna were simply irresistible. Built into the cliffs, we are certain the views will not disappoint, and we are eager to explore the Greek-Roman theatre, as well as the quaint village shops and restaurants. Taormina is well situated near a main road, so it serves as an excellent home base for exploring the rest of the island by car. However, with the beautiful Isola Bella at its beachy feet and being near Mount Etna, Sicily’s most well-known vineyards and its largest forests, there is plenty to experience and take in around the town itself. Its proximity to the airport in Catania is another plus – we’ll be able to get holiday-ing sooner and can keep holiday-ing until the last minute.
So within this luxurious cliff-side town, we will be housed at none other than the delightful boutique paradise of Hotel Villa Carlotta, as well as a night at her sister, the Villa Ducale. Villa Carlotta has received a lot of recent praise for its five-star experience tucked away in a four-star boutique establishment. Reviewers have given it a 97%, 5-out-of-5 rating on TripAdvisor and a 100% rating on Expedia, and it’s a featured member of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World group.
As a historical aristocratic home built in 1860 with dramatic panoramic views of the Mediterranean and Mount Etna, it offers historic, idyllic tranquility close to the city-center but just removed enough to provide private paradise. The villa hotel has a private pool, glorious balcony restaurant seating with views of the sea and city, sea view balconies in the rooms and luxury apartments. The staff are said to be tremendously pleasant, friendly and helpful, and the cuisine is top notch Sicilian authenticity. You see why we couldn’t resist…
Villa Ducale sports an almost identical reputation, praised as a literal paradise on Earth, though it ranks #1 of hotels in Taormina, rather than Villa Carlotta at #2. Notably, it offers a jacuzzi pool, a gorgeous terrace with stunning views of the bay glittering in the evening light and a grand seaside villa.
We’ve rented a wee Fiat 500 from Sixt to jet around the island for ruin adventuring, wine tasting and beach hopping. Sicilian car rental companies are unfortunately notorious for surprise bank charges and high deposits that are all-to-often unreturned, so we chose Sixt for reliability and coverage. They are a trusted, reputable company based in the UK, so it’s rather easier to communicate post-holiday regarding any queries and charges. We’ve used them before in a trip to France and had an excellent experience.
We look forward to sharing our experience with you post-holiday, which is happening in early May. Look out for a full review then, but we’ll be providing updates and additional information in the mean time. If you want us to bring back any particular recommendations or knowledge to inform your own visit, please let us know in comments below.