I love Sicily Part 2
Have you ever considered Sicily as a travel destination? As I loved Sicily so much last year I decided to try a different area this year. What I loved last year was the wandering potential, exploring all the lovely streets of Taormina full of restaurants and shops. Also I wanted a city break with culture and a bit of history thrown in.
As I would fly into Catania I decided to spend a couple of nights there for a city break as it looked interesting when I researched on the internet. Stayed at the Una hotel which is on the main shopping street (Via Etnea) heading to the Duomo Square. This is a great hotel to stay at location wise and it is pretty, all cream and black modern décor. They have a rooftop bar and restaurant and you can pay extra to have a la carte breakfast in there. The view is of Mount Etna which is quite clear on a good day. Worth doing at least once if you stay there.
From the hotel you can turn right and walk to Giardino Bellini park or turn left and wander down to the Cathedral Square. There is plenty to distract you whilst walking with plenty of places to stop for a coffee or a beer. Wandering down the shopping street it doesn't take long to reach the first old church followed by the University Piazza which has lovely historical buildings to look at, and then only 5 minutes walk to the Piazza Duomo with the beautiful cathedral and Fontana Del Elephante. The cathedral is really quite spectacular and in summer there are trees full of fragrant blossom, its just lovely. This area is where you can get the tourist buses including trips to Mount Etna and there is a cute toy train which drives around Ortygia.
One of the days we caught the tourist bus and stopped at Acitrezza for lunch. This is a cute seaside village where there is a castle and also some large rocks (faraglioni). Very picturesque and lots of people enjoying the water, worth a visit if you are in the area.
From Catania we travelled to Syracuse to our hotel in the historical centre of Ortigia. Ortigia is an island off Syracuse and is just beautiful surrounded by water and full of historical buildings and legends. We stayed at the Etrangers Hotel & Spa which overlooked the sea and the promenade, you can even see as far as the castle from the restaurant on the roof. We stayed in a seaview room on the fourth floor which had a lovely balcony so every morning I woke up to a gorgeous view. This hotel is a little tired and in need of a refurb but location wise and view wise could not be better!
Turning left out of the hotel it only takes five minutes to wander to Piazza Duomo and the beautiful cathedral. The square is lovely full of restaurants and we tried various places. Think my favourite experience was trying one down a side street where we sat outside served by loud, fun waiters and when I went to the restroom inside it was just crazy busy full of italian people all talking and almost shouting loudly was a great buzz! From the square there are a variety of streets to wander selling handicrafts, boutique shops, restaurants and bars, which I loved. From the Diana Fountain you can catch the tourist bus which takes you all around Syracuse and is great if you want to adventure further and see the amphitheater or go to the street market near the harbour.
At night you are spoilt for choice as to where to eat as you can wander down the waterfront (Lungomare Alfeo) or to the Piazza Duomo or go in the opposite direction and to Emanuelle II road which is along the waterfront where all the huge yachts are moored. There is plenty of entertainment at the weekend and even during the week in the summer.
Walked down Emanuelle II one morning to find that there are lots of boat trips departing from this area. Decided to get on the Panoramic Tours boat as it was the biggest and the trip was just simply around the Ortygia lagoon. This is worth doing for a different vantage point and to see how beautiful Ortigia is from the sea, top deck is the place to be. It was just so beautiful and blue.
On our last day we decided that we needed R&R and visited the Zefiro beach club next to the Fountain of Arethusa on the waterfront. It is next to the mini beach (by mini beach I am not joking) and is worth every penny of the 20 euros per person as you get spoiled rotten and you get a great space/sunbed/towel. Or you could try and get a spot on the mini beach and sunbathe for free (good luck with that ha ha). Also if you want a bit of a crazy night out it sounded like Zefiro know how to party.
Had the most spectacular sunset on our last night in Ortygia whilst we were sat on the rooftop of our hotel eating dinner. Was a lovely ending to a lovely vacation!
Totally recommend Catania and Syracuse if you love Italian food/history/culture as they are both such interesting and enjoyable places to see. Enjoy!