Lovely, welcoming bargainous B&B (45-90 euro per night) clinging to the hillside above Taormina. Huge balconies overlooking the bay and Giardini-Naxos. Reward yourself after climbing back up the hill after dinner with a bottle of wine and fireworks; more often than not there is of course Etna or be there on 8 September when man-made fireworks are let off all evening to celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
This small island, closer to Africa than Europe, is the southernmost tip of Italy. It has some of the prettiest and remote beaches in the Mediterranean, most of which are empty outside the months of July and August. Snorkel with manta rays, watch dolphins from a boat, or hire a bicycle and cover the island's 20 sq km in a day. Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the Isola dei Conigli (Rabbit Island), and the Riserva Naturale Isola di Lampedusa, a wildlife nature reserve, is an undiscovered land of walks and megalithic sites. If you visit, don't forget to pack Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's literary masterpiece "The Leopard", his grandfather used to own the island.
West of Palermo on Sicily’s northern coast, picturesque Scopello is the ideal place to soak up the atmosphere of Sicilian village life. Enjoy the evening sun in the fairy lit walled square, surrounded by olive trees. Visit the beautiful ‘tonnara scopello’ set on the edge of the turquoise sea in an isolated bay covered with fragrant oleanders. The more energetic can walk in the stunning Lo Zingaro nature reserve or explore the rugged coastline by boat.
Ortygia was by far my favorite place in Sicily: much friendlier than Palermo and much less touristy than Taormina. If fact, it's one of my favorite places ever.
Once again, if you're unfamiliar with driving in Italy, beware: navigating the island is terrifying.
I loved staying at Approdo delle Sirene. The owner is sweet, the location is ideal, and the decor charming (plus you can't beat having your own personal netbook).
You are obligated to visit the Parco Archeologico if you go to Siracusa. I liked it -didn't think it was great - but would have kicked myself if I had missed it.
And as long as you're in the area, check-out the Santuario della Madonna: the contemporary, geometric design was a welcome departure from the multitudes of duomos.
Speaking of duomos, don't miss the Piazza del Duomo and surrounding buildings. I enjoyed perching on the steps and eating my weight in pistachio gelato while people-watching.
If you're in Ortygia on a Saturday, be sure to visit the market in the morning while everything is fresh.
Visit Noto: it's only about a one-hour drive away. Quaint town, interesting architecture.
My big regret was not eating at Il Duomo in Ragusa, approximately two hours from Siracusa. I was just too frazzled from the crazy driving to take on a four-hour adventure. It's the only two Michelin star rated restaurant in Sicily, and obviously the best. I'm truly an idiot for canceling my reservation.
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