Sicily. Italy’s Island Gem.

Two amazing weeks in Sicily. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll love this island. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love this island. If gelato is number one on your list of the last thing you want to eat before you die, you’ll love Italy in general. But on to Sicily.

We landed in Palermo and spent one night at the Alma Hotel. The owners are the nicest, most accommodating hosts we’ve ever met! They even packed us a to-go breakfast when we had to leave before regular breakfast hours. No wonder they’re number one on Trip Advisor. The location is great for wandering around. We got our priorities straight on night one and headed out for some gelato down the street when we happened upon a huge biking event right outside the Teatro Politeama, which was built in the 1800’s.
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Day 2, we rented a car we lovingly called Panda (because it was a Fiat Panda) and Drew drove stick shift for the first time in 20 years. The first couple of days on the road were, how should I say…exciting?
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First stop, Scopello. Loved this quaint little seaside town. It’s quiet and mellow.
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If you make it here, stay at La Tavernetta. A beautiful hotel with great food at its restaurant.
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You can’t beat this view during dinner.
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Everyone told us we had to try their spaghetti with ricci (sea urchin). So that’s what Drew got for dinner that night, and it was divine. But we already love ordering uni at sushi restaurants, so loving this dish was pretty easy.
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A short drive from La Tavernetta is a small beach with a gorgeous cove for swimming. The water was crystal clear and the perfect temperature.
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Night 2, gelato #2.
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Day 3, we set off in Panda and drove to Agrigento, known for its ancient Greek temples. Yep, the Greeks were here and set up shop nicely. What’s amazing is that these Doric temples are so well preserved from back in the BC days. It still blows my mind that humans from so long ago used to walk around and see the very same temples we see today.
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A visit to the Valley of the Temples is definitely a must.
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Naughty, naughty!
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If you want to be fancy, stay at Villa Athena and you can have a view of one of the temples while you dine al fresco.

Near Agrigento, and worthy of checking out, is Scala dei Turchi. It’s a beach with these awesome white cliffs.
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Seems like the thing to do here is sunbathe.
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After a quick stop here, we headed over to Ortigia (or Ortygia)…probably my favorite Sicilian town. LOVE this place. Totally walkable, totally charming. We stayed at an AirBnB here for three nights. If we travel and stay anywhere for at least 3 nights, it’s most likely going to be at an AirBnB. I love having more space and a kitchen, even if it’s just for breakfast. Location-wise, you can’t go wrong anywhere you stay in Ortigia because it’s so small. You can walk everywhere no matter where you are, and every path you look down you just fall in love.
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Ortigia is actually a small island and is the historical center of Syracuse. There’s about 2500 years of history here so it’s fun just to wander around and explore the streets.
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The Piazza del Duomo -the town hangout spot at night. Actually, you can walk around to most places and there will be people around, tourists and locals.
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Puppets are a big deal here.
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This man’s puppet show was sweet! You can see a little clip below:
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So we went to check out a show at the Puppet Theater. (Sorry, bad iPhone image quality!) It was in Italian, so we didn’t quite understand what was going on, but the experience was neat.
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Instead of gelato, we grabbed a popsicle one night – still GOOD.
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Wandering the streets night after night, we found a kitty waiting for someone to open the door…
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What we think was a gypsy girl, playing the accordion. For some reason, they all like to play the Godfather theme song. (I guess it’s because the mafia is still alive and well in Sicily – though some local businesses are trying to fight against having to pay pizzo, aka “protection money”)
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One of the best parts about night wandering in July was that a film festival was going on that week so certain areas were set up with seats outside and movie screens, all playing Italian movies of course.
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The farmer’s market happens on Sundays in Ortygia, and it’s an awesome one. Swordfish is abundant in Sicily. If the restaurants weren’t so damn good, I would’ve cooked one night. But Sicilians know how to COOK!
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Last pic of Ortygia features my favorite building…full of kitties!
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North of Ortigia lies the seaside town of Taormina. Apparently this is where the high rollers and celebs of Europe like to come to get away from it all. It’s beautiful, but to me, it lacks the charm of Ortygia. Just a bit too touristy. We stayed at an AirBnb just below the town, by the beach in Mazzaro. It’s just a quick little gondola ride up to Taormina, but an even easier walk to some sweet little nearby beaches. Below is Lido Mazzaro.

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Isola Bella, a tiny little island with a very rocky beach. Most of the beaches we went to in Sicily were rocky actually. The cove at Lido Mazzaro was much better for swimming.
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The eats nearby are pretty good too. Simple, yet so fresh and yummy.
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Up in Taormina, a must see is Teatro Greco (Greek Theater). It’s the second largest ancient Greek theater in Sicily (the first is in Syracuse) and the location of this theater can’t be beat. If a show was going on, I’d be torn between watching the stage and staring out at the sea.
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Corso Umberto. Tons of shops and restaurants on this street, and its side streets.
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Last, but not least…about an hour away from Taormina is the famous Mt Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. We didn’t have time to tour Mt Etna, but we DID have time to visit a mighty fine winery there with one of our friends and her Sicilian family.
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We took a tour and Benanti set up a most spectacular lunch spread for us afterwards. I guess I was too busy eating and enjoying the company to take any photos of the food.
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A pouch for the wine glass? My kind of wine tour!
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Here’s our half American, half Sicilian crew. We spoke no Italian and only one Sicilian family member spoke fluent English, but we all had a great time with each other! It was a grand way to celebrate my 40th and to end our trip to Sicily.
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Until next time, ciao! (with a double cheek kiss!)