A week in Sicily over the Easter holidays was the perfect remedy. This year so far has been a little intense to say the least… for many reasons, personal and professional. I was more than ready to up sticks and spend some days in the sunshine with my boys.
The island is a little slice of heaven – wild flower meadows, ancient Baroque towns and miles of unspoilt coastline, and The Thinking Traveller provided us with a beautiful villa in the most idyllic position by the sea.
The island of Sicily lies just off the end of the “boot” of Italy, but is well known for having a character all of its own. We stayed in the south east corner of the Island, an area rich in history and home to many UNESCO sites. In 1693 a catastrophic earth quake hit the region, almost completely destroying over 60 towns and villages. Due to this an intense period of rebuilding began giving the region its uniquely uniform Baroque beauty.
Beautiful Baroque streets in Siracusa
This corner of Sicily touches the sparkling warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and the coastline is stunning. We stayed in the villa Marea, not far from the towns of Ispica and Pozzallo. The beach was just a two minute stroll from the garden gate, and we had the sight and sound of the ocean from the garden and terrace. My kids are never happier than when on the beach, all they need is sand, water and space to run around and they are chipper for hours. Sticks help too 😉
Marea provided us with just the right amount of luxury, whilst still feeling homely and cosy. The master bedroom was like a boutique hotel room – four poster bed, floaty curtains, whitewashed wood and chic furniture. The whole house felt really homely. It was very well equipped and every detail of the decor was lovely. One of my favourite parts had to be the outdoor terraced area, which provided a stunning sheltered space for dining and relaxing.
Seamless indoor/outdoor living and the stunning terrace at Marea
The Thinking Traveller specialise in luxury villas in the regions of Sicily, Puglia, Corsica and some Greek Islands, They pride themselves on having specialist local knowledge and a great personal service. Their villas carefully selected and exclusively available to them, and they will then put you in contact with a local representative who will be on hand throughout your stay to offer advice and help should you need it.
The Vendicari Nature Reserve
For each area The Thinking Traveller will also have a list of recommended experiences that they can arrange for you. We were offered an experience as part of our trip and we visited the Vendicari nature reserve for a guided tour with Etna Unlimited. The reserve is home to an ancient tuna factory, as well as flamingos, nesting turtles, and wild coastline and wetlands. The kids loved this two hour excursion and our guide Luca’s enthusiasm was infectious.
The wild and historic Vendicari Nature Reserve
I would very much recommend hiring a car in Sicily as there is so much to see. I found the roads pretty quiet and easy to navigate. No one seems to stick to the speed limit and you may get overtaken a lot!! However we also saw quite a lot of police around so I wouldn’t be too tempted to speed like the locals do.
Here are some of my favourite towns in the region that I visited.
The town of Modica lies on a steep hillside, about an hour in land from where we stayed. It’s well worth the drive, not least because I found the countryside and farmland in the area to be absolutely stunning. I wish I’d stopped to take more photos, but I’m talking herds of cream coloured cattle grazing in orchards, knee deep in wild flowers. Yep seriously, you’ll have to go and see. There were many wildflower meadows filled with poppies, and the little lanes were lined with dry stone walls in white stone.
When you get to the town itself, make sure you find “Modica Alta”, the oldest, medieval part of the town, lying on both sides of a dramatic ravine. Take a couple of hours at least to get lost in these streets, climb the steps, experience the authentic and slightly decrepit charm, with tiny churches tucked in amongst the terraces of pastel houses. I found parking to be easy quite close to the main street, but prepared to have aching legs at the end of your wander off the beaten path.
The steep winding alleyways of Modica
I have also heard that Ragusa is equally charming, I didn’t get a chance to explore that far but next time it’ll be top of my list.
Noto is perhaps one of the most famous of the Baroque towns in the region. It’s bustling and charming, and filled with the unspoilt down at heel grandeur so typical of the area. Be sure to visit Cafe de Sicilia, we went on the recommendation of several people for the fresh brioche bun filled with gelato, and we were not disappointed!
Doors and windows in Noto
Easily my favourite place, this charming little fishing village has it all – crystal clear waters, blue fishing boats bobbing in the harbour, medieval character and endless cafes and restaurants laid around the beautiful town square. Not everything was open as we were there very early in the season, but there was still plenty of choice and lots of fresh pasta and seafood. The overflow car park at the entrance to the town suggests Marzamemi must get very busy in the summer, but it really is a little jewel on this part of the Sicilian coast, and well worth a trip.
Mediterranean charm in Marzamemi
We also briefly visited Siracusa, and the little island of Ortigia where the city was founded in Ancient Greek times. Beautiful fountains and charming town squares lead off to plenty of little winding alleyways. In all the places we went to there were several pretty Vespas and vintage Fiat 500s to be spotted!
Our flights and accommodation were kindly provided by The Thinking Traveller, in return for some photography and coverage. All views are of course my own.
If you do go to Sicily, please take a photo of some pretty cows for me! x