Discovering Stromboli's Volcano

Discovering Stromboli's Volcano

One of the chief attractions the beautiful island of Sicily has to offer is the ability to get up close and personal with a variety of breath-taking natural wonders. From the shimmering blue depths of the surrounding Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas with their spell-binding diving and sailing opportunities; to the rugged, mountainous terrain, peppered with ample hiking and trekking activities - Sicily is the perfect destination for those who can’t get enough of the Great Outdoors.

However, to experience one of the most compelling natural sights of Sicily, a trip off the northern shore to the famous Aeolian Island chain ought to be on your itinerary. This small archipelago, rising up out of the sapphire sea, presents a primordial landscape of rugged coastline and dramatically smoldering volcanoes.

Stromboli and the Aeolian Islands

This UNESCO World Heritage site plays host to seven islands as well as a smattering of uninhabited islets, terrain typified by magnificent black sand beaches, smoking craters and steaming fumaroles. Although this volatile region is reminiscent of a land that time forgot, the Aeolian Islands experience a surge in popularity during the summer months, drawing both the yachts and attentions of the fashionable jet-set.

The island of Stromboli is no exception to this rule - it has experienced its own slice of fame and fortune from when Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman shot the movie, Stromboli, Terra di Dio, on its shores in 1949. The pair reportedly fell in love on Stromboli’s shores and once the film was released, visitors followed in its wake.

Fast forward to the present day and it is now the mighty volcano of Stromboli which entices visitors to this small island. The captivating spectacle is renowned for being one of the world’s most active volcanoes, its temperamental and frequent eruptions spewing glowing lava and plumes of steam from an assortment of vents tucked inside its crater.

Watching this sort of activity by night is truly a sight to behold with small yet fiercely glowing showers spraying up to 200 metres above the craters - a light display which has earned Stromboli the nickname ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’. This constant activity - dating back to ancient times - makes Stromboli’s volcano unique, securing its place as one of the world’s most accessible and visited volcanoes.

Stromboli _volcano _sparks

 

Climbing Stromboli

To watch the eruptions of Stromboli’s volcano from afar or from the deck of a passing ship is a sight worth writing home about, but to climb to the summit and catch the show from a front-row seat takes the experience to a whole new level.

At a total height of almost 8,000ft, 75% of Stromboli’s bulk lies beneath the surface of the waves. However, the 3,000ft that rises above sea level presents a popular climb for those of a reasonable level of fitness, keen to experience at close quarters the rewarding view from the rim of the crater, into the fiery depths below. Geologists monitor Stromboli’s volcanic activity closely to ensure that visitors remain as safe as possible.

There are several routes that can be arranged with local tour companies or private guides. A relatively new path cuts straight up to the summit viewing platform from St. Vincenzo church whilst the older routes via the panoramic viewpoint at Sciara del Fuoco and the picturesque Ginostra village, are often less busy.

Hikers should be of a reasonable level of fitness to tackle the two to three hour climb to the summit and should be prepared to deal with exposed slopes, loose sand, rocks and unpaved trails. A sturdy pair of trekking boots, a torch, water, snacks and a warm jacket are essential pieces of equipment to embark on the climb, though your tour company will provide safety helmets too.

Most of the tour groups plan the trek to reach the summit for sunset, to watch the changing colours of the sky against a backdrop of volcanic explosions. As darkness falls, the show continues beneath a starlit sky, before the descent begins.

The nuts and bolts

The cost of joining a group trek to the summit of Stromboli is approximately 25-30 Euros, inclusive of helmets and a guide who speaks English with departure times varying from 3pm to 5.30pm, dependent on season. Trekking gear can be hired from the town.

Stromboli itself can be reached from Sicily by hydrofoil or the ferry service.

 

Why Syracuse is the perfect destination for history buffs

Why Syracuse is the perfect destination for history buffs

Syracuse, nestled in the south-east region of Sicily, is one of the most intriguing historical destinations the island has to offer, attracting countless visitors with its UNESCO World Heritage status and abundance of archaeological and architectural treasures. From atmospheric temples built to honour the Greek gods, to fascinating amphitheatres where plays were brought to life and gladiatorial blood was spilt for the entertainment of the masses, a stay in this region delivers some of the best historical sights Sicily has to offer; and for this reason, it is unsurprising that Syracuse is considered an ideal holiday destination for history buffs.

An important hub of the island since ancient times, Syracuse is one of Sicily’s most populated cities - a few years ago, the population was noted at around 125,000 - fourth in size behind Palermo, Catania and Messina. However, the current size of Syracuse pales in comparison to the formidable reputation it held in its heyday - in 400 BC it is believed that Syracuse was home to up to a population of up to 300,000. In fact, it is safe to say that after fending off the mighty Athenian invaders that set Syracuse in its sights in 415 BC, the city state rose to become one of the mightiest in the Western world. Absorb this unparalleled historical legacy with a visit to Syracuse, and uncover the ancient treasures of Sicily’s colourful past.

Key sights of Syracuse

The Neapolis Archaeological Park

The Neapolis Archaeological Park is the big draw for visitors to Syracuse. A sprawling collection of beautifully preserved Greek and Roman monuments and relics, including a huge, stone amphitheatre where shows from great Greek playwrights, such as Aeschylus and Euripides, are still performed during the summer months. Highlights also include the ancient limestone quarry, dotted with citrus groves and the Roman arena where gladiators turned the earth red as they battled for the crowd’s pleasure.

 

Shutterstock _209185600_Ortygia

The Island of Ortygia

With a name sounding like something straight out of an Ancient Greek myth, the beautiful island of Ortygia is known as the beating heart of Syracuse. An island attached to the mainland by a peninsula, this patchwork of captivating medieval streets lined with ornate balconies and dotted with architectural wonders, offers romantic hotels and atmospheric restaurants where a sparkling sea view is never more than a few minutes away.

Compared to mainland Syacuse which suffered extensive, heavy damage from the bombings of World War II, Ortygia’s streets offer restored Baroque buildings and architecture reflecting the island’s melting pot of cultural influences - from the Romans and Byzantines, to the Normans and Spaniards. Look out for the magnificent cathedral and charming piazza as well as the famous Fonte Arethusa, where Nelson allegedly stocked up on water before heading onward to the Battle of the Nile. The impressive Doric columns of the Grecian temples to Athena and Apollo can also still be seen, relics to a long past Golden Age.

San Giovanni catacombs

Take a guided tour of the eerie San Giovanni catacombs and explore this extensive labyrinth of underground tunnels, stretching miles below the city. This subterranean burial chamber was adapted by the Church from an Ancient Greek aqueduct - it became the final resting place for hundreds of men, women and children, housed in the darkness beneath the city streets.

Eurialo castle

A majestic fortress situated a few kilometres to the west of Syracuse city, Eurialo Castle was constructed in a location offering panoramic views to prevent enemy attack. The construction of the castle took place under Dionysus the Elder to hold Syracuse against the Carthaginian hordes. It is believed that the great mathematician Archimedes contributed to the brilliant design of the stronghold, so well planned that it has never been captured in battle. Tweaks from the Romans and Byzantines followed and the castle became renowned as an impeccable example of defence techniques including a hidden entrance to the castle as well as networks of underground galleries and secret passages.

 

Shutterstock _150706493-Ragusa

The Baroque towns

A stay in Syracuse means you can enjoy the close proximity of the beautiful Baroque towns of the south. Ragusa and Modica are two of the best examples of these honey-toned settlements, where glorious architecture, carved balconies and romantic facades offer a trip back in time, viewed through romantically rose-coloured glasses.

A visit to Syracuse offers history, culture and a unique insight into the ancient stories of Sicily – just the destination for anyone with an interest in the past.

 

7 things to do with children in San Vito Lo Capo

7 things to do with children in San Vito Lo Capo

Travelling with children can be a challenge at times. The classic mix of sun, sea and sand is a magical combination for holiday-makers of any age but it certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all for travelling with little ones in tow. Keeping children entertained whilst planning fun, quality time for all the family in a safe and stress-free environment might sound like the Holy Grail of family holidays but luckily, we have the perfect destination in mind.

The popular north-west region of Sicily offers a little something for everyone with its stunning natural landscapes, rich historical legacy and kilometres of sparkling coastline. Whether you are looking for golden beaches with safe swimming, cultural visits to exciting historical hot-spots, or activities that all the family can get involved in together such as biking, boating and picnicking in beautiful natural parks - this region of Sicily has it all.

As a base, consider the popular seaside town of San Vito Lo Capo, perched on a peninsula that juts out into the glittering Tyrrhenian Sea. San Vito Lo Capo offers all the facilities you might expect from a beach resort including ice-cream parlours, child-friendly restaurants and a beautiful, sandy beach renowned for being on one of the most picturesque Sicily has to offer. Here’s what to do with the kids in and around this picture-perfect resort…

A day at the beach

Far and away the crown jewel of San Vito Lo Capo, the town beach is a wide, sweeping streak of soft, white sand fringed by translucent turquoise waters. Safe for small children to paddle at the shoreline, the crystal clear shallows are gentle and calm - look close and you might see the odd fish flicker here and there, sparkling in the sunlight.

Sample Sicilian ice-cream

Treat yourself and your family to San Vito Lo Capo’s sumptuous sweets with a visit to one of the town’s famous gelaterias. These establishments serve up creamy, high-quality Sicilian ice-cream in an assortment of flavours from pistachio to chocolate. Perfect for a post-dinner stroll whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the harbour.

Shutterstock _266422406_San Vito Lo Capo2

Take a boat trip

Take a family boat trip out onto the shimmering high seas and feel the breeze in your hair as you explore the craggy coastline. Discover secret beaches kissed by blue-green waves, swim with the fishes and learn about various landmarks such as the old tuna fishery. If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins.

Celebrate at a local festival

Sicily takes its cuisine seriously and San Vito Lo Capo is no exception. Cous Cous Fest is one of the biggest festivals on the island, an explosion of music, dancing and glorious food, all held in the name of the town’s specialty dish - a dish that gives a nod to San Vito Lo Capo’s strong African Arabic heritage. Time your visit right and join in the festivities, combining culture, cuisine and lots of family-friendly fun. Alternatively, the International Kite Festival makes for a captivating spectacle for kids as the cornflower blue sky comes to life with kites of all shapes and sizes on display.

Shutterstock _200859401_San Vito Lo Capo3

Explore ancient Segesta

Provide a little educational entertainment and hire a car to visit the magnificent temple of Segesta; its Doric columns and ancient stone walls stand sentinel over rolling, green countryside dotted with olive groves. Just a short distance away is the semicircular theatre of Monte Barbaro, with a sensational natural backdrop that beats any painted set-piece. During the summer, performances are often held here - check the programme for suitable shows for your family.

Hop on your bike

Explore San Vito Lo Capo’s postcard-perfect scenery on two wheels by hiring bicycles for yourself and your children. Ride along the seafront or explore the trails that extend out into the hills and enjoy the freedom of life on the road.

Shutterstock _166139360_San Vito Lo Capo4

Picnic at Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve

Pack a picnic and make the short trip over to Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve, a protected park that stretches from San Vito Lo Capo down to the picturesque village of Scopello. With precipitous cliffs that drop into cerulean seas, deserted pebble beaches and long nature trails filled with bright flowers, exotic palms and the potential to come face-to-face with weasels, lizards, foxes and all manner of birdlife – an afternoon in Lo Zingaro is ideal for families looking to get back to nature.

Want to find out which of our comfortable villas are suitable for large families? Why not contact us today?

Hiking hotspots on Sicily’s north coast

Hiking hotspots on Sicily’s north coast

The astonishing natural vistas of Sicily are just one of the highlights of this beautiful island. From the heavenly blues of the surrounding sea, viewed from a coastline characterised by rugged rocks, creamy beaches and pebble coves, to the verdant greenery of the protected nature reserves, dotted with traditional villages and set against a magnificent backdrop of mountain silhouettes - Sicily offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with Mother Nature in all her most splendid guises.

The best way to immerse yourself in these beautiful surroundings is to discover the hiking and trekking routes that abound along Sicily’s northern coast. The north is particularly popular amongst outdoors enthusiasts, thanks to the diverse landscapes and abundance of fascinating flora and fauna that can be found in this part of Sicily. Additionally, virtually all the walks can be attempted without a guide though do bear in mind that many of the trails may not be well signposted.

Our favourite hiking hotspots…

Monte Pellegrino

This captivating mountain is situated just to the north of the capital, Palermo, and is a popular weekend destination amongst local residents seeking respite from the hubbub of the city streets. Monte Pellegrino boasts towering limestone cliffs and was described by Goethe as ‘the most beautiful promontory in the world’. Fascinating archaeological finds that trace back to the Stone Age have been discovered in the impressive, natural caves and the surrounding protected nature reserve makes for an idyllic picnic location. However, the more ambitious visitor will enjoy climbing the mountain path that leads up from the Fiera del Mediterraneo grounds. Arriving at the summit reveals an awe-inspiring Baroque facade that opens into the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia – a chapel atmospherically set in a cavern.

Shutterstock _266660183_Blog _Hiking _pellegrino

Madonie Regional Natural Park

Experience the fresh mountain air with a trip into the Madonie Regional Natural Park and explore the traditional villages, breath-taking countryside and, of course, the awesome mountain range. There are a variety of trails and walks to enjoy such as the trek to Piano Pomo, a magical Midsummer Night’s Dream grove of holly trees, some which are rumoured to be over 300 years old and stand over 14 metres high. Another great hike is to Piano Battaglia, a Sicilian ski resort during the winter months and an enchanting blanket of vivid greenery and rare plants during the summer months. Alternatively, those who fancy a challenge might prefer to take on the Pizzo Carbonara, the highest peak in the Madonies at 1,979 metres.

Shutterstock _149140583_Blog _Hiking _madonie

The Nebrodi National Park

For hikers that prefer to take the road less travelled, the Nebrodi National Park might just deliver the goods. Although it is the largest national park in Sicily and home to the magnificent Nebrodi mountain range, it is less frequently visited than Madonie Regional Natural Park with less in the way of marked trails and visitor amenities. However, it does boast a vast and varied landscape rich in natural splendour. Mighty beechwood forests, covered in snow in the winter and ablaze with colour in the autumn, make for wonderful trekking opportunities – look out for the porcupines, foxes and wild pigs native to the park. Additionally, Nebrodi boasts stunning lakes to discover – Lago Ancipa and Lago Biviere offer scenic walking and mountain biking opportunities. The highest peak here is Monte Soro at 1,847 metres - climb to the top to take in panormaic views of smoking Mount Etna and the picturesque Aeolian Islands, rising from the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Shutterstock _65334340_Blog _Hiking _nebrodi

The Aeolian Islands

When discussing hiking and Sicily, it would be impossible to exclude the dazzling Aeolian Island chain. The port of Milazzo, situated on Sicily’s northern coast, is the preferred gateway to these remarkably beautiful islands. Frequent crossings run from here with both ferry and hydrofoil options - just buy your ticket on the day. Each of these volcanic islands offers a different experience with highlights including: the gentle yet gloriously photogenic walk along Lipari’s coastal footpath where the kaolin quarry has been stained vivid colours by the volcanic fumes; scaling Salina’s Monte Fossa elle Felci, the highest peak in the archipelago; trekking the ashy track of Vulcano to the crater, stopping off at the sulphurous mud baths en route; and the big one, the guided walk to the crater of Stromboli where you can marvel at the fiery expulsions of the volcano as dusk turns into night.

Shutterstock _205889971_Blog _Hiking _Aeolian

Hiking is a great activity for couples. If you're thinking of visiting Sicily on honeymoon we've got lots more ideas for you right here!

 

5 of the best secret beaches in south Sicily

5 of the best secret beaches in south Sicily

If a vacation just doesn’t sound complete without a substantial bit of beach time on the itinerary, the island of Sicily might just be the holiday hotspot for you. From sun-kissed, sandy shores to pebble beaches and rocky bays, the dramatic coastline of Sicily is blessed with diversity and a spell-binding, natural beauty that will take your breath away.

Of course, just like in many of the Mediterranean’s most popular destinations, the peak summer months of July and August can bring the holiday-makers out in force, making it a little more of a challenge to wander off the beaten path and find that peaceful stretch of beach to call your own. If a secret beach sounds like your particular version of paradise, we advise to explore further than the glorious sands of San Vito Lo Capo, the fashionable bay of Taormina or the charming seaside town of Cefalu. Instead, take a trip to the deep south of Sicily, where life moves at a slower pace and the colours change from the vivid aquamarines of the northern seas to pastel shades, softened with silky sand beaches.

Best _Beaches _1

South Sicily is renowned for its world heritage sites such as the incredible ancient ruins of Selinunte and the beautiful Baroque towns of Ragusa, Noto and Modica. Interspersed with beaches less frequented by foreign tourists, though beloved by locals, you will find this region an ideal location to absorb the island’s heritage and immerse yourself in its culture.

5 sublime seaside spots in the south

The Foce del Belice

This streak of coastline has to be one of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in Sicily, thanks to its protected location in the Foce del Belice nature reserve. With two miles of golden sand to relax on, why not pack a picnic and walk it off along the boardwalk paths that track through the sweeping dunes and surrounding pinewoods. Visit the tiny fishing village of Porto Palo, situated to the east of the reserve and you will find the tranquil Le Solette beach – a lovely spot to throw down a towel. Further west you might also discover the beach of Capparrina di Mare with its smattering of dwarf palms and resident sea turtle colony.

Isola delle Correnti

Journey just about as far to the south east of the island as you can and you will come to Isola elle Correnti, perched right on the furthest tip. Its exposed location gives this beach a wild and windy vantage point out to sea - the waves are consequently larger here, unlike the calmer waters that can be enjoyed in many of Sicily’s bays. When the weather is clear, the sea views are spectacular, offering vistas that reach all the way to Malta, 60 miles to the south.

Best _Beaches _3_Isola Delle Correnti

Cala Mosche

As off the beaten track as you will get in Sicily, Cala Mosche is located in the Vendicari Nature Reserve on the peaceful south-east coast, near to the ancient archaeological site of Eloro. The beach is at the end of a 20 minute trek through the reserve – a little oasis, flanked by twin rocky ridges sheltering the bay from the winds. The sand gently shelves down to crystalline waters, ideal for snorkeling. Look further north in the reserve for more spacious and equally as beautiful beaches.

ERACLEA MINOA

This name of this tiny, one-street town is associated with the archaeological site of a ruined Greek settlement, steeped in myth and legend. However, it is also the location of one of the prettiest and lesser known beaches of Sicily. Neatly nestled between towering white cliffs and a fragrant, pine forest, this long, sandy beach is the perfect escape for those looking for a break from rows of sun-loungers and umbrellas for rent.

Best _Beaches _4_Eraclea Minoa

Donnalucata

A quiet beach that will suit families down to the ground, Donnalucata isn’t as wild as some of the others on this list – it provides access to safe swimming and the sort of facilities those with children will appreciate such as toilets and showers. However, it is a laid-back bay that is a great favourite amongst locals and situated by a charming harbour and fishing village with plenty of backstreets to wander and explore. 

Take a trip to these amazing beaches during your stay in our one of our comfortable villas. Find the perfect one for you now in our Villa Collections.

 

7 reasons to visit Sicily out of season

7 reasons to visit Sicily out of season

Sparkling seascapes, golden beaches and acres of countryside brimming with flora and fauna – the scenic backdrop of Sicily provides a whole host of opportunities to embrace the Great Outdoors with enough hiking, biking, swimming and diving options for all. However, although the thermometer reaches peak sun-worshipping climes during the months of July and August, it also becomes the busiest period to visit the coast as local students and families enjoy their holidays at this time of year too.

Why not buck the trend and consider a visit out of season? The natural beauty of the island, combined with a full calendar of fun festivals, seasonal produce and year-round activities to enjoy, means that there is never a time of year when a visit to Sicily will fail to delight.

Here are 7 reasons to get some winter sun in Sicily…

The mild Mediterranean climate

A visit during the winter months of December, January or February might not be steeped in the hot heat of the summer season, but will still supply a hefty dose of winter sun. The temperature at this time of year is significantly cooler than summer, yet still adheres to the mild Mediterranean climate. Daytime temperatures may fall to around 10˚C and night to around 0˚C. However, many of the coastal areas will remain as high as 14-16˚C.

Winter sports

Forget the Alps this year and take advantage of Sicily’s majestic mountains for a winter holiday on the slopes. Mighty Mount Etna, Sicily’s largest active volcano, offers a ski holiday with a difference at one of its two resorts – Rifugio Sapienza and Linguaglossa. Enjoy racing down the snowy pistes with the ice-blue Ionian Sea glittering in the distance below, and the awesome volcanic crater smoking gently overhead.

Winter _Sun _1

Cheaper prices

Although services such as ferries and accommodation might be more limited during the out of season months, rooms that are available are likely to come at a discounted price. The summer crowds are a faded memory at this time of year and you can enjoy competitive rates and deals that simply wouldn’t occur in the peak months.

Winter festivals

Festivals are an integral part of Sicilian culture. From international foodie events to religious processions, festivals in Sicily are colourful, exuberant and not be missed. February may be a bleak month in some parts of Europe, but in Sicily it is the month of the Festa di Sant’Agata, a huge street celebration of fireworks, food and festivities – all in the name of the patron saint of Catania. It is also the month of the sweetly named Almond Blossom Festival in historic Agrigento whilst December sees the Feast of Saint Lucia and celebrations of the Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello. There are also plenty occurring around the island to celebrate Christmas and Easter with nativity scenes, masses and processions taking place throughout the festive period.

Winter _Sun _3_Gandolfo Cannatella _Shutterstock .com

An authentically local experience

A visit outside of peak holiday season means less tourists and therefore, much more of an authentic Sicilian experience. Head to the most popular resort towns of Taormina, Cefalu and San Vito Lo Capo to experience these charming holiday hotspots at a leisurely pace compared to the often hectic summer months. You may even find hotel and restaurant owners have more time for you out of season - enjoy getting to know the locals to discover the best bits of the island.

Seasonal culinary delights

Sicilan cuisine was made for winter indulgence – think of all the fresh pasta, pizza, paninis and pastries on offer. There is also a strong focus on fresh, seasonal produce and winter simply bears different fruits to the summer season. Expect to enjoy plump oranges, mandarins and grapes at the markets whilst mushrooms and chestnuts begin to appear in a variety of dishes. Those with a sweet tooth would do well to seek out buccellato, a winter cake stuffed with almonds and figs, or the delectable semifreddo di mandorle o pistachi – a sumptuous pistachio parfait drizzled in hot, chocolate sauce.

Winter _Sun _4

New Year sales

Last, but not least, an out of season visit presents the opportunity to shop your socks off in the post-Christmas sales. Enjoy discounted prices when you pick up your souvenirs – ceramics and leather goods are usually of excellent quality.

Check out our Villa Collections to see the perfect winter sun option for you and your family.

 

Escape the crowds in the Egadi Islands

Escape the crowds in the Egadi Islands

With its sun-kissed shores, cerulean waters and cities resplendent with architectural treasures, Sicily ticks all the boxes for a heavenly holiday or honeymoon. However, when the European climate hits its balmy best during the summer months and the crowds prepare to enjoy the Mediterranean at peak popularity, it can be something of a challenge to find a secluded spot to call your own.

Of course, with its selection of nature reserves and miles of tantalising coastline, Sicily still favours the bold explorer with a little slice of serenity. However, many visitors simply desire a relaxing beachside vacation - minus the trekking and off-road exploring. If this sounds like you, consider looking beyond the livelier holiday hotspots of charming Cefalu, beautiful San Vito Lo Capo and elegant Taormina. Consider instead the Egadi Islands, an idyllic trio of island retreats situated just 10 kilometres off the coast of Trapani.

Introducing the Egadi Islands

Rising up out of the swirling blue waters of western Sicily, the Egadi archipelago offers a selection of secluded island escapes to choose from. Instead of the bustling beaches of Sicily, expect countless hidden bays and coves to discover – just the sort of place to indulge in all your castaway fantasises. The rocky coastlines are peppered with fascinating sea caves and secret grottoes whilst the surrounding waters shimmer with a tropical hue and are crystal clear, offering ideal conditions for swimming, diving and snorkelling to explore the aquatic action below the surface.

The three islands host a population of just 5,000 and the laid-back pace of life, far from the development in some of Sicily’s most popular resorts, gives the impression of a simpler time in days long past. This ambience is accentuated by the fact that much of the islands’ scenery is natural and has remained largely unchanged.

Egadi _Favignana

Favignana

The biggest island in the archipelago is Favignana. Affectionately nicknamed ‘La Farfalla’ due to its unique butterfly shape, this destination is chock-full of both sandy and pebble beaches as well as alluring rocky bays. The two most popular beaches are the sandy pair – Cala Azzurra and Lido Burrone. The former is renowned for its crystalline waters whilst the latter is excellent for children with shallow waters. The rocky bay of Cala Rossa is also one of the island’s chief attractions due to its vivid waters, plunging cliffs and caves.

However, to find a secluded spot where you can swim, sunbathe and relax in peace, visit Punta Faraglione or Cala del Pozzo – two isolated locations steeped in tranquility and surrounded by postcard perfect scenery. Additionally, those that enjoy exploring below the surface would do well to head to Punta Fanfalo, Grotta Perciata, Bue Marino and Scalo Cavallo – quiet spots with wonderful underwater sights.

Egadi _Levanzo

Levanzo

Next in line from the shore is the smallest of the Egadi Islands, Levanzo. This is a destination which capitalises upon the phrase ‘less is more’. There is one small fishing village, Cala Dogana, where visitors can experience traditional Sicilian island life, tucked away from the hustle of humanity, and a single road which spans the island from north to south. Criss-crossed footpaths spiderweb the rest of the terrain, ideal for long, rambling walks along the scenic cliff paths. There are no sandy beaches on Levanzo, but the rocky bays around the village tend to be quiet and secluded whilst the stunning coves of Cala Minnola and Cala Tramontana offer waters painted in a vibrant palate of rich turquoise and gleaming aquamarine.

Egadi _Marettimo

Marettimo

Last but not least, the island of Marettimo is the wildest of the triplets, perhaps due to its far-flung location out to sea. It is the least developed of the Egadi Island chain with a landscape typified by verdant peaks and traditional whitewashed houses. During the winter months, life on Marretimo all but shuts down whilst in the summer, when Sicily’s most popular beaches are packed with sun-worshippers, it offers a sleepy and secluded haven, far from the madding crowds. One road bisects the island with walkers well catered for via a network of interconnected footpaths blazing the way through breath-taking natural landscapes of forests, cliffs and beaches. Visitors can take their pick of secluded scenic beauty spots but we recommend the picturesque Cala Nera, Cala Sarda and Cala Bianco.

Find the perfect villa from which to explore these amazing islands in our Villa Collections now.

 

A nature lover's guide to Lo Zingaro National Park

A nature lover's guide to Lo Zingaro National Park

When it comes to breath-taking natural landscapes, the island of Sicily really does have it all. Sun-worshippers will delight in the vibrant seascapes of luminous blues and greens that bring the coastline to life. Those who appreciate the simple life will fall in love with the Sicilian countryside, blooming with lush Mediterranean plants, fertile agricultural lands and flourishing vineyards. And let’s not forget those craggy mountain ranges silhouetted against the cerulean sky with their assortment of wonderful trekking trails and opportunities to get up close and personal with the smouldering volcanic peaks that typify Sicily’s topography.

The natural beauty of Sicily offers different attractions throughout the seasons. If it is snow-capped peaks and winter sports you seek, visit in the winter months. If hiking and biking woodland trails ablaze with fiery colours appeals, plan a trip for the autumn. If lazing on glittering sands and taking a dip in refreshing waters ticks all those holiday boxes, summer might offer the perfect conditions; and spring comes out top if temperate climes and blossoming flowers sound like just what the doctor ordered.

Introducing Lo Zingaro

There are several attractive nature reserves dotted around Sicily that enchant countless visitors and locals alike. However, one of our favourites is the beautiful Lo Zingaro Nature reserve. Situated on the northern coast, to the west of the capital city Palermo, Lo Zingaro stretches for over seven kilometres, a natural work of art boasting plunging limestone cliffs, sea caves and hills rich in flora and fauna. Nestled between the picturesque little town of Scopello and the popular seaside resort of San Vito Lo Capo, this glorious display of nature is considered to be one of the most impressive parts of western Sicily.

Beaches and coastline

Visiting the beaches and coves of Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve makes for an excellent way to escape the crowds that can descend on the more popular seaside resorts. However, the beaches closest to the parking lot entrances (the first are within a 10-15 minute walk) are likely to still have their fair share of visitors – consider donning comfortable walking shoes and navigating the rough trails further along the coast to discover the less-frequented bays. Most of the beaches are made up of fine pebbles and the waters are renowned for their crystalline quality – snorkellers, divers and swimmers will be in heaven, hiking from cove to cove and exploring the interesting grottoes, caves and rock formations that the churning sea has carved into the coastline.

Shutterstock _57019943_Zingaro _2

Floral and fauna

Although on first glimpse, the landscape of Lo Zingaro looks a little sparse, this is certainly not the case on close-up inspection. Although the parkland does not support a number of trees, it is possessed of its own special microclimate which allows more than 650 varieties of plants and shrubs to thrive. Look out for chunky dwarf palms, rare sea lavenders and carpets of brightly coloured flowers such as irises, crocuses and over 25 species of orchid.

Animal lovers might also spot some interesting species in the park if they are lucky. A huge variety of birdlife frequent Lo Zingaro with fascinating birds of prey such as falcons, kestrels and owls drawing ornithologists from far and wide. Additionally, rural wildlife like hedgehogs, foxes, weasels and even snakes make the park their home.

Shutterstock _225118771_Zingaro _3

Trekking

The paths of Lo Zingaro are rugged and often steep. However, this adds to the feeling that you are exploring the wild west of Sicily. Choose from one of three main routes to trek – the coastal path from Scopello which reaches to the northern entrance and takes roughly two hours; the half-coast path which takes at around four and a half hours and provides panoramic views filled with rural charm; or the most challenging route on the high path which can take over seven hours but rewards those that attempt it with unparalleled views out over the Tyrrhenian Sea.

One thing to bear in mind on a trip to Lo Zingaro is that it is an undeveloped nature reserve. Although there are ample scenic spots to set up a picnic, it is important to bring plenty of water, snacks and sun protection should you set off far into the park. In the heat of the summer we would recommend to tackle the trails in the early morning to escape the intensity of walking under the midday sun. Alternatively, arrange a boat trip from a nearby coastal town of Sicily and explore the beautiful coastline from up on deck, dropping anchor to visit the pristine beaches of your choice.

Shutterstock _163918262_Zingaro _4

Exploring the reserve is just one of the amazing activities you can enjoy while on holiday in Sicily. Check out our Travel Guide for more ideas.

 

The best places to ski in Sicily

The best places to ski in Sicily

The beautiful island of Sicily is one of the most idyllic holiday hotspots in the Mediterranean – thanks, in part, to its winning combination of sun, sand and sparkling sea. However, the breath-taking natural landscapes of Sicily are the festive gifts that keep on giving as, when the mercury drops, the majestic mountains are given a dusting of snow, allowing visitors to hit the slopes and indulge in their favourite winter sports at one of the island’s ski resorts.

It might be hard to imagine skiing in Sicily, especially at the height of summer, when temperatures raise the roof and the miles of alluring coastline come alive with sun-worshippers. However, snow is not as unusual on the island as you might assume. In fact, regal Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe, is usually topped with a blanket of snow from December right through to April whilst the higher peaks of the Madonie and Nebrodi mountain ranges might experience the same for a few weeks –usually at some point in January or February.

Sicily’s resorts may not be as renowned or as large as others in Europe but this works in the island’s favour – the crowds are few and far between. Ski schools provide lessons and equipment hire too, providing the option of a full skiing trip or enjoying the slopes as a day trip whilst staying in another of Sicily’s scenic destinations. Take advantage of an island that boasts sunshine and snow with a visit to one of Sicily’s three ski resorts and experience the unusual blend of a winter getaway and Mediterranean island break – two for the price of one.

Etna Nord – Piano Provenzana

The smaller of the two ski resorts which reside on mighty Mount Etna’s slopes, picturesque Piano Provenzana provides excellent access to the wonders of the volcano from its northern spot just 16km up from the town of Linguaglossa. There are no trees on the higher slopes to obstruct your path or view – off-piste snowboarding and kite skiing are popular activities up here. However, a beautiful pine wood blankets the area between Linguagloss and Milo, providing an alpine backdrop to the simpler trails. There are four lifts with trails ranging from easy slopes through the woods to a set of moderately difficult runways, one of which is usually reserved for competitive events.

Etna Sud – Rifugio Sapienza

The larger and more popular resort of Rifugio Sapienza is located on Etna’s southern slopes near to the town of Nicolosi. At 1923m it is higher than Piano Provenzana and offers more vertical than the northern resort. The resort features four lifts and a cable car to service a selection of trails for all levels. At both Mount Etna resorts, it is possible to book a guide to accompany you to the summit – here, you can peer down into the sulphuric mists of the crater at 3200m or look out at panoramic sea views with the surreal knowledge that the warmer climes of the coast are only a short drive away.

Madonie Mountains – Piano Battaglia

Sicily’s alternative ski resort is situated in the heart of the wild Madonie Mountain range. Charming Piano Battaglia has a distinctive appearance reminiscent of the Swiss Alps with its traditional cha-lets dotting the slopes. The northern slopes stretch up to 1856m whilst the southern reach 1657m – one of the southern runs is around 500m in length and there are also wonderful cross-country ski-ing opportunities at certain times of the year. It is also possible to scale the highest peak, the Pizzo Carbonara at 1979m, if weather conditions permit.

Shutterstock _324365117_Ski _4

How to reach Sicily’s ski resorts?

To reach Mount Etna’s ski resorts, the nearest airport is Catania. It will take you around an hour to drive from here to the volcano’s southern slopes. However, Mount Etna also makes an excellent day trip from the popular towns of Messina and Taormina should you wish to break up your winter wonderland experience with a stay in a seaside resort. Piano Battaglia, in the Madonies, is about equidistant from Catania and Palermo airport – it takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes from both to reach the resort.

Perhaps it is time to escape the crowds of your usual winter getaway to France or Switzerland and instead try Sicily, where sun, sea, sand and now skiing can all take a place on the agenda. Why not check out our villa and apartment collections now to find the perfect base for your winter trip?

 

Top 5 activities for adrenaline junkies in Sicily

Top 5 activities for adrenaline junkies in Sicily

Sicily attracts a variety of visitors every year, all with very different ideas regarding what constitutes the perfect holiday. One camp might believe that lazing all day on golden sands, letting your troubles drift away on the cerulean sea, is the epitome of paradise, whilst others might prefer a spring time trek through the vibrant blooms of the wild Sicilian countryside. Others, still, might prefer a holiday centred around culture, exploring the ruins left behind by the ancient civilisations of Sicily, whilst the epicurean traveller will delight in a destination that offers an abundance of seasonal produce and lip-smacking dishes.

Sicily caters for all these groups with its vast and varied terrain and breath-taking natural beauty. However, there is one more group of travellers that might often overlook Sicily in favour of more extreme destinations – the adrenaline junkies. Sedate Sicily with its well-publicised art and culture scene and tranquil natural landscapes might not initially seem like the sort of island where you can experience active outdoors pursuits, but this destination is nothing if not versatile and there are, in fact, many unique experiences on offer guaranteed to raise the heart rate. Here are just five of our favourites…

Rafting the river in the Alcantara canyon

Formed by the foaming waters that stream from the slopes of Mount Etna and the Nebrodi Mountains, the Alcantara River cuts a deep gorge through the spectacular valley, providing the ideal conditions for conquering the rapids in a variety of methods. Experience the exhilaration of river tubing the waterfalls, descending tens of metres in a white-knuckle race or choose to take it one step further by body rafting certain areas for the ultimate white water ride.

Shutterstock _213777769_Adrenaline _1

Rock climbing in Sicily

With its mountainous terrain and craggy coastline, rock climbers can expect an adventurous range of choice from the island of Sicily. The best climbing can be found on the northern and eastern shores. San Vito Lo Capo offers hundreds of high quality single pitch sports routes, thanks to its limestone facades; the mountain of Monte Pellegrino, near Palermo, offers particularly exciting sites on its western face with stretches of untouched wall begging to be explored; the Messina region provides 11 limestone crags amongst its sea cliffs with a good variety of grades; and around the Baroque town of Ragusa you can find canyons up to 200m deep.

Shutterstock _352513385_Adrenaline _6

Mountain biking volcanoes

There are an abundance of easy mountain biking trails through the glorious countryside of Sicily, but for downhill thrills, hotfoot it to the slopes of mighty Mount Etna and the Madonies. Long, winding routes career down the mountain slopes, intersecting with electrifying single-track paths in places. You can even ride up to the cone of the main crater at a height of 3,000 metres. Hardcore mountain bikers might want to investigate the Etna Marathon, an event held every September which starts and finishes in the charming village of Milo, nestled on the eastern side of the volcano.

Shutterstock _350498765_Adrenaline _3

Diving in Sicily

Sicily’s crystalline waters invite divers to explore the mesmerising underwater kingdom below the surface. Around the notoriously beautiful Egadi Island archipelago, emerald and sapphire tones colour the water, providing an atmospheric setting for divers to indulge in their favourite past time. There are also fantastic sites located amongst the Aeollian Islands and at Taormina, San Vito Lo Capo, and the islands of Lampedusa, Ustica and Pantelleria. Water temperatures ranges from around 15 degrees celsius in winter to a balmy 25 degrees celsius in the summer months, so depending on how you handle the climate, it is possible to dive in Sicily all year round. Visibility can stretch up to 40 metres when conditions are right, providing unparalleled visuals to a vibrant world below the waves.

Shutterstock _332252867_Adrenaline _7

Skiing

Sicily isn’t all sun, sand and luminous blue seas. During the winter months, the mountainous regions of Etna and Madonie Regional Park enjoy a coating of snow too, providing wonderful cross country skiing, kite skiing and snowboarding as well as a selection of runs which cater to all abilities. There are three ski resorts to choose from – Etna’s northern and southern resorts and the winter wonderland at Piano Battaglia in the Madonies which brings an element of the Swiss Alps to beautiful Sicily.

Shutterstock _351238076_Adrenaline _5

Sicily is the perfect place for new adventures. We've got a wide selection of villas from which you can explore the islands. 

 

Sicily's must-see World Heritage sites

Sicily's must-see World Heritage sites

Cultural enthusiasts can’t help but fall in love with Sicily, thanks to the fascinating stories woven into the long, rich history of the island – a history which dates back at least as far as the Ancient Civilisations that conquered, rose and fell on Sicily’s shores.

The signs of the myriad cultures that have called this idyllic destination home, sowing the fertile lands and building mighty cities, are still visible all over the island, from the honey-coloured, intricately carved facades of the beautiful southern Baroque towns to the imposing archaeological parks, filled with majestic ruins that attract countless visitors year after year.

Six of Sicily’s historical, natural and cultural treasures are fortunately preserved and protected by UNESCO. If a dose of breath-taking natural beauty or a fascinating glimpse into a time long past ticks your holiday boxes, be sure to work one of these highlights into your itinerary…

Agrigento

Listed in 1997, the vast archeological park of Agrigento is perched atop a hill on the south-west coast of Sicily. Founded in 6th century BC by the Ancient Greeks, this colossal city became one of the most important in the Mediterranean. The ruins of awe-inspiring temples with perfectly preserved Doric columns are the iconic sights of this glorious park.

Shutterstock _346225982_UNESCO_Agrigento

Villa Romana del Casale

Also listed in 1997, the stunning Villa Romana del Casale, located in southern Sicily, was constructed in the early 4th century, possibly as the centre of a large agricultural estate. The unique attraction of this villa is that it contains the most complex and intricate collection of Roman mosaics in the world.

Shutterstock _233823748_UNESCO_ Romana

The Aeolian Islands

Situated just off the northern shores of Sicily, floating in the azure Tyrrhenian Sea, the wild and stunning Aeolian archipelago comprises of seven volcanic islands, each with their own distinctive character and unique features. This island group has proved integral to geologists studying volcanic activity since at least the 18th century and visitors come from all over the world to watch the smouldering craters and showering sparks.

Shutterstock _322921418_UNESCO_Lipari

The Baroque towns

Stroll the streets of the beautiful Baroque towns of Sicily’s south and marvel at the warm, glowing stonework and exquisite architecture. The eight towns including Noto, Ragusa and Modica, were rebuilt after a destructive earthquake, which decimated many cities in Sicily in the 17th century. The final result provides an ethereal depiction of the late Baroque style as well as highlighting the innovative and creative town planners and builders of the day.

Shutterstock _350499170_UNESCO_4

Syracuse

One of the most impressive archeological regions of Sicily, the bounty of Syracuse is divided between two key sites – the Necropolis of Pantalica and Ancient Syracuse. The eerie Necropolis or City of the Dead, houses over 5,000 tombs, many of which date back to 7th century BC. The site of Ancient Syracuse marks the location of what was once one of the most powerful cities in the Mediterranean region and includes the fascinating island of Ortygia where winding, atmospheric streets and ancient walls have earned it a reputation as the heart of Syracuse. This part of Sicily is renowned throughout the island for its rich Ancient Greek architecture and culture and is also famous for being the birthplace of the ingenious mathematician and engineer, Archimedes.

Shutterstock _349437860_UNESCO_Syra

Mount Etna

The magnificent silhouette of Mount Etna dominates the Sicilian skyline. With the formidable reputation of largest active volcano in Europe, the smoldering crater of Etna has experienced frequent and intense volcanic activity for over 500,000 years and boasts an array of fascinating geological features such as cinder cones, lava flows and ominous craters. Situated on Sicily’s eastern coast, Mount Etna attracts climbers, hikers and mountain bikers throughout the year, offering refreshing spring time treks as well as alpine conditions for skiing during the winter months.

Shutterstock _342256352_UNESCO_Etna

Why not explore these fascinating World Heritage sites in Sicily from your very own villa or apartment? Contact us to find out more.

 

Must-see Sicilian festivals of 2016

Must-see Sicilian festivals of 2016

The beautiful island of Sicily certainly knows how to throw a celebration or two. Whether it’s in honour of a specific type of food, religious occasion or genre of music, this enchanting destination boasts a calendar filled with festivals taking place throughout the year.

These vibrant occasions are renowned for the joyous crowds that come together, bringing the streets to life with dancing, parades, fireworks and plenty of delectable Sicilian cuisine. From festivals dedicated to the changing of the seasons and patron saints to those held for specific local produce such as capers or mushrooms, you can be sure to find a celebration that suits your tastes.

The festivals of Sicily make for an excellent way to experience the colourful local culture. Whether you choose to visit the capital city of Palermo, a beautiful beach destination like San Vito Lo Capo or a tiny, innocuous village tucked away in the captivating countryside or high up in the mountains, you will find you are able to incorporate a Sicilian festival into your visit – you just need to time it right. So, here to help you, we’ve rounded up the highlights of 2016.

Festa di Sant’Agata

Catania, February

Although patron saints are celebrated with fervour throughout Sicily, this festival dedicated to Sant’Agata, martyr and symbol of Sicily’s battle against the oppressive Romans, is one of the largest and most popular. A three-day festival of processions, fireworks and delicious cuisine attracts tens of thousands of people to take to the streets and show their devotion.

Acireale Carnival

Acireale, February

One of the most beautiful carnivals in Sicily, this ancient tradition consists of colourful parades, allegorical floats and fantastical costumes to capture your imagination. Join the people dancing their way through the streets and consume lots of delicious food and wine in one of Sicily’s most raucous and entertaining cultural displays.

Infiorata and Baroque Spring Festival

NOTO, MAY

Bring a little colour into your life with this vibrant spring festival in the beautiful Baroque town of Noto. For two and a half days the length of the Via Nicolaci is decorated by local and international artists with a blanket of flower petals, picking out stunning mosaics to wow the crowds. At the end of the festival, the town’s children run through the mosaics, symbolising a time of rebirth and renewal.

Shutterstock _Festivals _3

Ricotta Festival

Vizzini, April

One of the oldest festivals of Sicily, this celebration takes place in the rolling hills between Syracuse and Caltagirone and honours the creamy ricotta cheese synonymous with this part of the island. Sample a wide range of ricotta-based dishes including the famous cannoli and cassata as well as a variety of alternative local cheeses.

Greek Theatre Festival

Syracuse, May

One for the culture vultures, this prestigious event is held at the ancient site of Syracuse, once a powerful hub of the ancient world. Classical Greek performances are held at the atmospheric amphitheatre over a five week period – attending one of these shows is about as close as you can get to travelling back in time.

La Scala Illuminata

Caltagirone, July

A visual feast, rather than a culinary one, the festival of light’s crowning glory is the illumination of 142 steps of the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte in Caltagirone. The hundreds of tiny oil-burning lamps create an enormous, glowing work of art that is simply breathtaking.

Shutterstock _Festivals _2

Stragusto Food Festival

Trapani, July

One for the foodies, visit Stragusto to sample the best snacks from the streets of Sicily and further afield in other destinations around the Mediterranean. Watch sumptuous sweet and savoury street food prepared and take part in workshops to learn more about the food and even how to cook it yourself.

Cous Cous Fest

San Vito Lo Capo, September

An unbeatable international festival held on the golden sands of San Vito Lo Capo, Cous Cous Fest is one of Sicily’s biggest food festivals, celebrating the iconic cous cous dish, brought to Sicily from North Africa. With cook-offs, tastings, music, dancing and a lively carnival ambience, this wonderful event is certainly worth writing home about. The above celebrations simply brush the surface of Sicily’s delightful festivals.

Whether you choose to visit Sicily out of season or in the bright heights of summer, you can expect to find a fun and fascinating festival on the island to keep all the family entertained.

 

6 of the best golf courses in Sicily

6 of the best golf courses in Sicily

One of the reasons that Sicily holds such universal appeal for visitors from all over the globe is the range of attractions the island offers. From its enchanting Baroque towns, to the vast archaeological parks, breathtaking beaches and fertile vineyards, Sicily really does offer the complete package for those seeking the perfect Mediterranean holiday.

The island also offers a range of leisure activities to suit all ages and tastes. As well as offering an array of adventurous outdoors pursuits such as river rafting, climbing and diving, Sicily also boasts an excellent selection of golf courses, ideal for those that like to swing an iron in their downtime.

Whether you are an avid golfer or fancy trying this popular game for the first time, take your pick from one of the island’s golf facilities. From the small, yet perfectly formed, 9-hole course at Villa Airoldi in the north to the majestic 45-hole Verdura complex extravaganza near Sciacca – Sicily has your golf options covered. Here are a few of our favourites…

Shutterstock _19094932_Golf _1

Donnafugata Golf Resort and Spa

With its pair of exclusive 18-hole championship courses, the Donnafugata estate is nestled in the heart of Sicily’s Baroque country, not far from the picturesque town of Ragusa and the pristine beaches of the south coast. The parkland North Course is dotted with olive and carob trees and is suitable for all levels of experience whilst the South Course has been designed to offer a championship-style challenge for higher abilities.

Le Madonie Golf Resort

A scenic resort set in the famous Madonie Mountain region, this 18-hole course offers a golfing experience with a backdrop that shows off all the natural beauty of Sicily, boasting views that stretch out to the shimmering Tyrrhenian Sea. With a collection of artificial lakes; a succession of gentle mounds and hills; and picturesque groves of olive, citrus and carob trees, this mountain course is a popular choice amongst golfers in Sicily.

Villa Airoldi Golf Club

The 9-hole course at Villa Airoldi enjoys a convenient location right in the centre of the Sicilian capital, Palermo. Set in a spacious nature park that dates back to the 18th century, a visit to this homely little course provides a welcome respite from the hectic city streets. The course might be small but it comes with federal teachers, a driving range, putting and pitching green and is open all year round.

Shutterstock _79939543_Golf _3

Il Picciolo Golf Club

Perched on the slopes of the majestic Mount Etna, a visit to Il Picciolo provides a unique opportunity to enjoy a game of golf under the watchful gaze of the largest, most active volcano in Europe. The wonderful mountain views and crisp air provide the icing on the cake of a well-presented 18-hole course set amongst a landscape of oak trees and vineyards. Il Picciolo was the first golf course to open here so you can enjoy a little bit of Sicilian history as you play your rounds.

Verdura Golf and Spa Resort

Perhaps the most famous golf facility in Sicily, thanks to the fact it played host to the 2012 Sicilian Open Championships, Verdura is a 570-acre paradise for golfers, set right on the coast, looking out over the cornflower blue Mediterranean Sea. The facility offers two 18-hole courses as well as a 9-hole green and a variety of packages to choose from as well as complimentary taster lessons for guests of the resort. Professional lessons are available for all levels of abilities and there is even a Junior Golf Academy on the premises for six to 16 year olds – fun for all the family.

Pantelleria Golf Club

Off the western coast of Sicily, the beautiful island of Pantelleria offers an unparalleled slice of escapism, its craggy landscape situated far from the mainland and surrounded by deep blue water alive with fascinating wildlife such as dolphins and monk seals. The golf club offers visitors an 18-hole course surrounded by exquisite natural surroundings as far as the eye can see – ideal for a relaxing golfing break far from the daily grind.

Golfing in Sicily is just one more reason to enjoy the incredible natural landscapes of the island – come play a few rounds and see for yourself! And if you're looking for a villa or apartment from which to explore all the activties the island has to offer, take a look at our Collections now.

6 sensational ancient sights in Sicily

6 sensational ancient sights in Sicily

As well as miles of golden coastline, acres of rolling countryside and distinctive, mountainous terrain, silhouetted against a cornflower sky, the island of Sicily plays host to a number of fascinating ancient sights – the long-standing relics that are testament to Sicily’s rich and colourful history.

Home to multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, culture vultures will be delighted with the array of treasures that Sicily offers and the captivating glimpse into the past that the island affords. Sicilian history is peppered with conquest and battles as rival powers fought to claim and hold this fertile and well-positioned island, floating serenely between a trio of seas.

The ancient souvenirs scattered around the island showcase some of the key factions that held sway over Sicily over the years. From Ancient Greek temples and amphitheatres to exquisite Roman mosaics, here are some of the top ancient sights of Sicily to discover on your trip…

Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples

The wondrous and unmissable Valley of the Temples at Agrigento is widely considered to hold some of the best-preserved Ancient Greek temples in the world. A sprawling archaeological park, the Valley of the Temples contains eight beautifully constructed temples, dedicated to the gods of Ancient Greece. Here you will find stunning examples of intricate Doric columns as well as a variety of ruined buildings – some from the Greek world and some from the Roman. However, it is the enchanting temples that are the crowning glory of this mesmerising archaeological park.

Shutterstock _Ancient _Agrigento

Greco-Roman amphitheatre of Taormina

It is the spectacular location of this ancient Greco-Roman amphitheatre which has made the site one of the most iconic in Sicily. Perched high on a hill overlooking Taormina, Mount Etna and the glittering sea beyond, this atmospheric relic was constructed in the 3rd century BC by the Greeks before it was utilised and rebuilt by the Romans in the 2nd century. Throughout the summer months, classical plays are often performed here, transporting visitors back to days long past.

Goran Bogicevic Shutterstock _Ancient _Taormina

Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina

Explore the world’s largest collection of Ancient Roman mosaics at the beautiful Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina. With intricate works of art dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries AD, this show-stopping collection is housed in a wonderful Roman hunting lodge, complete with thermal baths, a public hall and elliptical courtyard. The mosaics themselves depict a range of scenes from mythological escapades to snapshots of daily Roman life.

Shutterstock _Ancient _Piazza Armerina

Ancient city of Selinunte

This Ancient Greek site is on a par with any archaeological park you might find in Greece itself. Once a formidable power in the Ancient world, the city of Selinunte lay, ruined and forgotten, for over 2,000 years after a devastating attack by the Carthaginians. High on a plateau, boasting panoramic sea views, the park keeps visitors entertained for hours – don’t forget your walking shoes. If you like hiking, you'll love it here.

Shutterstock _Ancient _Selinunte

Ruins of Syracuse

Back in the heyday of the Ancient Greeks, Siracusa was one of the most powerful cities in Europe and the jewel in the crown of the Greek Empire. Today, this iconic archaeological park offers an array of wonderfully preserved Greek and Roman ruins including the largest Greek amphitheatre on the island with an audience capacity of up to 15,000. Visit in May and June for the Greek theatre festival where shows are performed in this atmospheric setting. There is also a Roman amphitheatre on site which reverberates with the bloody history of gladiatorial fights. Additionally, the nearby island of Ortygia with its beautiful medieval streets and ancient ruins is one of the highlights of Sicily.

Shutterstock _Ancient _Syracuse

The temple of Segesta

Located out on the roadside between Palermo and Trapani, the mighty temple of Segesta emerges out of nowhere, nestled high on a hill, presiding over picturesque countryside. One of the most photogenic sites in Sicily, the Doric temple is thought to have been constructed by the Greeks at some point during the time period 430 and 420BC. Walk from the magnificent temple (or take a shuttle bus if you prefer) to the top of nearby Monte Barbaro and discover a stone theatre perched 400 metres above sea level. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, this theatre also plays host to a programme of performances during the summer months.

Shutterstock _Ancient _Segesta

Find the perfect villa or apartment from which to explore these breathtaking ancient sights in our villa collections or find more wonderful places to explore with our Travel Guide.

5 things to do in Palermo for free

5 things to do in Palermo for free

They say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, but those that fall under the compelling spell of Italy might soon come to realise that the costs can mount up. From sophisticated hotels and wine bars to top quality shopping and attractions, this glorious part of the world can come with a hefty price tag – and the beautiful island of Sicily is no exception.

However, this isn’t to say that those on a budget should forgo the delights of this charming island. Even the capital city of Palermo offers options of things to do on a shoestring for those that do their research. From sumptuous street food specialities to sifting through colourful markets, there is a variety of fun things to do in Palermo that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. In fact, there are even quite a few things to do for free. Here are a few of our favourites…

Visit the cathedral

The majestic dome of Palermo’s cathedral or ‘duomo’ as it is known in Sicily, is the iconic emblem of the city. Built in 1184 under Norman rule and added to gradually over the years, this ornate cathedral complex is a showcase of the different architectural styles that can be found throughout Sicily. There is a distinct nod to the early Byzantines as well as the Saracens who turned it into a mosque after their conquest in the 9th century. Look for Gothic and Neoclassical influences and explore the bell tower, crypt and glittering cathedral treasury amongst other gems.

Shutterstock _Palermo _Free _Cathedral

Take a stroll through the streets

One of the simplest ways to explore the sights and sounds of the city is to take a tour on foot. Take a stroll to the Quattro Canti, a huge intersection fronted by four stunning buildings, and walk along Via Vittorio Emanuele where many of the city’s key attractions lie. You will pass the grand Palazzo dei Normanni, its mosaic-filled halls now home to Sicily’s regional government, as well as churches and buildings in all manner of dazzling architectural styles – from Byzantine and Arab to Norman and Spanish.

Shutterstock _Palermo _Free _Street

Discover beautiful parks and gardens

To gain admission into Palermo’s beautiful Botanical Gardens, you have to pay a nominal fee, but there are a variety of leafy green spaces in the city that are absolutely free to explore. Look behind the famous Palazzo dei Normandi to discover the gardens at Villa Bonanno – here you will find shady walks and the ruined remains of an ancient Roman villa. The Garibaldi Gardens on Piazza Marina are another highlight of Palermo with a variety of trails to wander and a playground for children. The Giardino Inglese or ‘English Garden’ with its selection of statues and fountains provides respite from those busy, central streets whilst the gardens at Villa Giulia have the accolade of Palermo’s first park to be opened to the public.

Shutterstock _Palermo _Free _Garden

Explore the markets

Of course if you want to buy, you’ll have to part with a little bit of cash, but browsing the markets of Palermo is a cost-free past time and a feast for the senses. The Vucciria is perhaps the most famous – the labyrinthine streets come alive with a cacophony of vendor’s cries and a smattering of bright colours and tempting aromas. The very name ‘Vucciria’ means ‘confusion’ so you can just imagine the bustling hubbub that surrounds this market when it is in full swing. Il Capo is another fascinating market with an ambience reminiscent of an Arabian casbah, and the flea market held near the duomo and the Piazza del Papireto offers an eclectic array of antiques, furniture and objects of curiosity – the permanent workshops act as a kind of antique exhibition.

Shutterstock _Palermo _Free _Market

Hit to the beach

If you need a break from city life, a holiday home in the Palermo region offers access to a selection of exquisite beaches perched on Sicily’s popular northern coast. Pack a picnic and hop on the bus or hire a car to tale you to nearby Mondello with its sandy stretches, watersports and seaside eateries; the sleepy fishing town of Aspra with its small but perfectly formed sandy beach; or the crystalline waters of Isola delle Femmine. The larger seaside towns of Cefalu and San Vito Lo Capo are also situated around an hour away from Palermo – one to the east and one to the west.

Shutterstock _Palermo _Free _Beach

Sicily has a wealth of activities on offer for those on a budget. What about hiking or exploring Sicily’s historical landmarks? And don’t forget to check out our villa and apartment collections to find your perfect base from which to explore this amazing island.

Planning a large group holiday in Sicily

Planning a large group holiday in Sicily

It’s fair to say that there’s a side of Sicily that will appeal to everyone. Whether you’re young or old, looking for adventure or relaxation, Sicily will have something for you.

The largest island in the Mediterranean certainly lays on a vast array of delights for the travellers that flock to its shores. From sun-worshippers and divers to hikers and history buffs, they're all sure to fall in love with this enchanting location!

But as anyone used to travelling in a larger group will tell you, finding accommodation that suits everyone can prove to be a bit of a challenge. Renting a self-catered villa is an excellent solution as not only can you guarantee that your group can stay together, you are also afforded the sort of privacy and freedom that a regular hotel might struggle to provide.

Here at Sicily4U, our villas for larger groups have been specially selected for their unique features. With spacious communal areas where your group can gather to socialise, as well as more secluded areas to allow everyone to enjoy their own space, our villas for groups of eight or more are second to none. Here are a few of our favourites…

Shutterstock _224154781_Large _Villa _2

Villas in the north

The popular north coast is often the first stop for holiday-makers visiting Sicily due to its close proximity to the capital of Palermo and the main airport of the island. With its sparkling beaches and lively resort towns, it’s not hard to see why so many linger in this part of the island, particularly with properties as comfortable as Villa Aronica offering a wonderful experience in the  beach resort town of San Vito lo Capo. With a spacious garden, stunning decor and glorious private pool, this 8 bedroom property is located just steps from San Vito lo Capo's glorious, sandy beach.

Southern retreats

Get away from it all in the heart of the southern Sicilian countryside with a stay at the charming Baglio Blu. With space for up to 11 people, this quaint villa is just a short drive from the UNESCO-listed Baroque town of Modica. Enjoy the selection of lovingly furnished outdoor spaces with panoramic views out over rolling fields and picturesque olive groves or take a dip in the private pool, hidden in a lush Mediterranean garden. For a group who want to indulge in some serious rest and relaxation, you can’t find better than this.

Shutterstock _224154730_Large _Villa _3

Eastern delights

With 12 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms, the incredible Villa Feudale, situated conveniently close to Catania airport and within a short drive of the fascinating historical region of Syracuse, is a luxury home that will take you breath away. A 13th century country estate, this beautiful villa has been lovingly restored to offer all the modern comforts of home with a traditional, historical ambience that’s impossible to beat. The tastefully furnished rooms, well-equipped summer kitchen and glittering private pool provide all the ingredients you need to enjoy a group holiday that you’ll remember forever.

Western hideaways

Consider the enchanting Villa Morena di Marsala to experience life on Sicily’s western shores. Ideal for a party of eight, this traditional Sicilian villa is situated close to the ancient town of Marsala as well as just a short walk to a beautiful stretch of sandy beach. With a cheerful, country house interior, glittering sea views and spacious terrace – ideal for dining alfresco or sipping a glass of the region’s famous wine at sunset – this perfectly situated villa ticks all the dream holiday boxes.

Shutterstock _196399685_Large _Villa _4

Eager to see more? Explore our extensive portfolio of villas. Browse our collections, or contact us for further assistance in choosing your dream holiday home.

20 things to do in Sicily before you die

20 things to do in Sicily before you die

20 things to do in Sicily before you die Sicily holds a special place in the heart of all who visit its golden shores, thanks to the unique natural, historical and cultural treasures begging to be discovered on this beautiful island. Whether you are planning a first-time visit or are keen to return for more, here are a few top things to do in Sicily before you die…

1. Indulge in sumptuous street food in Palermo

A must-do for the travelling foodies, highlights include the cylindrical pastries, cannoli, and the delectable pasta con le sarde, a pasta dish featuring plump sardines in a light tomato sauce.

Shutterstock _304232585_20Things _Cannoli

2. Explore the awe-inspiring Valley of the Temples

One of the most popular archeological sights, these magnificent temples stand silhouetted against the skyline near to Agrigento. Wander amongst ancient columns, altars, statues and the crumbled ruins of a once mighty civilisation.

3. Relax on the golden sands of Lampedusa

Rabbit Beach wins rave reviews for its milky-white sands and vivid aquamarine waters, but the island of Lampedusa offers a selection of hidden paradise beaches that are more likely to fly under the radar of the tourist hordes.

Shutterstock _296601056_20Things _Lampedusa

4. Wander the medieval streets of Ortygia

A stunning, medieval island connected to mainland Syracuse, Ortygia is a labyrinth of winding alleys, shady piazzas and colourful markets where you experience traditional Sicilian life.

5. Visit the magnificent Cathedral of Monreale

This beautiful 12th century cathedral is decorated with exquisite gold leaf and glass mosaics depicting scenes from both Old and New Testament.

Shutterstock _148413452_20Things _Monreale

6. Marvel at the mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Villa Romana offers visitors the chance to step back in time with a history depicted by a succession of perfectly preserved mosaics.

7. Hike Mount Etna

Get acquainted with Europe’s largest active volcano and hike your way up into the clouds on a guided tour. Absorb the beauty of the surrounding national park, wander the rock paths to visit the craters, and enjoy breath-taking views of the island.

Shutterstock _339820967_20Things _Etna

8. Discover the Baroque cities of the south

The eight Baroque towns of Sicily’s deep south offer honey coloured stones and streets alive with fancy facades, ornate balconies and intricate stonework. Noto and Ragusa are two of the best known whilst Modica is also famous for its local chocolate.

9. Swim in the crystalline waters of Cala Rossa

Cala Rossa, situated on Favignana, may no longer be classed as a secret, but this rocky bay with its shimmering, crystal clear waters is still captivating for anyone who loves the coast.

Shutterstock _284321147_20Things _Favignana

10. Get back to nature in Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve

Grottoes, caves and bays litter the coastline of Lo Zingaro, whilst cliff treks lead through rich landscapes of flora and fauna, offering mesmerising sea views for those that want to escape the hustle of humanity.

11. Travel from Trapani to Erice by cable car

Fly high into the sky from the harbour town up to the cobbled streets of Erice with its two fairytale castles perched in on the cliffside.

Shutterstock _354576836_20Things _Erice

12. See a show in the atmospheric Greco-Roman amphitheatre in Taormina

This ancient stone amphitheatre plays host to a programme of Greek plays and performances during the summer months. Enjoy the show with the whole of beautiful Taormina laid at your feet.

13. Take a boat trip around the Egadian Islands

Snorkel and swim to your heart’s content as you explore the coastline of this Sicilian island chain and enjoy the rustic, rugged beauty of these western isles.

Shutterstock _292663166_20Things _Egadi

14. Try the cous cous of San Vito Lo Capo

This North African dish is celebrated every year with a huge Cous Cous Festival held on the shores of this beautiful beach town.

15. Witness the eruptions of Stromboli

The Aeolian Islands offer volcanic activity galore – watch the fiery fountain of Stromboli from aboard a boat at sunset.

Shutterstock _342547343_20Things _Stromboli

16. Take part in the carnival of Acireale

One of the best loved carnivals in Sicily; eat, drink, sing and dance your way through the celebrations of Holy Week and other key dates in the calendar.

17. Relax into traditional Sicilian life in Enna

Explore the traditional town of Enna, deep in Sicily’s interior. Panoramic views and tranquil surrounds make this a charming destination, off the typical tourist path.

Shutterstock _345743384_20Things _Enna

18. Sip the local wines of Marsala

Marsala is famous for its selection of local wines, a must-try for any fan of the amber nectar.

19. Learn to dive in Ustica

There are a variety of excellent dive spots around Ustica and the diversity of marine life offer one of the best underwater experiences in the Mediterranean.

Shutterstock _382239598_20Things _Diving

20. Sample the seafood of Mazara del Vallo

This famous fishing town is renowned for its fresh-off-the-boat seafood –from seafood pasta to sashimi, you will find it all in the restaurants of the town.

Check out our travel guide for more top places to see, and don't forget to find the perfect villa or apartment for your stay in our collections.

 

Your guide to Sicilian street food

Your guide to Sicilian street food

There are a great number of reasons why people choose a travel destination, but one of the most popular out there is the experience of trying out new and exciting flavours from different parts of the world.

Of course, some countries have world-class cuisine whilst others might perhaps not be known for gastronomy worth writing home about. Fortunately, Sicily is part of the former camp, playing host to an irresistible cuisine based on fresh produce, sumptuous flavours and a variety of cultural influences.

Food and drink play an essential role in Sicilian life, from the rural locations where plump, colourful produce thrive in fertile farmlands, to the seaside towns where fresh-off-the-boat seafood and delicious fish dinners are par for the course.

When it comes to satisfying hungry bellies, there’s no better place to visit than Palermo and its amazing street markets! Here’s our pick of some of the choicest eats on the Sicilian streets…

Arancini

The ultimate comfort food, arancini is one of the most popular Sicilian street food specialities on offer. This snack is a deep-fried rice ball, stuffed with creamy risotto, and is believed to have been introduced to Sicily under Arab rule in the 10th century. Arancini makes an excellent and energising picnic snack, the crunch of the outer shell blending perfectly with the soft, flavoursome centre.

Street _Food _Arancini

Sfincione

Pizza has to be one of the most famous culinary exports from this part of the world and sfincione is Sicilian pizza at its best. Thick and fluffy, smothered in tomatoes, onion, rich cheese and a sprinkling or fresh herbs, this delicious pizza pie is a must-try in the Sicilian capital.

Street _Food _Sfincione 

Gelato con brioche

One for the sweet-toothed amongst us, this imaginative snack will leave you feeling sugar high. Sicily is well-known for its fondness for sweets, and the creamy gelato, a form of whipped ice-cream, is one of the best. As if this heavenly frozen dessert wasn’t tempting enough on its own, it is often served as a sandwich, a large scoop or two stuffed into a brioche roll. Food paradise on a plate.

 Street _Food _Gelato

Cannoli

Sicilians love their pastries and the cannoli is a daily staple for many of the local people. The pastry dough is rolled into a tube-like shape and filled with a sweet, creamy concoction that is guaranteed to make your mouth water. The most common filling is based on ricotta cheese, but they come in any number of flavours – you’ll find it hard to stop at just one.

 Street _food _Cannoli

Granita di limone

If you visit Sicily in the height of the summer and are in need of a refreshing sweet treat, choose the delicious granita di limone. This semi-frozen, crushed ice dessert falls somewhere between a sorbet and a slush puppy. The classic granita is flavoured with lemon, but other popular options include mandarin, almonds, mint and coffee. Catania is renowned for its chocolate granitas whilst Messina prefers to lace its granitas with coffee.

 Street _Food _Granita

Where to stay

We have a range of gorgeous villas and apartments situated near the capital city from which you can explore all the amazing street markets on offer.

We love Villa Calipso, situated in the charming seaside resort of Solanto just 20km from Palermo.With its vast outdoor space, this is one villa that's perfect for al fresco dining.

Street _Food _Calipso _1

Street _Food _Calipso _2

Another favourite is the postcard-perfect and Moorish-inspired Villa Yasmina, just 7km from Palermo boasting a beautiful garden and private pool.

Street _Food _Yasmina _1

Street _Food _Yasmina _2

Where you will choose to stay this summer? Take a look at our location guide for more inspiration!

 

Best villas in Sicily for active travellers

Best villas in Sicily for active travellers

Variety is the spice of life and at no time is this more apparent than when planning a trip. For some, lying on a beach doing as little as possible is the perfect depiction of holiday heaven whilst for others, staying busy and indulging in a range of exotic activities is what takes a trip from so-so to one you’ll be telling the grandkids about.

Fortunately Sicily ticks both sets of boxes. However, if it’s active pursuits you’re looking for, you’ll be particularly spoiled for choice with a Sicilian trip in your calendar. Whether you’re looking to hike active volcanoes, explore bike mountain trails or try your hand at diving in Sicily’s sparkling waters, you’ll find it all here, thanks to the variety of landscapes this beautiful island offers. You can even enjoy a spot of skiing if you visit at the right time of year!

Shutterstock _352513385_Adrenaline _6

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Embrace good old Mother Nature at one of Sicily’s famous nature reserves where you can experience the stunning landscapes that make this region one of the jewels of the Mediterranean. The tiny, white-stoned hamlet of Scopello might not be the obvious first choice for those that prefer an active lifestyle but its spectacular location on the craggy north-western coastline of Sicily offers access to a host of excellent outdoors pursuits.

One of the most beautiful Beaches, tells us "The Guardian" is Lido Fiori near Menfi. Just find also pristine nature, nature reserves, wineyards + and secluded beaches, a little paradise for insiders.

Shutterstock _350498765_Adrenaline _3

Firstly, there is a diving centre based in the village, which enables visitors to get up and close and personal with the marine life in Sicily’s crystalline waters. Then, there is the close proximity of Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve, a 7km expanse of protected parkland boasting majestic limestone cliffs and picturesque pebble beaches. Here you will find an abundance of hiking paths with a wealth of bird species to discover – bring comfortable shoes, sunscreen and plenty of water.

Villa Oleandri

Experience a property filled with warmth and charm and book a stay at the four-bedroom property, Villa Oleandri. Situated right between the postcard-perfect towns of Scopello and Castellammare del Golfo, this sensational villa offers accommodation for eight guests, a beautiful private pool as well as elegant interiors artfully decorated with antique furniture.

March _Villa Oleandri _Pool

March _Villa Oleandri _Lounge

Villa Letizia

A smaller group might prefer three-bedroom Villa Letizia, perched on the headland that overhangs the gulf of Scopello. Here, you can soak up the sensational views that stretch out to sea from your traditional Sicilian style villa and take a trip up to Lo Zingaro or San Vito Lo Capo where boat trips, sailing and a variety of water-sports can be arranged. All before heading home and whipping up some pizzas in your very own pizza oven!

March _Villa Letizia _Pool

March _Villa Letizia _Pizza

Villa Ginestra

Alternatively, book a stay in Villa Ginestra where you will be situated just 230m walking distance from the pristine beach and waters. Relax by the pool, complete with hydro-massage feature, in-between hiking the nature reserve and immerse yourself in coastal Sicilian life.

March _Villa Ginestra _Kitchen

March _Villa Ginestra _Pool

Villa Timeo

If trekking a volcano holds more appeal or hitting the slopes is your idea of winter bliss, arrange a trip to the mighty Mount Etna, the awe-inspiring volcano that presides over Sicily’s eastern regions. Base your visit at the magnificent Villa Timeo in Trecastagni, a small village on the south-east slope of Etna to take advantage of the large private pool, three luxurious bedrooms and a cook service (available on request). Well, you’re on holiday, after all. 

March _Villa Timeo _Kitchen

March _Villa Timeo _Pool

Are you more of a peace lover? Check out these cool locations in which to unwind and relax on the island, too!

 

Best budget villas in Sicily

Best budget villas in Sicily

You could be forgiven for assuming that a stay in your own private villa on the beautiful island of Sicily might be a little out of your budget. After all, the glittering blue sea, historical architecture and mouth-watering cuisine synonymous with this sophisticated destination surely has to come at a price, right? Well, we’re here to tell you that although Sicily attracts its fair share of the jet-set crowd, there are plenty of stunning locations and picturesque villas on this mesmerising island that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

In order to score a Sicilian holiday bargain you’ll be telling your friends about for years (unless they are lucky enough to be accompanying you), the key lies in the accommodation. Choosing to stay in a self-catered villa can actually work out much cheaper than staying in a hotel room, particularly if you cook your own meals or choose accommodation with a shared pool. You might even find that your very own private home-away-from-home will allow you to experience what it’s like to be a local resident in Sicily.

Villa Mazzaforno

Situated near the stunning Cefalu, this dreamy 3-bedroom villa is well within walking distance to the gorgeous beach at Mezzaforno, which you may not need thanks to the villa’s impressive private swimming pool! Relax on the terrace among the palm trees and olive groves – pure bliss!

April _Budget 2_Mazzaforno

Villa Canto del Mare

For the ultimate sea view, try this! The self-catering Villa Canto del Mare has been built directly into the surrounding cliffs, close to the village of Trappeto. Its three terraces offer incredible views to the west of Sicily and plenty of outdoor space for sunbathing, swimming and entertaining. Sleeping up to 14 people, this is the ultimate villa for large families or groups who want to be near the beach.

April _Budget 2_Canto Del Mare

Villa Casale del Ponte

If you’ve ever dreamed of staying in your very own Sicilian country farmhouse, you’ve found it! Casale del Ponte boasts a swimming pool, manor house and separate annexe, sun deck, BBQ, terraces and more. Sleeping up to 12 people in traditional rustic style, this is the perfect place from which to explore Scopello, Zingaro Nature Reserve and Palermo City.

April _Budget 2_Casale Del Ponte

Casa Bonagia

Traditional cottage styling? Check! Private pool? Check! Stunning hillside location? Check! Sleeping up to 5 people, this chic cottage has unbeatable panoramic views from the terrace and is an ideal; base for discovering the neighbouring medieval town of Erice and the famous wine cellars of Marsala.

April _Budget 2_Casa Bonagio

Villa Orca

Situated just a few kilometres away from Scopello and the Zingaro Nature Reserve, Villa Orca is a charming family villa furnished in a contemporary style offering a swimming pool, terrace, plasma TV and more. Sleeping up to 8, this is a gorgeous villa that won’t break the bank.

April _Budget 2_Orca

Casa Alba

Chic, modern, detached and the ideal villa for a family who like to spend most of their time outside, Casa Alba sleeps up to 6 and boasts a private terrace and pool that will be hard to leave! Jump in the car to explore the nearby sights of Marsala, Erice, Selinunte and Zingaro Nature Reserve.

April _Budget 2_Alba

Villa Lido Fiori

Taking its name from the gorgeous blue flag beach just 400 metres away, this bright, modern, Scandi-style villa with generous outside space sleeps up to 6 and is the ideal getaway for culture vultures that want to discover the famous archaeological sites of Selinunte and Agrigento. The Egadi Islands are also only a short boat ride away. 

April _Budget 2_Lido Fiori

Of course these are just a few of the holiday homes, villas and apartments available through Sicily4U. Check out more family villas here.

 

 

The best island holiday homes in Sicily

The best island holiday homes in Sicily

As if the splendid spoils of one paradisal island wasn’t enough to tempt travellers to Sicily, there are a number of smaller island destinations located just off-shore that are certainly worth hopping on a boat for. For natural beauty and the chance to get away from it all, discover one of Sicily’s beloved island chains and extend your holiday that little bit further…

The Egadians

First up are the three Egadian Islands, floating in the crystalline Tyrrhenian Sea just off Sicily’s western shore. This tranquil trio is popular amongst visitors looking to escape the hustle of the daily grind and soak up surroundings rich in natural beauty.

Favignana is the largest of the three, encircled by vivid turquoise waters with numerous rocky coves and bays for catching some rays or swimming, diving and snorkelling your way through your trip. Levanzo, the smallest, is characterised by plunging cliffs and rolling hills. With just one village, this island makes for a charming day trip, providing a window into local Sicilian life. Finally, there is wild Marettimo, a postcard-perfect destination, ideal for ramblers and nature lovers, thanks to its awe-inspiring mountain trails.

Suite Aegusana

Book a stay at the luxury pool villa, Suite Aegusana, to immerse yourself into the local life of Favignana. This distinctive holiday home boasts a lush Mediterranean garden and a contemporary design, built with sustainable living in mind. Whether you’re looking to take a dip in the beautiful neighbouring bays of Cala Azzurra and Cala Rossa, unwind by the glittering pool, or dine alfresco on the villa’s spacious terraces, Suite Aegusana can deliver an assortment of island experiences you’ll want to write home about.

April _island Villas _Aegusana _Outside

The Aeolians

Travellers in search of adventure should head to the north-east coast for a very different sort of Sicilian island experience. The Aeolian Islands are a collection of seven rugged islands, each with its own unique personality but all with the same dramatic, volcanic landscape that has turned the seven sisters into such a popular tourist attraction.

Whilst Lipari is renowned for its vibrant nightlife and Vulcano for its bubbling mud baths and steaming fumaroles, Stromboli is one of the most intriguing of the islands. Its high level of volcanic activity showcases periodic fountains of hot ash and sparks bursting forth to entertain the crowds.

Additionally, Salina, known as the emerald isle, makes for a captivating place to stay with its verdant hills – a marked contrast to the rocky vistas the other Aeolians offer.

Villa Terrazza Pollara

Wake up to Salina’s blissful Garden of Eden views with a stay in the romantic Villa Terrazza Pollara, a two-bedroom villa with traditional timber ceilings, a sun-trap terrace and a rocky bay just 800 metres away.

April _Island Villas _Pollara Outside

Discover more about the magical islands of Sicily and secure that dream island holiday home today.

 

Why visit the north of Sicily?

Why visit the north of Sicily?

If miles of mesmerising coastline, dotted with silken beaches and framed by a magnificent, mountainous backdrop, sounds like a scene straight off of a postcard from holiday heaven, consider a trip to the captivating northern regions of Sicily. Here, you will find a satisfying mix of bustling resort towns and traditional villages whilst fascinating archaeological parks and ancient ruins provide plenty of fodder for history buffs to get stuck into. Whether you’re looking for a fun-filled getaway with friends, a secluded romantic retreat or a family-friendly beach holiday, a villa in northern Sicily is sure to deliver…

Soak up the sun at a charming beach town

Take your pick of the beautiful beach towns on Sicily’s northern coast; each has its own unique identity and ambience. The most popular include picturesque Cefalu with its plunging limestone cliffs and photogenic half-moon bay; tropical San Vito Lo Capo with its turquoise waters, exotic palms and annual cous-cous festival; and sophisticated Mondello with its stylish boutiques and bars.

May _North _Canto Del Mare

Large groups of friends or families travelling together might choose a stay at the picture-perfect Villa Canto del Mare. This villa’s spacious sun terraces, spectacular sea views and close proximity to tranquil Trappeto, a quaint fishing village with its own luxurious stretch of sand, makes the perfect base for exploring Sicily’s northwest coast. Alternatively, a large group might prefer to head to the lavishly restored country house, Casale del Ponte, where the exotic, palm-fringed beach of San Vito Lo Capo is but a short drive away.

May _North _Casale Del Ponte

Explore Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve

Wander to your heart’s content through the rustic beauty of Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve where countless coves and grottos form secret beaches, begging to be discovered, and an abundance of flora and fauna can be spotted as you trek over the headland.

The three-bedroom holiday home, Villa Letizia, is perched in a prime position for discovering Lo Zingaro. After a long day of trekking, you’ll be delighted to return to this retreat by the sea where a private pool and lush, Mediterranean garden await.

May _North _Villa Letizia

Marvel at ancient ruins

The northern regions of Sicily play host to exquisite ruins that are equally as impressive as any you might find in Greece. Discover the awe-inspiring Selinunte archaeological park and the majestic temple that dominates the skyline of this historic area.

A stay in the four-bedroom Villa Oleandri will place you in the perfect position to visit the ruins whilst enjoying a blissful break just 500 metres from the nearest beach. If that feels like it might be just a little too far to walk, never fear – the villa comes with its own private pool to relax beside.

May _North _Villa Oleandri

At Sicily4U we offer a wide selection of villas and apartments located in the north of Sicily. Browse our collections or contact us today for further details.

 

Why visit the west of Sicily?

Why visit the west of Sicily?

Escape the crowds and visit the wild west of Sicily where glittering turquoise seas, acres of vineyards and awe-inspiring ancient ruins are guaranteed to take your breath away. Whilst there are several popular destinations in this region that attract a certain degree of attention, such as the misty mountain town of Erice and the archaeological park of Selinunte, Sicily’s southwest offers plenty of secluded spots to soak up the sun in solitude. From this part of the island, Tunisia is less than 100 miles away and you can feel the North African influence in the dusty villages and delicious cuisine. Here are a few good reasons why you should consider this charming part of Sicily and a few excellent villas from which you could base your stay…

Sample the wines of Marsala

The beautiful coastal town of Marsala is perched on Sicily’s western shore and beguiles visitors with its charming town centre, characterised by narrow streets and ornate, Baroque balconies. However, the real draw of the region is the opportunity to sample the famous fortified wines – there are an abundance of cellars and wineries to visit for tours and tasting experiences. 

May _West _Wine

Explore the fairytale town of Erice

Step straight into a storybook with a trip to the mountain town of Erice, where twin castles paint a fairytale silhouette against the sky. Ride the cable car up into the clouds and spend an afternoon getting lost amongst the cobbled streets. Base your large group at the impossibly stunning Villa Aronica for easy access to Erice as well as the beautiful resort town of San Vito Lo Capo. This princely pad boasts seven bedrooms and a glittering private pool, complete with excellent views of the sea and the mountains.

May _West _Villa Aronica

Discover the ruins of Selinunte and Agrigento

The mark of past civilisations can be seen throughout the southwest of Sicily. Plan a visit to the archaeological park at Selinunte where towering temple columns and crumbling, ancient streets are all that is left of this once mighty seat of the Greeks. Or journey further south to Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples to see sights worthy of Greece itself. 

May _West _Agrigento

Choose the charming three-bedroom Villa Mandala for a stay near to Selinunte, not far from a pair of award-winning beaches. Creatively yet tastefully decorated in an Eastern Zen style, you may well find inner peace as you unwind in this calming abode.

May _West _Villa Mandala

Alternatively, you might prefer the four-bedroom Villa Farfalla, a rural retreat with a private pool and outstanding views over the local countryside, sparkling sea and the mighty temples of Selinunte.

May _West _Villa Farfalla

Go back to nature at Belice Nature Reserve

There are a number of beautiful nature reserves in Sicily and the protect park of Belice is one of our favourites. Measuring a colossal 130 hectares of pinewoods and sand dunes, you can ramble nature trails to your heart’s content or simply relax at Foce del Belice, a paradisal streak of sand. 

The stylish yet cosy Villa Le Vigne offers three-bedroom accommodation just a 10 minute walking distance away from this pristine beach. You won’t have to worry about battling crowds for a spot on the sands - there are plenty more options up and down the coast to keep even the most dedicated beach lover entertained. 

May _West _Villa Vigne

If western Sicily sounds like a dream, browse our collections of villas or contact us today for further assistance. 

 

Villas with summer availability

Villas with summer availability

Summer is well and truly on its way with the mercury slowly rising across Europe and those irresistible, cornflower skies coming out to play. It’s no surprise that thoughts are turning towards how to make the most of summer 2017 and satisfy the wanderlust that comes hand-in-hand with sunnier climes.

If a villa holiday sounds like an attractive prospect, enabling you to get up as early or as late as you like, take your meals whenever you choose and luxuriate in your own private space, consider one of these villas in Sicily that still have availability for summer 2017!

Villa Le Vigne

Villa Le Vigne is a bright, airy, stylishly furnished villa, located on Sicily’s sunny southwest coast and new to Sicily4U for this season. Lovingly restored and impeccably furnished, this picturesque home offers quaint, traditional features such as terracotta tiled rooftops and romantic, shuttered windows for the ultimate shabby chic look.

Sicily 4U_June _Newfor 2017_Villalevigne _2

Thanks to an excellent hillside location, Villa Le Vigne’s private pool offers blissful views of the surrounding vineyards whilst the shady terrace provides the perfect location for a spot of alfresco dining – a must when visiting Sicily during its balmier months.

Sicily 4U_June _Newfor 2017_Villalevigne _3

With the pristine, protected beach of the Foce del Belice Nature Reserve, the famous archaeological site of Selinunte and the charming fishing village of Porto Palo located just a short distance away, Villa Le Vigne is ideally located for a variety of interests. The villa’s three bedrooms comfortably sleep six people, so both families and groups of friends may find this is the holiday home that ticks all their boxes.

Villa Mazzaforno

Villa Mazzaforno is a charming pool villa within a stone’s throw of Cefalu, one of the most popular beach towns in Sicily. With its tastefully furnished interiors, spacious terrace and postcard-perfect Mediterranean garden, this holiday home in the north west can offer groups of six or seven a comfortable stay. It makes a welcome new addition to the Sicily4U family!

Sicily 4U_June _Newfor 2017_Mazzaforno _1

Enjoy an alfresco breakfast, surrounded by olive trees and flowering bougainville shrubs, before soaking up a dose of Vitamin D on one of the sun loungers perched beside the glittering private pool. Of course, a swimming pool is ncie to have during a villa holiday but nothing can quite rival a dip in those sparkling Sicilian seas. Fortunately, Villa Mazzaforno is just 500 metres from the nearest sandy beach and just 3km from bustling Cefalu with its stunning half moon bay and majestic limestone cliffs.

Sicily 4U_June _Newfor 2017_Mazzaforno _3

Whilst a villa holiday offers families and groups of friends more freedom than they might find in your average hotel, some may balk at the idea of having to cook and clean on holiday. A maid, shopping service and private cook can be arranged on request with this villa – simply contact us to find out more details.

Villa Allegra

This modern, bright and spacious 3-bed holiday villa is situated just a 5-minite walk from a white sandy beach at Mazzaforno. Located near the town of Cefalu this is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the area. 

Villa Allegra 1

The picture-perfect patio at Villa Allegra is enclosed on three sides – ideal if you're travelling with children – making it the perfect, private location for dining outside and making the most of the stunning Sicilian weather.

Villa Allegra 2

Villa Baglio Campofranco

Perfectly positioned in southeast Siicly, Villa Baglio Campofranco new holiday villa is built in a traditional style and sleeps up to 12 people in complete comfort.

Baglio Campofranco New 1

The central courtyard, which is flanked by plalm trees, connects the lounge, kitchen, bedroom and bathrooms. And the large dining table outside is the ideal morning meeting place for breakfast, before a dip in the stately swimming pool.

Baglio Campofranco New 2

With Sicily4U, we like to think you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to villas in Sicily. Take a look at our villa collections to find the right holiday home for you. 

Sicilian villas with real character

Sicilian villas with real character

The beauty of a self-catered holiday is that you can work to your own timetable and enjoy your own private space. Plus, the right holiday home can often work out cheaper that splashing out on a fancy hotel. However, just because you are opting for self-catered accommodation, doesn’t mean you have to compromise on character. We offer a wide range of holiday homes that are simply bursting with personality, whether that’s in the form of a lovingly restored Sicilian farmhouse, a cosy apartment in a picturesque fishing village or a luxury villa, decked out in antique furniture for that real traditional Sicilian vibe!

If you want to walk into your villa in Sicily and feel that ‘wow’ factor, here are a couple of top options that still have availability for summer 2017…

Villa Oleandri

Located right above the sea next to the Zingaro Nature Reserve, Villa Oleandri can be found near the hamlet of Scopello with its famous Tonnara.

Villa Oleandri _Pool

This exquisite holiday home boasts a large outdoor kitchen and several beautiful outdoor areas including the garden, terraces and outdoor swimming pool – all ideal for relaxing with a good book or a glass of wine.

Villa Oleandri _Kitchen

With a short 5-10 minute walk down to the bay, depending on which path you take, Villa Oleandri offers the perfect place to relax this summer, offering traditional Sicilian character and sunsets that you'll never forget.

Villa Oleandri _Lounge

Villa Baglio Campofranco near Ragusa

If you're looking to house a larger family or group of friends on your summer 2017 Sicilian adventure, allow yourself to fall under the spell of Villa Baglio Campofranco, an elegant, five-bedroom property, situated near the baroque town of Ragusa in southern Sicily. This beautiful villa offers a dose of history to guests as, though it is newly built, it has been designed in the style of the Baglio (country manors) of Sicily and recovered from the ruins of an 18th century building.

Sicily 4U_June _Villaswithcharacter _Villa Campo Franco _2

From the moment you enter the postcard-perfect stone courtyard, prepare to be swept away by the charming surroundings. Fragrant jasmine bushes decorate the garden, along with olive, palm and carob trees; plus, budding cooks will delight in the herb garden that rests a short distance from the kitchen.

Sicily 4U_June _Villaswithcharacter _Villa Campo Franco _1

A glittering private pool offers the chance for a refreshing escape from the sun and a tastefully furnished terrace makes the ideal venue for lingering alfresco dinners or sunset drinks whilst the kids play. Inside, the master bedroom boasts a four-poster bed – the perfect finishing touch in this traditional Sicilian retreat. 

Sicily 4U_June _Villaswithcharacter _Villa Campo Franco _3

Don’t leave it too late to lock down your dream property for summer 2017. Our collections of holiday accommodation cover all the most popular areas of Sicily, plus a few secret hotspots, too. Browse at your leisure or contact  us for further assistance.

The Hot South, Home of Gelato: how to recognize great ice cream

The Hot South, Home of Gelato: how to recognize great ice cream

As the summer sun burns down on us, right now I’m under the shade of a palm tree enjoying an ice cream that slowly melts in my mouth. Welcome to Sicily, an island filled with passion and the birthplace of gelato. I’m in Messina, where ice was invented 1200 years ago.

The impetus came from the Arabs who introduced Sharbat to the island – a sweet drink chilled with ice from Etna. This inspired the Sicilians to produce granita: water, sugar, fruit juice or pulp, frozen, constantly churned. Here in the Messina area, ordering an almond granita with a brioche on the side is a must. In Sicily, gelato is usually served in a brioche (a sweet milk bun) that is almost a meal in itself. From classic flavours to a host of really zany combinations like lemon and basil sorbet, olive oil or radish ice cream, you’re in for a sweet surprise, not to be missed. You’ll find ice cream everywhere. Mine tastes good too… but is it really good? Here’s some advice on how to recognize excellent, handmade, top quality gelato. Rules guide the consumer when tasting wine or oil. We can use them in a gelateria too.

1. If we go into a gelateria and see the ice cream piled high over the brim of the containers, something isn’t right. The gelato is well above the chill level, yet it doesn’t melt. This may be a sign that stabilizers have been used to make it withstand higher temperatures. So no icebergs.

2. Colour: the colour of gelato, especially fruit flavoured gelato, should look natural. During the production process, the fruit oxidises and the colour fades with the lower temperatures. Bright yellow, shocking pink or light green should be regarded with suspicion, because colorants have been used to intensify it. Banana-flavoured gelato is white if it is natural, kiwi is pale green, and so on. 

3. Temperature: strangely, the ice shouldn’t be too cold, that is, it shouldn’t feel like ice in your mouth (too much water), nor however should it be too smooth or warm, a sign that it contains too much fat.

4. Flavour and aroma. It may seem banal, but hazelnut should taste like hazelnuts, walnut like walnuts, lemon like lemons and so on. Every flavour should be easily identifiable. Badly made ice cream tends to taste the same because prepared with the same base and simply with aromas added. The taste should stay in your mouth for a while afterwards. 

5. Seasonality: Fruit flavours depend on the season. Avoid summer-fruit flavours in the spring etc.: they’re not made with fresh fruit like they should be.

6. Quality: good ice cream doesn’t leave you feeling thirsty: it should be refreshing and thirst quenching. Industrial ice cream production often uses vegetable fats, which in some cases have a higher melting point than cream. The temperature of the human body in normal conditions can’t dissolve these fats in the mouth and so we end up feeling thirsty.   

So, following these little rules, when I go to one of my favourite gelaterias in Palermo I choose two zany flavours: Gorgonzola-walnut and Modica Chocolate with chilli pepper - in a brioche, obviously, and with cream on top!

If you’d like to explore the whole island and all its gelaterias, here are some accommodation options I can recommend:

HOLIDAY VILLAS IN SICILY