Insight /

Italy

Sarah's Sicilian Favourites Why you'll fall in love with Sicily

Most agree that there’s simply too much millennium-spanning history, diverse landscapes and all-round people-watching to take in on one visit, and that’s before we mention food and wine!

This is certainly true for Real Holidays’ Sarah, who has been making regular forays to this Mediterranean island since she first fell in love with Sicily in 2008. So, if a combination of ancient Greek amphitheatres, medieval hilltop towns, gorgeous sandy beaches and mouth-watering cuisine appeals, then speak to our resident expert to plan your perfect trip. In the meantime, daydream away with Sarah’s favourite places to stay.

  1. Relais Torre Marabino

    This organic farming estate, surrounded by rolling countryside dotted with ancient olive and carob trees, is in an enviable location in south eastern Sicily, ideal for exploring some of the island’s prettiest towns and the sandy beaches of the south coast. The building, in beautiful original stone, is converted from a fortified grain store, and its cool interior has an authentic rustic-luxe ambience.

    The hotel has an inviting swimming pool and 7 elegantly furnished rooms and suites, each named after one of the wines produced by the estate. Moresca, the hotel’s excellent restaurant, serves delicious Sicilian cuisine which is mostly organic and sourced from the surrounding fields. The hotel serves its own wine, giving you another reason to relax on the breezy terrace with a glass in hand.

    Sarah’s top tip: Families should book one of the suites which comfortably sleep 4 and have a kitchenette for preparing light meals.
    Best for: Fly-drives and countryside stays. Foodies seeking retro nouveau cuisine.

  2. Azienda Agricola Mandranova

    This working olive farm near Agrigento, in southern Sicily has been converted into a stylish hotel where you’ll be warmly welcomed by a traditional Sicilian family. Surrounded by thousands of olive trees, the hotel has a peaceful atmosphere with a gorgeous swimming pool that overlooks the bucolic farmland. The 16 stylish rooms and suites are typically Sicilian in design and the main house offers elegant lounge areas with plenty of beautiful books on the history, landscapes and people of Sicily. But it is Azienda’s sociable and welcoming hosts Silvia and Giuseppe and that will really make your stay here.
    Giuseppe’s enthusiasm for the family business is infectious and he will be happy to show guests around the estate that produces prize winning olive oil and much of the produce that is served at dinner. Silvia’s delicious cooking, from simple pasta pesto to baked swordfish, served out on the terrace, means that most guests do not stray far from the Azienda in the evenings and her cooking classes will give you a real taste of genuine Sicilian family life.

    Sarah’s top tip: Come in Autumn to learn about the olive harvesting process and make sure you visit Agrigento, famous for its impressive Greek temples.
    Best for: Couples on fly-drives and history lovers.

  3. Hotel Villa Belvedere

    With its iconic Greek amphitheater and elegant palazzos, Taormina is perhaps the most well-known of Sicily’s coastal towns, so you need to choose your hotel wisely.
    Hotel Villa Belvedere, still owned and run by the characterful Bambara-Pecaut family, is our pick. The hotel is a beautiful ochre-coloured villa in one of Taormina’s best positions, with superb uninterrupted views of the Bay of Naxos and Mount Etna in the distance. It is situated on the edge of the town within easy walking distance of the many upmarket shops and restaurants. Nearby is the flower-filled Botanical Gardens and the amphitheatre with its coastal views and tumbledown glory is well-worth a visit.
    Back at the hotel, the swimming pool and delightful terraced gardens, filled with flowers, shrubs and palm trees are a welcome sanctuary and the warm welcome you will receive from the Pecaut family make this seaside gem a brilliant base to explore this corner of Sicily from.

    Sarah’s top tip: Avoid the crowded peak summer months and go in early or late summer instead. Opt for a sea facing room to really soak up those views.
    Best for: Short breaks and car free holidays.

  4. La Foresteria Planeta Estate

    La Foresteria means “the home of the guest” which perfectly sums up the warm atmosphere at this beautiful hotel, owned by the Planeta family who produce some of Sicily’s most well renowned wines.
    The 14 elegant guest rooms have a refreshing country house style with warm Mediterranean colours. Each leads out onto a terrace overlooking the vineyards with the sea sparkling in the distance, and there’s a delightful infinity pool surrounded by fragrant herb-filled flowerbeds.
    It goes without saying that food and wine are taken seriously here. La Foresteria’s beautiful kitchen serves up delicious Sicilian dishes using mainly locally sourced ingredients. “Wine routes” of 3, 5 or 7 wines to match each course prove popular with guests as do the cookery courses which take place in the glass fronted kitchen during the day.
    The surrounding countryside is surprisingly green and there are some fantastic sandy beaches to explore as well as the ancient archaeological sites of nearby Selinunte and further afield at Segesta and Agrigento.

    Sarah’s top tip: Hire bikes and enjoy the cycle tracks that traverse the old railway line between Menfi, Poro Palo and Sciacca.
    Best for: Food and wine enthusiasts and perfect for couples on fly-drive itineraries.

  5. BB22

    This wonderful hotel is a real find in a city that has long been bereft of stylish places to stay. Its location is ideal for those wanting to spend days exploring Palermo with its bustling streets and enchanting mixture of architecture. Milanese owner Patti has created a peaceful and welcoming retreat in the centre of this fascinating city.
    This formerly crumbling palazzo now houses 7 spacious guestrooms and suites that reflect Patti’s eclectic style. Although minimalist in its interior design, each room has its own character with the placement of original furnishings such as chandeliers, gilt mirrors and loveseats.
    The lounge, where a delightful breakfast is served, has a small bar and leads on to a pretty terrace with retractable roof, perfect for a lazy afternoon after exploring this vibrant city. As evening falls guests can help themselves to Sicilian wine from the honesty bar before heading out to one of Palermo’s many nearby restaurants.

    Sarah’s top tip: Pack lightly – there’s no lift at BB22 so you have to climb several flights of stairs to reach reception. Try to book a deluxe room for extra space.
    Best for: Weekend breaks and anyone that wants to live and breathe gritty Italian city life.

  6. Casa Talia

    “Talia” means “Look! Admire!” in Sicilian dialect and the striking views of the Baroque town of Modica will not disappoint guests who choose Casa Talia as their base for exploring South East Sicily.
    But it’s not just the views that make this such a memorable place to stay. The architect owners Marco and Viviana have put great thought in to their ongoing restoration project, resulting in 10 stylish bedrooms and suites. Each have their own entrance and terrace area, set in a pretty garden dotted with fruit trees, including pomegranates which often feature, freshly-picked, at breakfast.
    Modica is reached via a pathway which twists its way down to the heart of the town, where you can indulge in the many excellent restaurants and traditional chocolate shops which are putting Modica on the map for more than just its Baroque history.

    Sarah’s top tip: Stay a while. Slow down your trip and use this as a base to explore the south eastern corner of Sicily.
    Best for: Couples and anyone likes to enjoy an evening glass of wine with a postcard (or instagram) perfect view.

  7. Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel

    Ortigia is the ancient centre of Siracusa founded by the Greek settlers, and today UNESCO’s protection has ensured the Greek temples, Baroque churches and palaces and the waterfront promenade have been wonderfully preserved.  Here, right on the seafront with elegant rooms and unique antique furniture is the Algila Hotel. A beautiful setting for exploring this unique location.

    This recently restored old stone palazzi has a range of rooms and suites set between two buildings, that pay homage to its Baroque history with original features such as carved arches, wooden ceilings and brightly-painted Sicilian tiles. Many have stunning views that overlook the Ionian Sea.

    Friendly and staff from the local area are welcoming and knowledgeable – don’t forget to ask them for their recommendations for nearby restaurants, bars and swimming spots.  You can dose up on culture at the stunning Piazza Duomo which is flanked by an impressive cathedral and town hall. Then come home to Algila – a stylish and comfortable stay that is infused with Sicilian tradition.

    Sarah’s top tip: Avoiding having a hire car during your stay. Siracusa is the prefect start or end to a fly-drive and we can arrange a transfer from or to the airport and car hire from a town location. Book the Deluxe Spa rooms for a private sun terrace overlooking the sea of Ortigia.
    Best for: Unusual city breaks and anyone interested in Baroque architecture and ancient Greek sites.

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