SICILY by Annette Ross

Day 1

Flights with Air Malta from Southend to Catania in Sicily.

Parked at Southend Airport Car Park (SACP) and had 5 minute shuttle bus in to Airport (they keep your keys and move your car)

Had speedy check- in and it was quick going through security and checked in to the SKYLIFE LOUNGE for a nice start to the trip…great pancakes amongst other things! Really nice lounge!

Arrived on time and had 5-10 minute transfer to the 5 star Hotel Ramano Palace. Would recommend asking for a Mount Etna View Room here.

Enjoyed an evening out in Catania with a guided walking tour followed by Dinner at Me Cumpari Turiddu Restaurant. Very traditional Sicilian food including a Donkey, Horse and Beef Roulade in a brioche..not to everyone’s tastes but definitely a new experience! There were plenty of other choices including pasta dishes of course.

Day 2

An early start with a transfer to San Gregorio di Catania pick up area to hop on to a 4 x 4 van to go on a WINE ETNA TOUR to the Eastern flank of Mount Etna, looking down over the vineyards which grow over the lava stone.

A wonderful day, with great views at every turn and very informative throughout with detailed explanations of the different types of lava (the solid variety that is!). Going off road through wooded areas where necessary when the road was blocked by old lava.
We also had the chance to climb down in to a Lava Cave which was fun!


Lunch at the Tenuta Cottanera and a tour of their winery – a stunning location to enjoy a delicious light lunch and sample some of their wonderful wines! Would be a lovely setting for a wedding or other special occasion!

Stopped off in the magnificent medieval town of Randazzo and returned to our hotel early evening. On route was excited to spot a small lava flow in the distance before the view was obscured by clouds.

Out again in the evening for another stroll around the centre of Catania with some really lovely areas including a very artistic & quaint area in the side streets near to the Ciciulena Sicilian Restaurant & Wine Bar. With its wonderful décor (paintings by local artists on all the walls) we enjoyed a catanese dinner (mostly fish courses) – great ambiance, friendly service ….loved it!

DAY 3

About a 2 hour drive to Siracusa with a very enthusiastic and interesting guided tour by the amazing Elisa. She brought everything to life with her descriptions of the ancient monuments, including the massive ancient stone quarries (mined by slaves in the most terrible of conditions), the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre (full circle)  and the Greek Theatre (semi circle).

Next stop was the Island of Ortigia – joined to Siracusa by a bridge and surrounded by imposing walls and with its impressive town square with beaufitful buildings. Would have loved to spend longer here, not least for the great ice cream and pastry outlets, amongst other very smart looking shops.

Next to Noto  (about 40 minutes drive from Siracusa) –  as it’s name suggests a notable place, with incredible baroque architecture. The town was completely destroyed in the terrible 1693 earthquake and very impressively rebuilt from scratch. The gateway in to the town is via the Beautiful Archway  ‘Porta Nazionale’.  We enjoyed lunch (another amazing meal) at the Crociffiso Restaurant sampling the chef Marco Baglieri’s local, delicious specialities and wines (different wines for each course). Would highly recommend this restaurant for its atmosphere, food and not forgetting the wine!

On our return (about 2 hour journey) we spent the evening in Acireale the City of 100 churches. Enjoyed Dinner at the Frammento Restaurant where Mediterranean and Nouvelle Cuisine merge. On return to our hotel we could see the tip of Mount Etna glowing red in the distance.

DAY 4

Another full day out with about 1 hour drive to Scicli where they filmed ‘Inspector Montalbano’ followed by short drive to Ragusa by the Ponti Ravine. Seeing more beautiful, baroque buildings dating back to the 1693 earthquake when the town had to be rebuilt. Stunning views from the top of Ragusa Superiore and its Unesco sites.

Lunch at Locanda Don Serafino in Ragusa, a 2 star Michelin restaurant was one of the highlights of our gastronomic tour. Chef Vincenzo Condiano well deserves this accolade. The restaurant itself is built in to the side of the cliff as if in a cave, so an amazing place to go to. It is also a boutique hotel.


Ragusa is a must on anyone’s list of places to visit and if you get the chance go to this restaurant.
http://www.locandadonserafino.it

A short drive (15kms) took us to the town of Modica where a Christmas Market & Street Fair was taking place. Well known for its fine chocolate. A stop at the legendary Antica Dolceria Bonajuto for tastings was definitely on the cards!

Return to our hotel, followed by a short, but fun evening the ‘FAB Restaurant’ in Catania. Could not leave Sicily without sampling a pizza!

DAY 5

An early check in at Catania Airport for our flight home. Air Malta did not cover themselves in glory at this end! Check in took well over an hour as they were checking and rechecking everyone’s size & weight of hand baggage in the small cage by the side of the check-in desk. Fortunately we passed quickly though security. Air Malta need a separate check in area in Catania  for those that have pre-paid for their baggage.

TIP FOR BEST VIEWS OF MOUNT ETNA – be seated on left side of plane on outward leg ie 7A and right side on your return flight ie 7F