The Charms of Southern Sicily
The coastal city of Taormina, Noto and the incredible Valley of the Temples
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- Luxury accommodation throughout
- Privately guided tours
- Private transfers
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At a glance
Sicily is a beautiful island with its own special Italian character. It is a patchwork of elegant Baroque cities, ancient Greek ruins bound by a coastline against which the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. And of course, it is home to one of the world’s most famous active volcanoes.
This nine-day adventure takes in the best of the south and south east of the island, starting in the beautiful seaside city of Taormina. Here you’ll explore its palaces, churches and fascinating Greek amphitheatre. It’s then time to go off road on a 4WD adventure to the summit of Mount Etna where you’ll enjoy breathtaking views over the Ionian Sea.
You’ll then head to the south of the island to the city of Noto. Over the next three days, you’ll explore the winding streets of the old town, whizz through the streets of nearby Modica in a Fiat 500 – the most Italian of all cars – sample Modica’s famous chocolate, and learn how to whip up Sicilian specialties in a cooking class.
Your final stop is Agrigento from where you’ll explore the Valley of the Temples, a spectacular collection of Greek temples strung along rocky crests. As you relax in your beautiful hotel, watching the sun sink behind the Temple of Concordia, you can’t help but think this is the perfect place to end your Sicilian adventure.
Example Trip Itinerary
Private transfer to your hotel in Taormina
Accommodation in Taormina
- 71 rooms and suites
- Two restaurants
- Pool and terrace bar
- Swimming pool
Set high in the rocky hills on the east coast of the island, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo has been delighting guests since 1863. Sweeping views across the sea and out to Mount Etna make this hotel a real jewel in Sicily’s crown. Each of the hotel’s 71 rooms and suites is decorated in Sicilian style, with white linens, Italian marble and rich wood. Your days get off to the perfect start as the sunlight streams in though your window, beckoning you outside. Start by stepping back in time and exploring the Greek theatre, a wonderfully preserved amphitheatre located next to the hotel. If it’s rest and relaxation you’re after, then the heated swimming pool surrounded by terraced gardens is a good place to start. Admiring the view is best done with a cocktail in hand and a crisp glass of the aptly named Etna Martini is the perfect refreshment as you drink in your surroundings. With the ocean’s bounty on its doorstep the hotel’s restaurant serves fresh seafood and Sicilian specialties to be enjoyed in the elegant dining room or on the terrace on a balmy summer’s evening. Italy is famed for its love of food and togetherness in the evenings the pool bar is transformed into a traditional trattoria complete with local dishes and live music. As darkness falls, you’ll be charmed by the twinkling lights of Cape Taormina and the Bay of Giardini Naxos. You won’t be short of things to do with an array of excursions and activities on offer. Jump in a Fiat 500 and channel your inner movie star with a Godfather tour of Savoca; walk through the vineyards and enjoy a tasting of the region’s wine; or take to the skies with a helicopter tour offering views of Mount Etna, the Aeolian Islands and the Agrigento Valley with its ancient Greek temples. Guests will also enjoy use of the private beach at sister hotel, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea.
- 71 rooms and suites
- Three bars
- Private beach
- Heated infinity pool
With a beautiful coastline stretching as far as the eye can see, Sicily is pure paradise. For a chance to enjoy life on the water, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is the perfect retreat, perched on the shores of the dazzling Mediterranean. The hotel is nestled between subtropical gardens and its own private beach, and everything in between is pure luxury. The 71 rooms and suites are bright and airy, looking out over the colourful gardens or turquoise sea. Choose to dive straight into the water, or take a dip in the heated infinity pool before relaxing with a massage under the shade of an orange tree. With so much to explore, you’ll want to take advantage of the boat tours that take you out to the Aeolian Islands, marvelling at Stromboli volcano and stopping to swim in the crystal clear waters of secluded bays. Dining al fresco is one of the joys of a stay by the coast, and guests can enjoy wonderfully fresh seafood and regional cuisine. Whether you’re poolside or beach-bound, you can relax with an aperitif or gelato while soaking up the sun. Food is what it’s all about in Italy and a barbecue on the beach or picnic in the garden is a chance to drink in your surroundings. If it’s romance you’re after, a candlelit dinner on the beach is hard to beat. If you fancy giving your sea legs a rest, then capture the beauty of Sicily with a photography tour, catch a show at the ancient Greek theatre in Taormina or explore the villages on the slopes of Mount Etna.
- 24 rooms and suites
- Swimming pool
Located in a 20th-century Sicilian villa, The Ashbee sits within a park filled with lemon, tangerine and grapefruit trees and looks out across the sparkling sea towards Calabria. The villa was designed by Charles Robert Ashbee, an icon of the London Arts and Crafts movement. The central part of the hotel was restored, keeping the ancient framework and original features, and each of the 24 rooms and suites is individually decorated with antique furniture and paintings. Experience the flavours of the Mediterranean at the one-Michelin-starred St. George Restaurant by Heinz Beck,which serves classic Sicilian dishes using local, seasonal produce. Choose to dine in the elegant dining room or al fresco. The terrace bar offers guests wonderful panoramic views of Italy’s southern peninsular and is the perfect spot to watch the sun set. The beach of Isola Bella may beckon you to its shores, but the hotel also has a swimming pool for when you want to simply relax and enjoy the offerings from the poolside bar. The surrounding park is a pleasant space in which to stroll, taking in the refreshing scent of the citrus fruits that hang from the trees.
- 27 rooms and suites
- Outdoor swimming pool
For those after a slice of Sicilian countryside bliss, the historic Monaci delle Terre Nere estate on the slopes of Mount Etna is just the ticket. Here it’s all about dialling back the pace and taking time to fully appreciate your natural surroundings. The estate dates back to the 19th century, and within its 46 hectares you’ll find ancient cherry, peach and apricot trees growing as well as organic vegetables for the kitchen and vines for producing their own wine. Monaci delle Terre Nere consists of the main building and various outbuildings where you’ll find the 27 guestrooms. Within the old stables and former wine press are beautifully decorated rooms and suites which combine traditional materials, such as lava stone and chestnutwood, with contemporary Italian furnishings for a old-meets-new feel. All the rooms are unique and offer views of the estate and Mount Etna or the Mediterranean Sea. Throughout the estate you’ll find original pieces of artwork and colourful ceramics from nearby Caltagirone and Santo Stefano di Camastra. TVs have intentionally been omitted from the rooms, and guests are instead encouraged to take the time to appreciate the sights, sounds and scents of the estate. The restaurant, Locanda Nerello, is set on the terrace during the summer and offers gorgeous views out across the sea. Bread, pasta and pastries are made at the on-site bakery every day and much of the organic produce comes from their own garden. The hotel is committed to the Slow Food Movement and as such you can expect the menu to be a real celebration of local, seasonal produce. The Convivium Bar is the perfect place for an aperitif and their drinks list includes lovely concoctions made from fruits and herbs grown on the estate. Within the grounds of the estate is a swimming pool and during your stay here you can also enjoy bike rides, horse riding, yoga, indulge in a massage and even watch a film under the starry night sky.
Settled on a hill of the Monte Tauro, this pretty coastal town enjoys a prestigious position on the east of the island. As well as streets and squares lined with churches and beautiful old buildings, it is home to an impressive Greek amphitheatre that looks out over Taormina's two bays and out towards Calabria.
Taormina sits on the east coast of the island and has long been home to artists and intellectuals. It is also favoured by Hollywood stars who are charmed by its beauty and on this walking tour, you'll see why. The town is filled with pretty churches, a Norman cathedral, impressive clock tower and a main square which overlooks the Gulf of Messina. It is also home to the Palazzo Corvaja palace, which housed the first Sicilian parliament in the 15th century. A real highlight is the Greek theatre from where you will get stunning views of Taormina’s two bays and across to Calabria, with Mount Etna as a backdrop in the other direction. You'll also enjoy some time to go shopping and explore the streets at your leisure.
Enjoy an off-road excursion on a comfortable 4WD, and explore the area around the tallest active volcano in Europe with a vulcanologist as your guide. As you ascend to the summit at 2,000m, you'll pass through enchanting forests and experience a walk through tubular lava caves. Once you're at the top, you'll enjoy breathtaking views over the Ionian Sea and the vineyards and orchards that sprawl across the lower slopes. After soaking up the incredible and striking landscapes of Mount Etna, you'll enjoy lunch at a local winery. While here, you can sample the delicious wines that are produced on the fertile slopes of Etna.
Catania is an ancient port city on Sicily's east coast between the ionic sea and mount Etna. Catania is also known as 'the black city' because of the colour of its buildings, blackened by the soot and ashes of the volcano, whose eruptions have often damaged or even destroyed the city.
Accommodation in Noto
- Seven rooms
Italy is not short of history and the beautiful architecture that comes with it. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Noto in southern Sicily is arguably one of the country’s most stunning baroque towns, and the Seven Rooms Villadorata is a chance to step back in time to Italy’s magnificent past. As the name suggests, there are just seven rooms, giving this hotel an intimate feel. A former private residence of a prince, the 18th century palace has been lovingly restored with meticulous attention to detail. Each of the rooms are named after winds that blow over the land and feature high ceilings, original frescos and beautiful artefacts and furnishings. Rooms come with a balcony, from which guests can gaze out across the honey coloured rooftops and the spires of the town’s 45 churches. Noto itself is a joy to explore but for those that want to extend their discovery of the island, there are plenty more places of interest including Syracuse, the birthplace of Archimedes, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Modica and Ragusa. No trip to an island would be complete without some time by the coast, and you’re close to the beaches of southern Sicily and the Vendicari Marine Reserve with its lagoons, sand dunes, rocky coastline and sandy beaches.
The beautiful town of Noto is a UNESCO World Heritage site, considered the capital of Sicilian baroque style. It is filled with pretty honey-coloured buildings and a main corso where you’ll find spectacular baroque palazzi and churches.
Discover the flavours and tastes of seasonal Sicilian cookery during a private cooking class. On arrival at Syracuse, you will be welcomed by your chef and begin with a visit to the historical market in Ortigia. This is an opportunity to taste local products and see the different seasonal fruits, vegetables and seafood. Choose and buy ingredients before making your way to your chef's kitchen which overlooks the port (or another place in the heart of Ortigia), for a hands-on cooking class that will teach you the secrets of Sicilan cooking.
The island of Ortigia is the historical heart of Siracusa, separated from the modern city by a narrow channel. At its centre is the Piazza del Duomo, home to a magnificent cathedral built on the site of the ancient Temple of Athena. On this square you’ll also find the baroque Palazzoo Beneventano and the church of Santa Lucia, the town’s patron saint.
Modica is a pretty historic town, with tiers of churches and palaces stacked up on the hill. Once you have arrived you will hop into a classic Italian Fiat 500 and spend an hour exploring the city, weaving in and out of the streets discovering its gems.
Modica is famous for its chocolate, made here in the same way it was made in Mexico by the Aztecs. You'll visit a local factory and try some of its delicious creations and receive a chocolate bar to take away.
Explore the beautiful baroque town of Noto, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with stunning honey-coloured buildings. You'll wander through the cobbled streets exploring its palazzos and magnificent cathedral.
Private transfer to your hotel in Agrigento
Accommodation in Agrigento
- 27 rooms and suites
- Outdoor pool
The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento is one of the world’s most impressive and important archaeological sites. Villa Athena is located within the UNESCO World Heritage site just 200m from the Temple of Concodia. The temples are spread over 1,300 hectares of land, the remains of the ancient Akragas, founded in 582 BC and one of the largest Greek cities on the Mediterranean. With such a magnificent backdrop, the Villa Athena is one of the best locations to view these spectacular temples. With just 27 rooms and suites, the hotel has an intimate feel and prides itself on its true sense of Sicilian hospitality. The 18th-century architecture has been lovingly preserved so the hotel maintains its charm while offers guests all the services and amenities associated with a luxury boutique hotel. Rooms are decorated with a soft, neutral colour scheme and come with views out across the olive groves or of the temples themselves. Serving traditional Sicilian cuisine, the restaurant features a terrace, from which you can see the temples of Concorida and Juno. There is also an open-air bar for sunset drinks. A spa is located in an ancient building used for storing wheat and olive and is built around a Greek cistern. Here, guests can relax and unwind in the perfumed showers, Jacuzzi or steam bath. There is also an outdoor pool and beautiful gardens to explore. As well as discovering the temples, it is well worth exploring the town of Agrigento itself with its pretty streets and churches.
Just outside Agrigento lies the Valley of the Temples, one of the world’s most impressive archaeological sites. The temples are located along a ridge between the higher modern hilltop town of Agrigento and the sea. Between the town centre and the temples is a peaceful green vale where agriculture is interspersed with ruins and excavations.
Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century B.C., Agrigento became one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean. The area is home to the Valley of the Temples, one of the world’s most impressive and important archaeological sites. The temples are spread over 1,300 hectares of land and most are situated on rocky crests south of modern day Agrigento. The best preserved is the Concordia temple, one of the most impressive examples of a Greek Doric temple.
Private transfer to Catania airport
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The Charms of Southern Sicily
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