This spring (During a 3 day weekend) we chose Sicily as our destination.
The island is huge and I would say we’ll need more than a week to visit it, but since we don’t have that many days, we focused our trip in the East side of the island.
We arrived at Catania’s airport at 7:00am and had to wait around an hour at the airport for the Avis office to open, since we read that the best way to go around the island is by renting a car.
We found this amazing pasticceria called i dolci di NONNA VINCENZA which besides being quiet at that moment has cannoli and others dolci to start our trip to Sicily the right way.
Once we had our car, it took us around 20 minutes to get to the apartment we rented.
Here is the map I created with “mymaps” with all the places we were marked.
Where we slept?
We decided to use Catania as our base, especially because our flight arrived there. We rented this beautiful apartment that we found through airbnb.com. The flat was spacious, clean and modern with a minimalist design that made us feel right at home. Massimo was the perfect host, welcoming us in early and offering useful tips to maximise our visit, plus water and fruits. There was free street parking available. I would recommend this place highly.
Day 1: Catania
Catania is small and most things to do are within walking distance. By only 5 minutes walking from our house, we started our visit to Catania with the old Monastero San Nicolò l’Arena that currently is a University. Chiesa (church) San Nicoló is next to the monastery.
Continue walking for around 10 minutes to get to the unexpected Teatro Romano (Roman theatre), hidden among some buildings (6€ per ticket).
400 meters from the theatre, it’s the Cattedrale Di Sant’Agata, next to the Porta (gate) Uzeda, Fontana dell’Elefante (Elephant Fountain), Fontana dell’Amenano and the incredible fish market, where not only you’ll find fresh fish, but all kind of Italians cheeses, ham, vegetables, fruits, etc. Of course I had to buy some parmiggiano, peperoncini and pistachio pesto.
Be careful with the time, we were impressed that around 13:30 we tried to find a restaurant to eat close to the Cattedrale and there weren’t a lot of restaurants around and some of them were closed. I don’t know if they serve lunch earlier. Anyway, we were glad we found Panecaldo Osteria (an Osteria is like a small familiar restaurant), where I had one of the best past ever: Pasta alla Norma (typical of Sicily).
We finish our day with the visit to the Castello Ursino, which was nice because it’s an art museum in the inside (10€ per person, 5€ the first Sunday of each month).
Where to eat in Catania?
- PaneCaldo, where I had the best pasta of my life
- Me Cumpari Turiddu. Beautiful restaurant with very nice food and service
- Trattoria Nino Manino. This one was closed the day we wanted to go, but Massimo (our airbnb host) said we’ll find the best pasta alla Norma there
- Savia Paticceria for breakfast, AMAZING! Best place to try the pistachio corneto (Croissant) and the cannoli
Day 2: Taormina and Sunset at Etna
We had this amazing pistachio croissant (cornetto, in Italian) with cappuccino at Savia Pasticceria close to the Giardini Bellini in Catania before heading to Taormina (45 minutes away). It is also the right place to try the traditional cannoli from Sicily.
Paid 1.7€ toll in the highway. Once in Taormina, after parking (2€ per hour), we visited the Teatro Greco or Teatro Antico first (10€), where we admired the Etna together with the sea view.
Walked to the Giardini della Villa Comunale, a little beautiful garden that deserves the visit.
Then walked up the Corso Umberto street to get to the Granduca restaurant that has a stunning view and an amazing Italian gastronomy, though it was not as cheap as the others places with have been. We paid 73€ per 2, including wine, appetizer, main and dessert, and visited San Giuseppe Chiesa on our way back to the car.
At 15:00 we were back in “our” apartment to meet Nadia, the tour guide from www.excursionetna.com, to head to the Etna. Visit a local store to buy honey, wine, pesto, etc., and then saw part of the lava flows trace, the 3 levels cave and some of the old craters while we enjoyed the sunset. There is a cable car to go to the top, but besides being very expensive, our tour guide told us that you´ll have more or less the same view.
To finish our day, we went to Piazza (square) San Francesco D’Assisi to have a “light” dinner at Moucharabia once in Catania. I had a burrata with tomatoes on a bread basket, delicious, and a spritz (alcoholic beverage) Catanese. The restaurant was good, but nothing extraordinary.
Day 3: Catania / Syracuse (including Ortiga Island)
After our now regular breakfasts at Savia in Catania, we visited the Bellini Garden in front of Savia and left Catania around 9:15am.
We arrived at the archeological park of Syracuse at 10:20am. Visited the Teatro Greco, Ara di Ierone, Anfiteatro Romano, Ninfeo e Terrazza Superiore, Orecchio di Dionisio, Grotta dei Cordari and Latomie, that are all next to each other (10€ per all). We parked on the street close to the back entrance and paid 1€ per hour.
Then we went by car to the Catacomba di San Giovanni, Santuario di Madonna delle Lacrime and the Archeological Museum Paolo Orsi (visited only the garden and Villa Landolina), and got back to the car to go to Ortiga Island and had an incredible lunch at Apollonion Restaurant (call for reservation first). They offer a fixed 6-courses menu of 35€ that also includes water, bread (delicious), dessert, coffee and of course Limoncello.
Since we can barely move after such a lunch, we decided to walk around a little big to take some pictures of the Apollonion Temple, piazza Duomo, Fonte Aretusa and walked down along the beach front to the Maniace Castle, sadly it closes at 13:30 and we weren’t able to visit it.
After walking through the inner streets of the little island, and buying some local products, it was almost time for our parking meter to expire (17:30) so we got into the car and drove back to Catania and next morning back to Madrid.
We loved eastern Sicily, the people, the amazing gastronomy, the historical sites, etc. It is highly recommended and I´ll definitely go back to visit the west part and to spend some time at its beautiful beaches.