Best places to stay in Sicily
The regional capital of Sicily and the largest city needs to be given time to be properly explored and to unwrap its true beauty. The city can be dusty and chaotic but it has some sunning examples of mediaeval architecture.
The mainly Baroque capital has been home to many kings and emirs and the Norman Palace and Byzantine Palatine Chapel are built on Phoenician walls. For anyone that loves to study history there are more than enough castles and monasteries, a very good museum, art galleries and a magnificent cathedral.
Shopping in Palermo is like being in one great bazaar. Artisan jewellery made from coral is displayed in tiny shops that stand next to designer boutiques and in La Kalsa craftsmen continue with their centuries old traditions. Popular purchases are antiques and ceramics as well as the beautiful embroidered fabrics.
The markets should be visited just to admire the colourful displays and the vast choice of fruits and vegetable available along with clothing and crafts. La Vucciria is one of the most well-known as is the Mercato di Capo. The pedestrianised street of Via Principe di Belmonte has many elegant and hip shops as well as trendy caféterias to sit and pass the time of day in. In the Old Town Via Maqueda nd Via Roma are the principal shopping streets.
The night life and entertainment in Palermo is plentiful. Most restaurants serve dinner around 8pm so nothing gets underway until at least 10pm or later. In the summer months outdoor shows are the star attraction under balmy Mediterranean skies. Opera and Ballets seasons offer a cultural aspect to a visit while there are funky night clubs that offer the latest in music and dance trends.
Drinking is a serious business and Italians have a love of aperitifs and cocktails and many bars reflect this with resident mixologists. Wine bars, coffee bars and just ordinary small bars all vie for the attention of residents and visitors who love to gather with friends and soak up the atmosphere.
Palermo is not only a very interesting city to stay in but makes a great base for day trips to Segesta, Agrigento, Erice and Cefalù. There is accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets from luxury five star hotels set in historic buildings, modern and functional apart-hotels, hostels, guest houses, B&B’s and self-catering apartments and villas.
This is the Italy that postcards depict. Hidden behind vines and flowers tumbling over balconies are sand coloured buildings and in the centre the Greek amphitheatre stands guard over the beach. The town sits on the mountaintop and overlooks the Ionian coast and is and action-packed resort. There are plenty of good beaches close by with alfresco bars and restaurants serving traditional cuisine like arancini di riso, fried balls of rice stuffed with cheese or meat.
There are several castles to explore at Castlemola and plays and concerts are performed in the amphitheatre. The mediaeval walls enclose the town most of which is pedestrianised. Taormina is the place where the classic scenes of Mount Etna are always taken from the Greek amphitheatre. Snow-capped for four months of the year and rising to 3350 metres this sacred mountain is how to many myths and legends. Excursions by jeep can be taken from Taormina to Mount Etna as well as from many other locations.
Night owls can party until dawn in the superb clubs and bars including Panasia Beach which is a fantastic lido through the day and one of the hottest nightspots when the sun goes down. La Giara is for more romantic souls who love to enjoy the Sicilian cuisine in the restarant before smooching to 1980’s style music.
The closest beach to Taormina is Mazzarò and it is easily accessed from the by the gondola type cable car from Via Luigi Pirandello. There are stunning views on the way down, or up, across the town and pine clad hillsides to the beaches and turquoise seas beyond. The beach has everything needed for a relaxing day on the sand including sunbeds and umbrellas as well as a good selection of places to eat and drink.
There are superb hotels that cater to suit all tastes including the one in a restored monastery. Four star hotels, family run hotels, B&B’s, apartments and villas can all be found in or close to Taormina, some with commanding views of Mount Etna and others hidden down narrow alleyways where history has been made.
This is a resort with an unpretentious charm and all the ingredients for an appealing Italian seaside holiday. There is culture, great transport links, plenty of sunshine and the wonderful flavours of Sicilian food.
Behind the town is the massive rocky crag called the Rocca which is a steep climb but well worth the effort when you get to the top and find the ancient ruins of the Temple of Diana. The views naturally are magnificent down across the picturesque harbour, the golden beaches and the historic red-roofed town.
In the town the medieval wash house is fed by natural springs and there is the restored Osteria Magna where royalty once stayed on trips to Cefalú. The Mandralisca Museum is a good place to visit and has fascinating collections of natural objects such as sea shells, art and archaeology. The Cefalù Cathedral with its twin towers dominates the town centre and was built as a gift of thanks to God by Roger II.
The main artery of this historic town is Corso Ruggero and there are many good restaurants and bars along here that serve local dishes as well as delicious pizzas and seafood. The dish to try is spaghetti con sarde, a mixture of sardines, pine nuts, raisins, fennel and garlic. There are also many shops selling everything from essential holiday items to leather goods, olive oils, herbs and spices. For a sweet treat find the oldest pastry shop in Cefalú; Pasticceria Pietro Serio is on Via G. Giglio and is well known by locals as well as Sicilians from further afield.
For Sicilian charm and atmosphere visitors should find the tiny harbour to the west of the town. This is one of the popular tourist destinations in Cefalù and the picturesque fishermen’s houses huddle round the small beach with the boats pulled up close to the doors. For the yachtsmen of today the Porto Novo harbour is better suited with 300 moorings and a wide range of facilities.
The beach is great and has sunbeds and umbrellas for rental but be warned; the closer you are to the town centre the more expensive they will be. The further away you walk the lower the price.
There are all levels of accommodation in Cefalú from basic B&B’s to four star luxury hotels where your every whim is catered for. There are seafront hotels to choose from as well as fine all-suite hotels that have outdoor pools and their own private beach. If you ask the locals it is possible to find very cheap and cheerful accommodation in the heart of the town.
This super seaside resort is only a few kilometres from Taormina and is a wonderful place to stay in for families and friends who want a peaceful relaxing holiday. The long safe sandy beach is the focal point where children can splash in the shallow water safely while parents enjoy a spot of sunbathing.
The town is well-known for the seafood restaurants many of which are right on the beach and there are many pizzerias for when the fish just gets too much.The main square of Piazza Durante is a great place to start an evening out and is a favourite meeting place for locals and visitors. The Twin Pub has live music or you can opt for a delicious Italian ice cream from one of the many kisosks.
Accommodation ranges from a big four star resort with family rooms and swimming pools to B6B’s, villas and apartments and cosy small hotels. Letojanni is recommended as an affordable destination in Sicily for anyone that loves beach holidays.