Our wonderful trip to Sicily was accompanied by wall-to-wall sunshine and blue skies for the duration of our stay.
On our first morning we marvelled at the beautifully preserved mosaics at Piazza Armerina and in the afternoon our charming arqueo-anthropologist guide brought the whole Valley of Temples to life.
Our journey from the South to the North of the island in order to reach Palermo was not at all tedious, as the coastal and countryside scenery was simply stunning. A good night’s rest and a substantial breakfast, including home-made Sicilian delicacies, set us up for our guided tour of the city and Monreale and the Palatine chapel.
The next day the weather was perfect for our stop in the pretty medieval seaside town of Cefalú. After meandering through the quaint streets we were given some welcome free time. Some members of our group chose to enjoy a leisurely lunch in one of the many beach-side restaurants, whilst others took advantage of the warm sea and sandy beach to have a swim.
Our last 3 nights were based in a lovely hotel in the seaside resort of Giardini Naxos. In the morning we were offered the optional tour of travelling by cable car to reach the summit of Mt.Etna or the chance to relax by the beautiful hotel swimming pool or to stroll along the seafront before an afternoon visit to the pretty town of Taormina, where, in the sizzling afternoon heat, we were introduced to the Duomo and the 4th century BC Greek amphitheatre. Our last day was spent in Syracuse, the most important and powerful Greek city from the 5th to the 3rd centuries and home to the Temple of Apollo. We were impressed by the Parco Archeologico, which featured the Teatro Romano and the spectacular Teatro Greco.
A most pleasant surprise was the delightful island of Ortigia in the historical heart of the town, where enchanting little houses and Baroque buildings lead to the impressive Piazza Duomo, where we were spoilt for choice for photo opportunities and elegant cafés. We were somewhat reluctant to leave this idyllic place and its charming fish restaurants on the water-side but we were expected for lunch at a farmhouse some 30 minutes from Syracuse. It did not disappoint as we were served delicious cheese and salami as antipasti, followed by home-made pasta with wild fennel and mini aubergine parcels, all washed down with lovely Sicilian wine. The highlight of our trip (there is ALWAYS a highlight on our Stradfas tours!) was perhaps the appearance of the owner of the farmhouse, “il Barone”. In impeccable English, he exchanged pleasantries and then nonchalantly mentioned that he was also the owner of the Palace in the Piazza Duomo in Syracuse and that we were welcome to stop by for a café anytime we chanced to be there. A memorable trip, which left us all wanting to return to visit more of this magnificent island, and of course, il Barone!