The impact of covid-19 in 2020 has halted our holidays plan for the summer. We discovered beautiful places within our national borders, such as historic towns, national parks and pristine landscapes that unless the pandemic we would have hardly think of visiting. But let’s be honest as this winter has wrapped the U.K. in the cold and rain our minds go to exotic places, to the sandy beaches and to the warm summer nights, sitting around a table with friends and loved ones enjoying a tasty meal and drinking delicious wine, with our skin tanned and our minds totally disconnected from our daily routines.
The competition among Mediterranean countries to attract holidaymakers is fierce. If We look at the economic figures of nations like Italy, Spain, Greece or Turkey, we understand how much these countries rely on the revenue of the travel industry to boost their GDP. These countries share lots of cultures futures, often the same dish just change the name, from one country to the other. All of the Mediterranean countries have beaches, historic towns and delicious dishes. So which one shall we go for? Today I’m going to introduce you to the island of Sicily, the biggest in the Mediterranean Sea and the one with the most extensive biodiversity.
Sicily the centre of the Mediterranean.
Often who set on a journey to discover this island make a mistake to underestimate how large this Italian region is, and they either end up spending seven days driving like crazy without truly enjoying any of the places they see, or they soon realize that a week holiday is too short to see all, so they revise their vacation plan, giving priority to one district or two. So if you’ll ever plan a visit to this stunning place of the Mediterranean sea before setting for your trip, ask yourself some basic questions. What is the best area to stay in Sicily? How many days do you need in Sicily? What budget do I need? The answer to your question lays in the district of Mount Etna, the Alcantara Gorge and the lovely town of Taormina.
Who we relay on to discover Sicily?
Since the bulk of the Sicilian economy is based on tourism, the number of tour operators offering excursions is astronomical, especially in Taormina. We used Sicily Active, a tour operator working between Taormina, Etna and the Alcantara Gorge. We found that this local agency offers the best prices and top quality customer service in the area. Ivano and Vera the couple who run the business they still have a hint of a cockney accent when they speak in English, a heritage of their eight years spent in London. Driven by the desire to discover this district of Sicily, we have chosen some tours, among which the Body rafting was the most adventurous one.
The top four quality-price excursions to discover Sicily.
Boat Tours in Taormina. Best quality-price excursion to enjoy the splendid crystal water of Isola Bella and the blue cave in the marine park. For just £18 you sail for two hours. There will be time to stop for a swim in some of the most beautiful bays of the mediterranean sea while you are served a drink and fresh fruit. Onboard they have masks, that can be used for free.
Body rafting excursion at the Alcantara Gorge. Even though the impressive part of the canyon of the Alcantara is visible from an easy access point, we wanted to exploit at best this activity to reach the hidden secret of the Alcantara gorges, the stunning Venus Pool. For £35 you can have two hours in the water, the price is inclusive of the technical gear, car park and changing rooms. Andrea and Davide, our guides were terrific in the swirling water of the river.
Excursion Etna and the Alcantara Gorge. The quality price of this activity is the best we found. For £69 in a seven hours excursion with a day trip from Taormina travelers with a limited amount of time can discover Etna’s hiking trails, visit a cave, stop for lunch in a mountain chalet and in the afternoon enter the Alcantara river and Gorge. The price includes private guide, transport, trekking boots and walking poles.
Wine tour on mount Etna. The wines of Etna surprised us for the complexity of the structure and the sophisticated flavour. The wine tasting at only £90 includes, pick up, private guide, trekking and finally an excellent three-course meal and the tasting of five wines with the assistance of a young and informal sommelier.
Mount Etna district and Taormina.
The district of Mount Etna and Taormina is located on the est coast of the island and offers an incredible array of choices to have a fun-filled holiday. This part of this southern region of Italy has stunning beaches, an exciting nightlife, active volcanoes, wild rivers and lots of hillside villages, off the beaten path, away from mass tourism where you can get in touch with the local culture. In the district of Mount Etna and Taormina, you can book a luxury hotel or stay in cheap accommodations, chill out by the river or have fun on a jet ski, enjoy outdoor adventures or drink a Martini in a trendy lounge bar. Today I’m going to take you to the top three locations of Sicily, where you can have great fun, find good hotel deals and enjoy superb cuisine while travelling in Italy.
Located on the est coast of Sicily, just forty minutes away from the international airport of Catania lies the enchanting town of Taormina. This sophisticated and charming place with a stunning view on Mount Etna encloses all that a Mediterranean vacation can offer. Nightlife is exciting and bubbly, in June the town host the international Taormina movie festival. The Roman Greek theatre is the stage for the opera season and a series of concerts hosting international stars. Mark Knopfler on his last show in Taormina looking down on the bay of Naxos was inspired to write the song “Lights of Taormina.” Just ten minutes away from the centre of town and reachable by cableway or buses there is the marine park of Isola Bella with the Blue Cave, the ideal place to enjoy a boat tour. This Marine reserve stretches along four different bays one prettier than the other, where holidaymaker can enjoy the crystal water of the Isola Bella or choose a series of excursions, among which Boat tour to Isola Bella and Kayak to Grotta Azzurra ( blue cave) are the best sellers.
If up to twenty years ago Taormina was a destination just for the riches and famous, nowadays it offers a series of affordable accommodations and small rosticceria (Italian fast food) where for five euros you can eat a portion of pizza, drink a beer and have a coffee. Taormina and Giardini Naxos have geographical proximity to Mount Etna and the Alcantara Gorges making these two towns the ideal base for discovering the volcano and the river.
The Alcantara Valley and the Gorge.
Just thirty minutes from Taormina, we find the Alcantara district, the ideal place for those who are looking for a vacation in the Mediterranean countryside away from hordes of noisy tourists. The hills enclosing this bucolic valley are dotted by a series of villages away from mass tourism, where a great deal of cheap accommodation can be found and where natural food is still produced by the peasants of the villages. Castiglione di Sicilia, Randazzo and Motta Camastra are three of the most beautiful villages of the valley. The top attraction of the valley is undoubtedly the Alcantara Gorge, a real geological marvel. This canyon with black walls as high as thirty meters made of lava rock with the clear water of the Alcantara River and a series of rapids make the Alcantara Geological park the right place to experience a Body rafting excursion, a River Trekking or Canyoning adventure. For the ones who are not interested in adventurous activities, the river’s banks offer many spots where to relax and enjoy a swim to escape the summer heat.
The Alcantara valley is the ideal place for those travelers that want to get to know the authentic Sicilian culture while relaxing, surrounded by colourful countryside without being too far from the sea of Taormina.
Etna is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and with his 3320 metres is visible from almost any part of the island. This volcano often erupts, delivering some astonishing shows of lava fountains lighting up the night skies. The chemistry of the magma of Etna makes this mighty giant a “Good” volcano with no or very little danger for villages around his flanks. Above 1500 metres there are many hiking trails with different level of difficulty. For the fittest and most intrepid, there is the opportunity to join a walking excursion to the summit of Etna, right on the rim of the four active craters. A series of easy and more accessible trekking are available for families with kids. The best choice of hotel is the “Clan dei Ragazzi” a beautiful chalet built in a lush pine forest where Sicily Active the Agency we relied on to discover the district of Taormina Alcantara Gorge and Etna have their headquarters. Wine tasting is another popular attraction, on the last twenty-five years, the quality of wines often has risen to international fame while prices still affordable if compared to the most famous wines from Piemonte or Tuscany. The Gambino Winery is the one where the guys of Sicily Active took us, and we were amazed by the quality of their wines, the fantastic food and the price they charged us for such an unforgettable experience. Etna is the ideal place where to enjoy a vacation in the name of nature, peace and good food. This volcano is a perfect holiday destination for families and couples alike. Even the most experienced trekker or cyclist will not be disappointed by the countless number of trails that can be used for Mountain bike excursions or walks.