Sicily: Taormina & Mount Etna

Whether setting sail along the Sicilian coast on a yacht, trekking up active volcano Mount Etna, tasting some of Sicily’s top vintages, exploring the ancient Greek theatre, or discovering the vast cultures that have occupied and influenced Sicilian cuisine and architecture – Taormina is a delight!

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo

The first hotel to be built in the city, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo gazes out across the coast towards Mount Etna and beyond. Here you can breathe in the full spectacle of Sicily. Bask in manicured gardens, savor sensational cuisine, and definitely make time for the breathtaking vistas while enjoying cocktails at The Literary Terrace & Bar.

Lunch is served!

Our glorious view from the bedroom window.

Idyllically perched on a rocky promontory high above the sea, Taormina has been the most popular tourist destination in Sicily for a couple of hundred years. Beautifully restored medieval buildings, breathtaking views around every corner, and a giddy network of winding streets strewn with shops, bars, restaurants, and some spectacular luxury hotels make it a must-do stop on your tour of Sicily!

Taormina is called the “Pearl of the Mediterranean” and is a much-visited city – by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, French, Spanish – and quite a few of the modern worlds movers and shakers – and there are reasons for it!

Sicilian cuisine shows traces of all cultures that have existed on the island of Sicily over the last two millennia. Although its cuisine has much in common with Italian cuisine, Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences abound.

Bright, earthy, and infused with the intensity of the Sicilian sun: that’s how I’d describe the elements of the cuisine. Tomatoes, olives (both black and green), eggplant, pistachios, wild fennel, dried fruits, citrus (especially blood oranges and lemons), ricotta made from sheep’s milk, glorious seafood and meats are all staples of Sicilian gastronomy. A cooking class while in Sicily is a must!

The Benanti family are called some of the bravest wine makers in Italy, having planted their vines on one of the most active volcanoes in the world – in 2013 it erupted 20 times! But, the family does not believe in worrying about what they cannot control and instead has focused on making stellar and award-winning wines. Wines made from Nerello de Mascalese – fruity, herbaceous, earthy – and Nerello Cappuccio – an acidic refreshing white wine from Carricante are top sellers.

Discovering Mount Etna’s stunning topography can be done by bike, hike, or in 4×4 vehicles. It is exhilarating to tour Europe’s largest active volcano, before working up an appetite for lunch and wine tastings at one of the many excellent Etna DOC wineries.

For breakfast, forget cappuccino and croissants! In Sicily, locals start their summer days on a sweet and refreshing note, breakfasting on granita câ brioscia, a Sicilian brioche with chocolate granita. I couldn’t quite give up my coffee, so I opted for the coffee granita which is the local favorite in Messina, Sicily.

Granita is a Sicilian specialty, a cold, sweet treat made from water, sugar, and fruit that is never completely frozen. It’s mixed continuously to obtain a texture that is simultaneously grainy and creamy. The granita was originally coupled with a crispy bread that was eventually swapped for the Sicilian brioscia, a brioche made with a leavened egg-based dough flavored with vanilla or citrus. Characterized by its textured surface and unique shape, the brioscia resembles a hair bun. Its hemispherical base is topped with what is called the tùppu, which is derived from the French word toupée.

The brioche, which is served warm, is meant to be dipped into the granita. As for the granita flavors, there’s something for everyone, and they even vary depending on the city. Lemon, almond, coffee, and chocolate are sure bets, but pistachio, strawberry, and mulberry are also delicious.

Taormina is about to get a lot more popular! In addition to the elegant and luxurious Belmond properties – Grand Hotel Timeo and its seaside sister, Villa Sant’Andrea, Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts is opening the spectacular Four Seasons San Domenico Palace in mid-2021. Beyond Taormina, however, travelers will want at least a week and ideally two in Sicily, to discover the Aeolian Islands, as well as Pantelleria, Agrigento, Etna, Siracusa, Sciacca, and Palermo. There are wonderful places to stay, abundant gastronomy, more history than imaginable, and fantastic adventures for all ages. Sicily is HOT and deserves your full attention! I can’t wait to help you explore the millennia of options on this diverse island!

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