Absolutely visits Sicily and stays in two contrasting holiday villas that illustrate the diverse offerings of this beautiful island.
Words by Sandy Cadiz-Smith
The gorgeous island of Sicily sits proudly in the heart of the Mediterranean under the watchful eye of the towering grandeur of snow-topped Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano. The island offers a dazzling diversity of landscapes, myriad cultural and historical attractions and a delectable ancient cuisine inspired by its fabulous fresh ingredients. This unique combination of volcanoes, mountains, seascapes and rolling landscapes in shades of green connects the cities and traditional villages that cling precariously to hillsides. It’s a marvel to drive around because of its gravity-defying road systems on stilts and innumerable interconnecting tunnels.
There’s plenty to discover nearby, too. We visited Villa Romana del Casale, thought to have been the country retreat of Rome’s co-emperor from AD286-305. Over 3,500 square metres of astoundingly well-preserved multi coloured floor mosaics took our breath away. We retired in amazement to one of the island’s beautiful rural restaurants – Agriturismo Gigliotto – for a traditional feast of Sicilian cuisine, including cheeses, salami, homemade pasta, fish, and local vegetables washed down with refreshing wines produced on-site. An idyllic country escape with the chance to truly immerse ourselves in the island’s history, scenery and flavours.
We enjoyed a two-centre stay in contrasting villas chosen from the Villtravellers portfolio. Our first stop is a short drive from Catania, the ultimate get-away-from-it-all haven deep in the countryside. Casale degli Erei awaits down a dusty road after a journey through a forest and rows of prickly pears standing to attention. Set on expansive grounds, Casala degli Erei has nine stylish bedrooms and ample living space, including multiple terraces, an outdoor kitchen and a large roof terrace with fabulous far-reaching views. There’s also a relaxing spa with a hydro-massage pool, jacuzzi and sauna and a sparkling outdoor pool with sun loungers. A peacefully magical place to relax and soak up the Sicilian sunshine.
Refreshed and with our hearts full of love for our newly discovered island utopia, we headed north towards the capital, Palermo, to our home for the second half of our stay – Il Borgo del Barone. This magnificently restored historical villa dates back to the 17th century and is the perfect mix of ancient and modern. There are seven cool and elegant bedrooms with fabulous contemporary ensuite bathrooms. The villa also boasts stunning views of the sea, a delightful courtyard and an expansive dining area where we enjoyed sunset aperitifs and a delicious dinner prepared by local chefs just for us.
And it’s the ideal base for exploring the beguiling seaside town of Cefalu. Here, the picturesque, cobbled streets are dressed with vibrant ceramic pots overflowing with flowers and full of tempting shops to explore. And they all seem to lead back down to the sparkling azure sea and inviting beach. We indulged in a lunchtime banquet – an incredible array of local fish dishes – in Restaurant ITTICO, set on the water with the bluest of views. Cefalu is seaside heaven for the food as much as the shopping and architecture.
In fact, Sicily is food for the soul – a quite unique setting and culture that tantalises the senses. And staying in two luxury villas in different parts of the island gave us the perfect opportunity to absorb its diverse beauty and rich history. Not to mention sampling all that delicious local food. It’s an Italian island that has certainly captured our hearts.
The Villatravellers Experience
Villatravellers provide exclusive villa holidays across Sicily. The perfect holiday home is handpicked for every customer from their portfolio of 70 properties. Using their expert local knowledge, the company offers a dedicated concierge service and personalised itineraries to ensure guests enjoy an authentic Sicilian experience showcasing the island’s culture, natural beauty and great food. They can organise a comprehensive range of in-villa (including chefs and cookery courses) and outside-villa experiences and tours to suit your taste.