Thinking about a holiday to Italy, but don’t know where to start? We’ve got just the thing to help you. Alpharooms.com spoke to Sicilian local Kate Bailward, who gave us some inside tips on the best places to eat, drink, shop and relax. Kate went to Sicily to start a language course in 2011 and never came back! She lives in Catania on the island’s east coast. You can read more about her Sicilian adventures on her award-winning blog, Driving Like A Maniac.
Here’s what Kate had to say…
What are your fondest memories of Sicily?
Getting married here was pretty special. My husband and I chose to get married at i Giardini di Villa Fago, in Santa Venerina, which is a restored historic villa set in the most beautiful English-style gardens. We spent the day with our closest friends and family eating, drinking and celebrating – it couldn’t really have been much more idyllic.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Sicily?
U Fucularu (Via Euplio Reina 20, Catania). I used to live practically opposite, before I met my husband and before the restaurant moved to new premises around the corner – my flatmates and I would be tantalised by the smell of caponata wafting out of the kitchen from mid-morning onwards. Top choices include the antipasto buffet and the pork carré, along with the squid stewed in its own ink. Alessia – who runs front of house – and her family (Mum in the kitchen, Dad either in the kitchen or waiting tables, depending on where he’s most needed, and sister waiting tables) are always welcoming and friendly, and the food is never short of delicious.
Favourite coffee shop?
Coffee shops don’t really exist in Sicily. Instead, we have what the Sicilians call a bar and the English would call a cafe, where they serve coffees from the counter and hot food to take away or to eat in. I have a few favourites: Da Vittorio on Via Trieste, Catania, because it’s my local when I’m working and the family are always friendly and happy to see me; Savia on Via Etnea in Catania for its arancini, which are the best of the best; Spinella (next door to Savia) or Caffe Europa (Corso Italia, Catania) for their gelati.
Best place to shop?
La Fiera, the daily open air market in Catania, is fantastic for fresh fruit and veg as well as meat and fish. As a regular I have my favourite stallholders who will always chat and pull out their best produce for me, but it’s worth a trip even if you’re just visiting. La Pescheria in Catania is also amazing if you’re into fish – get there early in the morning if you’re buying.
It’s not really a beach, more a rock at the bottom of a cliff down which you have to scramble to reach it, but it’s one of my favourite spots and [is located] near to Santa Tecla. Santa Tecla itself has a bathing platform which doesn’t get too busy (as some others do) and the water in that area is lovely. A little further along the coast – and more accessible if you’re not into cliff scrambles – is La Timpa, which is a rocky beach at the bottom of a sheer, lushly-vegetated cliff. The water is best in the morning and if you go there, don’t forget your snorkel and mask because it’s a haven for fish!
The one must-visit spot for Sicilian visitors?
They may not be off-the-beaten-track, but the mosaics at Piazza Armerina are fabulous. A little less-well-known are the Aeolian and Egadi islands, which sit just off the coast of Sicily and are blissfully relaxing. My biggest tip would be when you’re in Sicily, relax and go with the flow – don’t be in a hurry to race through everything at breakneck speed, because Sicily is best when it’s savoured.