Incredibly romantic escape with Mt Etna views, car hire and a free night

The charm of an aristocratic Sicilian residence from the late 1800s surrounded by 10 hectares of Mediterranean greenery and an exclusive collection of subtropical plants

Donna Carmela is a jewel of Sicilian hospitality, for the friendliness and professionalism of the staff, for the incomparable charm of the location and for the high quality of the services.

Stay in the Romantic Lodge

The Romantic Lodges are ideal for a relaxing holiday for body and mind. They are equipped with every comfort and are distinguished by the presence of a panoramic terrace, a hot tub in heated lava stone, surrounded by lush vegetation.

 

7 nights from £ 1290 per person including breakfast and fully comprehensive car hire arranged at the airport

 

Five things to do in the surroundings, besides visiting Taormina

Catania

 

You must see it, even on a hot day. Because at least one tour of the centre must be done: you won’t find anything like this around Sicily, let alone elsewhere. To us – the first time we set foot there – it struck first the use of lava stone for the construction of churches, palaces, monuments: logical, given that Etna is there behind that peeps, but who had thought, before visiting. Everything is uniformly gray-black, starting from Piazza del Duomo: which gives Catania a special physiognomy.

 

Enter the Diocesan Museum, just to admire the panorama from the top floor and then see the ”Vara” – a silver cart use to transport the statue of St Agata during the procession in early February.

 

Browse through the fish market stalls behind the Duomo, because it’s amazing how the market is in the middle of the city center. Do not miss to visit the Roman theatre, incredibly blending between the houses, amazing in its network of undergrounds.

 

And above all, book a visit at the Benedictine Monastery of S. Nicolò l’Arena, home of the University: you would never imagine how many spaces are hidden behind the facade, how many levels, how many courtyards . The Monastery is also an excellent place to understand what Etna meant for Catania (we don’t anticipate anything).

 

After that, a stop at a ciospo (kiosk) to drink soda-lemon-and-salt (the heat will be less oppressive, afterwards) and, of course, an arancino from Savia, in front of the gardens of Piazza Bellini.

 

Street food Catania (45 euros per person)

 

Visiting Catania without tasting the amazing street food available at all hours, from dawn to late at night, would mean having an incomplete view of the city background. Street food in Catania has been a cult for years now. The excellent quality of the raw ingredients used, combined with a centuries-old gastronomic tradition, have made Catania a must for all gourmets and food lovers!

 

Get ready for a walking tour of the city that will offer you a historical overview, between the alleys and the squares of the historic center, and during which you will taste some of the best culinary delicacies of Catania.

 

You will be accompanied by a local guide from Streaty.com that will meet you in the central Piazza Duomo, where you will visit the Cathedral, a jewel of Sicilian Baroque and UNESCO heritage. You will then head to the fish market, better known as “the fish market”, where you will taste cheeses, olives and typical products in olive oil. In fish market you will taste the best fish fry in the city (red mullet, anchovies and fish of the day): all strictly fresh!

 

Mt Etna

 

Wherever you go, it will seem that “a muntagna” – the local nickname – is following you. Whether you are in Taormina, Catania or relaxing in your suite at Donna Carmela Resort, Etna will always be there looking at you. On the other hand, few realize that the summit is 3,323 meters high: we are talking about highest volcano in Europe. Sooner or later you will have to take a tour to take a closer look, even during the summer crowds.

Most tourists go by car from Nicolosi or from Zafferana Etnea to Rifugio Sapienza (at 1923 meters!). Go there for the lunar landscape that you meet as you go up, among the woods and impressive lava flows, and for the panorama on the coast; then you decide whether to embark on the funicular adventure + jeep up to the top craters, which among other things will dry up your wallet.

 

However, there are many other roads to approach the lava: for example the less crowded Mareneve, which runs from Milo along the eastern side of the volcano to Linguaglossa, passing from the Citelli refuge. If you want to walk, we highly recommend the walk that starts from Piano del Vescovo (on the road between Zafferana and Sapienza), passes through the Acqua Rocca degli Zappini (basalt waterfall) and arrives at a spectacular observation point of the Valle del Bove, the immense lava container that will give you the size of this volcano.

 

Looking for an expert guide? Have a look at the activities available with Marco Zagami at The Island of Wonders

 

 

The Cyclops’ Riviera

 

Mention Aci Trezza and the Odyssea by Omero springs to mind. The stacks visible from the coast, are nothing but the boulders thrown by Polyphemus, furious at having been blinded by the cunning Ulysses now on the run: they camp, beautifully, in front of the village, immersed in the sea.

 

They are the spearhead of a coast that certainly does not boast the most beautiful beaches in Sicily, and which in summer presents more than one problem of crowding – but you must still see the views and panoramas, if you pass these parts.

 

the cliffs of the Cyclops

 

Gardens

 

You didn’t expect it, did you? Yet volcanic ashes are very fertile soil, both for the woods and for the crops (and the orange groves of the Catania plain testify it better than anything else). While on the road to explore the province, take a look also at trees and gardens: you will find wonders.

 

At about an hour stroll from the resort, the Faro family (owners of the Donna Carmela) invites you to visit their gardens Radice Pura displaying 10.000 square meters of mediterranean and subtropical plants including more than 5.000 varieties

 

A 20 minute drive will take you to one of the biggest attractions on the slopes of Etna, what has become one of the most famous trees in Italy: the Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses and for centuries – it seems even 1000 years – it has been casting its shadow on the village of Sant ‘Alfio. Do not expect, however, a gnarled and twisted tree: the chestnut tree of Sant’Alfio is a set of trees and trunks attributable to a single stump, impressive in size rather than height or might.

 

Then admire the resiliance of birch and pine trees on the volcano, as well as those of the heroic plants that grow on lava rocks.

 

 

Timeless villages

 

The province of Catania extends also south of the capital – an area much less frequented than the Riviera or Etna. A day trip between the basaltic hills of the Iblei and the slopes of the Erei allows you to visit charming villages and towns that are often less crowded than others in the province.

 

For example, have you ever heard of Militello in Val di Catania? The town has preserved much of its Baroque fabric, embellished by the rich decorations of the buildings: the former abbey of San Benedetto is magnificent, the Mother Church imposing, the Della Robbia altarpiece is beautiful in the sanctuary of Santa Maria della Stella.

 

Not far away is Vizzini, where Giovanni Verga set some of his most famous works; and Grammichele, built after the earthquake of 1693 (the one that hit the whole area and gave rise to the Baroque reconstruction) with a system of concentric hexagons.

 

But the highlight is in Caltagirone, home of glazed ceramic: you cannot miss the staircase of S. Maria al Monte, a real one-of-a-kind with its 142 colorful steps decorated with local majolica. If you are here on the 24th and 25th of July, you will see it even more sparkling: because in those days thousands of candles lit for the feast of San Giacomo transform all the steps of the staircase into a sort of tapestry of fire. And then, a look at the Ceramics Museum and the many shops is a must, for example the laboratories of Giacomo Alessi, Branciforti and Scarlatella.