You'll need more than just one trip to discover the Mediterranean Sea's biggest island.
First Marcellooo! takes you to the south east of a baroque, wild and gourmet Sicily. August of 2016, we unpacked in Ortigia, the fascinating historic center of Syracuse, with its small sea breeze and vespas-filled streets. Back from this must see city, we'll go more to the south to visit a town full of nature in Noto's countryside.
ORTIGIA - SYRACUSE
From Catania's airport, you need 40 minutes to get to Ortigia. A one week stay is a minimum to discover the island that once was one of the most powerful and beautiful city of the ancient Greece and also relax 😃.
An historical heritage which is the witness of the long cultural mixing. Every church, palace or patio is an eye-catcher. Every vicolo* small street makes you want to venture into it. Around the roads or hanging on the balcony, the omnipresent succulent plants animates stone's facades. Look around you see the children playing with a ball, tourists in admiration, la mamma hanging her laundry or la nonna* grand-mother knitting, and the cats wondering from door to door. Do not miss the Piazza del duomo and its baroque style cathedral built on Athena's temple which column are still visible. Admire Santa Lucia alla Badia church and its Caravaggio, the Castello Maniace.
To start the day, we have a generous modern breakfast at the Minù Café, #healthyandrelaxed.
Délicieux smoothie avocat - lait de riz - basilic - citron !
Try their delicious avocado, rice milk, basil and lemon smoothie.
Between two visits, we treat ourselves to a delicious ice cream served in a traditional Sicilian brioche at Monzù, and we enjoy the sea easily, accessible in the heart of the city.
In the early evening, aperitivo time as usual !
Two approved addresses :
- Relaxed atmosphere at the Mikatù : with the beautiful sunset light through a glass of Spritz.
- Baroque style, at the Gran Caffé del Duomo : sulla piazza* on the square just in front of the cathedral. The decor is incredible and you can watch the traditional passeggiata* the local's and fascinated tourist's walk.
Important ! In Ortigia ( like in Italy's every historical city center) be very careful with the Zone a Traffico Limitato, ZTL* Limited parking zones for tourists. Signs near the bridge entrance allow you to know if parking is authorized or not ( all controlled by surveillance cameras ). Do not hesitate asking your hotel or B&B landlord to avoid the high fine. There is a car park at Ortigia's entrance. Don't panic, here, the most beautiful activity is to walk at any hour of the day or night.
Via via, in spiaggia* Let's go, let's go to the beach !
- Fifteen minutes away from Syracuse you can access Plemmirio's protected marine area. There are several wild creeks with more or less easy access.
Our favourite is la Pillirina, very popular with locals. Crystal clear waters, snorkelling, sand and rocky shore. Abandoned houses and maritime legends make this place full of character. This is a wild area so plan a picnic, water, parasol and little patience to park your car. For a more comfort choose the lido Varco 23. Around 10 euros for a deckchair and 15 for lunch.
Be caution and make a reservation in high season.
- The Natural reserve of Cavagrande del Cassabile is 25 minutes to the south of Syracuse. The reserve has mountainous reliefs ( gorges and waterfalls ) and a sea side with the white sand beach of Gelsomineto.
Fee required car park near from the beach or free if you're willing to walk 10 minutes. It's very crowded in august.
Near Ortigia :
- Don't miss the archeological park of Neapolis, with a impressive Greek theater and a Roman amphitheater. Make sure that you have the whole morning. Attend to theatre plays and music shows in Spring.
- Palazzolo Acreide is 40 minute drive away in the lands. Unesco listed, the baroque city celebrates its saint, San Sebastiano on the 10th of August. Colorful and festive traditionnal atmosphere guaranteed.
Here we are 35 minutes away in the south of Syracuse in a new spot around Noto which we didn't want to leave. Don't look any further, go trough the I Carusi, domain's gate and find instant happiness. It has an ideal location in the middle of the olive and almond trees, facing the natural reserve of Vendicari and far away, the Mediterranean.
Noto, our 2016 crush.Noto was fully rebuilt in the late baroque style, 10 kilometers away from its initial location following a strong earthquake in 1963. No more tortuous roads. The new city is made of grid plan streets. The main street is the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, around which were built the main palaces and monuments.
In the higher part of the city, 15 minutes away from the sea, Noto enjoys its perfect central location to make the cultural and culinary talents shine through multiple events.
Have dinner on a terrace (slightly slopping surface) at the Cantina Modica di San Giovanni under the sculpted balconies of one of Noto's most beautiful streets. A timeless moment. Other options for the cena* the dinner :
- Refined atmosphere at the A' Mastra Noto : which belongs to the charming La Dépendance hotel. Familial Sicilian food flavored with the local aromatic herbs and a modern twist.
- At the Dammuso Noto, contemplate the elegance of the vast rocky arched room and enjoy its freshness. Enjoy its large wine menu and emancipated Sicilian cuisine influenced by the traditional recipes.
After (or before) dinner, have a drink on the hotel Palazzo Gagliardi's rooftop which opened in 2016. Contemplate its panoramic view on the city, the valley and the sea.
Bathe vicino* nearby
- The Vendicari Reserve is 20 minutes to the south of Noto. Here, enjoy the lagoon, rocky shore, 8 kilometers sand beach and crystalline water. This reserve is a migratory route for thousands of birds and you can also find a few archeological remains. Walk 10 to 25 minutes depending on the beach. We went to Cala Mosche, which access is indicated on your way to Eloro. Prepare a picnic or buy a few things at the agriturismo next to the car park.
- The Eloro beach, still in the reserve next to the archeological site of Eloro is more popular since the car access is easier. The "natural reserve" term often implies a difficult access and wild country lane. Remember to bring a bottle of water, sunscreen and good shoes. The well worth reward is at the end of the road !
- A little bit more south, beyond the reserve, the familial beach of San Lorenzo's water is surprisingly clear. Choose between a public beach or a comfortable lido if you're ready to pay a few euros.
BAROCCO BAROCCO, again !
Let's go to Scicli, through narrow roads in the middle of a rich countryside in the summer. A few kilometers on winding roads and Scicli appears in its gorges and cream-colored facades which fade with the surrounding cliffs. While going trough the Municipio square, admire the churches and finely sculpted palaces.
Walk up until San Matteo's abandoned church for a panoramic view of the city and the sea.
Today it's 47C° in the shade. Che caldo* It's boiling ! Relaxed atmosphere and smiling welcoming in the local artisanal boutiques guaranteed.What a delight to be able to try the Gelateria Nivera, ice cream which are listed in the Gamberro Rosso (the Italian michelin guide) as one of the best Gelateria of Italy. This treats are made with Natural ingredients from the region.
Un carabiniere* police officer,, surprised to see visitors with the heatwave tells us about the nearby beaches. The Sampieri beach is located around Punta Pisciotto and the Fornace Penna, also called "Mannara". Mannara is an old important brick oven destroyed by a fire in 1924, nowadays, it's considered as an industrial archeological monument. We're enjoying the fact that, to this day Scicli is less crowded than Val Noto's the other cities.
We alluded to gourmet Sicily…Here is Modica ! Why gourmet ? Wait a little more… Other great surprise of the region, Modica looks a little bit more raw. The city was built on a mountain slope. Facing each other we can see Modica Bassa which borders the Corso Umberto and Modica Alta around the Duomo, one of the oldest districts. The sinuous and picturesque roads are animated by an authentic and peaceful neighborhood life. That brings us to the city's most emblematic building, the Duomo San Giorgio and its 254 steps to climb. Don't be scared, you're going to be able to quench your thirst. The heatwave calls you to order. At the bottom of the Duomo, between the bougainvilleas, the Sabadi bar, gives a second life to gli Orti* San Giorgio, the old vegetables gardens. Have a drink in the middle of the trees and sunbathe on a deckchair with a panoramic view of the opposite districts. #undertheolivetrees
A few steps in the city and we immediately fall in love with the delightful boutique's windows. Renowned for its century old artisanal craftsmanship in chocolate making passed by the Spanish at the Fifteenth century (created by the Aztec techniques from ancient Mexico) we stop to Saadi (organic and awarded) and/or Bonajuto for a delicious break. Every artisan in the city perpetuates its own vision of the local know-how.
If you stay in Modica for dinner, we advise you to go to la Locanda del Colonello, in the back of the Duomo. At night, walk (again and again) in the city where the lights give you a christmas crèche feel. Don't forget to have a last square of chocolate al zenzero* ginger.
Favorite place 2017.
Marcellooo! isn't done with Sicily… We told you so, you'll need more than one trip… More to come !