First Choice Blog
  • Selina Akhtar

    Italian escapes are all about mouth-watering food, iconic sights and jaw-dropping scenery. If you’ve already had a taste of la dolce vita in Italy, you’re probably keen to go back. And, while Sorrento continues to reign in the popularity stakes, here’s why Sicily is about to swoop in and take its crown…

    Island-hop ‘til you drop

    The gorgeous island of Capri’s an easy half-hour ferry ride from Sorrento. This tiny island is a celeb favourite, with A-listers like Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Leo DiCaprio choosing it for their own hols. Here, you can take a boat trip into the famous Blue Grotto caves, take in amazing views of the whole island from Monte Solaro, and stroll along the gorgeous Marina Piccola.

    Sicily has its own equivalent, too – in fact, it has several of them. The Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily are just an hour’s ferry ride away and boast Capri-like credentials, all with different draws. Lipari is the biggest of the islands, and a bit like a mini Sicily. It’s got bluer-than-blue waters lapping its shores, quaint shops and restaurants for you to duck into, and lots of tasty local produce to try. Vulcano, on the other hand, is a much smaller island that you can walk around, which lines up a black-sand beach and a volcanic mineral mud bath where you can put nature’s best spa treatment to the test.

    Colourful coastal villages

    Having the Amalfi Coast right next door is one of Sorrento’s main draws, and Positano is the most well-known of the Amalfi Coast’s villages. The colourful buildings of this hilltop resort are usually what you see slapped on the back of postcards of the famous coast. The village also boasts pretty Moorish-style buildings, stylish bars and winding lemon groves, and stunning views of the sea from almost everywhere.

    And Sicily has its own answer to Positano – Taormina, on the west coast. This charming, cliffside town is chockfull of stylish bars, mama’s kitchen-style restaurants and pastel-coloured houses with flower-filled balconies. Unique sights include the Garden of Villa Comunale which is full of exotic plants and Indiana Jones-style architecture, and the crumbling open-air Teatro Greco amphitheatre.  Classic Italian operas performed here come with a backdrop of the smoking Mount Etna in the distance.

    Volcanic views

    Volcanoes are a pretty exciting attraction on any holiday, and two of the most notorious fire mountains are in Sicily and Sorrento. Near Sorrento, you’ve got the magnificent Mount Vesuvius, which is famous for having wiped out the city of Pompeii in 79 AD. You can hike up to the summit to get amazing views, and then step back in time to explore the perfectly-preserved Roman ruins in Pompeii. Over on Sicily, the mighty Mount Etna takes centre stage. From the town of Taormina, you’ll get an ant’s-eye view of the smoking craters, but if you want to get up close and personal, it’s easy to take a trip to the top. Join our Etna Sunset Select excursion to take a 4×4 to the summit and a hike around a crater with an expert alpinist. You’ll watch the sunset and then tuck into a delicious dinner made from fresh volcanic produce on the way back.

    Food for thought

    Italy’s famous for its lip-smacking cuisine – from classic pizza and pasta dishes to fresh antipasti and world-class wines. And Sicily is no exception when it comes to dining. While you might’ve tried traditional spaghetti Bolognese and crispy Neapolitan pizza in Sorrento, you’ll find doughy, American-style pizzas in Sicily and pasta dishes spilling with just-caught seafood. Sicily’s also famous for its arancini – rice balls stuffed with ragu sauce, cheese and peas and fried in breadcrumbs. And, you can’t visit the island without getting your hands on some cannoli – a pastry tube filled with fresh cream cheese and topped with pistachio nuts – and granita, which is a fruit or nut-based sorbet served with a brioche bun. When it comes to wines, the volcanic vineyards on Mount Etna produce a full-bodied, fruity selection of reds and whites for you to choose from.

    Ready to book your next Italian escape?

    Browse our holidays to Sorrento and Sicily. Or, if you’re interested in other destination swaps, read, if you liked Turkey, you’ll love Morocco and if you liked Crete, you’ll love Rhodes.

    Check out our other Sicily excursions here.

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