Take the pace down a notch or two with holidays to Santa Venerina. This Sicilian town, on the vine-clad slopes of mighty Mount Etna, runs to a timetable set by Mother Nature.
A Sicilian delicacy
Santa Venerina's a relaxed Sicilian town on the vineyard and tree-carpeted slopes of Mount Etna. It’s best known as one of the Cities of Wine, but makes all kinds of artisanal products. The range covers limoncello and grappa – bottled at a local distillery – and almond biscuits on sale at the local shops. Plus, it’s within touching distance of some of the best beaches on Sicily’s east coast.
The focal point of the town is Piazza Roma, where the stately Church of Santa Venera towers over pastel-coloured buildings. Leading off the square is Via Vittorio Emmanuele, the main street, where restaurants, small boutiques and pastry shops can be found. There are several 18th-century churches worth ticking off, like Chiesa Madre and Chiesa di Bongiardo. And shining a spotlight on traditional crafts is the Museo del Palmento, which is tucked away in a renovated farmhouse.
The closest beach is at Santa Tecla, 15 minutes’ drive from Santa Venerina. It’s a neat swathe of dark volcanic sand and pebbles, framed by dramatic mountain peaks. The set-up is fairly basic, but the adjacent promenade's lined with shops and restaurants. Slightly further away, in Fiumefreddo, is Blue Flag-winning Marina di Cottone Beach. This nine-kilometre sweep has a steady supply of tavernas and bars, and is popular with families.
Close to Catania
Cosmopolitan Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city, is 30 minutes away by car. It’s knee-deep in history, with sights like the Catania Cathedral, the Aci Castle, and a roll call of Baroque palaces and churches. Plus, it’s got a busy cultural calendar of contemporary art, live music and opera.