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Gorgeous Sicily

Sleep, eat and drink
Villa Kete
IUTA Glamping & Farm
Plaza Hotel Catania
Ristorante La Madia
Ristorante Manna Noto

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gorgeous sicily     shaped by cultural diversity of ancient times

Josie & Wolfgang
Austria, December 2019

It seems to be something odd many people are familiar with: you know you could do something with ease, but for a long time you don't do it, because anyway you can do it anytime.
For many years we found ourselves caught in this mindset when thinking of Sicily, knowing that we should visit this famous island at the major cross-roads of the Mediterranean, but never did. Well, in late summer 2019 we finally made it happen and have spent our vacation on Sicily. On our return trip to Vienna we have brought with us wonderful memories of the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as of pleasant people we've got to know on Sicily.

We have planned two holiday accommodations on Sicily, both conveniently located for our tours to different directions to visit some of the famous historical sights of Sicily. One was Villa Kete at the southern coastline of Sicily, not too far from Agrigento, the other one was the IUTA Glamping & Farm at the east coast nearby the baroque town Noto.

Dreaming the day away

Our first destination was Villa Kete, located nearby Palma di Montechiaro on the hills overlooking the tiny seaside village Marina di Palma at the southern coastline of Sicily. Villa Kete is truly a wonderful place to stay, an oasis of tranquility and relax. The scents of the Mediterranean, the sea breeze, the sun, nature and the flavours of Sicily, it is all there to embrace this extraordinary place owned by a charming couple, Sabrina and Angelo. On Villa Kete the interior and the exterior have been furnished with very good style in a mix of classic Italian style woven with modern design and great attention to detail. The garden surrounding the villa and the pool is gorgeous, a lush green oasis with a variety of colourful pots and flowers placed like decoration on a cake. Magnifico! To start every day with a big smile, Marie Antoinette and Orella took great care of us during the delicious breakfast. The villa is nestling in a private natural park of 30,000 sqm, a perfect starting point for discovering one of the most fascinating regions of Italy. In short, it is a place one has a hard time to leave.

On this stretch of Sicily's southern coastline, the fishing village and seaside resort Marinella di Selinunte, the temples and archeological sites of Selinunte and of course those of Agrigento and Eraclea with its beautiful beach, as well as Palma di Montechiaro were some of the highlights on our excursions to some eminent archeological sights in southern Sicily, while at the same time enjoying the genuine Italian way of life. The coastal area Scala Dei Turchi between Lido Rosello and Punta Grande, formed by huge, white steps, was bathing in the sunlight, surrounded by seductive turquoise and azure waters and endless pebble beaches. Another tour took us to Cefalu in the north of the island, one of the major tourist attractions in the region located on the Tyrrhenian coast of Sicily about 70 km east of Palermo. Even though a bit far from Marina di Palma, we wanted to see the cathedral of Cefalu, built from 1131 in a style of Norman architecture, which would be more accurately called Sicilian Romanesque.

As we love eating both, authentic local food assembled from the flavours of local quality ingredients as well as fine dining, we have found everything in that region we could wish for - from traditional dishes 'Nonna' used to make, like in the Ristorante Ottavo Arco in Marina di Palma, to great haute cuisine in the La Madia restaurant in Licata, which Angelo has recommended to us. The chef of the La Madia, Pino Cuttaia, a fiercely proud Sicilian and very capable self-taught chef, does his best to create wonderful dishes worth two Michelin stars.

The innovative 'Cloud of Caprese', a mozzarella foam in milk skin served with a vibrant plum tomato juice (indeed as light as a cloud), the 'Anchovy painting' combining three punchy flavours of the sea in a creative starter with fresh anchovies, squid ink and tuna bottarga complemented by lightly pickled onions, tomato and parsley, the 'Squid and Tinniruma Ravioli' with anchovy sauce and Langostine and some other highly refined delicious treats tickling our senses, accompanied by finest Sicilian wines, remain in our memories of a wonderful culinary evening in the La Madia.

Heading towards east - closer to the nature of Sicily

Although we had a hard time to leave Villa Kete, we were at the same time very excited about our next holiday destination, the IUTA Glamping & Farm nearby Noto, owned by the lovely young couple Elena and Giulio. Glamorous camping with all the amenities of a hotel was something new to us that we haven't done before.
By making IUTA, the young couple has made their dream come true, which roots from their love to mother nature and, following their words on the IUTA website, is kind of a love story inspired by their desire to bring an abandoned place back to life through new forms form of natural, sustainable hospitality.

Guess what, they do not promise too much, quite to the opposite, the farm exceeded our expectations by far. We were amazed when we've arrived at the farm, especially when we saw the lodges scattered in the natural beauty of century old olive trees and lemon trees plantation; a place we immediately fell in love with. The lodges benefit from 360 degree view on the olive grove and are distant from each other for absolute guest privacy and intimacy. It feels like living in close contact with the surrounding nature without missing the comfort and amenities of a hotel. Once the entrance door to our lodge was open it was such a lovely sight of a hotel room surrounded by olive and lemon trees - we loved it.

We miss the long, mild evenings at the lodge, to watch the rise of the moon while sipping from a glass of good Sicilian wine, and we miss the fresh morning scents before the delicious breakfast assembled by Elena and Giulio. At the farm nutritious food is a real passion. Every day the breakfast has slightly changed and every day it was great. It is soul food Italianate, made from delicious ingredients of fresh organic produce with extraordinary homemade treats to start the day.

Breakfast at the farm's lounge.

The farm itself and the nearby town Noto were a perfekt starting point to make trips in the eastern part of Sicily. The remarkable old town of Modica with shops of famous craft chocolate makers, overlooked by the impressive Duomo San Giorgio, Caltagirone, the "town of ceramics" and home of the famous Scala Santa Maria del Monte with 142 steps cladded by hand-painted ceramic tiles which tell the towns history, some beautiful natural resorts with tiny beaches at the gulf of Noto like the Spiaggia di Calamosche, the Spiaggia Marinelli or the Riserva Naturale Cavagrande del Cassibile, as well as the massive fort, the cathedral and the "Templi Appollo" of the famed town Siracusa were some of the highlights on our day trips in the region. We've also visited the unique town Taormina in the north-east part of Sicily, which nestles in an amazing way in the mountains at the coast. Unfortunately, however, as a very popular tourist destination this small town is known to be totally crowded during high season, which takes such a tiny place to its absolute limits. Nevertheless, we went there as it is kind of a must-do attraction of Sicily.

We've enjoyed to spend late afternoon till evening in the magnificent Noto, a vibrant Late Baroque Town of the Val di Noto. Noto and its church were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guilio has recommended to us a few excellent places to visit or for eating dinner and each of them was very nice in its own way. One of it was Marzamemi, a picturesque small seaside village and port renowned for tuna fishing and tuna processing. Marzamemi offers many places to eat for every taste and budget. It has a bubbly atmosphere with open-air bars and excellent seafront fish restaurants, but at heart Marzamemi remains a working fishing village, complete with fishing nets drying in the Sicilian sun. Our favourite place to appease our hunger was be the trendy restaurant "Manna" in Noto, where they are cooking a fusion of classic Italian and modern interpretation. In the "Manna" they serve excellent, nicely prepared dishes, good for the soul and always very yummy!

Sunset over the Port of Siracusa.

Catania - genuine, vibrant Italy

Our last two days on our vacation we've spent in Catania, the second largest municipality in Sicily, after Palermo. We stayed in the Plaza Hotel Catania, a city hotel that is perfectly situated at the seafront. Catania is located on Sicily's east coast, at the base of the active volcano, Mount Etna, facing the Ionian Sea. In ancient times Catania was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centres. It was the site of Sicily's first university and it has been the home of some of Italy's most famous artists and writers. Catania today is the industrial and commercial center of Sicily. The central "old town" of Catania features exuberant late-baroque architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Besides the historical monuments, the fish market of Catania is one of the must-do attractions in Catania. La Pescheria Catania is one of the largest fish markets in Sicily. It is located in the heart of the city adjacent to the Piazza del Duomo. While walking in the streets near Catania’s Cathedral we already could hear the fishmongers shouting of their best price getting louder and their haggling with the local customers. We knew we had found La Pescheria. The entrance to the Catania fish market is just behind the Amenano Fountain. Behind the fountain you’ll find a terrace that overlooks the central area of the fish market. From this point a pure street theatre of an authentic Italian orderly chaos unfolds in the form of a hectic market bustle, a visual and auditory overdose of the senses.

The fish market is lively, boisterous and colorful with an exhilarating atmosphere, a loud and fast-paced place to catch a slice of pure Sicilian life. It instantly awakens all the senses and the appetite for fish and seafood.
If anything sums up the beating heart and soul of Catania, then it’s this place full of life and as down-to-earth as the locals themselves. Local housewives, entire families, and elderly pensioners jostle through the crowds perusing the merchandise and looking for the day’s bargain. The bounty of the sea is all there in a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and sizes. From about 2 p.m. the hustle and bustle calms down, the fishmongers begin to clear up their stalls and the marketplace seems to take a deep breath and settle down to prepare for the next day, which will be just like any other.

It was the right time to move on to the nearby Piazza Universita to digest the great sensation of the fish market in a cafe with tasty espresso and yummi ice cream, where just out of the blue we came upon hundreds of Harley Davidson motorbikes leaving the city center with thunderous noise. It was a stopover of the biggest Italian Harley Davidson event tour. After a while the rumbling noise of the Harley motorbikes had disappeared and we were wandering slowly towards our Catania Plaza Hotel. En route we luckily found a very nice place for our dinner at the seaside in the small port of San Giovanni Li Cuti, where there is a nice corner that still today preserves the colours and scents of the old fishing village. This place is called "Cutilisci" and its people have a taste for good things. We have enjoyed a "face to face" with the fruits of the sea, a cuisine that is somewhat between sea and land, accompanied by an attentive and respectful service.

After our dinner it was about time for us to take a rest and contemplate our experiences in Sicily before our return flight to Vienna the next day . . . , and to dream about, that one day we'd like to come back.

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