- Itinerary:Catania - Etna - Piazza Amerina - Ragusa - Avola - Catania
- Duration:12 days / 11 nights (flexible)
- Price:from £ 899.- per person (excluding flights)
Days 1-4 – The smoking giant
Arrive on the fertile north side of Etna to find an ancient agriturismo among grape vines and orlij trees, overlooking the Alcantara valley. From Catania airport, it is about an hour’s drive to this estate, which mainly grows grapes for wine production. In the shade of the olive trees, take in your surroundings: a rolling landscape of vineyards and oaks, with a view all the way down to the coast.
After seeing Etna volcano from afar, today it is time to take a closer look. You’ll head to the north side, where it is quieter and a more varied landscape. If the weather is good and the volcano is calm, you can take a 4×4 bus to the northeast crater at 2800 meters. You’ll travel past petrified lava and steaming cracks in the ground to the Etna crater. Rinse off the gray dust of Etna and get back in the car for a drive to the Gambino winery, about twenty minutes from your agriturismo. The sommelier welcomes you in the wine cellar, where he will explain the different wines of the house and of course pour them for you. Italians will not drink without eating, so small snacks also appear on the table, completing the tasting perfectly. The rest of your time is yours to enjoy the relaxed pace of the countryside.
Days 4-6 – Sicilian cuisine in Piazza Armerina
You’ll have already picked up your hire car at Catania airport on arrival, so you’re ready and set for the open road! After your stay you’ll drive from Etna to Piazza Armerina. The driving time is approx. 2 hours, but you may wish to make stops along the way. It’s now time to head to the interior of Sicily, which you may expect to be dry and barren, but the fertile area around Piazza Armerina is surprisingly verdant and fertile. You’ll stay in a small-scale country house, aka an agriturismo, in the South of Piazza Armerina with a swimming pool and a good restaurant. It’s a working farm and a busy one too, producing wine, olive oil and harvesting fruits and nuts. Upon arrival, take a stroll through the serene, rolling countryside or relax with a book by the pool.
Before you leave, there is one more treat in store for you, the Villa Romana del Casale. This impressive Roman villa, covered with mosaic floors from the 3rd century, is the main attraction of Central Sicily. The mosaics in the former summer residence of a Roman emperor were only rediscovered in 1929 and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Days 6-9 – Chocolate city
Today you’ll drive from Piazza Armerina to Ragusa. The driving time is approx. 1.5 hours, but you may wish to make stops along the way. It’s time to enter the Baroque Triangle, an area made up of eight towns that were destroyed by an earthquake at the end of the 17th century, then rebuilt piece by piece back to their original picturesque beauty. You’ll stay in a classic B&B in Ragusa, the most atmospheric of the eight, right in the middle of Regusa Ibla, the old centre.
The next day you’ll visit one of the other cities of the baroque triangle, Modica. It is known for its chocolate that is thanks to the Spanish, who ruled the island for a long time and brought these originally Aztecs methods to Sicily. It’s a half an hour drive to the chocolate house, where you get a demonstration and then a taste of 90% cocoa mixed with vanilla, cinnamon or ginger. The rest of your time you are free to do as you please, strolling past atmospherically lit facades of the churches and stately mansions, taking a look inside where you can.
Days 9-12 – Hidden coves of Avola
Today you’ll drive from Ragusa to Avola. The driving time is approx. 1.5 hours, but you may wish to make stops along the way. Arrive at your characteristic massaria, a country house, by the sea and discover the wonders of the quiet south-eastern coast of Sicily. A perfect alternative to Taormina and other busier seaside resorts near Catania. From your mansion home you look over the grain and potato fields with the sea in the distance. The attractive rooms are located in the former horse stable and it’s only a five-minute walk to a hidden golden sandy beach.
Get up early the next morning and take a dip before breakfast. The beach near your masseria is located on a river estuary and is not signposted from the main road, so there are few tourists here. Explore the adjacent Vendicari Nature Reserve, one of the few places in Europe where flamingos breed. Also in the vicinity you will find Noto, with its many hidden beaches and coves along the coast. Another great place to visit is the port city of Syracuse, which has a very rich history that you can take in whilst strolling through the narrow streets, spotting remains of Greek temples along the way.
Today you’ll drive from Avola to Catania. The driving time is approx. 1 hour, but you may wish to make stops along the way. You’ll drop off your hire car at the airport and head to the terminal for your flight home.