A treasure trove of historic delights offset by preposterously pretty bays, this spot on Sicily’s east coast is all kinds of seductive. Discover the best things to do, places to stay and must-visit restaurants with our need-to-know guide to the Italian town of Taormina.
Where to stay:
Easily one of the loveliest villas on the island, Ortensia sits amid verdant banana palm-studded gardens. Its all-white exterior is a fine example of cubist minimalism and inside, the light-drenched spaces are full of imagination: walls are hung with global objet d’art and intricately-painted urns overflow with greenery. The double-height lounge leads out to a glistening pool where swallows and dragonflies flit overhead, and all four of the breezy bedrooms are en-suite.
Half an hour from Taormina’s beating heart and moments from some of Sicily’s most pristine coastal stretches, this heart-soaring stay from The Thinking Traveller is in absolute plum position, and the switched-on team can arrange everything from cookery lessons with local chefs to yacht charters with snappily dressed skippers. But sprawling out on a lounger at your very own home in the sun-dappled hills may well be adventure enough...
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Where to eat:
Sample typical Sicilian plates (from caponata to melt-in-the-mouth stewed rabbit) at Tischi Toschi - a caught-in-time trattoria tucked away down one of Taormina’s narrow corsos - then call at Bam Bar for heavenly almond granita served with a hunk of warm brioche. For knock-out seafood with vistas to match, snag a table at Da Giovanni and peer out to Isola Bella as twilight falls, or tuck into seriously good pizza La Spiga, a charming little restaurant in nearby Giarre that’s a real hit with the locals.
If you fancy staying put, call upon a talented in-villa cook to rustle up an impressive alfresco feast amid Ortensia’s fragrant gardens - the traditional four-course extravaganzas do not disappoint. Keen Oenophile? Venture to the Feudo di Mezzo winery - sprawling out across the northern side of Mount Etna - to sample the superb Etna Rosso and stroll around the sun-warmed vineyards.
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Ortensia’s achingly sleek pool is just right for a few lazy lengths, and come evening-time, there’s no shortage of spots in which to sip a frosty aperitif; the wraparound roof terrace for example offers grandstand views of Mount Etna as the sky glows a filmic pinky-lilac up above her.
Things to do:
When it comes to sandy stretches and rock-hewn bathing platforms, you’ll find crystal-clear water and flat stones to laze on at easygoing Aci Castello, while Lido la Pigna - with its sunshine yellow and blue parasols - is a glorious see-and-be-seen beach club that’s right in the thick of the action. Those in search of a culture hit will find no shortage of history-steeped spectacles: Taormina’s horseshoe-shaped Teatro Greco is a sight to behold, while slightly further afield, the beautifully preserved Baroque towns of Noto, Ragusa and Scicli are close enough together to visit all three in a day. In the mood for adventure? Strap on your walking boots and traverse smouldering Mount Etna’s moon-like flanks. The lava fields and myriad craters make for terrific hiking territory and the views out across the island are nothing short of gasp-worthy.
Ortensia is available to rent exclusively through The Thinking Traveller from £3,662 per week; visit thethinkingtraveller.com. Norwegian flies from London to Sicily Catania from £50 one way; visit norwegian.com
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