Southern Sicily

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We left Taormina for an overnight stop in Ragusa as we heard it was an impressive area to see. That was an understatement. Our journey started with a couple of hours to explore Syracuse. This is a big town with the old area on an island called Ortega. The main square is breathtaking and full of well-restored Baroque churches. The daily market bustles with locals but if you go trust me and pop into the first shop on the right (from the big car park). Their produce is amazing with delicacies in jars to bring home and relive sunnier days in Autumnal London. I just hope the olive oil makes it back in one piece.

We then visited a town also known for its baroque architecture called Noto. There is one main street here that literally glows orange with the buildings. Words can’t do it justice but I hope the photos show you how breathtaking it was. There was a funeral taking place when we visited and it was like something out of the Godfather. Lots of gesticulation and triple cheek bumps between solemn looking men.

Then it was onto Ragusa. As you drive up to the UNESCO protected town you get a sense of how beautiful it is. Our hotel Villa Del Lauro was just on the edge of the old town. It is a hotel with lovely pool to enjoy a refreshing dip in but (and a big but after dinner) there are 300 (I counted) steps between this and the old town. You could take a taxi but we went for the calorie burn and burn it did.

Ragusa is quiet and pretty. We had a delicious dinner there and were sad to leave the next day. We visited Agrigento and the incredible Valley of Temples, which is well worth a visit, and again guiding is crucial to make it a worthwhile experience.

Then we drove to Verdura. The new venture of Sir Rocco Forte on the south of Sicily. What a contrast to everywhere else on this trip. It is a resort with golf courses and lots of space. It took us a few hours to adjust from the old world charm of Taormina and Ragusa but we quickly settled into resort life. The rooms are beautiful with dark wood and polished concrete. The furniture is modern and there is a great view to the sea from all rooms. You need to choose the right one but I am happy to help with that.

The food at the resort was really amazing and they have four very different areas to eat so lots of variation. Our top dish was a tomato, mozzarella and bread salad but that description doesn’t vaguely do it justice. The fish burger with a glass of ice-cold wine at lunch went down very well too.
This is a deluxe resort with a kids club, spa, massive gym and golf but it feels smaller than its 230 rooms. They also have an adult only area with four different hydro pools, which was a lovely place to relax late afternoon before scampering back to the room to take in the sunset from the decking.

A short drive from the resort is the fishing town of Sciacca (pronounced Shakka as in Khan)!  It is a 15-minute easy drive or a 30 Euro taxi. There are a few bars and restaurants but one absolute stand out one for us and one I’d thoroughly recommend a journey in just to experience it. Hostaria del Vicolo is tucked down a small alley you’d never notice and yet the food is outstanding and service so lovely. We nearly went back the next night!

If you want Sicilian food, lots of space, gorgeous pools this is for you. If you want a lot of history Taormina is the one. We loved both. The only slight misconception is the sandy beach as they do have sand but it stops a meter before the sea and goes back to pebbles. Verdura needs to be sold to the right person but if it is they can’t fail to be impressed.