We have just returned from a family holiday in Sicily and I wanted to share with you our experience of this beautiful Island.
Our oldest, Niall turned 18 a few weeks ago and as we knew the days of all five of us travelling away on our Summer Holidays together was perhaps coming to an end (for a while anyway), we decided to travel beyond Ireland and the UK for our break this year. After a lot of consideration, and in an effort to suit everyone in the family, we decided to return to the Island of Sicily – a place we had last visited in 2004. In fact, we also stayed at the same hotel this year as we did back then.
When we travel to warmer climates we have a very definite idea of what our holiday should involve:
- Good Food – We would consider ourselves real ‘Foodies’ and just love to try different foods and drinks, in particular those which are traditional to the country we are visiting
- Relaxation – Our family life is so busy every other time of the year, that when we travel we just want to take it easy. This usually entails lounging by the pool, going for long walks, reading books which have been recommended and just generally enjoying each day as it comes.
- Culture – While we don’t spend every day taking trips here and there, we do like to get a sense of our destination. Our children are at an age now where if they don’t want to do something then it’s difficult to persuade them otherwise. So in an attempt to keep us all happy, we take the odd trip to perhaps a local town, beauty spot or tourist attraction.
Foreign travel for a family of five is not cheap especially as our lot are teenagers or almost teenagers (Sinead, the youngest is twelve). We firstly considered going ‘All Inclusive’ but then felt as we were visiting Sicily and didn’t want to miss out on the excellent variety of food this wonderful island had to offer opted for B&B only.
We originally planned to travel on a Saturday and had a look at the flights available from both Aer Lingus and Ryanair. We wanted to fly into Catania Airport on the east of the island but found that Ryanair didn’t have flights to this airport. We then had a look at Aer Lingus who fly to Catania twice per week – Saturday and Tuesday. Amazingly, the flights on Tuesday, 18th July worked out at approximately €1900 cheaper than to fly in on the previous Saturday!!! We naturally decided to go for the Tuesday – I know flying on a day other than a weekend might not suit everyone but I think at these savings it might be worth having a look. Flights for the five of us including one checked in suitcase at 15kg and pre-selected seats for the outward journey only came in at €1485. We did feel the cost of a 15kg checked-in bag at €50 each way was expensive but then maybe its no harm to try to travel light and bring only a cabin size case which costs nothing!!
We stayed at Hotel Olimpo le Terraze (http://www.hotelolimpoletojanni.it/en/) which we booked through http://www.booking.com. This hotel overlooks the Bay of Taormina and is situated in the town of Letojanni which is approximately an hour by taxi from Catania Airport.
The hotel is rated as 4 Star but I would say this would be equivalent to a 3 Star in Ireland/UK. The hotel decor is quite dated but all rooms and public areas are clean and there were always maintenance and cleaning staff about.
The hotel is built into the hillside and is reached from the lower carpark via a lift. This lift will take you to a sister hotel (Hotel Antares) and you then walk through this hotel to get access to a funicular (glass elevator) which takes you up to Hotel Olimpo (This may sound complicated at first but you soon get the hang of it!) I would say however, that there is quite a bit to travelling up and down while staying in this hotel – you do use the funicular, lifts and stairs quite a lot but they are worth it given the spectacular views across the Bay.
There are two outdoor swimming pools for guests to use – one at Hotel Olimpo and another smaller one at Hotel Antares. There was never a problem getting sun loungers at either and towels can be hired from Hotel Reception at a cost of €10 each (refundable on return of the towel at the end of the day)
The hotel works on a card system – when you check-in you are given a card that you use instead of handing over cash each time you buy something at the hotel be it food or drink.
We ate a number of days at the terrace restaurant at Hotel Olimpo and can highly recommend the pizzas here.
The town of Letojanni is a small seaside resort which feels very much Sicilian! It was once a small fishing village and there is an abundance of seafood restaurants situated along its busy promenade. The Piazza Durante Square is the main hub of activity and is overlooked by the church of San Giuseppe – a lovely place to sit in the evenings while ‘people watching’ and to enjoy an alfresco coffee, glass of wine or gelato!!
General Info & Getting About:
- The cost of a taxi for 5 of us from the airport was €120 but my advice would be to enquire from a number of taxis when you arrive as their prices vary. You can also avail of a bus from the airport to Taormina and then take a further one to Letojanni
- We ate out most evenings around 7pm. Restuarants tended to be quiet then so I would recommend dining out around this time, particularly if you haven’t booked, have children and don’t want to be left trawling the streets for somewhere to eat. Taormina is particularly busy!!
- The cost of a taxi for a family of 5 from Taormina to Letojanni was €25
- The public bus service ran from right outside the gate of our hotel to Taormina every 30 minutes and cost €1.90 one way. We bought a return ticket for the family one evening which cost €15 (€1.50 each way)
- The Hotel Olimpo is very much a family hotel and most of the guests seemed to be Italian/Sicilian.
- They provided entertainment both during the day and every evening and had a Kids Club
- Taormina is built on a cliff top and while it is easily accessible by car or bus, you can also get there using a cable car system called a Funivia! For €3 per person each way, you can travel both ways between Taormina town and Mazzaro with its lovely bay, beautiful beaches and the pretty Isola Bella (an island which is connected to the beaches of the mainland by a pathway)
— Taormina —
Recommended Restaurants in Taormina:
- Bistrot du Monde – Food was delicious especially the mussels starter, the cannelloni and the Tiramisu dessert. I had a glass of house red wine and it was excellent. http://bistrot-du-monde.business.site/
- Vineria Modi – I booked this restaurant before we left home as it was rated #1 on Tripadvisor for Taormina and after eating there can see why. Food and wine were both excellent. The staff were attentive and so friendly. It was our most expensive meal out in Sicily but worth every cent! https://www.facebook.com/VineriaModi
- Ristorante L’lncontro – Another restaurant I found on Tripadvisor. Food was delicious – I would recommend the mixed seafood platter (very large portion) and also the Pistachio Cream gnocchi. Service was excellent and very attentive even though they were very busy. http://www.ristorantelincontrotao.com/
Things to Do in Taormina:
- Shopping – loads of great shops selling food, ceramics, leather items, designer goods and jewellery
- Food to try – Pizza (so many delicious varieties available), Arancini (stuffed rice balls which are coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried and usually filled with Ragu), Gelato (similar to ice-cream with so many yummy flavours available) and Cannoli (tube shaped shells of fried pastry dough with a ricotta filling and sprinkled with pistachios)
- Visit the Garden of Villa Comunal – beautiful Gardens with fantastic Sea Views
- Ancient Greek Amphitheatre
- Ix Aprile Square – beautiful views over the Bay of Taormina, the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. A wonderful place to eat or just people watch. Very busy with tourists in Summer!
At the end of our week, I can honestly say it was a terrific family holiday and we have made some wonderful memories that will last forever. I would highly recommend Sicily as a holiday destination. It has it all… beautiful scenery, fantastic food and is steeped in history. You should definitely make plans to visit it at some stage!!