Il Dolce Far Niente in Sicily

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Advisor - Rebecca Hanson
Curated By

Rebecca Hanson

  • International Travel

  • Sicily

  • Italy

  • Food & Wine

  • Relaxing

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

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Curator’s statement

Translating to “the sweetness of doing nothing,” il dolce far niente can be lived and fully enjoyed throughout Italy. But, in Sicily, one can feel it to the core - long lunches under lemon trees, easy aperitivos in a neighborhood piazza, late nights on a terrace. I had the opportunity to take a summer sabbatical a few years ago - and Sicily was my destination. Although part of Italy, Sicily is totally autonomous region and has a personality entirely of its own - its terrain, cuisine, dialect and pace. Sicily is distinct; it is an island that compares to no other with stunning archaeological sites, pulsing outdoor markets, wonderfully proud people and stunning vistas. It is a place where women can travel da sola and also where couples and families are warmly welcomed.

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Where to stay in Sicily

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Things to do in Sicily

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Things to do in Noto

  • Afternoon in Noto - I loved this small city as it feels quintessentially Sicilian with its ornate Baroque architecture, a multitude of cafes and slow pace. The Cathedral is breathtaking with a majestic stairway perfect for photo ops. There are countless small churches around the town that are jewel boxes! There is a small contemporary gallery/museum space in the center of town that features small exhibits; there was a Banksy exhibit when I was in town - a totally unexpected surprise! Be sure to start your day early during the summer months, the afternoons really heat up!

  • A day at the small, super cool beach club Baiamuri (Pachino, Province of Syracuse). A club with a “barefoot lux" vibe, I loved spending the day on a float, eating, chatting and reading - on repeat! Clean sand, blue/green water, comfortable loungers, great music, terrifically attentive and fun staff, tasty cocktails, excellent fresh seafood lunches and dinners - need I say more? The club is about an hour's drive from Dimora delle Balze; be sure to reserve a lounger (especially on weekends). I returned many times to enjoy the vibes. The day rate is approximately 60 Euros per person (but may fluctuate during weekends).

  • Syracuse Archaeological Park and Ortigia (in the heart of ancient Syracuse), a bridge-linked small island accessible from the modern city of Ortigia.

Things to do in Taormina

  • This is yet another spectacular town that will unfold in front of you. Walk the winding streets, stop in cool shops and enjoy an afternoon drink at a cafe. You will want to reserve at least a day (or two!) to “doing nothing” (again, il dolce far niente!)

  • Visit the Greek amphitheater (dates to the 3rd century BC) and later expanded by the Romans. Not only is the site itself a marvel, but the views of Etna and the coast are also spectacular. Note: the theater is an incredible concert venue, hosting such talents as Eros Ramazzotti and Robert Plant.

  • Full-day trip to the Roman archaeological site of Villa Romana del Casale (about a 2-hour drive from Taormina). A UNESCO World Heritage site, the villa has among the most beautifully preserved collections of Roman mosaics in the world. The site requires a few hours to visit completely and is remarkably well-marked. Extremely detailed educational plaques allow for an immersive experience. And if you’re feeling a little hungry after this cool excursion, don’t miss the delicious arancini (deep-fried rice balls) at the kiosk adjacent to the parking lot.

  • Take a half-day trip (on a boat!) around the Aeolian Islands - visit Panarea and Stromboli. You will love it! There are a range of options - from low-key trips to more luxe!

Day Trips from Sicily

  • Full-day trip to the Roman archaeological site of Villa Romana del Casale (a two-hour drive from Taormina). Exquisitely excavated.

  • For power shoppers, do not miss the incredible Sicilia Outlet Village (a one-hour drive outside of Taormina). Brands include Armani, Moschino, Pollini, Roberto Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Tods, Gucci and Blumarine. They have a luxury concierge, reserved parking for families, a children’s play area, great food court - totally top-notch!

Advisor - Rebecca Hanson

A note from Rebecca

I loved both hotels so much that I extended my stay. I ended up staying nearly 3 weeks (in total) at Dimora delle Balze during the summer of 2019. The client-focused service at both Dimora delle Balze and Grand Hotel Timeo is 10-star - every request is handled quickly and happily.

Note: For half of this trip I traveled solo and for the latter half traveled with my mother (80 years old). I felt very comfortable as a single female traveler, and my mother had no challenges (aside from an adventurous docking following our boat tour around the Bay of Naxos, Taormina).

Places to eat & drink in Sicily

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  • Caffe Sicila (Noto) - Over 100 years old, for some of the best granita and desserts you can find.

  • Trattoria Fontana d’Ercole (Noto) - Small and packed with locals. Delicious pastas, affordable and packed (and I mean PACKED) with locals.

  • Pizzeria Casa Matta (Noto) - Iconic. Make sure to make a reservation.

  • Baiamuri Beach Club (Pachino) - Worth the drive for clam spaghetti. Fantastic seafood, fabulous drinks and super cool vibes.

  • Do not miss dinner at Dimora delle Balze. Farm-to-table fare like you cannot imagine, a wonderful selection of Sicilian wines, a beautiful setting and relaxed, kind service.

  • Ristorante La Griglia (Taormina) - Linen table clothes and a posh guest list, La Griglia serves fresh catches and stupendous wine. Don’t miss the prawns.

  • Snag a prime table at one of the cafes peppered around Piazza Badia (Taormina) and people watch for a few while. All are over-priced, but worth the fun!

  • Aperitifs or nightcap (or both!) on the terrace of Grand Hotel Timeo (Taormina) - relaxing, beautiful calm. Exquisite service and jaw-dropping views.

Need to Know

For travelers who'd like to spend time on the Italian "mainland," I have curated some hidden gems and favorite recommendations for Florence: Hidden Gems of Florence; Rome: 3-Day Beginner's Guide to Rome; and Tuscany: Slow Travel through the Tuscan Hill Towns.

Advisor - Rebecca Hanson

Travel Advisor

Rebecca Hanson

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.