Anyone who follows along with me on Instagram knows I’m quite *obsessed* with Etna. However, we have mainly just visited her northern side. From winery visits to our skiing a volcano adventure to this pretty cool hike I did with my friend, Rachel, all Etna adventures have been on her north side. For this long weekend, we decided to check out more of what she has to offer on her south side.
We drove up to the southern cable car station, but did not elect to go up by cable car. Instead, we stopped just down the street from the cable car station near the Silvestri Craters. The lower crater is within view of the parking lot, so it felt natural to start there. The upper crater has two paths. Take the one to the left, as the incline isn’t as insane as the one on the right.
Overall, the hikes were easy (except for the insane incline to get to the top of the upper crater, but there is a way around that). Easy access, easy to hike, and the views were breathtaking. I felt as though I was on Mars most of the time.
Check out some of my favorite images from the experience below.
Living in Sicily means LOT OF LEMONS! Growing up in Virginia, I was used to the summer season as the main time of the year for growing plants. In Sicily, it’s fall and winter, and that is just so strange to me. I have to say, I really do love it though. Instead of everything looking all brown and dead, winter is colorful, the grass is green, and it’s clearly a season of growth.
Our lemon tree really took off this year, so I wanted to capture some images of Chalupa and Birdee out in our tiny little yard. Dad joined in for a few because Birdee was very curious as to what was happening outside of the fence. See some of my other shoots from around our neighborhood here and here.
We had some incredibly thick fog one evening. So, of course, I dragged the gang out for a little bit of fog portrait play. These are a few of my favorites from walking around our neighborhood.
I’ve been starting to document our life at home more often. The main reason I ever picked up a camera was because I wanted better photos to keep of our family. I’ve photographed some family things, but mostly travel and photos for others. I decided to take my camera on one of our casual walks around our neighborhood with the puppies. Here are some of my favorite images from this day.
When my friend Rachel invited me to join her on a group hike on Mt. Etna, I jumped at the chance. You probably already know how obsessed I am with that majestic volcano if you have followed along with my blog or Facebook at any point. She’s (Mt. Etna) very active and thus I am in awe of her on a daily basis.
For our day trip, we met early in the morning and drove to Zafferana Etna for a breakfast pit stop. After grabbing a pastry, we continued up to the parking area and began our assent.
It was one of the few times I’ve hiked without my Apple Watch, so unfortunately, I don’t have firm details about the length and distance of the trail. In total, it took us two hours to ascend, take in the view from the top for awhile, and then descend. The hike up is probably somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour. The trial is ~1 mile long (I’d guess) and has a relatively steep incline with one one tiny little scramble. Two kids (7-10ish) joined and had a great time as well!
Along the way, we found this chestnut and it’s shell. I never knew chestnuts grew in this sea urchin type ball, but indeed they do!
Once we reached the top, the views were absolutely stunning!! A HUGE lava field lies between the view point and the summit.
You can get a clear view of the summit and see the activity of the side craters as well!
After the hike, we drove down to Le 5 Botti Ristorante Pizzeria, where we enjoyed a delicious Sicilian lunch before heading back home.
All in all, it was a great little day trip and I would highly recommend both the hike and restaurant if you’re looking for a little adventure and amazing food!
It’s been an unofficial goal of mine to visit as many of the Aeolian Islands as I can while living in Sicily. Last year, we made our first visit to Stromboli island, where we spent seven hours scaling an active volcano just to look over the rim and watch it erupt right before our eyes. It was pretty epic! This past summer, we relaxed on Salina island while checking out some of what Malfa had to offer. We loved it. But considering there are seven Aeolian Islands (Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi), and we had only visited two, I knew we needed to step up our game. So our trip to Vulcano island was born.
We usually travel on our own, but this time we decided to join a tour group here just to lessen the burden of having to drive, park, and do research. Traveling gets exhausting when you add all of those factors in. We are so glad we did the tour because the guides showed us some of the best local places to go. We got to check Vulcano off of our list AND climb another volcano and look down into it’s caldera.
If you’re looking for a bit of adventure (or just some pure relaxation), here are some things to know before you go!
– Vulcano is the southern most of the Aeolian Islands.
– It’s approximately 8 square miles
– It’s home to one of the four active volcanoes in Italy
– It last erupted from 1888 to 1890
There are several hiking trails in Vulcano. We hiked the Gran Cratere (3.15 miles – pin info here). The hike is deemed “easy” online, but I would beg to differ. That being said, we did enjoy the hike and would definitely do it again. Once to the top, you can look down into the caldera, walk around the rim, and experience live sulfur vents. Note to self, they are stinky!!
On one side of the rim, you can walk through sulfur fields which are quite stinky and hot, but really neat to see and experience. Our guides told us not to stop walking. We did and the result was REALLY hot air (aka a burn). So, yeah, don’t stop walking through the sulfur vents!
One of the most unique things you’ll find in Vulcano is this sulfur mud bath. It is SMELLY, but apparently has incredible health benefits. Since it’s a thermal mud bath, it’s a bit hot. Also, the smell is pretty bad, so I would recommend wearing a swimsuit you are fine with tossing because I doubt the smell will ever come out. Entrance was only about 3€. It was so hot this day, we didn’t end up doing it. But we want to go back when it’s cooler to give it a try!
Lunch: Don Piricuddu
We had amazing pasta dishes and wine here. We stopped for a bite on our way to the spa directly after the hike.
Vulcano is famous for its geothermal spas. We got a day pass to this one and enjoyed trying out all of the different geothermal pools. Just to note, this spa does NOT have lockers. So you need to keep your things by your pool chair. They do have many different pools to choose from, spa services, and a bar!
Overall, this was a great day trip from Catania. If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment or message me on Instagram: @mandalynrenee!
Just off of the northern coast of Sicily, lies a unique string of UNESCO protected islands – the Aeolian Islands. The Aeolian Islands consist of: Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi, each unique in its own way. If you have been following my blog, then you may have read about our NINE hour hike to the rim of the Stromboli volcano. That was a crazy, but unforgettable, experience! This year, we thought we might try out something a little more chill. Thus, our summer weekend in Salina was born.
Salina is known for its productions of capers and honey-sweet Malvasia wine. It is known as the “green island,” as it has its own water source and thus is greener than most of the other islands. Salina is actually the second largest of the Aeolians (after Lapari) and has around 2,300 inhabitants and three towns: Santa Marina, Malfa and Leni. This makes Salina a nice break from society.
To travel to Salina, you need to take a hydrofoil or ferry from Millazzo or Messina. You can also take a boat from Palermo or Naples. We traveled from Milazzo and parked in Garage delle Isole (without a reservation). Just to note if you plan to park there – check the hours first! They are not open 24 hours a day like other garages. The port you would need to get off at is Salina S.M. not Salina Rinella. Book tickets here.
Once on Salina, you have several options for transportation: taxi, renting at motorbike, car, or small open gocart, or public bus (the updated time table here.) For the bus, you can buy the ticket when you board and the bus stop is next to the main square in Santa Marina (1/2 minute walk from the port).
There are a few hotel options on the island, so be sure to reserve early! I reserved our room at Principe di Salina in January for June. We chose Principe di Salina because we had heard amazing things from a friend and loved that it is small and quite curated. We spend most of our time in Salina at Principe de Salina and we weren’t sad about it one bit! At some point, we would like to go back and see more of the island. Maybe next year.
For now, you can enjoy the photos from our summer weekend in Salina and perhaps even get some ideas for yourself! Below are some photos from our stay at Principe di Salina and from exploring Malfa (make sure to scroll to the end to see more of Malfa).
Having our first guest on island really made us stop and think, “If we were visiting Sicily, what would we want to see?” The answer here can certainly be endless, depending on what you’re into. We thought up a ton of day trips that were didn’t have time for in the end. Since Jordan was working while Ashley was in town, we had to coordinate sharing a car, which proved to be a bit more difficult than anticipated. So, besides the day trip we took to Caltagerone, Piazza Armerina, and Enna, we kept our exploration a bit closer to home. Since we live near the east coast of Sicily, we visited some of the top spots along the coast that I’d say you can’t miss! Can you guess what they are?
Perhaps the most famous town to visit in all of Sicily? Ashley identified Taormina as a “must see” before she even arrived. Luckily, we have visited there quite often, so it was an easy place to go. We always park in Porta Catania when we go, so you can just walk right into the old town. You can also park in Parcheggio Lumbi and take a shuttle to the old town as well.
Top tip: Visit Hotel Belmond (entrance on the right before you go into the greek theatre, Teatro Antico di Taormina) for a drink and receive complimentary views of Mt. Etna from their stunning outdoor patio. Fair warning, the drinks are $$!
If you’ve ever seen the Sicily episode of Chef’s Table, then you’ll understand why you have to stop in Noto for granita, if nothing else. While Bam Bar is for sure my favorite granita spot, no place can beat Cafe Sicilia‘s almond granita. And no, I don’t like it just because of the show. I had it before I ever even watched the show. The show just made me realize why it was so amazing! The town is super cute and has a few spots where you can climb to the top of buildings that overlook the town.
Right outside of Noto is Villa Romana del Tellaro, another archaeological site of an ancient Roman Villa. This villa isn’t nearly as impressive as Villa Romana del Casale (which holds the best preserved Roman mosaics in the world). Thus, I’d recommend check it out only if you’re passing though.
Catania is definitely the city I have visited the most (see a more in-depth post here). If there is one thing you see in Catania and nothing else, check out the Elephant Square area. Right behind Elephant Square is the Catania Fish Market (La Pescheria). You can acquire exceptional produce, fish, meats and cheese for incredibly low prices. Bring Euro coins, buy fresh foods, enjoy yourself.
Possibly everyone’s favorite city on the east coast of Sicily (okay, maybe not, but it tops my list) is Ortygia. Technically Ortygia is an island off of Sicily, but it is also the historic center of the city of Syracuse. It’s weird and mind boggling a little, but whatever.
I’ve talked about some of the things to do in Ortygia before, here. But this time, we checked some new things off of our list!
To be honest, we have explored so many churches since we moved to Sicily that they are all starting to run together in my head. I have visited the outside of this cathedral many, many times, but for some reason, I was never that intrigued to go in. This time, I went in and noticed something a little bit odd… Greek columns. And, that would because it was originally a Greek doric temple (Temple of Athena) from the 5th century BC! It was really phenomenal to see.
We have attempted to visit the Castle Maniace several times, but to no avail. This time we made it! Inside the gates, you can climb the castle walls and get some pretty epic views.
If you get lucky and visit during the morning of any day but Sunday, you’ll get to visit Ortigia’s Street Market. I think Ashley particularly enjoyed trying the fresh seafood there.
While a bit overpriced, the restaurants along the waterway provide incredibly scenic views.
After a year of living in Sicily, Jordan and I had our first visitor. My best friend, Ashley, flew all the way across the Atlantic to visit and see this crazy beautiful island on which we live. I couldn’t have been more excited to see her again or to show her my home.
One thing about visiting Sicily is that you really NEED a car. There are so many places in Europe that have incredibly efficient public transportation. Unfortunately, Sicily is not one of them. So, for her first full day here, we did a little day trip to three classically Sicilian towns: Caltagirone, Piazza Armerina, and Enna. This was one of my favorite island road trips, so I wanted to make sure to share it.
This town was NOT on Ashley’s “to see” list, but I knew it should be. Caltagirone is in the middle of nowhere Sicily, but many people travel there each year for the infamous Sicilian ceramics. The town itself has no shortage of ceramics shops. Some shops have working studios and artists in them, others are just a store front for sales. Most buildings in the old town are decorated with ceramic tiles, so it is vibrant and colorful!
One of the highlights is the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, a 142 step staircase that connects the lower to the older upper town. Each stair is decorated with its own unique design on handcrafted ceramic tiles.
We visited a multitude of shops (most of which do not permit photos). At one shop, we were able to visit the workshop and learn about the history of Sicilian ceramics. It was very interesting!
While we were there, we decided to grab lunch before moving on to our next location. Being the planner I am (not), I randomly picked a restaurant (Coria) with good reviews on Google. As we entered through the doors, I noticed a bright red sign by the entrance indicating it was a Michelin Star restaurant. Whoops! We were not dressed for the occasion, nevertheless, we were already there. Of course, the food and drinks were absolutely amazing and we really enjoyed ourselves.
Prior to this trip with Ashley, neither Jordan nor I had ever been to Piazza Armerina before. The main attraction here is Villa Romana del Casale, a fancy Roman villa that dates back to the 4th Century A.D. Villa Romana del Casale has the best preserved Roman mosaics in the world. The villa was the property of a powerful Roman family and is quite expansive (either a senator or as part of an “imperial function” of the emperor [Maximian] himself).
We spent some time walking the grounds and pretending to be back in Roman times for a moment.
Jordan and I have been to Enna many times before and you just CAN’T beat the views. Enna is one of Sicily’s classic “hilltop towns” and is located in the center-ish of the island. Thus, it doesn’t see many tourists (unless it’s Easter).
Our plan was to visit Castello di Lombardia,followed by Rocca di Cerere. Unfortunately, the castle closed early that day, so we just visited the super majestic overlook featured in the photos below. Since it was also cold and extremely windy, we only visited Enna Cathedral before heading back home.
This article was originally featured on Little Brave Travels. Feel free to check it out there as well!
When people think of Sicily, they probably think of beautiful beaches, sun, and sand. To be honest, that is what I thought at first too. The truth is, those things only cover a tiny portion of all that the island has to offer. If you’ve been on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve seen tons of amazing travel photos from Bali, Paris, and the Amalfi Coast, but very few from Sicily. Does that mean Sicily is not worth visiting? Absolutely not! Sicily is one of the most picturesque places I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. You just have to know where to go.
My husband and I moved to the island of Sicily just over a year ago. We were incredibly excited to get to know our new home as soon as we arrived. Even after a year of constant exploration, we still haven’t seen it all. At approximately 25,000 square kilometers (that’s almost 10,000 square miles), Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. Because of this public transportation is impractical. Thus, renting a car is the way to go.
While there are some very popular towns to visit in Sicily (some I’ll mention here), there are many others that aren’t known at all. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of it or not. Each town in Sicily is unique in its own way and many towns that are lesser known have amazing food, their own particular charm, and…. fewer people!
If you’re planning to visit Sicily, but you aren’t sure where to start, here are my top five instagrammable spots to know before you go!
Arguably the most popular Sicilian destination, the hilltop town of Taormina, is unlikely to disappoint. In the summer, the town is “dressed to the nines” with colorful flowers and a plethora of cute little shops. You can visit the idyllic pebble beach in the bay of Taormina and swim in the clear, turquoise waters and then take the cable car up to the town. In town, be sure to visit the ancient Greco-Roman theater that sits cliffside after exploring all of the adorable little alleyways and town squares. (See more about visiting Taormina here).
In the vicinity of Taormina is the unmistakable Mount Etna. A rather active volcano (with generally pretty small eruptions). If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see her show off! While she can be seen from all around the northern east side of the island, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the top. You can visit either the north or south side, with skiing, snowboarding, and sledding available during the winter and hiking available most all year long. Guided tours are available for a fee and there are many tour companies that make the journey from most big cities. (See more about skiing Mt. Etna here).
If you do rent a car and decide to make the journey on your own, I’d highly recommend stopping on the way up (or down) for lunch at an agritourismo (maybe this one?) on the side of the volcano. The vines of the wineries are often amazing photo spots and the food and wine are top notch.
On the south side of the island lies Agrigento, a hilltop city containing the ruins of the ancient city of Akragas. This attraction is also known as the Valley of the Temples and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While this is also one of Sicily’s most famous attractions, it is definitely worth the visit. Entrance to the park includes a fee and bag check, but once you’re in, there is so much to explore! Many of the temples are well preserved and quite impressive! Once you get toward the back of the park, you will find notably less people. Furthermore, there are optional gardens once inside the park that you can also elect to visit for a small fee. (See more about visiting Agrigento here).
West of the Valley of the Temples lies Scala dei Turchi (the Turkish Steps), which is a stepped white cliff overlooking sandy beaches. You can pull off the highway to overlook it from above as well as visit a lido that will take you right down on the beach where you can climb up on it. Many people love sunbathing and jumping from the rock itself. (See more about Scala dei Turchi here).
A small seaside town in northwestern Sicily, San Vito Lo Capo is prominently known for its fabulous flat and sandy beaches. While swimming in San Vito Lo Capo is highly recommended, a boat cruise is fun and affordable, and the town is pretty with lots to do a night. (See more about San Vito Lo Capo here).
Technically part of Sicily, Ortigia is an island that is the historical center of the city of Syracuse. I promise it sounds more confusing than it really is and its totally worth the trip. In my opinion, Ortigia is one of the more beautiful cityscapes of Sicily. My best recommendation here is to plan to just walk around. From ancient ruins to the enchanting white square of Ortigia Piazza del Duomo, you will understand just why this destination is so instagrammable.
While Sicily is definitely the most popular in the summer, visiting during off season provides significant advantages for photo opportunities. August is the month in which Sicilians take their vacations, so I would be wary to visit then, as many shops will be closed. Additionally, the same is true during the months of January and February. It is also important to keep in mind that Sicily has a significant rainy season (particularly in the fall and spring), so do plan carefully and accordingly!