Travel: Simple pleasures in ‘Sicily’s Monte Carlo’
PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 May 2015
He’s best known as the lead singer of an 80s rock band, but these days you’re more likely to find Jim Kerr sunning himself in Sicily’s number one tourist destination: Taormina.
Located on the east of the island, the Simple Minds singer fell in love with the town when he first visited in 1982. So much so, he decided to open a four star boutique hotel on one of the many steep hills offering stunning panoramic views of Mount Etna and the sparkling blue coastline.
Prices at Villa Angela start around 200 euros a night so it’s not for those holidaying on a shoestring but for anyone else after a bit of luxury or celebrating a special occasion it’s well worth it.
Each room comes with all the extras you’d expect plus your very own terrace. There’s a pool jutting out from the hillside where you can see Mount Etna from your sun lounger and a restaurant which serves an excellent buffet breakfast and delicious spaghetti vongole.
The friendly hotel staff are more than happy to help organise excursions to Mount Etna or the Aeolian Islands and a shuttle bus service can be booked in advance to take you into Taormina, which is recommended.
The one drawback of the location is that you’re pretty much reliant on a vehicle to get you about, but for eight euros the hotel can organise a lift to one of the beaches with a sunbed thrown in.
Taormina itself is beautiful, packed with medieval churches, an ancient palace and one of the island’s most impressive monuments - the Teatro antico di Taormina. This Greek amphitheatre has breathtaking vistas and is also a popular venue for operas and touring bands, including Simple Minds who performed last year as part of their world tour.
Easyjet and British Airways operate flights from London Gatwick to Catania
Southern Railways for Gatwick Express service
Interbus runs direct service between Taormina and Catania’s airport.
Recommended: Villa Angela
Budget: President Hotel Splendid. Around 90 euros per night in peak season
Self-catered: ‘Nora’s House,’ Air BnB
The town was founded in the 4th century BC by the Greeks and later seized by the Romans then the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs. It became a popular visitor destination from the 18th century and counts DH Lawrence amongst its fans.
More recently it has been dubbed the Monte Carlo of Sicily, popular with celebrities and well heeled tourists. The main avenue of Corso Umberto, lined with designer shops, is testament to this but there is a more relaxed and down to earth attitude here.
Top things to see and do:
Tour of Mount Etna
There are lots of tour companies with shops in Taormina offering excursions up Europe’s largest active volcano
Go-Etna, Etna Experience and Volcano Trek are just some that offer trips. Prices start around 40 euros per person
It’s Taormina’s top sight, amazing views over the bay and Mount Etna in the distance. Entry: 8 euros
Day trip to Syracuse
Take a bus via Catania to this historic city full of Ancient Greek ruins, piazzas and narrow lanes leading to blue seas. Price: 15 euros. Journey time: 2.5 hours
Explore the volcanic islands of Panarea and Stromboli in the UNESCO-listed Aeolian Archipelago. From around 80 euros
A visit to Garden of Villa Comunale
Beautiful park with gardens created by Lady Florence Trevelyan in the late 19th century.
Taormina’s beaches are another highlight. A cable car takes visitors to the pebble beaches of Mazzarò and Isola Bella, a small island located between the beaches with coves and grottoes.
Also worth a visit is Giardini-Naxos a few miles away which you can reach by bus. This resort is a cheaper and less glamorous alternative to Taormina for those with less cash to splash. It has long sandy beaches which get packed with locals at the weekend.
The town gets very busy in July and August. It’s also the hottest time of year so a visit in Spring or early autumn is recommended.Follow us on Twitter @hackneygazette and @islingtongztte
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