Earlier this year we headed to Sicily with my family to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday! However, given that both my husband and my family and an increasing number of our friends live in Europe, we decided to stop in London and the Netherlands as well.
We started in London where the weather was absolutely lovely when we arrived, so after freshening up at the hotel, we headed straight out to catch up with friends in the sunny courtyard at The Phene.
The following day I took the train to Cambridge to spend time with one of my oldest and dearest friends and her family. After lunch and a fabulous afternoon spent catching up, I headed back to London to have dinner with my sister and brother-in-law at Blanchette, where we shared a delicious assortment of small plates.
Our last day in London was overcast and rainy but that didn’t stop me from enjoying one of my favorite cities, which was full of signs of spring! After breakfast at Kensington Square Kitchen, I had just enough time to stroll through Little Venice and Kensington Gardens before having to make our way to the airport.
We spent the next couple of days catching up with my husband’s family and friends in the Netherlands and most importantly, met the new addition to the family, our gorgeous niece! A number of fun-filled lunches, dinners and drinks later, including an afternoon spent indulging in bossche bollen (basically a large cream puff, filled with whipped cream and covered in chocolate) in the square around Sint Jan Cathedral in Den Bosch and dinner in Nijmegen, one of my favorite cities in the Netherlands and where my husband and I married, we hopped back on a plane and headed for Sicily!
We started in Syracuse where we spent a good deal of time exploring the many sights and lovely little streets of Ortigia, a small island which is the historical center of the city of Syracuse. We also spent a lovely evening on a boat, taking in the island and nearby caves from the water.
After a few days, we did however leave the historical center and ventured to the Roman and Greek amphitheaters. We also ventured out of Syracuse for a day and drove through the countryside, which looked beautiful covered in red and yellow flowers, to Noto, famous for its Sicilian baroque style buildings, and to Modica, where we had lunch.
Next we headed to Taormina. We drove up Mt Etna on our way from Syracuse to Taormina wanting to get a glimpse of the volcanic landscape and enjoy the views from the top, but it was so cold and windy at the top that after a hot chocolate and a quick stroll to a rather unimpressive crater (probably thankfully so), we decided to continue our journey to Taormina.
Taormina greeted us with gorgeous views of the blue Ionian Sea and we spent the afternoon sipping Aperol Spritz at the Metropol Hotel and wandering the streets of the charming city center, before heading to one of the very best dinners of the trip – fresh fish followed by cassata at Taverna al Paladino.
En route to our final stop, Palermo, we had coffee in Brolo, which was about the saddest, sleepiest, seaside town I have ever seen and would certainly not recommend. We also stopped for lunch in Cefalù, with its cathedral and cloisters, which I certainly would recommend.
Compared to Taormina, Palermo was chaos – rather dirty and dusty with ugly, crumbling apartment buildings on the outskirts and two lane streets accommodating four lanes of cars, scooters, trucks and buses (and I’m sure there was also a horse in there somewhere). After spending our first day wandering around the city, on our second day, we decided to rent a scooter and escape the madness. We drove up to Monreale, with its exquisite cathedral covered in golden mosaics, and along the coast to Mondello, with its lovely beaches. The Italians are the craziest drivers, so although I spent much of the day hanging on for dear life with my eyes closed, it was honestly the best fun and certainly the best way to get around (as long as you have an excellent driver who also knows how to drive like an Italian)!
Although we had the most memorable trip to Sicily and I certainly enjoyed indulging in caponata (which I have to learn how to make), cannoli, Sicilian wine, spending quality time with my family and celebrating with my mum, I’m not sure that I would return or at least not for my next Italian adventure in November, when I’ll be heading back to my favorite part of Italy and basically my second home, Tuscany.