About Maggie H
Lives in East Hampton, New York
Since Nov 2012
Geologic Formations, Volcanos, Mountains
Gift & Specialty Shops
Churches & Cathedrals
Caverns & Caves
Ancient Ruins, Historic Sites, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Nature & Wildlife Areas
Tramways, Mass Transportation Systems
Make sure to go up on Etna while you are in Sicily. The most visited point of access is Rifugio Sapienza. From here, you can take a conventional (and expensive) route to the top, by using a 4x4 jeep and a cable car, or you can venture off on your own into the lava field to get away from the crowds. There are multiple other Rifugios that one can visit for a number of hiking/spelunking opportunities. Rifugio Citelli has a nice trail to some old lava tube exploration points (make sure to check in with the staff and rent a hard hat and headlamp!). Customization is key in experiencing Etna the way you want to experience it, and there are many many options available to you.
A night on top of Etna is a rare experience. Most people visit for the day, many of them on a tour. Although that is also worthwhile, there is nothing like the silence and darkness that you feel after the last bus has pulled out of the parking lot. You are alone on the top of the world. The stargazing is incredible, and as the temperature drops, you feel a fresh cold sensation that you likely haven't yet felt during your days down by the shore and in the cities. The Hotel Corsaro has wonderful rooms, very clean and quiet, and they also offer a wellness center with hot tubs and relaxation areas that is music to your muscles after a long day of hiking.
Ortigia is a beautiful old town surrounded by crystal clear blue waters. There are multiple places to take a swim, tons of wonderful dining options, great gelato, people watching, historical sites, and shops. Plan to spend at least 2 nights here in order to take full advantage of the area and get a sense of the local lifestyle.
This daily market is a fantastic way to experience new tastes and smells. The produce is at the height of freshness, the breads are still warm, and the cheeses are magnificent! Visit the shop at the end of the market towards the sea for local beer on tap, which you can drink at high top tables in the middle of the market hubbub! Next door, wait in line for an epic handcrafted sandwich from Caseficio Borderi. The proprietor asks you a few simple questions, and creates a custom sandwich for you. Don't question his choices, just go with it!
Tavernetta is a delicious fantastic local dining experience. During the day, there is nothing better than sitting outside on the little street with a ceramic jug of house wine and a fresh pasta dish. My favorites include the pumpkin cream risotto with prawns, and the mixed seafood fry. Also, for homesick Americans, they have REALLY good french fries...
There are two Viola Bakeries. My favorite is the one on Corso Matteoti on your walk into the center of Ortigia. It's a wonderful place to stop in for a morning or afternoon espresso or macchiato (they actually make the BEST Cafe Macchiato that I have ever had!) They also have the cheapest espresso drinks, with a macchiato only costing .80 cents when consumed at the window front bar.
This place is heavily populated with locals. The wait staff is not incredibly friendly to tourists. HOWEVER, put up with the impatient attitudes in order to taste this food. It is all seafood based (no landlubber choices here), and it is only served if it could be caught fresh that morning. The mussels are RIDICULOUSLY good, and the prawn pasta is also an amazing explosive taste you will not likely have experienced before. The bread is fresh and the seating is either indoors or outside on a patio. Located near the market and the Port of Ortigia, L'Ancora is a place you should make sure to visit at least once.
This is the central gathering place on Ortigia. The piazza is lined with cafes and outdoor seating. There is usually some sort of live music, and on weekends the place is packed with locals enjoying a passegiata. The white sidewalks are a beautiful juxtaposition to the bright blue sky, and the golden pink sunsets shining off the surrounding marble buildings are a photographers heaven! Inside the Duomo, visitors will be surprised to find an incredibly old interior, absent of bright colors and ornate shimmery details, very un-like the grand opulence of other duomos in Italy. The experience is overpowering and unique, and the history of the structure is riveting.
Located in the Siracusa Archaeological Park, this is a cave that originally was used by Dionysus as a storage area for prisoners. Legend says that the cave was used as a prison for political dissidents. The natural acoustics would amplify the voices of the prisoners, and allow Dionysus to hear their plans for revolt, and other precious secrets. Today, it is a well visited area, and often, visitors begin to sing inside the cave, which is a very haunting and beautiful experience. If you enjoy singing, or are traveling with someone who does, I would suggest treating your fellow visitors to a small concert.
Ristorante Eyexei is a one of a kind dining experience in the country, walking distance to the archaeological site at Morgantina. Frequented by locals and run entirely by using produce, dairy and livestock from the property, Eyexei features a "lunch tasting menu" for 20 euro per person. It features wine, sparkling or still water, an assortment of appetizers, a pasta dish, and a meat dish (when we went we each received a huge steak with rosemary and a half lemon on top). Finally, you get dessert and coffee. There is outdoor seating and it feels good to sit back and have the waitstaff just bring you the day's selections. You just have to trust them and go with the flow!
Caltagirone is a very small town in Southern Sicily. The feature of the town is the large staircase in the center, adorned with thousands of beautiful handmade tiles. The entire town is a mecca for ceramics, and there are countless shops selling their own twists on the traditional style. The town also has delicious food and a great local nightlife.
This is a wonderful cozy bed and breakfast located on the Caltagirone stairs, with balconies over the stairs and city. The proprietor is very friendly, the breakfast is divine, and the prices are very reasonable.
Villa Romana del Casale is a mosaic lover's HEAVEN! This once-used country estate of the upper class is covered with small mosaic designs. A wonderful elevated walking path takes you through the large property, room by room, and explains the themes of the mosaics, recreating a picture of what life was like at that time. It is MUCH more impressive than it seems, and is a must-see!
On your drive along the south coast to or from Agrigento, a visit to Mandranova to purchase fresh olive oil is HIGHLY suggested! They welcome the public, but do not have many public programs, so you basically pull up to the gate and call in to see if anyone is around to sell you some oil (they usually are). They will show you their beautiful villa, and bring you into a clean beautiful office area to taste and select the oils you would like to purchase (a large bottle sells for only 13 euro). After you select your items, they offer you gorgeous green tins and secure packaging so that you can fly with the oil in your suitcase without fear of breaking! This was a very special experience for us, buying straight from the supplier, and we would suggest it over a trip to a touristy shop or a grocery store.
The Zingaro Reserve is not to be missed. Start your hike from the Scopello side. Bring snorkeling gear and beach supplies! The hike brushes the top of a magnificent bluff, and provides multiple opportunities to hike down to various beautiful sandy beaches with crystal clear, calm, warm water. The second "Cala" from the Scopello trailhead was my favorite, as the first one got a little crowded with younger kids and people who did not plan to hike for very long.
In a town the size of Scopello, there are really not many options for an overnight. Pensione Tranchina is a WONDERFUL choice to have in a town so small. The rooms are simple but very clean and comfortable, many with gorgeous balconies with unparalleled views on to the bay and surrounding hills. The highlight of this place, however, is the food. Every night, they prepare a multi course feast for all of the guests staying that night. We witnessed a young boy pull up in a station wagon packed to the gills with fresh produce from a nearby farm, and the hotel owner came out to unload it all for that night's dinner. The hotel owner's son had just come back from a morning harvesting fresh olive oil in a nearby field, which would also be used in the night's meal. You really can't get any fresher than this food, and it is prepared BEAUTIFULLY! The atmosphere is convivial, and the desserts are to die for.
Erice is a gorgeous town. If you are staying in Trapani, it is very easy to take a bus across Via GB Fardella, disembarking at the Erice Funivia. The Cable Car runs into the evening and costs 9 euro to go up and back. Once you get off at the top in Erice, spend time wandering the village streets, shopping for tiles and beautiful pottery, and taking in the impressive views. Visit Pasticceria Maria Grammatico for excellent Sicilian pastries and cannoli, and have a drink at one of the many outdoor cafes. On your way back down to Trapani, enjoy the sweeping views!
This medieval town is a must-visit for the region. The streets are narrow and winding, the views from the edges are fantastic, and the Maria Grammatico Pasticceria is world class. Spend some time browsing the ceramic shops in town and take something home with you!