After two very long years of travel restrictions and border closures, travel to Europe is really back in full swing – just in time for our autumn travel hotlist (see last year’s edition here)! In the first days of the pandemic, Italy was one of the countries hardest hit by Covid-19, but since June this year the borders have been open without restrictions. That means even if you only want to visit the peninsula for a few days between trips, you can do so without having to quarantine on arrival or take a single Covid test. And as a result of these relaxed restrictions combined with flights being canceled like crazy this autumn, travel throughout Europe in general and Italy in particular will be huge this year.
Italy is full of towns and little villages worth visiting – Rome, Venice and Milan spring to mind – but few offer such a condensed experience as Sicily. Great beaches, beautiful geography, ancient ruins and amazing food. Sicily has everything you could hope to find on the mainland, all in 15,000 square kilometers. But if you want to visit the island from the start, you need some great recommendations to start your journey.
To provide a well informed guide we met up with locals who know the area well, the electronic duo Mathame. Few artists make music as dreamy, structured and otherworldly as these Italian electronic beatmakers. The duo, consisting of brothers Amedeo and Matteo Giovanelli, create cinematic and moody electronic soundscapes that transport the listener through a world of icy arpeggiated synths, heavily processed vocals and emotionally driving beats, as best exemplified by their latest single, Come For You “ is illustrated. ”
The duo cite their hometown, Mount Etna, Sicily, as a major source of inspiration for their sound, which makes perfect sense as Mathame makes music that is sometimes sparse before exploding into something enchanting, moving and highly emotional. I’ve never seen a volcano erupt, but if I did, I’d like the moment to be set to music by this band. We’ve teamed up with the brothers to learn more about Sicily’s hidden gems and some travel suggestions when you’re on the island.
The best place in Sicily to eat something?
La Vecchia Posta
In Sicily, food is the answer. But the Etna area is special because raw ingredients from the ground are filled with volcanic ash, which is full of nutrients for vegetables. So imagine ready-to-cook veggies — that’s why everything is so sweet and full of flavor. If we talk about meat and fish: for meat, the Etna community had a very particular way of cooking meat, like Etna’s wild boar, but the king is the fish: at the foot of Mount Etna.
Our favorite place is La Vecchia Postain Mascali, the best fish on the whole slope.
Best place to enjoy the sights/nature?
Valle del Bove
However, nature is the undisputed queen. On this side of Sicily nature is not what you would expect from a sea island, the volcano is a different place. Lunar landscape, forests, big lava rocks, it’s one of the places in the world where you can ski and see the sea at the same time. The best spots are Valle del Bove, the craters, Nicolosi and Linguagloss – where nature seems to disappear but at the same time pulsates with huge volcanic eruptions and snow.
These are actually mystical places where absence reveals the presence of something infinitely greater.
The best place in Sicily to eat a pizza
Delizi del Palato
Sicily is about a different type of pizza, very different from Neapolitan pizza. Here it is made with semolina, a substitute for wheat that is stronger and wilder. So you can find different pizzas, fried pizzas and many versions of street food. There are many pizzerias on this side of Sicily, but where we connect is Pizza Pino.
As every Italian knows, there’s no way to judge the best pizza: it just doesn’t exist. For us, the best pizza is something very subjective. Usually, the best pizza is the one you eat every week and are most connected to. That’s why this pizzeria – next to our previous house – is the best in Sicily!
The best place to get lost and hike?
There are so many places to get lost and wander. For example, the hinterland gives a glimpse of time and out of this world, arid desert and just a few villages very similar to each other with farms and herds of cows.
You get lost there and you lose time, it seems frozen at the beginning of the century.
What must a visitor to Sicily have experienced?
Visit the Aeolian Islands
Definitely you should definitely visit the Aeolian Islands, one day but absolutely worth it, this is the place where the Mediterranean Sea and the volcanoes are in a unique and absolute setting. The hidden gem, on the other hand, is the Alcantara Gorges, a river near the sea with rapids and a Mexican cenote landscape where you can spend a whole day adventuring and ranting very wildly on the rapids.
Where are the best places to stay in the area and why?
An agriturismo on Etna
To stay for a rougher experience instead of Taormina (a bit touristy) we would suggest a family run agriturismo on the east Etna side where you can relax, watch the volcano and wait for the next eruption, experience good food and sleep perfectly with the proverbial hospitality of a Sicilian family. You will see that hospitality is a religion here.
From dawn to dusk, describe the perfect itinerary through Sicily.
Live the Etna lifestyle
A typical day would be waking up by the sea, enjoying the forested beach of Calatabiano, San Marco, and then enjoying a lunch of fresh fish straight from the fish market. Rest by the sea and hike to Etna in the afternoon with your cameras and video equipment. You will have an amazing experience, but you will need a local guide (there are many) who can take you to the next level of the hiking session. And then the Etna tour will make you hungry, so when you descend from the craters, stop in the evening and refresh yourself with the family kitchen of the Etna Agriturismi where you can sleep under the stars.