Sicily is one of those special places where the mountains meet the sea. Mt Etna, nearly as high as New Zealand’s tallest mountain, is a spectacular sight as you drive along the coast towards Taormina, and on a clear day it can probably be seen quite far inland. When it’s not too active, you can hike right up to see the bubbling lava. While I was there it was active and off-limits, but Stromboli — an island volcano — was accessible to hikers on the other side of Sicily, and was highly recommended for a visit.
The Catania region had the most delicious food. Pasta with the freshest vegetables, pizza with torn mozzarella, almond and pistachio desserts, and all very affordable. My favourite was the local dish pasta a la norma or pizza al a norma with aubergines and aged ricotta. I’m going to try and recreate it at home, but am so far struggling to find the aged ricotta. A great excuse to visit an Italian deli.
The sea was cold in early May, but the sun was warm so quick refreshing dips were perfect. There wasn’t much else to do besides eat, swim, and gaze at the gorgeous hilltop views over the bright blue Mediterranean. We walked through the botanic gardens most evenings with views to Etna, hiked up to Castelmola and explored a few beaches. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad up at Etna so we didn’t have the chance to do any more serious walking. Overall, it was a great trip. Next time I’ll rent a car (the drivers were scary though, especially in Catania on a weekday, the weekend was fairly quiet and I would recommend picking up a car at the airport then and avoiding the city centre) and explore the interior as well.