After picking up the hire car from Catania airport, that was a mission! The Italians were very laid back unlike the people trying to pick up their hire cars. After waiting about 90 mins we were on our way. Drive was only about 1 hour, several tolls, not very scenic but not too taxing!
Arrived at our accommodation (after going around the block once!) We booked an apartment in walking distance of the main beaches in Gardini Naxos through http://www.bookings.com. Villa Barbara was amazing, sleeps 3 people, open plan with a massive balcony with views over Gardini Naxos, Etna and Toarmina. Wandered down (quite steep) to the beach front and had a ‘getting-over-the-drive/hire experience well-earned drink’ and #weestop.
Recommend trying the Italian spritzers with Aperol, elderflower and other concoctions. And the beer is pretty nice too! We then thought it was about time for our first proper Italian pizza. Out came Tripadvisor and I found a nearby highly rated pizzeria – Ristorante Pizzeria Spizzicannu. It didn’t disappoint, it was mainly locals (obviously a good sign) and a proper brick pizza oven. This was enough to keep us going for the day so back to the apartment for a swim and nap then sat on the balcony watching the world come to life.
Fortunately for us we there was a religious festival (the Patron Saint Feast Day) taking place therefore a procession with lots of fireworks from about 6pm to 1am. Great atmosphere and lots of action.
Next day we had booked a tour through Getyourguide. It was a 5-hour Etna and wine tasting tour with lunch. It was fantastic, highly recommend. Only fault was it was about 30 mins late picking us up and we waited at the bottom of our driveway in the heat. Once on our way the driver was very knowledgeable and told us about Sicily history and Etna. Arrived at the winery, Patria, to be greeted with a glass of prosecco then off on our tour with a lovely host. We were shown the cellars, bottling etc then over to the restaurant for tastings and ‘nibbles’. We tried 5 different wines and had masses of nibble from olives, bread, home produced salami, artichokes, cheese etc. Yum it was lovely, and we were told what to pair with which wine. The group were lovely with a German, 3 Dutch and 2 Australians. After the tastings it was a short ride for lunch … the nibbles had been pretty substantial but lunch was lots more food and delicious as well. It was a local restaurant and food was lots of sharing dishes of Sicilian delights. We enjoyed mushrooms, aubergine, pasta … it kept coming but even when we were full it was so good we kept eating. Then back to the van to return to our accommodation.
After a relaxing afternoon trying to wear off the lunch we decided to stroll into Gardini Naxos for some drinks #weestop and see if we could manage some dinner. Well we had light dinner of grilled fish and some veal roll. Very tasty and nice setting overlooking the sea.
Next morning was a light breakfast in the apartment then packed up the car ready for our next destination. Watch the space for the third part of our Sicilian adventure in Cefalu.
• Top tips: try Pasta a la Norma – Sicilian vegetarian yum! Favourite dish of our driver!
• Next time: spend a couple more night to see Toarmina and some time on the beach!