22 February 2011
Sicily: Away from the Fray
Head off the beaten track in the Sicilian resort of Taormina - and down to the sea.
Taormina is full of easy-to-find treasures tucked in and around its busy central streets. But be sure to leave time for some of the resort's less well-known sights: the fascinating museum of Sicilian rural life in the Palazzo Corvaja, showing everything from bagpipes to small altars, or the Badia Vecchia, a tiny museum of archaeological finds in a 14th century tower.
Ramble through the Parco Duca di Cesarò (main picture), a delightful garden oasis of follies sprinkled among rare and exotic trees and plants, created in 1899 by Lady Florence Trevelyan, a Scotswoman "encouraged" to leave Britain hurriedly after a scandalous affair with the future King Edward VII.
Then succumb to the temptation of the sea far below, all rugged rocks, sandy coves and turquoise water, centred on the resort of Mazzarò and its idyllic twin bays. Better still, stay here in preference to - or in conjunction with - the town above, in the considerable comfort of the Villa Sant'Andrea, which has a beautiful setting right on the water, and rooms that all overlook the sparkling sea.
If you don't stay, then at least dine in the delightful garden, where you can admire sublime views of the bay as you enjoy linguine alle vongole, calmari with capers, or other fish and seafood treats.
In high summer, it might be wise to do little more than enjoy a lunch here and then settle down for a lengthy siesta. But at other times of the year, and especially in spring, when the wild flowers are in bloom and the landscape is at its most verdant, it's time to head out into the countryside and explore.
By Tim Jepson, author of 'The National Geographic Traveler, Sicily' guide.