Photography and words: Julie Adams
Being in love with Italy means I happily embrace travelling long distances with small children, but every time I do it, I learn a little more, do it a little differently. This year, it’s fair to say we holidayed like the Italians and we loved it! Lucky for us we were in great hands holidaying with dear Italian friends. The days began leisurely with a civilized lie in, followed by a cafe and brioche at the bar, then a long lazy day at the beach, home for a spritz, a late dinner in the piazza, a relaxing passeggiata for granita, before falling into bed and doing it all over again. This recipe was such a success that it made a two week holiday feel like three.
We indulged in this beautiful holiday in an incredible part of the world called Scicli, a baroque town in Southeast Sicily. Scicli is like stepping back in time; the romantic narrow cobble stone streets, the elegant architecture, the couple selling green beans from the back of their three-wheeled ape, the boys playing football outside the church – it was like being on a film set. I must admit though pinpointing this authentic Sicilian town didnt happen by chance. It was thanks to our friend Simone, an architect, who had just finished a renovation in Scicli and invited us all to stay.
Apart from being a fascinating town in itself, Scicli is also a wonderful base from which to enjoy the Southeast corner of Sicily and in our case, go in search of the perfect beach. In times gone by this perfect beach would be in a national park, with a good hike and a few cliff faces involved but with four kids in tow under the age of six (not all mine!) the benchmark for perfect had somewhat changed. As little as 10 minutes away we found Sampieri, La Spiagetta, Aziz and Donnalucata all very unique beaches and perfect for the days we wanted to mix in some sight seeing with our beach time. Although we did do the adventure through the national park (strollers and all) it was admittedly the full service Italian beach club of Agua in San Lorenzo that stole our heart.
Agua is the perfect Italian family beach club experience. Firstly the water here is absolutely crystal clear and seems to go on forever. It is very busy but the crowd is all Italian and very family friendly. The sunbeds and umbrellas dont come cheap, but they are totally worth it especially when you manage to get the little ones to take a mid day nap! There is a relaxed restaurant and bar with a carefree ambience offering everything from a quick espresso or granita to locally caught tuna and fresh salads.
Dinner was another major point of interest and Sicily has an amazing selection of restaurants to choose from. Our friends took us to their favourite restaurant La Cialoma in Marzamemi, a beautiful seafood restaurant with a fairytale setting. You can either choose to sit on one of the tables that spill onto the crumbling piazza or you can dine on the stunning back terrace which has uninterrupted views of the sea. The restaurant is charmingly styled with colourful glassware, eclectic crockery, turquoise chairs, pot plants and herbs. The menu is simple and seasonal; the grilled mixed fish was superb as was the pasta con sarde. Another favourite dining experience was Satra, only a short stroll from our house in Scicli. We all sat at a little table in the piazza almost in silence as the food was so good we could hardly bare to stop eating. The tagliata di manzo was so tender it literally melted in your mouth. Not only was the food exceptional but the service was so warm and friendly the owner Rita even offer visits to her fabulous herb garden in the hills.
Among all this beaching and eating we did manage a few days trips. One of my favourite destinations being the island of Ortigia, in the historical heart of Siracusa. A walk around the edge of the island is the perfect way to really appreciate its beauty before delving into the bountiful tree lined streets, which resemble bouquets of flowers framing the road. Visiting the Duomo and Chiesa di Santa Maria alla Badia are an absolute must and if you have a soft spot for Cannoli be sure to visit Pasticceria Artale. Im still thinking about it!
Other places that shouldnt be missed are Ragusa, particularly to see the absolutely breathtaking sunset from Ragusa Ibla. Modica is renowned for being a food lover’s paradise. Make sure to visit Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, Modicas oldest chocolate shop and quite possibly the best chocolate I have ever tasted. And of course the very elegant city of Noto makes for a very inspiring day trip…
To see the full story on An Affair With Italy, click here.