With our oldest starting reception in September we wanted to take advantage of going away during term time without having to take out a second mortgage. Somehow, I managed to get tickets to Sicily for £200 for 2 adults and 2 kids (plus extra for a check in luggage). The flight times were not ideal - arriving at 7pm local time and returning around 11pm but for £200 I booked it!
See our previous blogs for ideas on how to make travelling with young children as smooth as possible
Tip for evening arrivals: make sure you have enough food for your kids in case your flight is delayed. We had planned to stop off at the supermarket on the way to the villa then cook a quick pasta for dinner but due to our delay I literally had 5 minutes to dash around the supermarket the size of gatwick to get some essentials. My poor babies only had bread to fill their bellies before they passed out in the car and slept til the morning.
We flew into Catania on the eastern side and stayed half an hour south of the capital in Syracuse.
How good is your driving?
Hiring a car is a must to get around the island easily and we hired a spacious citroen. Car hire is relatively inexpensive but don't forget to buy extra insurance to reduce the excess. Prepare yourself for Italian driving. It's definitely not for the faint-hearted. In town the roads are narrow, so narrow they were barely wide enough for our car. It made us wish we hired a fiat 500 instead. We brought our own kids' car seats. It's a bit of a mission between the car and airport but we use car seat holdalls that are huge. The secret here is that you can stuff it full with things like towels, coats and jumpers that doesn't count towards your checked in luggage :)
Our villa host kindly aerated our apartment for us. Unfortunately this invitation extended to the hungry mosquitoes outside. Somehow it slipped my mind that Sicily would have mosquitos. Boy was this the worse slip ever! After our first night I realised the mistake I made. I was breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let's just say I didn't look the prettiest of sights. My face, arms and legs had swellings the size of mini tennis balls. Do not start scratching once you've been bitten because once you start you just can't stop. Easier said than done. I couldn't resist and my bites were the bain of the holiday.
Fortunately Sicily had plenty of pharmacies even in their small towns and they are well stocked with insect repellents.
We took multiple day trips along the eastern coast of Sicily and one of them was to the beautiful active volcano of Mount Etna. The trip up to the base of the lift was wonderful. The stop off points were so picturesque. When we arrived There are several shops selling souvenirs at the base of the lift and a few restaurants with debateable food so we definitely recommend you to bring your own food and just sit outside and enjoy the view. The cable car was quite expensive - around 35 euros per person but the ride was fun for the kids and the view was spectacular. You have to get another ticket at the base if you want to reach the peak by coach and then a 4x4 which we didn't think was quite suitable for the boys. I was yet again unprepared, honestly this is very unlike me :), I didn't bring quite the right footwear for the trek and had quite flimsy canvas shoes for the walk at the top. It was quite dusty and the ground slippery but I managed to wear my little one on my back as he was getting quite tired and needed a nap. I did get quite a few looks with my attire and a 2 year old on my back walking around the top of a mountain. Mums can do anything.
Tip: the top of Mount Etna can get a bit chilly so be prepared with layers and even a windproof jacket.
Go crazy for gelato
How many gelatos can you have in a week? You just can't not have gelato when you're in Italy. We managed it every single day! The kids had a field day. It was so useful to have gelato as a weapon when the kids were playing up. I knew we'd have one anyway as I LOVE ice cream but I would blackmail them that they would not have any ice cream when they were misbehaving. It worked.
Noto is a small town in southeastern Sicily. The roads are small so parking can be a bit hairy but the small town is a real treat. The clean streets and baroque architecture were a great combination for the kids to roam around. The local restaurants served amazing food. All very family friendly and Gusto Gourmet served the best gelato cone I've tasted so far.
Sand, sea and sun
Sicily has a lot of beautiful beaches. There are rocky, pebble and soft sandy beaches so there is something for everyone. For the kids sandy beaches were what we were looking for but you do have to know where to look for them. However sandy beaches are not on every corner so you have to search for them. This link has a great list of sandy beaches.
Taormina and amphitheatre
A chic hilltop town Taormina is known for the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theater that is still used today. The town is expensive and busy, full of tourists and people watchers. The trip is worth it just for visiting for the amphitheatrea alone. The view from the top is breathtaking.
Food glorious food
I don't think you can ever have a bad meal in Sicily. Everywhere we ate was either simple but delicious fresh pasta or seafood. They seem to try to encorporate aubergine in their local cuisine but there's plenty of other dishes without if you're not a fan. Here's a list of places that are worth a visit:
Catania: A putia dell'Ostello - local eats (there's a natural cave in the restaurant) £
Catania: Trattoria Giglio - local eats (fresh and delicious) £
Catania: Comis Ice Cafè - ice cream £
Catania: Trattoria del Cavaliere - local eats ££
Bruculi: Stravento ristorante - fresh seafood ££
Noto: Putia del Coppo - streetfood £
Noto: Esperia Pizzeria - posh pizzeria ££
Noto: Picnic - vegetarian and vegan (and fresh fruit) with a charming guitar playing and singing waiter £
Noto: Trattoria La Carretteria- local eats ££
Taormina: Rosso Peperoncino local eat ££
We only had a week here and I'm not one to go back to the same place twice but Sicily has so much more to discover. I will definitely add that to one of my 'must return' list. The beautiful weather, scenery, history and food and very child friendly