For the first few days we were in Sicily last summer, we stuck close to the coast. Not only did SVV live in these parts for three very formative years in his 20s, but honestly, who wants to be in the Mediterranean in July and not have easy access to water? The heat there was no joke. (Good thing I love the heat.)
Per the norm, I spent months prior perusing Airbnb, creating wishlists and bookmarking properties. Surprisingly, though, there weren’t a lot to be found on the rustic Italian isle (or at least not too many up to our standards). Instead, we based where we stayed at night upon where we could find a decent place. Because outside of Taormina—the ritzy resort town that was a wee bit (a lot) out of our price range—Sicily was a pretty low-budge destination.
Which is how we found ourselves in Riposto the first day, at a quaint bed and breakfast I found via TripAdvisor; initially, we booked just a single night, but we found the place and its owners—who barely spoke a word of English, but tried oh-so-hard—just so charming, that we came back at the end of our trip and stayed another. And you just can’t beat 80 euro for a comfortable night’s stay and a full breakfast for two.
I’d like to think you would have agreed once you witnessed this view of Mount Etna at breakfast each morning.
This location also enabled us to spend some time exploring the area around Aci Castello, where SVV once called home. Don’t you feel sorry for him? (As well you should.)
But first came Acireale, where we stopped to walk around and see some old, crumbling buildings. Fabulous remnants of multiple conquerors and their monuments to the gods, the sea and everything in between are everywhere to be seen. Churches with multiple layers of sects, burn marks and towering minarets above a Roman Catholic church are normal.
As are the bones of saints yanked from their resting places multiple times per year to celebrate, and let’s be honest, grant wishes.
Volcanic rock seems to be the theme around these parts so bring good shoes to find that sheltered slab of cooled black basalt for the requisite sunbathing opps you’ll find along this relatively untouched part of Europe.
Next on down the coast after Acireale was Aci Trezza, the town bordering Aci Castello (honestly, I couldn’t really figure out where one Aci ended and the next began).
This fabulous little slice of turquoise coast seemed a popular swimming hole with the locals. Sicily is odd in that it’s a “beach” destination—without any (or rather, many) beaches. And unlike Hawaii, where there are beaches, they’re just made of ground up bits of volcanic rock, many of the Sicilian beaches are just straight-up rock outcroppings.
Finally, we made it up into the hills of Aci Castello to see if SVV’s three-bedroom villa was still standing. Indeed, it was there in all its glory, perched like a prince over the Mediterranean. He sure had it rough in the military, huh?
I wanted to go knock and see if we could get a tour, but he thought that would be a little creepy. I’d also like to point out that while he was living it up abroad in the Navy, I was … just starting high school. So yeah, there’s that.
Still, it was cool to see a peek into a past life of his that didn’t involve me. We even stopped in for lunch at the rotisserie at the bottom of his hill where he used to get lunch regularly. It was still every bit as delicious as it was back then, he claims.
Sicily seemed our first change to sit back, breathe and go about exploring with no agenda in mind. And after quite the ambitious itinerary in Rome and on our Adriatic cruise, this change of pace was exactly what we needed.