For first time visitors to Sicily there are so many options that is can feel overwhelming. Regulars to the Italian island will have already found their perfect spot, however research alone won’t get you very far if you don’t know the area. Here’s why a villa stay can give you an authentic experience and help you feel like a local in no time at all.
Have your own adventure in Sicily with Culture Trip’s spectacular experience that takes you from Mount Etna to the markets of Palermo.
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Sicily has always been a popular holiday destination. The island feels like a microcosm of everything we love about Italy but still manages to have a unique aura that many find irresistible. As someone who has seen more movies and TV shows than I care to remember, I also know that filmmakers are obsessed with the place. Most recently the second season of The White Lotus captured the perfect summer vacation on screen – with a dose of death and mayhem thrown in, obviously. I decided I wanted to see the island for myself, but wanted to do it in style, and that’s where the idea for a villa stay popped into my head.
Where to stay in Sicily
Bellasia with its fantastic seafront location, gorgeous facilities and a chic and comfortable design is exactly what I had pictured in my mind. The property was once the location for many great parties in the 1960s and Greta Garbo is known to have visited the villa many times with her friends. One of the benefits of this type of stay is that you can bring your own friends and family too and recreate whatever type of holiday you want.
The villa is in Letojanni, right on the sea shore. While it dates back to the 1830s, today Bellasia has been lovingly restored with a pool, private access to the beach and even a heated jacuzzi if that’s your sort of thing.
The rooms are scattered across the large property so you can pick a nice, cosy room and stay close to loved ones or opt to put the noisy members of the family in separate buildings. This also works greats if you’re going away with friends as there is enough privacy to get some time away from the group when needed, but also a great sense of shared living with the large garden and outdoor dining tables.
Things to do in Sicily
As I was about to find out, the island is pretty big. You can get around by train if you want, but many people drive here. Its a great option away from peak season, but be prepared for long traffic jams in the summer. I knew the villa I was staying in was close to Taormina, the location of the main hotel from The White Lotus, but I had to plan a few other things before heading off to do some setjetting.
You can opt to have your meals cooked for you at the villa, but a fun way of doing this – and feeling like you’re actually taking part – is an in-person cookery class. You’ll get to hear about local cuisine from an expert, sample ingredients from the region and even make your own pasta! Don’t worry, with the watchful gaze of someone who has been doing this for decades, you can’t go wrong.
I had to leave the villa sometime on my trip and fancied something a bit more adventurous. Mount Etna is a looming presence on the island and there are many stories around the volcano. You can book a jeep tour to see it and the guide will also fill you in on the many myths, legends and true details around the iconic landmark. Its best to chose a half-day option if you’re not too keen on hiking and always pack for changeable weather. At that height, the weather can do crazy things.
With places like Catania and Palermo a fair distance away, if you’re on a short trip, like I unfortunately was, you won’t get to see everything. I’m not going to need much encouragement to come back, especially as our drive back from the slopes of Etna took me to a small village where I am convinced I found the perfect house for one euro.
Anyway with one day left, it was time to head to Taormina and the real-life setting of The White Lotus.
A day trip to Taormina
Perched on one of the craggy cliffs overlooking the Ionian Sea, the town of Taormina has a picturesque main street with tight alleys that climb at steep inclines. You can get around very easily and its probably best to take a taxi or bus rather then drive. Parking is limited and you’ll likely end up having to leave the car in a designated area and get a shuttle bus in anyway.
If you’re looking for the hotel from the series, you’ll need to head to the Four Seasons. This stood in for titular White Lotus and from the outside there are a number of details that remain identical to those you’ve seen on screen. The weary staff now know how to deal with tourists just looking for the perfect selfie and are actually happy to indulge (up to a point). You’ll need to be staying at the hotel or at least have a booking at the restaurant if you want to step inside, however, and that’s where your dedication to the cause will be tested.
Its also worth noting that the rooms inside are not exactly the same as those that featured in the HBO series and there’s no easy access to the beach as implied by the show either. Those scenes were filmed elsewhere so you’ll have to make do with a pool with a view instead.
One thing that you will recognise are the streets of Taormina. One of the characters regularly takes morning jogs here and you feel that energy too as you hunt for the perfect cannoli to go with your arancini. This is a great way to spend a relaxing day whilst doing a few of the obligatory touristy things we all secretly love doing. Be sure to check out the ancient theatre if the queues aren’t too long and take a few detours for the best restaurants.
As I made my way back to my nearby villa on my final night in Sicily, I was glad that I had a relaxing jacuzzi and home-cooked meal waiting for me. You don’t get that at the Four Seasons…
Bellasia’s whole property has 7 rooms and sleeps 16 guests. It is available through Villatravellers from 7,550 EUR / £6,562 per week, call 0044 (0)20 3608 4505
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