Sicilian Towns in the East
While in Sicily, our home base was in Fontane Bianche which is a beach town just south of Siracusa. As a result, it was a good jumping off point to visit towns in the northeast and southeast of the island. Given Sicily's diverse history and geography, each town can offer something new and make you feel like you are in a different part of the country, let alone island. With that in mind, it would be very easy to overwhelm yourself by trying to go to too many places...something I often do. So during our six days here, we were able to visit four different towns outside of Siracusa, each one offering up something different.
Taromina: What is probably one of the more sought after towns in all of Sicily, Taromina is built into the side of seaside cliffs just north of Mt. Etna. What feels like the Amalfi coast, it’s no wonder the colorful buildings and breathtaking views draw hordes of visitors.
While it’s known for the Teatro Greco (which you must see...and stop by the Belmond Grand afterwards for a drink on the terrace), which on a clear day has stunning views, just walking around the Main Street is worth a visit alone. Yet given the allure of the town, it can be overwhelmingly crowded; just like parts of the Amalfi Coast. So if you can plan to stay overnight (which we did not), the city would be that much more appealing in the early morning or late evening.
And as a tip, if you are driving, park at the bottom of the town, trying to find a spot higher up is going to be close to impossible.
|Walking through the streets of Taromina|
Noto: Go and go more then once if you can. As your driving southeast, a small Baroque city appears on a hilltop as if it was something out of an Italian novel. While much of what there is to see is consolidated on one long street, there are plenty of side streets to stumble upon.
We stopped here twice, once for a quick pitstop for cannoli and the second for an evening that could have not been scripted better. Given the color and architecture, there may not be a better time to see Noto than at dusk (something my mother told us a number of time) but it appeared to be true once we saw it for ourselves.
For dinner, head to Manna, and don’t be afraid to order a little more than you should. You can’t go wrong with any of the dishes, the ravioli, lamb bolognese, it was all exceptional and made for one of the best meals we had on the trip. And to top it all off, head to the famed Caffe Sicilia right around the corner for anything else your stomach can handle. The cannoli are a must and have now ruined all other cannoli I'll come across but the gelato (almond and ricotta) and granatia are also a must try - a perfect way to end an evening in Noto.
Modica: While Noto shines atop a hill, about 25 minutes south hidden in a valley is the equally impressive Modica. As you drive through the center of town, you’ll neck will start to cramp because you can’t stop looking up.
We came here for lunch one day, more specifically a cooking class by Katia Amore. Similar to Manna, it was one of the best meals we had in Sicily and it was also extremely interesting to get a first hand look into Sicilian life from Katia. Not to mention, having wine on her balcony is an experience you can’t re-create.
Regardless of what you do and where you eat, you should make sure to find a place to take in the views of the city. And then be sure to stop for what Modica is known for, it’s chocolate. Antica Dolceria Bonajuto is located right on the Main Street and has a mean spiced chocolate.
Marzamemi: If you drive close to the southeastern tip of the island, you’ll come across the tiny fishing village of Marzamemi. A few of us drove here on a cloudy afternoon to spend a few hours walking around.
The town is small but quaint and it’s focal point is the 18th century square that resides on the eastern part of town right on the water. There is about a dozen or so restaurants right within the square with the most appealing having outdoor patios right on the sea where waves can crash over onto the side.
|One of the patios at a Marzamemi restaurant|
Unfortunately for us, we had to leave before the evening but after seeing the town, you can only imagine what it’s like on a warm summer evening. My recommendation would be to head for dinner, sit on the water, have a piece of fish and then enjoy what can only be a lively atmosphere in the square after the sun goes down.
|Patio in the main square of Marzamemi|