There are places that are unique because of their history, culture and gastronomy, where engaging travel experiences can be had even out of the busy summer season. One of these is Taormina, in the province of Messina. The view from above includes the bay of Naxos, with Etna in the background, a unique sight that has been fascinating visitors and tourists since ancient times.
During the winter months you can ski here while admiring the sea. Or you can go to the Bottoniera, a series of exhtinct craters on the side of the volcano, after a walk through birch and conifer forests.
You can end the walk with a traditional aperitif: sparkling wine, toasted pistachios, prickly pears, almonds and the local small apples. It is an original experience organised by Valeria Càrastro and Mauro Castorina with their Etna Wine Lab.
Going down to the valley, you must visit the numerous wine producers in the area to taste and enjoy unusual types, which are as intense as the land, and produced by indigenous or ancient vines. Worthy of note are the Carricante and A’ Puddara varietals from Tenuta di Fessina, and also the Guardiola Nerello Mascalese varietal from Cusumano.
In Motta Camastra, a group of women open up their kitchens, creating a village-wide restaurant
In winter, Taormina is more quieter, but that does not make it any less welcoming, and the traditional stroll along the main street can be a real pleasure.
Anyone wanting to try out Sicilian gastronomy has a wide choice of places that are open at Christmas time: Kisté Easy Gourmet, which is hidden away at the feet of the Cathedral, La Capinera by Pietro D'Agostino, an award-winning restaurant that is practically on the beach and Villa Antonio, in an elegant and refined 20th century residence.
Places to stay include the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, where the world’s leaders stayed during the last G7 summit, and where they appreciated the cuisine from executive chef Roberto Toro. From Donald Trump to Emmanuel Macron, not forgetting Angela Merkel – they all seduced by his specialities.
Another charming place is the B&B di Porta di Mezzo, looking onto the city centre and emanating a vintage atmosphere. Impeccable elegance can also be found at the Duomo Rooms & Flats, nestled amongst alleyways that are speckled with boutiques.
Here is a suggestion for a trip nearby. The direction to take is the Alcantara Valley, which is celebrated for the Gole natural site. The end destination is the small municipality of Motta Camastra, perched on the slopes of the mountain. This is where the association Le Mamme del Borgo was founded, a group of women who open up their kitchens and houses to create a village-wide restaurant.
At Signora Mimma’s place you can try antipasti like caponata, marinated cauliflower and aubergine, accompanied by pettole, traditional balls of fried pasta. Antonella and Carmen are experts in preparing home-made pasta and maccheroni tirati al ferretto. But you can also try meatballs cooked in lemon leaves, local lamb and walnut dessert. Clients move from one house to another for a gastronomic experience that is both original and full of human warmth.
“Fewer than 600 people live here, and there is a danger that many will leave,” says Mariangela Currò, who organised the group. “With our initiative we bring life to the village, even outside the summer period. The products that we use are all local and we give a bit of work to farmers.” It is a combination of street food and social eating which is enjoying great success.
I borghi delle Feste
Da Vipiteno (BZ) a Borgio Verezzi (SV), piccoli centri del Nord Italia raggiungibili in treno che durante il Natale si trasformano in fiabe invernali
Luci d’Artista a Torino e Salerno
Fino a metà gennaio, installazioni luminose trasformano le due città in musei a cielo aperto. Da ammirare con lo sguardo all’insù