Waking up in Sicily, just outside of historic Syracuse, with bright sunshine beaming through the painted blue window shutters, fresh coffee, fruit and croissants in the breakfast room below, and the kids still snoring away in their own room, I desperately didn’t want our Sicily break to ever end. I struggle to sleep right through the night at the best of times and never, if rarely, get to sleep-in past 7am. So waking naturally around 8am, having slept with the windows open, listening to the distant waves and a breeze between the trees, was literally ‘living the dream‘.
Mornings in Sicily are the laziest and loveliest of ways to start any day.
If you read my latest Sicily post on how I easily managed with taking hand-luggage only then you’ll also know that we booked this holiday very last minute, and what made us choose Sicily again was purely because we’d had such a lovely time the previous year and we had so much more to see and explore.
Sicily needs more than one visit to fully understand and experience everything it has to offer. It’s completely different to any other part of Italy I’ve ever visited and it would be a shame to never experience it.
“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything” said German writer Goethe in 1787
Why I love Sicily
Sicily, to me, is still widely untouched by many and lots of the traditional towns, villages, lidos and beaches are still in the same state they were some 20, 30 years ago. The character of Sicily is unlike no other, the crumbling but pretty buildings unique, the smell of olive oil and garlic is amazing (food is what matters the most), the people are utterly welcoming, and the sunsets will make you never want to leave.
Sicily is just perfect, and I think European summers are the best. The need to travel long-haul is just so unnecessary during July/August when we have such easy access to such beautiful places.
There’s a reason Italians choose to holiday here every summer.
You’ll find fruit stands on roadside corners, families gathering in the street, festivals still happening year-on-year and fisherman still sailing in the same boats that their fathers, grandfathers and relatives before sailed in. Dare I say I find Sicilians to be a little more reserved than many Italians?
Sicily is quaint, ‘real’ and a place to go where you need to totally escape from all your stresses, worries and somewhere you can totally unwind and relax.
Especially when you find amazing apartments like the ones at Borgo Marino.
I’ve got so much to write about where we went in Sicily, what towns we loved and what beaches we lazed on, but I’m skipping all those for now and getting to the best part, Borgo Marino hotel. Our very last stop of the holiday and the very best hotel come ‘home away from home‘ I’ve ever stayed in.
Where is this amazing hotel?
High up on a hill, Borgo Marino looks down to the coast and is accessed by a picturesque mountain road. From the moment I dropped the car into second gear, crawled up the steep hill breathing in the mountain air I knew this hotel was going to special
We parked the car down a cobbled side street and one of the owners were standing by the gate waving to us with a big smile and I instantly knew that we were going to be happy here.
Check in was in the breakfast room: swift, informative and all very relaxed.
It’s hard to explain this hotel, you need to see it to fully understand how it works. There’re around 10 apartments, one central courtyard, a swimming pool, and it’s totally silent. Aside from the odd laugh from one of the children or the hotel-dog barking at one of the little lizards scurrying past, but it doesn’t feel like you ‘have to’ be quiet, if that makes sense?
There’s no real worry about the kids splashing and screaming in the pool, no pretentious people scowling when one of them ‘bombs’ in the deep-end. Everyone here just does their own thing, no disapproving glances, no judging.
We were all there for the same reason, and that’s why it works.
Nothing fancy, but…
The apartments themselves are very traditional. A large King Size bed for us. Two twin beds for the teens. Though small, the kitchen was extremely well-equipped with a stove, sink, fridge-freezer, coffee-pot, ample cutlery and all manner of cooking pans. There’s also a small bathroom, and a terrace.
Everything we needed to hole-up, sleep and make the perfect place for relaxing and seeing the South-East side of the island.
Located around 10km just outside of Siracasu, the most famous and largest of the baroque cities of the South, we were ideally located for exploring… if we could tear ourselves away from the countryside views for a few hours.
The beds were very comfortable, the wardrobes antique and roomy, the towels were fluffy and plentiful, and the toiletries were very welcome.
Our beds were made each day and the apartment spruced up whilst we were by the pool.
Breakfast was a generous display of healthy (and not so healthy) scrumptious home-made sweet and savoury items made with fresh local produce and herbs.
Whether you choose a sinfully delicious breakfast of stuffed pastries and creamy coffee there’s also variations of different fruit every day, local cheeses, freshly squeezed juices, and ‘real’ espresso completed the morning choices. White tablecloths graced each table and by the second morning I felt comfortable enough to wander down in my most casual of clothes barefooted and still sleepy.
That’s how chilled this place is. There’s nothing too fancy, it’s just not needed and just wouldn’t work. It’s more than basic, it’s simple done well. Very well.
Places like this remind me that we don’t need a lot to be happy. Simple days with our families and friends are what make the days we spend together the most memorable.
The Sicilians do this better than most.
The staff here are the most engaging and helpful hosts I’ve ever come across. Speaking various languages including perfect English and French they also make an amazing coffee, which you can order whenever you fancy throughout the day, and no question or request was ever too much. They made us feel very welcome, at-ease, and very like we could make ourselves at home.
We often chatted to them in the courtyard and received advice about which lesser-known lidos to visit. We’d have never have been able to park in Ortigia if they hadn’t told us about a secret little street to drive to.
A car is necessary to fully enjoy the surrounding area. But I think that about anywhere in Sicily. I did all the driving and I am going to cover this in another post, but from what I’ve gathered the public transport services in Sicily are not the best. I imagine, quite erratic, and the taxis can be pricey.
We’d stop by the local supermarket every now and then to stock up on supplies. By supplies I mean; bread, cheese, Prosciutto for the two carnivores, the reddest tomatoes you’ll ever see and lots of freshly made pizza slices. Each time I hunted in my bag for some Euros I was pleasantly surprised by how little it all cost.
Ortygia, a lovely island across a small bridge, where you’ll find the mainland food market, is where you need to go for your veggies though. You’ll find stacks and stacks of glorious brightly coloured fruit and veg. Some of which I had no idea what they were, but I wanted to try so bad. In the end we’d choose our favourites. Pile everything back in the car and pick and choose what we fancied, when we fancied it.
Unable to resist the turquoise sparkling sea we could reach a beach within 10 minutes. We drove to Syracuse and Ortygia within 15 minutes. Ventured out to Marzamemi, drove past Noto, visited the Greek Amphitheatre, National Parks, and drove through towns that I have no idea of their names. We had so many options of things to do (but didn’t get round to seeing) that I’d absolutely love to, or in fact need to, come back and stay here again.
One thing I did notice is that Sicilians really do respond in a nicer way when you speak Italian. Whilst they do have their own dialect, a simple “Buongiorno”, “Grazie” or “Ciao” goes a long way.
The simplest of things can bring the most happiness. You can find this hotel on Booking.com right here…