Take the pace down a notch or two with holidays to Santa Venerina. This bucolic Sicilian town, on the vine-clad slopes of the mighty Mount Etna, runs to a timetable set by Mother Nature.
A Sicilian delicacy
On the south-eastern slopes of Mount Etna, Santa Venerina is a deliciously relaxed Sicilian town edged by terraced vineyards and virgin woods. It’s best known as one of the Cities of Wine, but makes all kinds of artisanal products. The range covers limoncello and grappa, bottled at the local distillery, to almond biscuits and cakes on sale at the local shops. Plus, it’s in striking distance of Mount Etna’s smoking peaks, as well as some of the best beaches on Sicily’s east coast.
The focal point of the town is Piazza Roma, where the stately Church of Santa Venera towers over pastel-coloured buildings. Leading off the square is Via Vittorio Emmanuele, the main artery, where restaurants, small boutiques and an exquisite pastry shop can be found. There are several 18th-century churches of interest, like Chiesa Madre and Chiesa di Bongiardo. And shining a spotlight on traditional crafts is the Museo del Palmento, located in a renovated farmhouse.
The closest beach is at Santa Tecla, 15 minutes’ drive away. It’s a compact swathe of dark volcanic sand and gravel, framed by dramatic mountain peaks. The set-up is fairly basic, so you’ll need to bring your own towels and parasol, though the promenade is lined with shops and restaurants. Slightly further away, in Fiumefreddo, is Blue Flag-winning Marina di Cottone Beach. This 9-kilometre pebble sweep has a steady supply of restaurants and bars, and is popular with families.
Close to Catania
Cosmopolitan Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city, is 30 minutes away by car. It’s knee-deep in history, with sights like the Catania Cathedral, the Aci Castle, and a roll call of Baroque palaces and churches. Plus, it’s got a busy cultural calendar of contemporary art, live music and opera, making it an exciting place to spend an evening.
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