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Sicilia, Italy's Uncharted Splendor

Sicily is the largest of the Italian islands, it is one of the pearls of Southern Italy and can be discovered, understood and experienced through a series of itineraries dedicated to areas of interest ranging from nature to history and traditions. The island as a whole is a place where once you visit, you are immediately seduced by its beauty, food, culture and people.

We chose the road less traveled for our week long adventure there, straying from the "touristic route" along the western cape of the island, and took on the southeastern coastline to see what the uncharted local gems had in store for us.

From hushed hillside vineyards to historic seaside castles to posh season getaways, Sicily holds all the components to Italian splendor. Mind you, with its lack of touristic takeover meant that it also had that many holes in its navigational bearings; setting us up for a wild ride on more backroads than one. Here is the route we traveled...

Giarre + Catania

Sleep: Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa

Eat + Drink: La Bottega di Crescenzio (Top rated pizza's in Travel and Leisure Magazine)

Explore: Sit back, relax and soak up the beauty of the local grounds away from the touristic rush. In the late afternoon, take bikes or drive your car through the village of Fiumefreddo di Sicilia to see its architecture, quiet life, and gorgeous look through views from mountain to sea.

Taormina - Mount Etna

Sleep: Sike Holiday Home to Chill

Eat + Drink: La Napoletana* and Timoleone Cafe for cocktails

Explore: In Taormina, starting up in the sky in the Teatro Antico di Taormina is a MUST! Then stroll through old town to the grounds of the Belmond Grand Hotel where you can stop for cocktails, and finish down at the sea near Stretto di Isola Bella and the Grotta Azzura for a swim. In Mount Etna, if you have enough time within your travel agenda, I highly recommend making your way to the rim of the volcano, but if you're more of the relaxed type with a half day to spare, pick a couple of the many gorgeous wineries spread across the volcanic region to sip in silence and watch the sun fall over the sea direction Catania. Top winery recommendations, BENANTI, Barone di Villagrande, Gambino Vini, Tenuta Chiuse de Signore, and Fischetti. You truly can't go wrong anywhere!

Syracuse - Isola di Ortigia

Sleep: Charme Hotel Henry's House

Eat + Drink: Coffee and cake from NonnAnge Bakery + Area M for food and cocktails with a view

Explore: Walk the old streets in central Isola di Ortigia then make your way around the entire perimeter passing by the Marina and along the Syracuse Faculty of Architecture at the Universita degli Studi di Catania. Once you leave Isola di Ortigia, stop to see Teatro Greco on your way out of the city.

Milazzo - We only parked our rental car here and strolled the town briefly before jumping on a ferry to the Aeolian Islands. If you have the time, drive out to Piscina di Venere (Pools of Venus) at the point; the coastal crystal clear pools, edged by rocks, at the tip of the peninsula is accessed by a scenic footpath.

Aeolian Islands - Panarea, Stromboli

Sleep: Hotel Lisca Bianca, Panarea

Eat + Drink: Trattoria Da Paolino + Raya at Hotel Raja for cocktails at sunset

Explore: Panarea, the perfect Santorini-like getaway, start with a short hike through town over and down to Spiaggia della Calcara and then spend a day or two hiking the other side near Cala Junco* up and over the mountain towards Spiaggia di Cala Junco. We did a day trip to Stromboli to hike up the active volcano; this is a must! The views over the island grow in beauty the higher you get, and the ground beneath you is steaming from the hot earth below. What an amazing experience! When you finish back in town, stop at Da Giovanni Ristorante for amazing bites and even better rooftop views over town to the sea.

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