Travel to Sicily: the multiple pleasures of Palermo to Taormina
The Italian island adapts to all tastes and all groups, whether they are passionate about history, lovers of magnificent landscapes or lovers of gourmet cuisine. Not to be missed also Syracuse, Agrigento.
To understand Italy, you have to know Sicily, "said Goethe. Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Normans and Aragonese shaped this mosaic land for four thousand years. Like them, it is through cities that we make it On the condition that the island is so large (300 kilometers from east to west), you can focus on a region or a theme depending on the group (steering committee, reward trip) and participants (scholars, athletes or epicureans) so as not to come back exhausted.
The capital, Palermo, is a must for a hushed meeting or a seminar, before finding inspiration in its bustling streets full of Sicilian banter. Monuments, façades and fountains set the stage for real theater here. But it is at the gates of the city that hides the most exceptional treasure of the island: the cathedral of Monreale (12th century), a monument rich in eras and influences, between Byzantine mosaics, enchanting cloister and oriental gardens . A must, if only because legend has it that the women who dip their fingers in its fountains get younger.
This appetizer cannot sum up the architectural beauties of Sicily. In Segesta and Selinunte, the two rival cities in the west of the island, Trojans and Phocaeans, have left behind Greek theaters and Doric temples. Nibbled by herbs rustling with the song of cicadas, surrounded by gentle mountains planted with vines and olive trees, the two archaeological sites are today the delight of children, who trudge through the ruins. On the south coast, Agrigento was luckier: from its sumptuous Greek period, the small town inherited seven well-preserved temples, including those of Concorde and Zeus, which ignite in the light of the setting sun.
What can we say about Syracuse too? Beauty must be earned! You have to drive dozens of kilometers, follow the lace coasts, to reach the coiled city in the south-east of Sicily. From Cicero to Maupassant, and up to Yves Montand, she has dreamed of more than one. Boats bark in its port, a market enlivens a tree-lined square, some fountains and the ruins of a temple and a Roman amphitheater complete the decor ... We never tire of pacing its alleys which descend towards the admire the facades of its baroque palaces, some of which open their doors to private parties, like the sumptuous balls of the film Le Guépard. Crinoline dresses and tails-de-pie (to rent on the spot) of rigor. It is nevertheless by taking the side roads, to discover the lands roasted by the sun and the imposing mountains, that we discover the true Sicilian soul. Fragmented by low stone walls, the countryside is austere and at first glance proud, endearing and romantic as soon as you take the time to stop in the villages. They are an opportunity to organize a lunch rich in mixed cuisine: swordfish caught in the Strait of Messina and meats spiced with hot sauce, tasty cheeses, pastries (like cassata) inherited from the Arabs and granita, this mixture of ice pounded and syrup.
Without forgetting a beautiful palette of wines. The marsala is the most prestigious of them, even more intoxicating when tasted in Taormina. Clinging to the cliff overlooking the sea, drowned under flowers, the medieval city with beautiful Baroque residences, rich palaces and primed churches alone embodies the legendary beauty of Sicily. From the bleachers of the gigantic Greco-Roman theater which lights up its choir or from the terraces of the luxurious hotels which host prestigious gala dinners, the view of Etna upsets. A nice final bouquet.
Affiliated with the MGallery brand of the AccorHotels group, the hotel (121 rooms) has taken possession of a villa on the coast of Palermo. Frescoes, moldings, furniture and decoration from the 19th century ... it offers a delicious timeless interlude. The six rooms (500 seats maximum) are in unison for a stylish meeting, before the cocktail by the pool and the gala dinner on the terrace. 43 Salita Belmonte, Palermo.
At the foot of the Greco-Roman amphitheater, it is one of Taormina's chic addresses. The 70 elegant rooms open onto the sea and Mount Etna. Besides the swimming pool, it is possible to enjoy the private beach of Belmond Villa Sant Andrea (5 km). Exclusive offers for events (conference rooms, gala dinner on the terrace or restaurant, VIP services). The hotel closes in winter. 59 via Teatro Greco, Taormina.
Etna watches over the treasures of Sicily, usually with kindness, sometimes with anger. The almost permanent volcano roared again last August. Approaching it is an adventure. The road to the crater first winds around lush mountains and then passes through villages playing with fire, before reaching the refuge of Sapienza, 1,900 meters away. Already, the decor is nothing more than scree and black stones. For the big thrill, you have to climb again (in a 4 × 4) to 3,350 meters, if the security conditions allow it. The smell of sulfur teases the nostrils, fumaroles escape from the bowels and the power of what is known as the "Forge of Vulcan" is revealed. Unforgettable.