Springtime in Sicily: Food, Flowers & Festivities
Springtime offers one of the best times to visit the beautiful island of Sicily with the Massimo Villa Collection. The Sicilian sun is shining, but temperatures are milder than the highs of the summer months, and the beaches, historical sites and walking trails are quieter. The landscapes are about to explode into colour with wildflowers and blossom ready to burst into bloom, and all manner of delicious fruit and vegetables are ready to be harvested (and tasted). Plus the arrival of spring signals much festivity, celebrating everything from ricotta cheese to classical plays.
SPRINGTIME STUNNERS – WHERE TO STAY?
Sicily is a year-round foodie heaven, but the arrival of spring sees the harvesting of a whole host of delicious seasonal produce. Expect to sample newly-picked broad beans, peas, artichokes, blood oranges, lemons, wild garlic and fennel, apricots and asparagus. Plus those visiting in May can witness the tuna harvest, or Mattanza, taking place in the fishing towns on the west coast, with delicious tuna dishes featuring on many restaurant menus across the island.
Villa Terra Nobile provides the perfect base for foodies. A peaceful country retreat, sleeping 8, it enjoys a stunning location with panoramic views across the Vendicari Nature Reserve to the sea, and a garden bursting with herbs, fruits and vegetables – guests may help themselves to apricots, figs, grapes and wild asparagus when in season. But for an extra authentic treat, villa manager Giovanni can supply his mother’s delicious home-made tomato sauce and focaccias made in a traditional oven for guests’ enjoyment. Noto is just a short drive away (5kms) and is home to two of the best gelaterie in the world, Caffe Sicilia and Corrado Costanzo, as well as a selection of highly-regarded restaurants. For a real treat, head further afield to Ragusa with its three Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from, including Ciccio Sultano’s 2-starred Il Duomo. Back at the villa, relax by the pool, surrounded by lush Mediterranean flora, cook up a storm in the large kitchen and dine alfresco on the terrace. For a night off, or to learn more about Sicily’s bountiful seasonal cuisine, hire a Massimo Villa chef for the day. Price: one week’s self-catering accommodation costs from €2,800, sleeps 8.
In spring Sicily is blooming, it begins with the almond blossom in March and is quickly followed by carpets of pink and purple clover, peonies, anemones, sweet peas, orchids, scented narcissus and orange blossom bursting into colour. The Madonie Regional Natural Park, featuring some of the highest mountains in Sicily and the extremely rare Nebrodi fir tree, is a lovely base for exploring the flora and fauna of Sicily. Covering over 62 square miles in the north of the island and home to over 2,600 plant species, including 70 different types of orchid, flower enthusiasts will be spoilt by the array of flora on show. Madonie is not just a nature reserve though, it also incorporates a number of small towns and villages well worth a visit, as well as walking trails, mountain bike routes and an adventure playground at Parco Avventura.
Stay in the heart of the Madonie Natural Park at Villa Charme, a delightful property surrounded by peaceful mountain scenery, yet just a short drive from the beach at Sant’ Ambrogio. Traditionally Sicilian in style with terracotta floors and colourful tiles, the property can accommodate up to 8 guests: 6 in the main villa and an additional 2 in a separate annexe, ideal for those in the group who appreciate extra privacy. Outside, a swimming pool with large terrace will be a hit for long, relaxing days under the Sicilian sun and soaking up the views of the tranquil Natural Park. Price: one week’s self-catering accommodation costs from €1,550, sleeps 8.
Festivals are a great way of getting involved in local life, be it sampling local delicacies, watching colourful parades, or learning about history and customs. Between April and June, Sicily plays host to an array of interesting festivals, from artichoke and ricotta cheese festivals in April to the Sciacca Carnival and cycle of Mystery Plays in Syracuse in May, and the Taormina Film Festival in June. But the big, not-to-be-missed experience, is the Infiorata Flower Festival, taking place in Noto during the third weekend in May (15-17), when the town is transformed into a kaleidoscope of floral displays – visitors can browse these over the weekend before the children of the town are allowed to destroy the spectacle.
For easy access to the Infiorata Festival, stay at Villa Orizzonte Blue, superbly located in the Sicilian countryside and just 4kms from Noto, one of the finest Baroque towns in Sicily. The villa is spacious and uncluttered with an open-plan living area and four bedrooms. Outside, wide terraces, alfresco dining spots, a swimming pool with loungers and unobstructed views are sure to appeal, as will the wood-fired outdoor pizza oven. Price: one week’s self-catering accommodation costs from €2,600 for 8 or €1,900 for 4.
For more information on the Massimo Villa Collection call 0203 529 8013 or visit massimovillas.com