Family to do list in Sicily
We've going to make you an offer you can't refuse: enjoy history, heaps of delicious food and endless sunshine with our five-day family holiday itineraryFeatured June 13 Words by Ros Belford
As all parents know, one of the secrets to a successful family holiday is planning a sufficiently varied to-do list to keep everyone - including Dad - entertained.
This month, we're doing the job for you with an itinerary for south-east Sicily. Ortigia, the historic centre of Siracusa, makes an ideal base to explore a landscape rich in culture and things to do. And, if all else fails, the region is known for its chocolate and ice cream.
Start the day as the locals do with almond granita for breakfast in Ortigia's glorious Piazza Duomo. Th e nearby cathedral then provides the first opportunity to impress the kids by sharing the gory fact that its fount was used by Greeks to hold the organs of sacrificed animals. Sicily was an Ancient Greek outpost and remnants of Hellenic culture exist all over. In the garden of the Archbishop's Palace, check out the entrance to the Hypogeum: caves and tunnels dug by the Greeks. For lunch, pick up ingredients at the Burgio delicatessen (4 Piazza Cesare Battisti) and the Borderi cheese shop (6 Via De Benedictis), then picnic and swim from the 'solarium rocks' on the Lungomare di Levante. Suitably refreshed, the history lesson can continue in the afternoon with a visit to the Arkimedeion (11 Piazza Archimede), birthplace ofmathematician Archimedes. Check out to interactive replicas of his inventions, before taking an evening stroll along the Lungomare Alfeo and enjoy an aperitif at Barcollo (10 Via Pompeo Picherali) while the local cats entertain the kids.
After a sedate first day, up the tempo by heading to the spectacular Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon (www.cavagrandedelcassibile.it) and walk to the natural pools at the bottom. Th e kids might complain on the trek back, but the promise of ice cream should get them through. In nearby Noto, a baroque town of apricot-gold limestone, you'll find two of the best gelato-makers in Italy: Corrado Costanzo (7 Via Spaventa) and Caffé Sicilia (125 Corso Vittorio Emanuele). Th eir flavours are to die for, including dark chocolate and orange, or wild strawberry, ricotta and cinnamon. It will be lunchtime by now, so venture out of town to the Al Casale dei Mori-Fattoria Villa Rosa (Contrada Falconara, Noto) for a nutritional, home-cooked meal on a farm where the kids can pet animals and play in the playground. To end the day, drive to the coastal nature reserve of Vendicari (www.oasivendicari.net), to look for wild pink flamingoes on the salt lakes and walk along 13km of unspoilt coastline.
Th e limestone gorge of Pantalica, in the Hyblaean Hills, is not just a spectacular natural phenomenon - it's also home to a network of caves that date back three millennia. Wake early and venture out to Necropoli Nord, about 9km from the village of Ferla, where the kids will love clambering through cave houses, cave prison and a cave chapel (the ancient fresco will keep parents happy too). Th en, carry on to the bottom of the gorge and, as long as you watch them carefully, adventurous young ones can jump the torrents and clamber through vegetation. By now, everyone will surely be hungry, so why not try a seasonal local speciality in the nearby town of Palazzolo Acreide? At Lo Scrigno dei Sapori (50 Via Maddalena), the pasta filled with sheep's milk ricotta is particularly good - and if you really enjoy it, then you can spend the afternoon learning to make your own ricotta and collecting wild herbs at Claudio Romano's Azienda Agricola near Pantalica (Palazzolo Acreide; booking tel: +39 338 657 6745).
Th e Molino ad Acqua (www.cavallodispica.it), a historic watermill in the Cava d'Ispica gorge, is the starting point for a day of culinary treats. Let the kids watch wheat being ground into flour, before moving on to the nearby baroque town of Modica, famous for its chocolate. Try a cup of the good stuff, melted and mixed with hot milk at Caffé dell'Arte (114 Corso Umberto I) before participating in a chocolate-making workshop at CasaCiomod (www.casaciomod.it). Th e staffwill also help the kids make their own pizza with flour from the Molino ad Acqua. After lunch, drive up through the hills to Buccheri, where adults and kids can burn offthe sugar by climbing trees at the Parcallario adventure park (www.parcallario.it). Bring supplies, as there are picnic tables and barbecues under the trees for alfresco dining.
We're back in Siracusa for our final day. Start with a slice of history at the Roman amphitheatre in the archeological park (Viale Paradiso). You can also venture down to Piazza San Giovanni to explore a network of catacombs larger than those of ancient Rome. For a light, traditional lunch of pane condito (toasted bread with a selection local cheeses, hams and preserved tomatoes, olives and capers), the terrace of Blu (www.ristoranteilblu.it) in Ortigia, set directly above the solarium rocks, can't be beaten. Take your time, enjoy the view and then, in the early evening, cruise aboard Fiesta (www.touristboatservice.it), a classic wooden sailing ketch, to snorkel in the Plemmirio marine reserve. Dine aboard on fresh fish and shellfish with the boat moored below the ramparts of Castello Maniace, as you watch the Sicilian sun setting in the distance, for a perfect end to the trip.