A winter wonderland…on the beautiful island of Sicily!

My language holiday in Sicily has provided me a new definition for the word ‘winter’. It would seem a winter wonderland doesn’t necessarily need to be snow-covered rolling hills, woolly hats and reindeer.  Not that we have reindeer in the UK, but you see where I am going with this…

Although I only had one week for my trip, I wanted to make the most of it. I decided to fly to Palermo as Ryanair were offering some outrageously competitive ticket fares (another advantage of winter!).  Palermo is the capital of the island, not often considered the most beautiful city but worth a visit none the less. It was my mission for my two-day stop over to explore and discover for myself what this city had to offer.

A basic hotel about a 10 minute walk from the main bus and train station was perfect and offered more than enough luxury as I spent very little time there. There are of course many hotels around for a variety of budgets. I however had bigger, rounder and more tomato-sauce-covered plans for my budget: PIZZA!  Having never set foot in Italy before, I felt it was my prerogative to sample the local cuisine. I needn’t comment so much on this as the food throughout the entire trip was phenomenal!

Next stop Taormina; a city famous for medieval beauty, stunning views over Mount Etna, and sensational sunsets worthy of a proposal every evening. Just 4 and a half hours by bus to Catania and a 45 minute bus journey from there, I’d arrived.

imageI shall refrain from excessively commenting on this extremely pretty town and hop straight to the reason behind my visit (besides the warm sunshine in December) – the Italian language school where I would spend the remainder of my week. I must mention another advantage of this winter time escapade: as there are fewer people roaming the streets it is a lot more peaceful than the summer months. I felt calm and relaxed and free to explore without bumping into another tourist.

imageThe school is located right in the heart of the town and just down the street from a very impressive and well-preserved Greek Theatre. Down some orange-tree-lined steps and through a wall you will find the school which exploits a renovated villa to stage its Italian classes. The large patio and garden which was once public is now a sanctuary, a botanical and exotic wilderness of citrus trees, plants and flowers that presents the perfect backdrop for learning the very romantic language.

The school organises town tours, trips to the beach, visits to the Greek theatre, lectures in the gardens, cookery lessons and a whole array of other activities in which to lose yourself. One week was most certainly not enough time to explore this place. I did manage a day visit to the ancient Greek founded town of Syracuse in the south of the island. This city houses a great variety of UNESCO protected, ancient and awe-inspiring monuments which I consider ‘must-sees’.

A reasonably long bus journey brought me back to Palermo for my return flight to London, were I have been raving about this Island of Sicily ever since!

imageNB. Please note that my route to Palermo was not conventional and did take a very long time. Although the bus journeys presented the opportunity to see much more of the island, it is not advised if you are limited by time. It is possible to fly to Catania where the school in Taormina can arrange a short transfer to the school.

Cactus runs Italian language courses in both Taormina and Palermo in Sicily, and in many other locations across Italy.

Those wishing to learn some of the language before they head to Italy may want to consider an evening or part-time course in Italian in the UK or the US/Canada.

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