Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Leisure trip: Giardini Naxos, Sicily, Italy

Helsinki, 20 degrees





My favorite scent memory is the scent of the Sicilian sea.

Waking up to wonderful jungle like sounds (like in the video beneath) with tons of birds singing in the trees while you hear at the same time the sea and the tidal waves hitting the beach. Welcome to Sicily!

So how did we end up at such an amazingly relaxing place? We had had several plans for our summer holidays, but nothing had been confirmed until about one and a half weeks ago. Yes, that's correct, we didn't book the trip until three days before departure! Sometimes one needs to do something widely crazy, and this belonged to those times. I had been saying to my better half that I was in need of relaxation this time, since I've had a tough spring and such a busy time at work. I needed to get away and just enjoy life and quality time with my boyfriend.

When he found a last minute travel deal to Sicily, he didn't need to convince me of going. I had been dying to go to Sicily for years, since it was one of the few places in Italy where I hadn't been before. I'd heard only great things about the so called sunny island, so I was very eager about the trip. I think I actually jumped up and down when he had the booking confirmation in our hands, that is how excited I was!

The last minute travel deal we found was bought through the Finnish travel agency Aurinkomatkat. We flew to Catania, and from there we had a bus connection to our hotel destination Giardini Naxos. Already driving in to Giardini Naxos, we were amazed over the views. In Sicily, or at least in the North East part of it where we were, the volcano Etna was present in the landscape all the time! The combination of volcanos, verdant land and the beach was just beautiful!

Giardini Naxos is situated on the coast of the Ionian Sea on a bay which lies between Cape Taormina and Cape Schisò. It has just little under 10 000 inhabitants so it's a cute little town with only one supermarket. I thought the name Naxos didn't sound that Italian, but I understood quickly why since the city was founded by the Greek settler Thucles the Chalcidian in 734 BC. Naxos was never a powerful city, but its temple of  Apollo, protecting deity of all the Greek colonies, gave it prominence in religious affairs. Prior to the early 1970s, Giardini Naxos was a quiet fishing village. Nowadays it is a popular tourist destination, famous for its beaches, panoramic view of the bay and surrounding hills, and its small, but bustling fishing port.



I've been on beach holidays before to Italy, e.g. to Sardinia and I used to work for three months in a beach resort hotel in Lignano Sabbiadoro back in 2009 (you can read about it in previous blog posts, among others here and here), so it was easy to understand how to rent a beach bed and parasol. Under the flapping parasols, listening to epic Italian music like Jovanotti, Negramaro and Ligabue from the speakers on the beach, life felt so carefree and perfect.

What set Sicily a part from the rest of Italy, was that sometimes they played even Arabic house music at the beach. That really showcased how Sicily differs from mainland Italy; in Sicily three cultures come together - the Italian, Arabic and African. I'm sure it causes frictions as well, but I found these three cultures to work together in perfect harmony, supporting each other.

I was surprised that already when we arrived to Catania's airport, we were told "Welcome to the African continent!". Many times during our one-week-stay, we heard local people proudly say that Sicily once belonged to Libya and that even though culturally speaking we were in Europe, in one sense we were also on African soil.

I quite enjoyed the so called "aqua gym" sessions on the beach where one of the lifeguards functioned as a dancing teacher and showed people how to dance on the beach underneath the sun.

I instantly fell in love with its floral beauty! I mean, look at these vivid colors!


The reason for Sicily's verdant outlook was evident: the volcanic soil. In the long run, volcanic deposits can develop into some of the richest agricultural lands on earth.



One of the best features of Italy, and therefore of course also Sicily, is its marvelous food! Despite the fact that we made day trips outside of Giardini Naxos, about which I'll fill you in on in later blog posts, at Giardini Naxos we went to restaurants like e.g. Lanterna, Da Angelina and La Cambusa, and I recommend them all! I had some of the best food of my life!

I found that the most typical local dishes were related to seafood. There were also delicious desserts like sweet cannellonis and the Sicilian ice cream, the granita. Having said this, of course, Sicily has its own and unique collection with some certain dishes, belonging to a particular town or even village.

I was once told that the only place in the world, where McDonalds has been forced to close its doors due to lack of customers, is in Sicily, and I understand why. In Sicily, local fast food is e.g. arancinos (fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs), grilled chicken, risotto, pasta and pizza. What can beat that?


We even saw a local fisherman as he caught an octopus! In the evenings, Giardini Naxos became a very romantic city with seaside lights. For a boat lover like me, this view made my soul rest.


Even though I've lived in Italy for a couple of years, the country never seizes to amaze me. I was happy to notice that the internet was much more widely used now than back when I first went to Italy back in 2005. There were no need for adapters either: the hotels were all equipped with sockets that fit even our chargers.


Here some of the items I wore during my days in Giardini Naxos. These looks were created by items from Seppälä, H&M, Atmosphere and second-hand shops. In addition to these dresses, I also wore my green dress from Asos that you might remember from this blog post.


I wish I could portray the scent of Sicily to you. Maybe if you close your eyes and think of flowers, coffee, sand, barbeque, the sea, spices, and pistachios, you might get an idea.

During our one-week-travel to Sicily we also visited Taormina and Etna, which I will tell you about in my upcoming blog posts.

Have any of you readers been to Sicily?

26 comments:

  1. never been but it sounds wonderful

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  2. Moi!
    Some time ago I was reading a blog called Fuga verso Helsinki, and I also discovered this wonderful little corner. Your way of writing is so fresh and it's so nice to read things from your point of view.

    I'm always amazed by how Finnish people love Italy as much as Italian people love Finland. I visited Finland in July, almost two years ago, and I can say I was totally enchanted by it. It's anyway quite weird to read about Italian classic beach holidays while longing for a wonderful day in Suomenlinna or in a mökki, hearing some good Finnish music!

    Sicily is surely one of the most colourful, inspiring and sometimes controversial places in Italy. I've never been there, but I think that the Eastern part of the island is quite fascinating. People are open and cheerful, compared to how we northern mountaineers are. This is also what makes my country so challenging, there are many things to discover from each region. I'm glad you were able to find some moments of peace here in Italy.

    Sorry for the long comment and for my English, have a nice evening!

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    1. Thank you for your compliment regarding my blog. Concerning the other points, I've answered you in the following blog post :)

      xxx
      E

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  3. Such incredible images. I have not been to Sicily yet, but my family tell me it is such a wonderful place. I love your stunning photos! :) Thanks for sharing. /Madison

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    1. Thank you Madison for your kind words!

      xxx
      E

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  4. what an amazing post, love the boats and the jungle sound, it's very relaxing!

    http://voyagevoyagelamonde.blogspot.de/

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    1. Thank you Tanja! I'm happy you share my love for the boats and the jungle sounds :)

      xxx
      E

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  5. wow lovely pictures! looks amazing!
    luckfashion.blogspot.com x

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  6. Beautiful pictures! So nice that you have so lovely memories! I like Italy very much and went to some places there, but never to Sicily, unfortunately. I think I should then, after this inspirational post! denisesplanet.com

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  7. Mmm, did my comment go? I don't know! I said I am glad you have so nice memories! Italy is really very cool! denisesplanet.com

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  8. oh it's so difficult to describe those feelings but it actually comes down to the fact if I want to go or not. if the answer is 100% yes then it's easy but if for some reason I start to doubt then I just can't go for it. it's just that I'm a perfectionist and when I do something I have to be 100% sure about it, otherwise it's not right and it will bother me. and what can make me doubt when it comes to travelling? the choice of the right hotel for example and the length of the trip as well. I hope you understood at least something from that talk but I don't blame you if you didn't, hehe.
    anyway, I haven't been to Sicily but when I read your post it reminded me of Crete island where I have been twice and I loved it a lot. I also loved that post with all the colourful photos and interesting descriptions. yes, and it actually made me miss a beach vacation, to be honest :P I guess I'll get over it, at least until you post some more about beautiful Cicily . oh and that pizza looks incredible!!

    Maiken,
    Maikeni blogi - part of me

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    1. Yes, I understand. You're talking about hesitation. Well, I agree, it's better to trust your first instincts.
      I don't know if you were reading my blog already two summer ago, but we went to Crete in 2011, you can read about it here http://dragonflyelisabeth.blogspot.fi/2011/06/footprint-in-sand-of-mediterranean-sea.html.

      xxx
      E

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  9. I've not been to Sicily but the pictures say it all!
    I'm nodding to your outfit choices too...the asymmetrical lines are definitely made for summer.
    I came by your blog this morning via Cee's Coco and Vera. I love what you post. Would love to follow each other. Let me know?
    Maria x

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    1. Thank you Maria for your kind comment!

      xxx
      E

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  10. Wow..beautiful place! It is on my to-visit list! Hope you are having a wonderful day!
    -Jyoti
    Style-Delights Blog

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  11. These pictures make me want to visit.. the food looks amazing!

    http://myfifthavenue.blogspot.com/

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  12. great photos
    http://loving-evelyn.blogspot.ro/

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  13. I feel like I need to start planning my next holiday! Love the pictures!

    www.thegirlatfirstavenue.com

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  14. This is too beautiful for words, the weather looks fantastic and everything about this place is charming!Thanks so much for your kind thoughts on my last post :)

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    1. I'm happy that you share my feelings about Giardini Naxos!

      xxx
      E

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