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Coffee, Colorado, & My First Mountain Biking Adventure

becca garber update from states 5 Coffee, Colorado, & My First Mountain Biking Adventure
Hi again! When you read this, we’ll be on a plane to Virginia with our kids. I’m looking forward to some time at “home” in Virginia as well as a trip to Charlottesville to see some friends from our college days. Friends, if you’re in C’ville, let me know! We’d love to see you!

And now, for those who are interested, here are a few more updates since we moved from Sicily to the States. After Rhode Island, we flew down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to spent a few days with Elliott’s family. His mom found a wonderful house on the water that fit all of us, and we had a great time doing basically nothing. Which suited us all perfectly.

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That gigantic intertube made the best place for floating and reading during the kids’ nap time!

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On the left: one morning Elliott’s brother Jonathan set up a “coffee cupping,” or coffee tasting. We did our best to tell the difference between the four kinds of coffee, but I was pretty hopeless. I’ve never been very good at picking out the distinct flavors and aromas of wine either, so I guess that was par for the course!

becca garber update from states 7 Coffee, Colorado, & My First Mountain Biking Adventure
After the Eastern Shore, we flew (again! so much flying with little kids! ack!) to Vail, Colorado, to spent about six days with my family. We all attended the annual conference for the organization my dad works for, and that was so much fun because a lot of the attendees and speakers were some of our dear family friends. In between and after the conference, we explored Vail, which is simply gorgeous in the summertime.

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The faux Swiss chalet look is the architectural theme in Vail, and it can be a little disconcerting. But then the F L O W E R S make up for everything!

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On the right, my first Starbucks since we got back to the States! Java chip frappuccino… and a brotherly photo bomber.

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Colorado’s columbines on the left, and a crazy daddy doing tricks in trees on the right.

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Yesterday we all went on a bike ride as a family, with Gil and Lena in a little trailer attached to Elliott’s bike. We had so much fun on the way, stopped to admire gorgeous houses and playgrounds, and finished with gigantic ice creams in downtown Vail. The lovely lady next to Eric is his girlfriend, Charlotte.

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A friendly stranger took this photo for us right before it started raining and hailing! We found shelter until the stormed seemed to pass, and then we all headed home as fast as we could go. We had six miles to go, though, and it started raining, thundering, and lightning as we were speeding home. We all were drenched and freezing — but totally exhilarated, of course — when we finally stumbled through the door and into hot showers!

Then, since we clearly couldn’t get enough of dangerous biking, my siblings, Charlotte, Elliott, and I rented mountain bikes today:

photo98 Coffee, Colorado, & My First Mountain Biking Adventure

It was awesome! We took the ski lift up to the top of the mountain (2,000 feet up) and then rode the bikes down narrow trails through the woods and across ski runs. I’ve never mountain biked before, but this was an amazing introduction. I felt like an athlete, which is a nice feeling, and something I should probably work on more regularly… #runningstartsinCA #hereshopinganyway

And that’s it, folks! Thanks for hanging with me this far. What have you all been up to this summer? Is the summertime winding down or just getting started?

1 :: in travel

Updates from American Soil

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It’s been almost two weeks since we saw this final glimpse of Sicily from our plane window! One last view of Mt Etna. I kept her in sight for a long time until the clouds finally hid her from view.

We’ve been wonderfully busy these last two weeks with three family reunions, and I can’t imagine a sweeter way to come back to the States. It’s also been refreshing to take a bit of a break from blogging as I think about how this space will change, grow, and improve (at least I hope so!) without its Sicilian/expat identity. I already miss that side of it, but I hope the blog will be even more accessible and fun in this new phase.

Anyway, back to some photos from here, there, and everywhere. We spent the first few days in Rhode Island with my mom’s side of the family (aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents galore), the second few days on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with Elliott’s family, and right now we’re in Vail with my parents, siblings, and my brother’s girlfriend Charlotte.

becca garber update from states 1.jpg Updates from American Soil
The first morning we were in Rhode Island, the kids were up at 5:20 AM, and Elliott and I were up with them. We wandered out into the garden and explored the shore near my uncle and aunt’s gorgeous home.

While we were there, Lena became best friends with my little cousin Ashley; the two were inseparable the entire time we were there.

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View from our balcony in Rhode Island. Can you believe that?! Newport and the U.S. Naval War College were right across the water.

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We spent a lovely afternoon in Newport, one of my favorite American towns. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Gil was falling in love with Ashley. She’s pretty cute; I can’t blame him!

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On the left, my sister Emily and I in Newport. I remember eating sushi right by these shops when Elliott and I were in Boston. We came down for a day trip and wandered around hand-in-hand. So many sweet falling-in-love memories!

I read Dear Mr. Knightley while we were in RI, but unfortunately I can’t recommend it. It felt unrealistic and forced. Just read Daddy-Long-Legs, which inspired the former and is so much better crafted.

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Pretty corners in Newport. So much sweet New England charm!

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Gil rested his head on Elliott’s knee to get a good look at my cousins. And on the right… Gil reads his favorite book with his Auntie Em. Aren’t they the cutest?

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My grandmother got a professional photographer to come out and take photos of our family, but Gil was a total disaster. Such a disappointment! We did get this awesome jumping photo of all the cousins, though. We’ve been family reunion-ing together almost every summer our entire lives, and I love this gang!

IMG 0009 1024x768 Updates from American Soil Despite Gil’s antics during the photography session, everyone was completely in love with him. Especially Ashley. Guess that kiss did the trick!

I’m realizing updating with ALL THE PHOTOS from the past two weeks is a lot, so I’ll be back with more from Maryland and Colorado tomorrow.

In the meantime, what have you been reading lately? I finished this one last night, which gave me a lot of food for thought. I’d love to share more sometime soon. I started this one, which is hard going! Anything light and lovely I should read after this?

Hope you all are having wonderful summers! xoxo

3 :: in travel

Arrividerci, Sicilia

It’s 11:56pm. Almost tomorrow, almost July 15, which is the day we leave Sicily. Bright and early with the sunrise!

But Elliott says we’re going to bed and I’m not writing a post, and he’s right. It’s been a long day — especially for him, with a million work-related details to tie up — and it will be a really, reeeeaaaalllllyyy long day tomorrow.

Pray for us if you will! We’re leaving at 7am, flying to Rome, then to Detroit, and then to D.C.

Wait, Detroit???

I know. Seriously! We have to fly Delta because it’s the airline in partnership with the military, and they don’t fly from Rome to D.C. And the Detroit flight is 10.5 hours long!!! I am already pulling my hair out.

For this trip, we got Lena a pair of kid’s headphones. She is ecstatic, and I think she’s finally old enough to concentrate on movies long enough to make it worth it, so let’s hope they do their job. Oh, and that the Delta plane has nice TVs in the seat backs with lots of kid-friendly movie options. Please, Lord, that would be great!

For Gil, I have about 15 baggies filled with pretzels. He’s obsessed, and he loves nothing more in life right now than wandering around (the kitchen, the grocery store, the pool deck, the playground) observing everyone and munching on one after another from his own little bag. Not one at a time from his mama, but in his own bag. So hopefully 15 of them will get us through an entire day of cramped airplanes.

Plus naps. For them and their parents!

Oh, and I think I forgot to mention that Siena — our beautiful cat — is also flying with us. In the cabin, no less, and at our feet. I have also failed to mention that she consistently vomits after a 10-minute car ride, so it would not be an exaggeration to say that I am about as worried about this fur-baby’s well-being as I am about my two human children. So prayers for Siena too, please! 

That’s all. This isn’t really about Sicily, but you’ve heard a lot about Sicily lately. For about two years, since one of my very good friends left one June morning, I have been imagining that moment when I sit down in my seat on the first plane and look out the window and watch Sicily disappear below me. What will it be like? Will I cry? Probably not, I’m not good at crying at appropriate times. Probably I’ll just be a little sad, and a little happy, and a lot grateful.

These three years have been wonderful. Thank you, Sicily, and thank you, God.

May it not be too long before we see the smoke drifting from Mt Etna again on a winter’s morning!

9 :: in Sicily, thoughts

6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}

becca garber collage 6 favorites worth trek 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}

Last week I shared our 10 Favorites in Sicily Within 1 Hour of Sigonella, which is also within one hour of Catania, the capital city on the east coast. Sicily is about the size of Massachusetts, though, and it takes about three hours to drive across it and two hours to drive the width of it.

What is your point, Becca?

My point: there is a lot to explore far, far away from Catania and Sigonella!

So, without further ado, here are a few places within two or three hours of Sigonella. They’re all very kid friendly (we took our little kids!) and showcase some of Sicily’s unforgettable beauty.

If you have questions or if my directions are wrong, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to get them updated. And if you have suggestions of your own, add them there too!

Agrigento

becca garber agrigento kiss family1 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella} Agrigento, or the Valley of the Temples (Valli dei Templi), is about 2.5 hours from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We’ve visited twice and stayed overnight at this lovely B&B and at this agriturismo (farm stay). Both were very close to the archeological park, where we spent several hours exploring the ancient Greek and Roman ruins.

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The Greek temples are in beautiful condition, rivaling the magnificence of Athens. Some of the ruins are open for exploration, which is a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. The three temples are all in a line along a ridge overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean sea, so bring a picnic and enjoy the view if you can!

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While you’re there, don’t miss the dazzling Scala dei Turchi, or Turkish Steps. It’s a huge white limestone rock rising from a quiet beach, and the rock is easy to climb on with dazzling views. Here’s a map to the Turkish steps, which are about 20 minutes past Agrigento along the coast.

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Here are posts from my blog about our visits to Agrigento and the Turkish Steps:

San Vito Lo Capo & Zingaro Nature Preserve

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For almost three years, we heard friends rave about the turquoise water and soft sand beaches of western Sicily’s gem: San Vito Lo Capo. Finally we got to visit in March of this year, and it was just as dazzling as everyone said! The drive from Sigonella/Catania takes about three hours, which is arduous with small children, but the beauty and beachy low-key vibe of the area were worth it.

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We stayed in this rustic apartment with a gorgeous view. We were about 20 minutes from the town of San Vito Lo Capo, which is famous for that beautiful beach. We also were about 20 minutes from the Zingaro Nature Preserve, where we hiked through the preserve to find three gorgeous white stone beaches.

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The whole area is very popular in the summertime, and for good reason! Be sure to book your hotel or apartment well in advance. Our friends have enjoyed the option of “camping” at La Pineta very close to the beach.

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Here is my blog post about our visit to San Vito Lo Capo.

Granelli Beach

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I’m actually writing this while staying at Granelli Beach, where we have come for the second summer in a row. It’s a quiet cove on the very southeastern tip of Sicily, a 1.5-hour drive from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We loved the warm, shallow, calm water for the kids.

becca garber granelli beach sicily 12 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella} Elliott first discovered it because he wanted to stay in a house ON the beach. Weirdly for an island like Sicily, rental houses on the beach are extremely rare. You almost always have to walk or drive a short distance. But he found one, and we rented it with our friends the Arthurs for a long weekend.

This year we returned to a pretty little cottage about three houses down the street from the beach, and I like this house even better. The enclosed garden is lush and beautiful, perfect for kids!

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Here are three posts from Granelli Beach:

Cefalu

becca garber cefalu sicily 3 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella} Continuing with the beach theme (clearly we’re obsessed!), Cefalu (cheff-ah-LOO) is a gorgeous town with a wonderful beach just less than two hours from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We stayed in this three-bedroom apartment just across the street from the beach.

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We spent a day exploring Cefalu, which has several lovely sites including the gorgeous cathedral and La Rocca (the Rock), which you can hike up for spectacular views of the town. We could even see the Aeolian Islands (described below) in the distance across the pure blue water!

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From my blog, see this post for more of our pictures of Cefalu, and check this one out if you’d like to have lunch in a castle nearby!

Aeolian Islands

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We visited the Aeolian Islands in May for the first time and, to be honest, it was not our best vacation. We both agree that was the weather’s fault, though; it rained most of the long weekend, and we were stuck inside with our kids. Two of my friends have visited since then and have had the same weather! So my first piece of advice about the Aeolian Islands is to check the weather report before you go!

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Nevertheless, the islands are a lovely vacation spot. Here are a few things we learned to make your trip easier:

1) There are five islands, all volcanic, but only one of them (Stromboli) is still an active volcano. The largest and most populated island is Lipari, and the main town on the island is Lipari Town. There’s no beach in Lipari Town, though, so we stayed in Canneto, which has a gorgeous beach and is about a 10-minute drive from Lipari Town.

2) We drove to Milazzo (20 minutes past Messina) where hydrofoils leave every hour for Lipari and the other islands. We parked our car at this reliable, popular garage, and then we took the hour-long ferry to Lipari Town.

3) We rented an apartment in Canneto, which has the only good beach + accommodation on the island of Lipari. It was a 10-minute drive from the port, and our apartment rental lady picked us up. We rented from these apartments. They were small but had great views of the beach! And they were super cheap, so that was nice. They were also right above the main grocery store in the town and right outside the bus stop, which came in very handy. If I could do it again, though, I might rent at Mistral Residence, which we passed and where I went inside to get information. The woman was lovely and spoke English, and it’s really an apartment-hotel situation with very good prices.

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4) There wasn’t much to do in Canneto besides go to the beach, so I recommend going in the warmer months when you are guaranteed to have no rain and warmer water. September (after the high season and when the water’s warmest) would be a dream.

5) Because we had little kids (ages three and one), the only thing we did outside Canneto was take the bus to Lipari Town to wander around and eat pizza for dinner. Other activities would be to take the bus around Lipari to other beaches and hikes, or take the hydrofoils to other islands, or going to Stromboli, the permanently active volcanic island. Tour guides arrange evening hikes so you can see it erupting inside at night, and it’s apparently really cool. You get home around midnight.

6) People also rent cars on the island, or you can take your own, but it’s pretty expensive and those larger ferries run less frequently. I think it’s cheaper just to rent at car in Lipari Town. We didn’t need a car, though, because the buses are very reliable, at least on the island of Lipari.

Madonie Mountains

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To be honest, other than my own house, the Madonie Mountains are my favorite place in Sicily. We visited them in December when the air was crisp and cool, when the fall foliage was at its peak, and when the mountains were lush and green after the autumnal rains. I loved the quaint mountain towns, the focus on Slow Food, and the taste of high mountain life that is so different from the plains of Catania.

For our long weekend in the mountains, we stayed at this wonderful agriturismo and ate amazing farm-to-table dinners in their restaurant every night. Spectacular food! We also hiked in the mountains on one of their guided tours and visited Castelbuono, the largest mountain town in the area.

If you have any interest in the mountain towns of Sicily (including many on the slopes of Mt Etna), I highly recommend this beautiful memoir.

For more information and photos, see this post.

becca garber madonie mountains sicily 5 6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}

———

Of course, there are approximately 973 other amazing things to see, do, taste, and experience in Sicily, and — even with three years here — we ran out of time. I hope you get to see all these places and more during your time in Sicily! It is a rustic, gorgeous land, and living here has been one of the best experiences of our lives.

If you’d like to see more of our favorite places in Sicily, check out this post.

As always, I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about visiting Sicily. Happy exploring!

2 :: in agriturismo, beach, Italy, memories, military life, San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, travel

Our 10 Favorites in Sicily {Within 1 Hour of Sigonella}

becca garber 10 favorites sicily Our 10 Favorites in Sicily {Within 1 Hour of Sigonella}

I’ve been wanting to share some of our favorite day trips, restaurants, and beaches in Sicily because these places hold our best memories from the three years we’ve spent in this beautiful place. I hope new generations of visitors and Sigonella military families to enjoy them after we depart!

If you have questions or if my directions are wrong, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to get them updated. And if you have suggestions of your own, add them there too!

Taormina

I love Taormina so much that I could go there every week, and Elliott thinks that I pretty much do. It is the prettiest town in Sicily, and it’s what you dream of when you hear the word “Italy.”

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When you visit Taormina, you can park in two different places: at the bottom of town and ride the cable car up into the old town, or in the public garage right outside of the old town.

The cable car parking lot costs about 5 euro a day, and cable car tickets are 3 euro each way per person. (Small children ride for free.) The cable car drops you off right outside the city walls of Taormina.

If you prefer not to ride the cable car, follow the road signs from the toll booth to “Taormina” or “Porta Catania” (the name of the huge public garage). Once you park in the garage, you can walk up the hill and enter the city. I usually do this, and I pay about 8 euro to park for 5 hours.

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Now you’re in Taormina! I always eat lunch at Da Cristina, which was written up in the New York Times and sells the best Sicilian street food I’ve ever eaten. We stop for mini cannoli at one of the little pastry shops along the way. We generally walk through the town until we reach the beautiful Villa Comunale gardens, which has stunning views, quiet benches, stone picnic tables (yes!), a fish pond, Amazon parrots that say “ciao!”, and a dilapidated playground that my kids love.

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On our way back up the hill from the park, we always, always stop at Bam Bar for the best granita (Italian ice) in Taormina. Actually, it’s the best granita in the world. Get the lemon and raspberry (limone e lampone) or maybe the coffee granita with thick whipped cream on top. Order a brioche (sweet bun) and a cappuccino, and take a bite of everything for me!

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Beach tip: The cable car parking lot is also a great place to park if you want to visit the beach in Taormina. You just have to walk out of the parking lot, turn right, climb the hill, and cross the street (follow the signs) to take a long flight of stairs down to the rocky beach. In April, this staircase is full of brilliant purple wisteria! On the rocky beach, you can also wade across to the beautiful little island of Isola Bella, where a Scottish heiress built herself a house when she escaped her unhappy marriage.

To inspire your visit, here are all our many Taormina adventures!

Cassibile Nature Reserve Beach

We love a lot of beaches in Sicily, but Cassibile is our favorite. It’s also called Fonda Pineta del Gelsomineto. It’s an hour drive from Sigonella, past Siracusa, so generally we make a day of it. The pin in this map indicates the beach. Admission costs 10-12 euro during the week and 12-15 euro on the weekend during the summer, and you pay the parking attendant when you turn at the new yellow building by the side of the road.

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Bring food, a portable grill, a beach umbrella, a beach tent, your dog, whatever you like. There are virtually no rules. There is a tiny cafe, and sometimes a guy walks down the beach with a cooler full of fresh coconut, but otherwise no food for sale. There are public bathrooms, but nowhere else to change, so I come and go in my swimsuit.

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My husband loves to take visitors and friends on a short walk/hike (shoes or flip flops are recommended) up the cliffs to a safe place to jump off into the water below. I’m always stuck on the beach with a baby, but he says it’s great! We’ve also explored the pillbox on the northern end of the beach; it was used by the Germans during WWII to watch for invaders by sea.

Siracusa & Ortigia

I love to take visitors to beautiful Ortigia, the little island connected by a short bridge to the city of Siracusa. I usually park at this large parking lot and then wander through the city towards the main piazza.

My absolute favorite place to eat is right there in the piazza at the delicious pizzeria called La Volpe e  l’Uva (The Fox and the Grape). Their menu is trendy and their food is delicious, and I will dream about their four cheese pizza forever.

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After lunch and a gelato cone, we wander down to the waterfront, where papyrus grows in a little freshwater pond. Sometimes we go swimming at the tiny little beach in the port. One summer my sister-in-law and I were so hot, and the teenagers in their mismatched bikinis looked so happy jumping off the pier into the sparkling water, that finally we just took off our shorts and jumped into the water with them!

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While in Siracusa, I have also visited the Archeological Park several times. It’s about a 10-minute drive from Ortigia, and it’s possible to do both in the same day. Admission is 10 euro per person (buy your ticket across the street from the entrance), and there are three large archeological sites to see inside the gates: an amphitheater, a theater that is still in use during the summer, and a cave with a notorious echo.

Here are photos from three trips to Siracusa

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Catania

I visit Catania at least once a month, mostly because I absolutely love the huge market. It’s open every day except Sunday from 8am-1pm, and the prices and produce are incomparable.

I park here underneath the arched bridge. My friend taught me to do this and I’ve been parking here for three years with no issues. The attendant (a friendly guy with gray hair) guides me to a parking spot and will watch my car until about 1:30pm for whatever I want to pay him. I usually give him two euro. Clearly it’s not “legal,” but it isn’t illegal either, a paradox that only makes sense in certain parts of the world.

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Once I park, I walk through the main city gate into Elephant Square (Piazza Duomo/Fontane dell’Elefante). I then might:

  • Ride the tourist train around the city (here are pictures and information from a trip we took)
  • Walk into the huge and magnificent Cattedral Sant’Agata
  • Stroll down the main street of Catania (Via Etnea) to get the best arancini in the city at Pasticceria Savia. I then walk across the street to eat them in the Giardino Bellini, the beautiful public gardens.
  • Wander around the market for fresh produce and fish. When you’re in Elephant Square, look for the white marble fountain. The fish market is behind it (a must-see!), and the fresh fruits and vegetables start there. I buy fresh live mussels (three euro a kilo) for dinner almost every time I come here.

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On our way out, the kids love to visit the playground right next to where we park. The playground is in pretty good condition and has a lot of equipment, which is unusual for Sicilian playgrounds.

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Mount Etna

It is possible to hike most of the way up Mt Etna, and we did it once as a family right after we moved to Sicily. It was an experience I don’t want to repeat — lava is not interesting scenery! — but I’m glad we did it. Mt Etna erupted while we were as high as we were allowed to climb, and that is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can read about that whole adventure (and get some advice) here.

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These days when we hike on Mt Etna, we drive to Etna Sud (the South Station) and hike on a trail nearby. You can find the trail head by driving through the South Station, passing the Silvestri crater on your right, going down the hill, and parking at the T intersection at the bottom of that hill. There’s a little volcanic ash parking lot to your left at that intersection (here’s the location on Google Maps). A wonderful trail starts at that parking lot; just walk around the metal boom and start up the rocky path. The hike takes about 45 minutes for active adults and leads you around the side of Mt Etna to look down into the huge, black lava field. You can continue up the path from there to climb more of Etna if you’d like. Here are pictures from one of our hikes.

You can ski on Mt Etna, too! Here’s everything you need to know.

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Nicolosi

While you’re near Mt Etna, there is a lot to see and enjoy in Nicolosi. This beautiful mountain town is full of delicious restaurants, shops, cafes, parks, and B&Bs. Elliott and I have gone there twice for overnight getaways, staying in this lovely little B&B both times.

We’ve enjoyed delicious spreads at three restaurants and I recommend all of them: Antichi Proverbi, Antico Orto Dei Limone, and 1877 . We also love cappuccinos and gelato at La Dolce Vita and pre-dinner drinks at Santo Doca in the main piazza.

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Here are links to our first getaway without the kids and our romantic skiing weekend (oxymoron?).

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We also love to hike in Monti Rossi, which is a beautiful park on two small hills just outside the town of Nicolosi. There is a ropes course there that’s a lot of fun for kids’ birthday parties (Monti Rossi Adventure Park), and past that is a picnic and grill area. Elliott and I have hiked all over the two hills with and without our kids, and we always feel like we’re in another world when we step into the quiet pine forest.

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Borgo Antico Agriturismo

There’s nothing like Sunday lunch at a Sicilian agriturismo! Our favorite farm-to-table restaurant is Borgo Antico Agriturismo, which is about 30 minutes from Sigonella. As of Summer 2014, the meal costs 30 euro per adult and it is worth every penny. There are four courses:

  • Appetizers, which consists of about 15 different dishes, all more delicious than the last!
  • Pasta, usually two different kinds with homemade pasta
  • Meat, usually three different platters accompanied by a simple salad
  • Dessert and seasonal fruit

The meal also includes as much wine and olive oil as you want to consume, and both are made from grapes and olives on Borgo’s land. The setting is lovely, and between courses the kids can run outside in the citrus groves. I’ve been there at least five times and each meal is better than the last.

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We also enjoyed an incredible agriturismo meal in Randazzo on Mt Etna at Etna Quota Mille. where the meats were grilled instead of breaded and fried like at Borgo. A vineyard called Nanfro (also about an hour from Sigonella) serves an incredible agriturismo meal accompanied by their own delicious wines, and the tour of the vineyard is also fascinating.

Casa delle Farfalle (The Butterfly House)

We love to go here as a family on Sunday afternoons, which is when the butterfly garden is open to the public. We park for two euro for the day, and admission to the butterfly house costs 5 euro per adult. The employees will want to give you a tour in English if they can, and we’ve enjoyed that every time, although it is tedious with small children. Afterwards you’re left alone to enjoy the beautiful butterfly garden.

becca garber casa delle farfalle butterfly house sicily 13 Our 10 Favorites in Sicily {Within 1 Hour of Sigonella}

We picnic in the grass behind the butterfly garden, usually surrounded by other picnicking families. We’ve always been the only Americans there, so it’s a wonderful chance to mix quietly with Italian families enjoying the sunshine and outdoors on a Sunday afternoon.

becca garber casa delle farfalle butterfly house sicily 2.jpg Our 10 Favorites in Sicily {Within 1 Hour of Sigonella} The butterfly garden is also open on Saturdays and weekdays, but you will have to call and make a reservation. Only Sundays are public. It’s open from April to October during the year.

I wrote about the butterfly garden twice before: visiting with other moms and kids and a Sunday afternoon family trip.

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The Sigonella Inn Pool

There is a pool on base at Sigonella, but you have to pay to use it (usually $4 for adults and $3 for kids) and it is only open for recreational swimming from 12:30-6pm from roughly Memorial Day to Labor Day. By 12:30, the baby pool is in the shade, and it gets cold for kids and moms.

So, because of sunshine, nap schedules, and general thriftiness, I head to the Sigonella Inn pool across the street from NAS 1 instead. This pool is free if you don’t rent a deck chair (which is 5 euro), and the shallow kids’ pool is beautiful and lit with sunshine. We usually leave by 2pm because apparently the pool party really heats up later in the day. On the weekends, it’s bustling with Italians and Americans together, and I love being a part of the melting pot.

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Also, their restaurant makes pizza at the poolside for about six euro a pizza, and you can eat it in a take-out box right by the pool. This summer my friend Sarah have gotten into the habit of swimming with our kids and enjoying pizzas at least once a week!

Random mom tip: if you’re looking for a cool place to go on a hot day, IKEA is not a bad choice. During the week it’s not crowded, and there is a delicious restaurant to break up your browsing for everything you don’t need but are going home with anyway. The restaurant is also right by the kids’ section, which has a great play area. My kids play, eat the food I brought (hello thrifty), get a 50-cent ice cream cone from the super fabulous machine, and then play some more before we leave. I love the place so much that I’ve blogged about it here as a playdate and here with a brand new baby!

Caltagirone

Home of Sicily’s traditional yellow-and-blue ceramics, Caltagirone is a lovely spot to browse take visitors, shop for souvenirs, and eat a delicious meal at a tucked-away restaurant. In addition to shopping for ceramics, I have visited during the Christmas season to see the many presepe (nativity) scenes set up in garages and little shops throughout the town. More details in these blog posts: pottery shopping and the presepe.

becca garber caltigirone ceramics sicily 19 Our 10 Favorites in Sicily {Within 1 Hour of Sigonella}

——–

We have loved our three years in Sicily, but I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of cappuccino. If you’re about to move here, it will probably be a lot different from what you’re expecting. And those who have lived here for any length of time know that it’s easy to focus on the negatives, like the driving, or the trash, or everything that comes with living in a rural area.

What we have found is that it’s best to focus on what Sicily does best: deliciously fresh produce and seafood, rich red wine that’s cheap as water, the tallest active volcano in Europe, farm-to-table meals that last all afternoon, sparkling turquoise water by yellow sand beaches, warm and filling street food, and — of course! — sweet gelato cones on hot summer afternoons.

Combine this with Sicily’s warm, generous, welcoming, wonderful people, and you have a whole new world at your fingertips. I wish you a wonderful time in Sicily!

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