Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Tue August 30 2016

Opinion Home | Making Lasting Impressions

  • Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone | August 30, 2016 11:00 AM ET

    7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 4

    7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 4

    PHOTO: Ruins you can climb or spend a starry night in, views of an active, ancient volcano, curving blue bays. This can only be… (photo by Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone)

    From what guidebooks, websites and mainstream tourists say, autonomous region Sicily can sometimes seem like an afterthought. These resources naturally delve more deeply into Italy’s classic major cities, like Rome, Florence and Venice. Sicily’s thunder is often stolen by its northern neighbors: Amalfi, Capri, Sorrento, Salerno and historic Pompeii.

    But what you might not know about this largest island in the Mediterranean is that it, too, is home to mountaintop towns of cascading homes, the scents of orange blossoms in the sun, and crescent bays lined with golden sands and edged with joltingly turquoise waters.

    In addition, native plumeria perfumes your morning walks as bougainvillea bursts into exuberant purple hues alongside you; the tallest volcano in Europe smolders like the glare of an angsty musician; and food — glorious food! — sings in flavors familiar yet more vibrant than the country’s greatest tenors.

    For the latter, I’m talking about hometown favorites (if you’re a New Yorker, like me) like arancini (meat-stuffed rice balls, crumbed and fried); cannolis (more on that in a minute); icy coffee granitas; cassata cakes; powdered sugar-coated zeppoles; chewy pignoli almond “macaroon” cookies (my favorite!); puffy little pizzettes swollen with mozzarella; and Marsala wines and sauces.

    Have them the way they were before our ancestors brought them across the ocean, and find yourself surprised and delighted that the whole time you thought you were enjoying southern Italian cuisine, you were actually loving Sicilian.

    On this glorious, undersung island, hidden gem towns are plentiful and below the American radar. Here’s the one that positively lit up mine when I inadvertently visited (oh, happy accidents!), and what made this destination my number one pick for escalation on your bucket list.

    1. Taormina, Sicily

    This was another destination that I went into with zero expectations, not knowing much about it. However, this clifftop city blew me away. Tropical palm trees festoon open squares with views that are just as wide, and slate-lined streets give way to checkered tile ones. An aerial tramway just outside the Old Town treats you to views as you head down to the Ionian Sea and a pebbled shoreline, if you seek sun and sand. I have a propensity for heading on high, so even before checking out the stunning coastline, I struck out for the hilltop amphitheater.

    READ MORE: 7 Underrated, Astounding European Destinations for 2017: Part 3

    One of the most celebrated ruins in the island of Sicily, this Grecian-designed, Roman-era theater is the second-largest of its kind and is in such fantastic condition that it’s still frequently used for operatic and theatrical performances, as well as for modern concerts. Unfortunately, neither were available during my short stay, but the panoramic views of smoking Mt. Etna and the curving bay were jaw-dropping enough to earn my applause.

    Better yet, this attraction was only a short walk from the city center … not even far enough to justify my gorging on real Sicilian cannolis, stuffed to order with ricotta cream scented oh-so-delicately with a hint of orange flower water or lemon. Have them dipped in local pistachios — Sicilian ones are among the best in the world — or a bit of chocolate ganache if you really want to treat yourself. I’d recommend a fresh, big, filled-on-the-spot, handmade one from Laboratorio Pasticceria Roberto or a couple of minis in different flavor combinations at Pasticceria Minotauro.

    Pro Tip: This chic resort town is a great base for a stay in Sicily. If you ever tire of shopping boutiques and tasting your way down Taormina’s streets, there are always plentiful hiking trails in the hills and sunbathing in Giardini Naxos. Further afield, it’s simple, affordable, and exciting (hello, hairpin turns!) to get to Messina and even Catania by bus. 


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone Making Lasting Impressions

Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone With experience in both advertising/marketing copywriting and editorial journalism, multiple-award-winning writer Su-Jit Lin-DeSimone’s passion for words is exceeded only by her love of travel. As communications manager for Travel Impressions, she uses that diverse background to create a unique bridge between marketing and storytelling, whether it’s used to share her excitement for Travel Impressions’ latest deals and agent-oriented programs and incentives or for new destinations and suppliers that inspire.
Experience Alaska With Holland America Line

Cruise Lines & Cruise Ships