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Beat the Winter Blues in Sicily

Winters in Germany – especially the time after Christmas market season – are not our favorite. The temperatures are not super cold, but the lack of sun with grey, dreary, cloudy (and often rainy) days for weeks on end can be… well depressing.  This sad seasonal feeling was compounded by the fact that for the last two years, we had spent around two months of our German winter in sunny, warm India. All this to say, by February we were more than craving a little sunshine. Our answer (read: Arya’s proposal):  a long weekend in Sicily!


Sicily in February isn’t the balmy climate you might associate with Italy, but it was loads better than grey, rainy Frankfurt. During the day, temperatures were around 12 degrees and dipped down to around 6 at night. It was quite windy, so we still always needed a coat, but the endless supply of sunshine completely made up for it. We traveled by plane from Frankfurt (Hahn) to Catania on a Thursday afternoon , and flew back to Frankfurt on a Monday morning. We flew with Ryanair for about 80 euros per person, and the experience is what you expect at this price point: limited baggage allowance, no extras, and a little chaos.

Day 1: Catania (arrival)

We arrived in Catania in the early evening and took a bus from the airport to a stop a few blocks from our Airbnb. After dropping our luggage and changing out of our Frankfurt-weather clothes we started our exploration. Central Catania was full of eccentric little streets, lit up with street lights and colorful string lights. Chairs and tables filled the sidewalks and even spilled out into the streets, people filled the air with enthusiastic conversations and laughter. We eventually made our way to a little joint called Vermut - Salumeria, vineria, vermouth bar, were we sat outside and ordered a bunch of small plates to share and two glasses of local wine. The food was amazing, I’m still dreaming of this plate we ordered of thinly sliced zucchini rolled up around a generous ball of soft cheese.

After a couple rounds of more ordering, we took to the streets again, meandering around without a real destination in mind. We walked through a beautiful neighborhood called Borgo Sanzio decked in gorgeous lights and full of restaurants and bars.

We wound up at Parc Public Botanic where we danced around a gazebo in the moonlight and tried (unsuccessfully) to befriend all the stray cats. Exhausted from a long week, Carly decided to end her night here and retired to the Airbnb. Arya stayed out a bit longer and met a couple of locals and had a wonderful time chatting with them until late night.


Day 2: Taormina

We woke up early on our second say in Sicily, drank coffee on the small balcony overlooking Via Gesuiti and decided that we should take a day trip to Taormina. We walked about 20 minutes to Catania central station (with a short stop for espresso along the way) where we bought our tickets and a pistachio gelato (for breakfast, of course).

The train ride to Taormina was about 55 minutes and costs about 6 eur per person each way. The ride boasts views of both the seaside and mount Etna. Taormina is an incredible town perched on the hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on one side and with views of mount Etna in the other. But the train station for Taormina is closer to sea level, called Taormina-Giardini. We had planned to take a bus up the hillside to reach the city, but after waiting for quite some time, when the bus arrived, it was already full and would not allow any additional passengers to board. We decided to climb the hillside on foot to reach Taormina – that took us about 45 minutes and a lot of “photo breaks” that were really just pauses to catch our breath. If you decide to climb, please be aware that it's a steep climb on not-so-well paved road, so dress accordingly. But the climb rewarded us with beautiful views of the sea and nature at its full glory.

When we finally reached the top, the narrow alleyway opened up to a street a few steps away from Piazza IX Aprile: an expansive checker-tiled square with sweeping views of the seaside, glimpses of Mount Etna, with the backdrop of Chiesa di San Giuseppe. As I stood along the railing, still out of breath from the climb, a flood of memories from my last time in Taormina returned. I (Carly) had traveled here almost six years earlier with my extended family as part of a larger vacation around Italy and Greece. We spent one of our last nights together at this Piazza, taking in the night views and posing for a group photo on the stairs in front of the church. So when Arya suggested change our plans and stay in Taormina for a night, (contrary to my normal schedule-driven response) I was so ready to say yes. We hadn’t packed a bag, were sweaty from the unanticipated climb up, but stopped at a market to buy deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste and made it work. And it was worth it!

 After a stroll through the scenic Corso Umberto (which because of the off-season, was truly a stroll, not squeezing through hordes of people), we stopped at a café for a quick drink and a chance to book a place to stay that night (and to escape the wind). We were able to find an Airbnb that was available to book on short notice located a few streets up from Corso Umberto.

View of Mt. Etna from Piazza IX April

After checking in, we embarked on one of our favorite activities of our whole trip – the climb to Chiesa Madonna della Rocca. Yes, that’s right another climb. In total we climbed 147 stories this day, and Carly still feels it in her lower back. The climb was incredible with stunning views at every turn. When we reached the Chiesa Madonna della Rocca, a small church built into the side of the mountain, it was almost sunset. We climbed a bit higher and watched the sun slowly dip below the horizon, casting a glowy orange across the misty valley and Mt. Etna. After our decent, we explored the Taormina at night and treated ourselves to amazing Gluten-free pizza and local wine at Villa Zuccaro.

View of Mt. Etna from Chiesa Madonna della Rocca
View of the sea from the Chiesa Madonna della Rocca

Day 3: Taormina/Catania – train situation

Having checked off most of our Taormina wish list, and because many things were closed in the city due to it being off-season (but mostly because our bodies were aching from all the climbing the day before), we decided to head back to Catania relatively early in the morning. We planned to take the bus down to the train station, but we had a lot of difficulty locating the station, so decided to just go down the way we came up – the meandering trail along the edge of the hillside. We convinced ourselves by saying the views were so great the first time and going down will be easier! By the time we got down, we could see our train approaching the station. Arya quickly bought tickets online and we hopped on the train just in time. But this was our first mistake. In our haste, we bought tickets for the following day, so they were not valid for our ride.

Because Carly is a “scaredy cat” and didn’t want to get yelled at by the Italian train conductors, we decided to hop off at a random stop along the way and wait for the next train. We hadn’t had a coffee yet, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to see another small coastal city and get our morning caffeine – so we de-boarded at Fiumefreddo. I wish we hadn’t.

Fiumefreddo was a strange little town. We walked 15 minutes from the train station to the nearest café where we got an espresso and cappuccino. So far so good, but when we left the café and started to walk along the streets, all eyes were on us. People stared… I mean really stared and not in a curious way, but in a “why are you here” type of way. We both felt a bit uncomfortable, so we spent the 2.5 hours waiting for the next train, mostly around the tiny, one-room station.

It was around 1pm when we finally made it back to Catania and we were hungry! After a quick stop at the Airbnb to change and brush our hair with something more effective than a fork, we headed out to grab some food. Arya had found a restaurant with great reviews tucked away along a rather unassuming street - A Putia Do Calabrisi. Well, unassuming except for the line spilling out into the street. But once again, the effort (wait) was worth it. The food was fantastic – Carly got a seafood risotto and a side of caponata and Arya got a pasta dish with a side of veal. We mistakenly ordered a liter of wine and finished our meal fully satisfied and more than a bit drunk. We spent the rest of the evening exploring Catania on foot and attempting to sober up after our liter of wine.


Day 4: Catania

Our last full day in Catania was a rainy one, but we drank espressos on our tiny balcony and eventually ventured out into the city with umbrellas. We walked around the Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolo l’Arena and found a little park full of blossoming orange trees.

A must is a stroll down Via Crociferi through the Arco di Benedetto where you are flanked on both sides with impressive, massive buildings – transporting you to a different time and world. For a different vibe, head down towards Giadrino Pacini to the Catania Fish Market, where you are greeted with all the smells and sounds of the lively outdoor market. As you’re exploring the streets, don’t forget to look up for the corridors that are canopied with hundreds of colorful umbrellas. Pretty much wherever you explore in Catania Centro, there is something to see and explore – even in the rain!

Where to stay:

Visiting Sicily on the “off-season” meant there were lots of places to choose from at really affordable prices when it came to lodging. In Catania, we chose an Airbnb close to the Benedictine Monastery – it was a central location that allowed us to quickly walk to wherever we wanted to go, and only a 20 minute walk from Catania central station. In Taormina, we were not planning to spend the night, but once we arrived, we knew we needed to spend more time there. We were able to book an Airbnb for that day in the center of the city.


How to get around:

It was pretty easy to get around Sicily with public transit. We used google maps to figure out where we wanted to go, then bought tickets either at the station or on the bus. To get to and from Catania and Taormina, use booked tickets on Train Italia. The buses, while great to get from the airport to the central station, were a bit difficult to navigate within the city. They didn’t have any indication of what the next stop was, so you really had to know where you were going and pay attention to where you were to be able to know when to get off. When in the city, we preferred to just walk around – exploring on foot – rather than bother with the busses.


Things we’d do again:

  • Eat at A Putia Do Calabrisi and Vermut

  • Take the Trip to Taormina

  • Eat all the pistachio gelato (Carly)


Things we’d do differently:

  • Book a night in Taormina ahead of time (and pack a bag!)

  • Not stop in Fiumofreddo

  • Be aware that less things will be open in Taormina on off season

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Hey there! If we are meeting for the first time, we are Carly & Arya, a binational couple living in Germany and traveling the world. Arya is from India, and Carly is from the US and we have been married since 2021. We hold steady 9-5 jobs while traveling the world. We are excited to share our story and unique perspectives with you. Take a look around, and don't forget to subscribe to our updates and follow us on Instagram

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