I spent four days exploring Taormina and Catania in Sicily, Italy.
As it was my first time in Italy, there were many magical moments.
But I also learned a lot, and there are a couple of key things I'll do differently on my next trip.
I recently visited Sicily, Italy, for the first time.
In April, I visited Sicily, Italy for the first time, and it was an unforgettable experience.
I was there for work, but I also managed to squeeze in a couple of vacation days while there; I spent two days in Taormina, a seaside town on the east coast of Sicily, to write a review of San Domenico Palace, the luxury hotel where season two of "The White Lotus" was filmed. Then, I spent two days in Catania, a city around an hour's drive from Taormina that's known for shopping, restaurants, and its ancient fish market.
And while I had the time of my life, there were also plenty of things I'll do differently on my next trip back.
Since returning home to Scotland, UK, the first thing I tell people about Taormina is that it is the most beautiful place I've ever visited, thanks to the gorgeous natural landscape including the sea, wildflowers, and Mount Etna, an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily.
I can't wait to return one day.
But thanks to the things I learned on my first trip to Sicily, the next time I'm there will hopefully be even better. Here's everything I'll do differently on my next trip back.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at San Domenico Palace, but next time I'll book more affordable accommodation.
I spent one night at San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel, and while there I stayed in a sea-view room with a terrace, which cost $2,248 for one night, including breakfast.
As I mentioned in my review, my favorite aspects of the hotel were the delicious food and the surrounding scenery, two things you don't have to pay thousands of dollars to experience.
After the work portion of my trip was over, I checked into UnaHotels Capotaormina, a four-star hotel that cost €242.90, or around $260, per night. It was less expensive than San Domenico Palace and had a lot of the same perks, including an infinity pool, a restaurant and bar, and my room had a balcony that overlooked the sea. There was also a private beach.
I would have had an equally amazing trip if I had stayed at UnaHotels for the entire duration of my trip, or if I'd chosen a hotel that had even lower prices. There's so much to do in Taormina, and since it's a hilltop town there are gorgeous views wherever you go.
Next time, I'll book all of my public transport in advance.
I traveled to Taormina via bus from Catania Airport, and the one-hour journey cost €7, or around $7.50.
The bus to Taormina is scheduled once every hour, and you can buy tickets online or at the ticket booths at the airport. I didn't purchase my ticket online, as I found the bus operator's website to be slow and difficult to use.
In my flurry to get to the bus on time, I didn't see the ticket booth at first and wrongly assumed that I would be able to buy my ticket from the bus driver, as this is something I've done in the past at airports at home in Scotland.
However, the bus driver wouldn't allow me to purchase the ticket from him, which meant I had to wait an entire hour for the next bus after buying my ticket from the booth. Of course, in the long run, it wasn't a big deal, as I didn't have very long to wait. But the situation taught me to always be prepared and observant when it comes to public transport, and not to assume it will be the same everywhere you travel.
In my opinion, the five-hour pizza and pasta making class I attended wasn't ideal for a solo traveler like myself.
Like most people who visit Italy for the first time, I was especially excited to try pizza and pasta during my trip. And since I was traveling alone, I thought a pizza and pasta-making class would be a fun activity where I could learn more about Italian cuisine and (hopefully) make some friends.
The class was held at a pizza restaurant in Taormina's town center, and cost £57.07, or around $70, for around five hours. The class was certainly interesting, as the instructor taught us how to make the dough, use a traditional pizza oven, and make pasta from scratch.
There were five of us in total in the class, including two couples who were also tourists. While the couples were lovely and chatty, it was clear that they weren't at the class to make friends as they already had a plus one. I was also envious that those in a couple had someone to take their photo as they worked in the kitchen.
Hopefully I'll return to Sicily with my partner or a friend in the future. But if I return alone, I'll be sure to research alternative activities where I'd be more likely to meet other solo travelers.
I'd also love to see more of Italy during my next visit.
Taormina and Catania were magical, but there were also a handful of cities in Sicily that I would have loved to visit, such as the capital city, Palermo, and Noto.
I've also never been to mainland Italy, and have always dreamed of taking a rail trip through all of the major cities, including Venice, Florence, and Rome.
I didn't know what to expect during this trip, but I can say with certainty that it has only encouraged me to explore more of the country. Next time, I'll stay for longer than just a few days to ensure that I'll get to visit all of the beautiful places on my list.
I'll be sure to visit during a warmer time of year next time.
I visited Sicily in April, and while it was warm enough to wear dresses at the start of my trip, by the end of my trip I was wearing jeans and cardigans, as the weather had become overcast and rainy.
It was unfortunately too cold to swim in the pool or the sea during my stay at UnaHotels Capotaormina, and when I arrived in Catania, I ended up eating my first Italian gelato in the rain.
According to Lonely Planet, April marks the end of Sicily's low season, which begins in November. If my next trip involves somewhere with a beach, I'll be sure to visit in high season, which is between July and August, the publication reports.
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