5 of the best Sicily villas for an October half-term break
The summer sunshine tends to linger just that little bit longer in Sicily compared to the rest of Italy, which means that October is still a very pleasant month to holiday here. Days can still be warm and sunny, with temperatures reaching up as high as 25˚C, and the sea temperatures, at around 23˚C, tend to be higher than in May.
The summer crowds, however, have all headed back home which means that you get to see the real Sicily. Enjoy the luxury of having beaches almost to yourself and wandering amongst ancient Greek and Roman ruins in splendid isolation.
One place where you won’t be on your own is at the local festivals that pop up all round the island during October. Most are food themed and offer a brilliant opportunity to taste the flavour-bursting local produce at the same time as really seeing what makes this Mediterranean island tick. Some of the best autumn food festivals in and around Mount Etna include Sagra del Pistacchio in Bronte and the Ottobrata Zafferana, spread across 5 Sundays, with each Sunday dedicated to a specific autumn food, such as honey, apples, mushrooms or chestnuts. Further east, FunghiFest takes place in the third week of October in Castelbuono in the Madonie Mountains, while in the south, Chocomodica celebrates the magnificent grainy dark chocolate which has become synonymous with Modica. In any year, festival dates tend to be announced very last-minute, and particularly so this year, so do keep checking. In the meantime, read on for inspiration on some of the best places to take an October half-term break.
Just a hop from Catania airport, and close to the foodie-friendly villages and wineries on the slopes of Mount Etna, Casa dei Sogni ticks every box in terms of location. It will also definitely appeal if you’re looking for a touch of luxury. Interiors are seriously swanky, with plenty of high tech design features and masses of space for everyone. Outside, younger members of the family will adore the huge children’s play area (think slide, swing, climbing frame and trampoline), and the games and table tennis will keep everyone entertained.
A short transfer from Palermo airport takes you into the hills above Cefalù and the hideaway Villa Arte Mare Blue. From here, you can easily access Castelbuono and other Madonie villages, or head down to the beach at Cefalù. When you’re ready to explore Palermo’s historic centre, one mention of ‘sfincione’ (thick Sicilian pizza) and a Street Food tour should convince the kids that that sightseeing can be more fun than they ever imagined.
If you’re just looking for a warm welcome and somewhere quiet to chill for a week, tuck yourself away in Casa del Carrubo, a refurbished farmhouse close to the magnificent baroque towns of the Val di Noto. Even though the heat of the summer will be long gone by now, you can still enjoy dips in the pool, then plunge into the warm waters of the heated jacuzzi. Whizz down to the beach and local pizzeria on the villa bikes, or introduce the kids to the art of pizza-making using the outdoor wood-fired oven.
Sicily’s west coast is home to several fascinating seaside towns which provide a wonderful glimpse into the island’s history. Start with Trapani and Marsala, hop into a cable car up to Erice, then head south to Mazara del Vallo. One week is barely enough to fit it all in! Case Fil is a great base and, with space for up to 3 families, and one week from as little as £600 per family in October, it’s also a great option if you want to keep costs down. Bedrooms are basic but the garden easily makes up for that, thanks to a fantastic 18m pool and stunning dining terrace with a woodburning oven and barbecue. Meanwhile, if the evenings get a little chilly, head into the elegant open plan living space where you can light the fire and gather round the piano for a sing-song.
Vendicari Nature Reserve
In late October, the Vendicari Nature Reserve is home to thousands of flamingos, egrets and other aquatic birds, on their last stopping point before the final leg of their journey to Africa. Tumbling down to the sea, awash with thyme, rosemary and juniper bushes and fringed by golden dunes, the Reserve is as popular with walkers as beach-lovers. 5-bedroomed Oasivera hovers on the edge of the Reserve, set amidst a vast garden of palm tree-dotted lawns. There’s a splendid wind-shielded tiled courtyard and covered veranda for cooler evenings and views from the roof terrace over the Reserve and the sea.