If you’re anything like me, you’ll be dreaming of your first getaway in the glorious, but seemingly-far-off world of “post-Lockdown.” If that’s you, I’d suggest you centre the object of your holiday fantasies on Villa Britannia.
Villa Britannia sits just-outside of Taormina in Sicily: a hilltop town in the shadow of Mount Etna and cradle of the coast. It is as close to perfection as holiday accommodation can get. And maybe just a bit closer than that.
With only two rooms, you’ll be sharing this little slice of heaven with just one other couple and the house is cavernous enough to ensure you barely bump into each other, if you don’t want to.
The villa is beautifully furnished, as if straight out of an interior’s magazine, somehow managing to effortlessly blend modest homeliness with ultra-luxury. The kitchen is a chef’s dream, with a large island resplendent with locally sourced ingredients and a fridge stocked with delicious cheeses. The best bit? You can help yourself.
The bar (yes, you have your own bar – and it’s huge) in the living room operates an honesty policy and has a selection of incredible, well-priced wines. I was seven-months pregnant when we visited, so sadly could only have the odd sip, despite being assured that, in Sicily, a daily glass of red was recommended in my condition. I did, however, relish in snuggling up on the sofas at the end of a day’s walking, losing back-to-back games of chess to my husband, as the warm evening air wove its way through the open balcony doors.
The villa is run by Louisa and Marco – a wonderful British/Sicilian couple with two young children who live opposite the villa. They were the most fantastic hosts, the-right-side of attentive and eager for you to treat their gorgeous abode as if were yours. Marco prepared breakfast each morning on the leafy balcony and it was literally the highlight of my day. Freshly baked cakes, tarts, croissants and bread, tender cheeses and meats with sundried tomatoes, homemade yoghurt and local honeys, eggs… You name it, it was there for you to sample.
Needless to say, I had about three helpings each day, which set me up well for exploring Taormina. I’d avoid it on a Saturday when the cruise ship passengers descend, but otherwise it’s a stunning maze of stone streets, incredible restaurants and beachy views. Sadly, I was too-pregnant to hike Mount Etna, a short car journey away, but to see it in all its glory, whilst taking in a wonderful throwback to history; I’d recommend visiting the ancient amphitheatre which sits slap bang in the middle of town.
Consummate foodies, Louisa and Marco recommended one fantastic restaurant after another, night-after-night, so definitely chat to them about what you’re looking for and they’ll even book for you. Note, booking is a bit of a must in Taormina if you want to eat at the best places. My top picks were Ristorante Rosmarino and Mamma Rosa (you have to queue for this one, but it’s worth the wait).
But if you want the foodie-of-all-foodie experiences, you’d be crazy to miss the cookery class led by Louisa and one of two chefs she works with. The class is in the house and are small and intimate enough that you get to know the other diners well and really learn Sicilian cookery.
I was quickly schooled in the art of homemade macaroni, caponata and involtini and now have recipes I can use at home whenever we need a bit of Sicily in our house. Which, let’s face it, is all the time. After the cooking, you sit down to eat the meal you’ve prepared, with dessert, wines and the most refreshing orange-version-of-limoncello I’ve ever tasted, provided by Louisa.
I’m writing this on the sofa with my new baby upstairs; how I long for the Sicilian warmth, incredible food and even more incredible hospitality of Villa Britannia.
Once travel is allowed again, if it is not fully booked within minutes, that would be a crying-shame.