As part of our road trip in Italy series, Rosie Meleady discovers Sicily’s eastern coast from Catania to Messina is filled with breathtaking views, a bubbling volcano, and culinary and architectural gems, a comfortable four-day road trip to Italy.

DAY 1: CATANIA

Catania on the East Coast is the second largest city in Sicily and is the perfect place to start soaking up the breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea.

You’ll start with a drive along the Cyclops’ Coast, so named as the Ancient Greeks believed the Cyclopes were a race of one-eyed giants that once populated Sicily.

The myth developed when Ancient Greeks discovered skulls twice the size of a human head with a large hole that they took as an enormous single eye-socket. The hole in the skull was, in fact, the nasal cavity of the extinct dwarf elephant that roamed prehistoric Sicily.

In Catania, visit the Fontana dell’Elefante, a fountain built in the Piazza del Duomo in 1736, which includes a dwarf elephant made of lava stone and an Egyptian obelisk.

Take a short walk to Castello Ursino, a castle built originally on a cliff overlooking the sea during the 13th century, but due to volcanic eruptions, lava flows and earthquakes the castle has gradually moved a mile inland.

Drive from Catania to Aci Trezza for stunning views of the beautiful, rocky coast and a quaint harbour filled with colourful boats.

Where to Stay

The five-star Romano Palace, nestled in its own private park just south of Catania.

Where to Eat

Il Moro de Trezza overlooking the beautiful harbour serves great fish dishes. It’s a good place to stop if you’re in the mood for an elegant dinner or a romantic evening.

DAY 2: MOUNT ETNA

Mount Etna’s fiery summit looms as the backdrop of many towns along the eastern Sicilian coast. By car, you can reach a variety of nature trails and points of interest depending on which side of the mountain you drive up. Leaving from Catania, it is easiest to drive to the town of Nicolosi and continue up the volcano from there. You could also drive a bit farther north and enter from the town of Zafferana Etnea. Both towns lead you to a roughly 12-mile drive to Sapienza Refuge on the south side of Mount Etna.

The Sapienza Refuge is the best place to park your car. From here, you can take a cable car or find a guide to take you on foot to get closer to the volcano’s many craters. There are a huge amount of tours available depending on your fitness level and how adventurous you want to be.

Where to Stay

Airone Wellness Hotel is a fabulous luxury hotel that provides a wellness area complete with sauna, Turkish bath, relaxing shower, Jacuzzi, and ‘hydropool’. The swimming pool is nestled in a park filled with chestnut trees.

 

DAY 3: TAORMINA

The next part of your road trip takes you to Taormina, a small yet charming town overlooking the Ionian Sea.

Although the town of Taormina itself has scenic views at every turn, for extra wow factor you should drive to the castle ruins in Castelmola. You can park your car in a public car park just a few minutes from the ruins where you have a 360-degree panorama of mountain, sky and sea.

Another good place to visit is Isola Bella a small nature reserve that is accessible by a narrow path from the mainland beach.

Where to Stay

Baia Taormina Grand Palace clings to a rocky hillside that hangs over the sea. Relax on the hotel’s private rocky beach or at the hotel’s swimming pool.

La Plage Resort is located right next to the famous Isola Bella and is comprised of a low-rise building and several bungalows among its pretty gardens. Relax on the resort’s private beach or treat yourself in their spa.

Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, a five-star hotel set so close to the water’s edge that you can hear the waves lapping against the rocky beach from your room.

Where to Eat

Lido La Caravella Club is directly on the beach. After enjoying a seafood meal stroll out to the beach to relax in the club’s lounge chairs.

 

DAY 4: MESSINA

Messina is a lively city right on the Ionian Coast; however, swimming is dangerous in the narrow Strait of Messina. Visit the Cathedral of Messina and the Astronomical Clock, which is one of the largest astronomical clocks in the world. The clock marks the time and the phases of the moon, and if you arrive 10 or 15 minutes before noon, you can catch the daily show that includes mechanically animated lions roaring and roosters crowing as they illustrate events from the town’s civil and religious history.

Where to Stay

La Mia Valle Hotel’s setting is peaceful and relaxing, set in lush green gardens.

Where to Eat

Check out I Ruggeri where the food is beautifully and innovatively plated.