Sicily is a destination that most holiday makers are more than familiar with, but when it comes to getting a taste of the real Italy, it has plenty more to offer than most people have experienced.
Whether you want to relax on the beach or follow in the footsteps of Italy's famous commissario Montalbano, Ragusa and its seaside neighbour Marina di Ragusa has more than enough to relax you in the paradisiacal surrounds of Sicily.
Ryanair fly to Comiso, a small airport that is a little bit away from where you want to end up, but the price more than does enough to balance that inconvenience out. You can rent a car and drive, or there are buses that will take you to Ragusa and Marina di Ragusa, the latter being the best place to stay. Marina di Ragusa is set up to cater to tourists, but a lot of them are Italian tourists. That means English is spoken, but not universally. With a phrasebook and some hand gestures, you'll have enough to get by though. That also means that there is enough of 'real Italy' here to wine and dine you and leave you never wanting to go home.
Things to do
If you are as avid a fan of Il Commissario Montalbano as this journalist, then you can follow the trail of the great detective and see everything from his house and one of his famous restaurants (in Punta Secca, a few minutes away by car) to the old town of Ragusa Ibla. This trip is not for those who aren't fond of steps, but the view alone when you reach the section where the new part of the city meets the old is worth all the effort. You can find plenty of beautiful restaurants there too, where the meal is punctuated with moments of silence because the food is so great. Try Duomo, La Rusticana or XXXX.
Of course, there's always the option of kicking back on the beach and simply floating in the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean, reading a book (again, Montalbano), and generally relaxing. The water is warm and welcoming, and even those who are not fans of a beach holiday will find the charms of this approach irresistible. You should also partake in some gelato, have a cannolo and drink plenty of Nero d'Avola wine, which is all made just a few miles away.
You can organise to take a tour of the locales where they film the series Il commissario Montalbano too, including a stop at the wonderful Castello Donnafugata, or a visit to Porto Empedocle, which is a bit of a jaunt but quite beautiful.
Pic via tg1.rai.it
If you fancy a city break you can head to Catania, or travel all the way to the other side of the island and see Palermo. A visit to Mount Etna is a possibility from the former, but you need to pack with that in mind: bring fleeces, heavy boots, and make sure that you search around ahead of time and find a reliable company that does tours that's not going to rob you.
Taormina is possibly the most famous of the tourist towns in that area, and while it might be worth seeing if you’re passing, we’d recommend steering clear almost entirely if possible. Faux quaint is not our cup of tea, but the one thing that might be a trip to one of the restaurants that overlooks the coast, such as the Granduca. The food was good, the price was more than decent, and you feel a bit like you’re in a James Bond movie when you sit down for a meal as you overlook the turquoise sea below.
Where to stay
There's no need to look for a hotel with a pool if you can get close enough to waterfront in Marina di Ragusa. Have a scout around Airbnb for a nice place where you can relax, or if you’re looking for something cheap and cheerful (that does have a pool) try the hotel Aria di Mare. Not exactly luxurious, despite the pool, but it won’t break the bank.
Food & drink
While La Falena might look a bit odd, being located next to a petrol station, the food is pretty great for the price. To get a huge selection of beers and some pretty tasty cocktails, try Decanter, which is on the seafront and has some incredibly friendly staff who are happy to chat about booze for hours.