VICTA’s second international trip of 2017 saw us jetting off to the beautiful island of Sicily. Meeting at Luton Airport, our group enjoyed a hearty meal before an early wake-up call to fly out to Sicily, where we met our guides from Seable Holidays. The trip began with a whistle-stop tour through the streets of Catania, including finding the location of the beach and receiving a short history of the island, before arriving at our accommodation, just north of Acicastello. Our day finished up with some relaxation in the pool and dinner at one of Acicastello’s finest fish restaurants where we took in the sights of the celebration of the town’s patron saint.

Our second day saw us travel to a glorious sandy beach to try windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. The afternoon was a relaxing one with fun and games in the pool before heading out to a nearby Italian steakhouse for dinner.

Day three took our group back into Catania to visit the ‘Tactile Museum’, where we were able to feel scaled down models of some of the world’s most famous monuments including the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum, the Blue Mosque, The Wailing Wall and St. Peter’s Square and Basilica in the Vatican City. It was a fantastic hands-on experience and accessible exhibition enjoyed by everyone in our group.

After visiting some of the (smallest) wonders of the world, we ventured out to the markets of Catania to get a view of modern Sicily. We took in the smells from the fish market, the tastes of Sicilian cheeses and meats, and then enjoyed a small but exquisite café to try the Sicilian dish of Pasta Norma. After venturing around Catania further, we found ourselves back in Acicastello dining in the fish restaurant, sampling what the ocean has to offer, with squid, octopus and swordfish on the menu.

On our fourth day, we travelled out towards Etna and explored a traditional organic farm, checking out the different varieties of trees that grow well there due to the fertile volcanic soil. We met a family of donkeys, and of goats, both producing milk for the farm’s cheeses, and a rather large brood of hens producing fresh organic eggs. After visiting the farm and sampling some more of Sicily’s olive oils, meats, cheeses and some small pasta dishes, we ventured further up the mountain to the small but award-winning vineyard belonging to Don Saro. We sampled some of the fine wines and were taught the correct way of tasting wine as well as receiving a tour of the factory where all 40 hectares of Don Saro’s grapes are pressed, fermented and bottled.

Day five began with us all having a relaxed morning before heading off to Mount Etna. We stopped off in the town of Zafferana, the last town before the Etna base camp, for lunch and a photo opportunity. Etna itself was exhilarating and maybe a little scary, and upon arrival at the base camp, we found ourselves getting a short lesson on the history of Etna, the variety of volcanic rocks and learning that the Mountain itself is Europe’s most active volcano! We pressed on and found ourselves soon at the highest point that anyone is allowed, just below 3,000 metres. Our group of volcanic explorers were buffeted by the wind, but still happy with themselves for making it up and exploring some of the craters around the South East face of the mountain. We returned to base camp, rather windswept and dusty, jumped into our minibuses and ventured back down the mountain to Zafferana, where we had a table booked for dinner at an award-winning Porcini restaurant.

Our sixth day saw us back at our accommodation for the morning and having a go at some scuba diving. There were some nervous faces initially but everyone had a go, finding that a lot of us were actually rather good! Our afternoon was a split of food tasting in Catania, honeys, meats, cheeses and ice cream (including the Sicilian delicacy of Granita, an ice cream with no milk), while the other half of the group went out on the ocean for a spot of swimming with the local scuba diving school.

On day seven, our penultimate day, we travelled to Catania once more for a spot of souvenir shopping, the usual things were purchased; tea towels, t-shirts and mugs. All very quirky! Shopping was followed by an afternoon visit to the Norman Castle which was built from the black volcanic rock next to the ocean in Acicasetllo. Our final afternoon in Sicily was one of relaxation with fun and games, some swimming in the pool and some celebrations for some of the group who had got their university results!

Before setting off we enjoyed a hearty breakfast and ventured through a very sunny Catania, driving past the ocean waving us goodbye before boarding our plane at Catania airport and leaving to come back to an equally sunny but not as warm UK.
A huge thanks go out to our guides from Seable Holidays, who made the week informative, entertaining and full of Sicilian adventure. And of course to our volunteers who helped our participants whenever needed and went above and beyond to ensure everyone was entertained as well.