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From 2600 feet above sea level, Villa Santa Stefania dominates the eastern coast of Sicily. The sun is deliciously hot, the breeze is invigoratingly cool and the views are astoundingly breathtaking. It's no wonder that for centuries Sicilian nobility established their summer villas among these high peaks, draped in vineyards rising between Mount Etna and the endless seashore. This prime location is ideal for experiencing all that the eastern side of Sicily has to offer.
One week is not nearly enough! Guests have to judiciously weigh a myriad of options found within short drives: family owned vineyards, golden sandy beaches, hikes to the volcano's edge, black lava canyons replete with stunning waterfalls and fresh water swimming holes. The always festive atmosphere of Taormina poses another constant lure, as do the wonders of Siracusa to the south and the daily catch markets in nearby Catania. We haven't even touched on Sicily's storehouse of flavors. But first...
Villa Santa Stefania is a quality home with a host of modern comforts not easily found on the island. The property gates open to reveal an immaculately tended lawn overlooking the sea. The grounds stretch from beyond the covered outdoor dining patio, equipped with a wood or charcoal BBQ, to the salt water pool open from April through October. A ping pong table and Foosball are added for outdoor fun.
External steps lead up to a stunning sea view terrace centered around a blazing fire pit — perfect for evening cocktails above the twinkling lights of seaside towns below. On occasion, when looking uphill, a fiery display from the towering majesty of Mount Etna may be glimpsed in the distance.
Inside, original lava flagstone floors and archways flow from one living area to the next. Multiple double glass doors and picture windows bring in sunlight and crisp air. Everything smacks of quality and tasteful foresight. The owner gave careful consideration to guests wanting to avoid steps by leveling the outdoor areas and providing two ground floor bedrooms and bathrooms. In addition, there is a mobility enhanced bathroom on the main level. Three additional bedrooms on the upper floor share a furnished balcony overlooking the sea. Every bedroom in the villa is air conditioned and has its own bathroom.
As part of the greeting, a complimentary breakfast buffet is provided on Sunday. The attentive, English speaking owner and her staff are all excellent cooks. Dinners, Sicilian BBQ nights or cooking classes can all be ordered at additional cost when booking.
Within walking distance are stables offering kiddie rides on donkeys. Their gentle bray, while barely discernible to adults, is music to children's ears. Within a 10 minute drive is the Avventura Park with zip lining for kids of all ages. Zafferana Etnea, named after its prized saffron, is just 12 minutes away by car with over a dozen dining choices and exquisite views of the sea. Every Sunday in October, a festival pays homage to the area's production of honey, chestnuts, grapes and apples.
Walkers, hikers and skiers couldn't ask for a better base to explore Mt. Etna. Being Europe's tallest volcano keeps the air cool even on hot summer days so be sure to bring layers of clothing. Just 30 minutes north is Piano Provenzana, a base camp for self guided hikes through the northern, forested slopes of Etna. For a more organized or guided approach, drive 40 minutes south to Rifugio Sapienza, offering cable cars up to the volcano viewing platform. The more advanced can hire a professional guide for a 5-hour hike to reach the active craters at 8500 feet.
Less strenuous but equally as engaging is exploring the varied landscape along the sea. Much of the coastline is rocky and ideal for photographers. Aci Trezza, 30 minutes away, is a charming fishing village and just off of its craggy shore are 8 volcanic formations known as the islands of the Cyclops, the legendary stones hurled at Ulysses in The Odyssey. Continue driving 10 minutes south to the next town of Aci Castello with strewn boulder beaches, a Norman castle and a seaside promenade lined with some of Sicily's best seafood restaurants.
Dream of soaking up Mediterranean rays on a warm sandy beach? Head north to the golden beaches of Giardini Naxos in 30 minutes or south to the Catania beaches in just under an hour.
From Villa Santa Stefania, a 15 minute drive leads to the A18 Autostrada, the gateway to exploring every historic treasure along the eastern shore. The thermal spas of Acireale are 30 minutes away; stunning beaches of Naxos: 30; Catania's lively fish market or Taormina's Greek theater: 40; Lentini's archeological museum: 60; Messina, Siracusa and ancient Ortigia: 75; Caltagirone's ceramics or Baroque Noto: 90; the Roman mosaics of Piazza Armerina or Ragusa: 100; Agrigento's Greek temples: 2.5 hours; Palermo: 3 hours.
First floor: Two bedrooms, each with a queen size bed, en suite bathroom with shower and double doors opening to a shared, furnished sea view balcony. One bedroom with two single, joinable beds and double doors open to the shared sea view balcony; bathroom across the hall with shower.
Outdoor stairway from the patio leads up to a sea view terrace furnished with outdoor seating and a fire pit. This villa has an alarm system. Every bedroom is air conditioned and has a portable hairdryer.