Monday, 19 June 2017

a morning at sea on the "Futura"

One of the things I love about our town Giardini Naxos is the feeling of being surrounded by lovely friends, neighbours and friendly local residents. Sometimes a five minute walk to the seafront turns into an hour because you can bump into so many people you know along the way.

Last month together with my friend Liz Gaan, who is Taormina's top wedding planner, her daughter Laura, our lovely friend Teresa who also lives in Giardini, and Marilisa who works on the events team at the gorgeous Belmond Hotel Villa Sant' Andrea in Taormina, we were all invited by a lovely guy called Claudio and his wife Manuela to spend a morning on their beautiful boat called the Futura.

The boat Futura is 16 metres (50 foot) long and is docked in the port of Giardini Naxos.

The boat has a typical vintage style with 3 bedrooms, a beautifully decorated double room and 2 twin rooms, a kitchen, living room, 2 bathrooms and a shower room.

Claudio explained to us that one of his favourite songs is called "Futura" by an Italian singer called Lucio Dalla, so as soon as he saw the name on the boat he thought it was a good omen and that he was meant to buy it.

The boat truly is beautiful. It is decorated with a lot of love and attention to detail with a nautical theme.

With more than 1000 kilometres of stunning coastline Sicily is the perfect island for boat trips. Sicily is surrounded by three seas, the Tyrrhenian Sea to the North, the Mediterranean Sea to the South and the Ionian Sea to the East.

The Eastern coastline between Syracuse and Messina is particularly beautiful as Mount Etna dominates the coastline. There is also the breath taking Aeolian Islands just off the North Eastern edge of Sicily to explore, each of these seven islands each has its own enchanting character.

We all arranged to meet at the port of Giardini Naxos and all excitedly boarded Futura.

Along with Claudio and Manuela, also on board with us was Captain Luciano and Giovanna who both live just down the road from me, and Alex Lentini from Dive Sicily who also lives just down the road from me. I have experienced a boat trip with Captain Luciano two years ago so I knew we were all in good hands with one of the best skippers.

It was a beautiful May day under a bright blue Sicilian sky as we sailed off across the sparkling bay of Naxos.

Leaving Mount Etna in the distance behind us with Giardini Naxos passing by and Taormina and Castelmola high above us we approached Capo Taormina and the sea cave known as Grotto Amoretta, the cave of love. In a small boat you can nestle down with your Amore (lover) in the shade of the cave whilst the gentle water rocks you back and forth, how romantic? The grotto is stunning with crystal clears waters that have a magical blue light.

We then rounded the Cape of Taormina where we headed towards the shore past the private beach of the Hotel Capo Taormina which can only be reached by stairs carved through the rock face from the hotel. We passed by Fico d’India,  a rock rising out of the sea so named for its likeness to the Sicilian prickly pear cactus.

Then we arrived at the magnificent marine reserve of Isola Bella which we sailed around and Captain Luciano moored the boat. Once moored, we enjoyed a brunch of locally produced meats and cheeses, bread and olives, salad and fresh fruit all washed down with delicious local red wine.

This area is full of much beauty and is where the designers Dolce and Gabbana chose to shoot their advertising campaigns in 2013.

Taormina is steeped in history, myths and legends dating back even before Ancient Greek times and this includes its sea and coastline too, with shipwrecks on the seabed and underwater archaeological areas. It is a perfect place for snorkelling and diving.

After our brunch it was soon time to head back to shore and the port of Giardini Naxos buzzing from our delightful morning at sea with great friends.

Futura can take you for a lovely tour around the coast of Taormina, visiting its five bays of Capo Taormina, Isola Bella, Mazzaro beach, Atlantis bay and Spisone bay.

"She" is perfect for a symbolic wedding celebration, after getting legally married in Taormina why not have a symbolic ceremony onboard with your closest family and friends or why not celebrate an anniversary or special occasion.

Futura is also ideal for a romantic date and is an amazing idea for surprise wedding proposals, maybe even when undersea snorkelling?

Additonally the crew can also arrange fantastic parties, buffet dinners or lunches, stag and hen parties, pizza parties, snorkelling and diving, fishing and barbecues. They have a fantastic barbeque that hangs over the side of the boat. What could be better than catching your own fish and cooking it onboard?

Whatever the occasion you will certainly have a whole lot of fun with Claudio and his team.

For more Information and Booking
with Claudio

For experienced Taormina Wedding Planning
with Liz Gaan

NEW Blog post coming soon:

Scuba Diving and Diving Courses
Watersports and Snorkelling Tours
with Certified PADI Instructors

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Love Sarah x

Sunday, 11 June 2017

a magical evening at Castello San Marco

It is always a delight when a handsome young man tells you that the doors to his castle are always open to you.

Once upon a time on a faraway island

Off season our rescue dog Daisy loves a walk along a beach and one of her favourites is San Marco Beach which is around an 11 minute drive away from our home in Giardini Naxos and located near a small town called Calatabiano. San Marco is a long sandy slightly pebbly beach lined with tall Eucalyptus trees.

Behind the trees you can see high walls surrounding a beautiful building and gardens, this is Castello San Marco.

You get a tempting glimpse of the castle and its lush tropical gardens through its big iron gates and I have always been fascinated to go beyond the castle walls.

Whilst having breakfast one morning with my lovely friend Giusi of Walking Eolie & Sicily, she asked me if I had ever been to the Castello and I sadly replied "No, but I have always wanted to go". "Then we must go together" she said. So a date was set for an aperativo the following Monday evening.

Remotely located, the stunning Castello was built in 1689 as the country residence of Prince Ignazio Sebastiano Gravina Cruyllas, Prince of Palagonia who was the heir of a noble family close to the King of Spain. He used it for social occasions and meetings. Receipts dating back to 1690 show that the castle was built in record time within just two years.

In the early 1970's the castle was bought by the Murabito family who lovingly restored the building and its gardens to its former glory turning it into a unique charming 4 star hotel.

The castle is a place with a notable past and I was excited for our visit, Daisy got ready for her Cinderella moment and wore her bright pink diamante collar with her pink polka dot bandana. Castello San Marco is a dog friendly hotel.

On our arrival at the castle we were greeted at the gates by our host for the evening Valerio Murabito whose family own the property which he and his brothers manage in spectacular style.

Valerio has worked in London in one of London's top class hotels.

As you step beyond the castle gates your breath is taken away by the beauty and elegance of the castle and instantly you get a feeling of warmth and the depth of the historic surroundings and you really do feel like a Disney Princess.

Immersed within 4 hectares of parkland the main building is built in a typical Sicilian baroque style complete with turrets and a grand outside staircase. In the evening it is illuminated by warm welcoming lights creating a soft and soothing atmosphere. The perfect place to lose your glass slipper.

Valerio proceeded to give us a tour of his castle and its gardens. We visited at sunset and that night the sky was a glorious peachy pink shade with the sun setting over Mount Etna which is clearly seen from the gardens.

The castle's interior is decorated in a modern way boasting traditional Sicilian baroque touches and works of art and hand crafted furniture. Around every corner you are reminded of its aristocratic past with majestic halls, grand fireplaces and huge chandeliers.

As a hotel the castle has 30 suites and a junior suite which are located in the castle grounds. As you wander around the grounds and gardens along the cobbled pathways and under the archways of the castle the only sound you can hear is birdsong, soft music and a light breeze through the trees. There are lanterns everywhere lit with candles and snug places to sit and chill, so much so that it makes you feel that you never want to leave EVER.

What makes the castle so unique is that is still has a Palmento, the original wine press, which has been converted into a relaxing wine bar. There is also inside and outside dining serving delicious Sicilian cuisine to a high standard.

Additionally there is a sparkling swimming pool, a tennis court and the relaxing Aquae Leonis spa.

In the summer you are in for a real treat as the hotel boasts its own private beach named "Syrah", located on San Marco Beach. There are white sunbeds which nestle under canopies with billowing white curtains and you can swim in the clear blue waters of the Ionian Sea.

The castello really is like a fairy tale castle which makes it the perfect location for weddings.

Weddings and events can be held in either the gardens, the summer gazebo or the stunning banqueting hall or how about a beach wedding followed by a wedding breakfast and festivities at the castle?

The castle is also perfect for special occasions, conferences and meetings. On entering the banqueting hall I felt as if I had stepped back in time to the era of the legendary book Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) one of the greatest books of our time set in Sicily 1860 and I could just vision myself in the hall at a grand feast reminiscent of the dinner held by the main character the Prince of Salina or dancing at the ball where Angelica tempts Tancredi with her beauty in her gorgeous flowing ball gown.

After our tour we retired to a tranquil seating area in the gardens for our aperativo, drinking cocktails, prosecco, delicious white wine from the Gambino Winery which is located on the slopes of Mount Etna and Sicilian beer whilst Valerio enchanted us with tales of the castle's history.

The castle holds many special events throughout the year and its annual Ferragosto costume party with a roaring 1920's theme are legendary.

I would definitely recommend Hotel Castello San Marco particularly if you want a secluded relaxing holiday away from the buzz of Taormina. The hotel oozes romance and is the perfect place for a romantic getaway or honeymoon. It could also be your venue for a dream destination wedding.

Castello San Marco is approximately 25 minutes drive from Taormina and is ideally situated for visiting Mount Etna, the Alcantara Valley and Eastern Sicily. I would recommend car hire however local taxis and private drivers are readily available.

After our magical evening it was soon time to say goodbye to Valerio before the clock struck midnight. He had been the perfect host and said that the doors to the castle are always open to us. We left knowing that as is always the Sicilian way that we had made a new friend for life.

The End

For more Information and Booking visit

You can also follow Castello San Marco on Facebook and Instagram

If you enjoyed this post then search my Blog archive for my post:
The Arabic/Norman Castello of Calatabiano (February 2017)

Additional Links:
Walking Tours with Giusi
Wine Tasting at Gambino Winery

Il Gattapardo (The Leopard) is available in English on

Photo Gallery

The Castle

The Beach
(Photo credit: Valerio Murabito)

and finally ......
a very happy Daisy at San Marco Beach

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