Monday, 16 May 2011


A trip to the Italian island where The Godfather was filmed is an offer I can't refuse... 

Normally I read resort guides before I go on holiday to somewhere new but this time I decided I’d learn more about Sicily if I watched The Godfather.

So, always one to be thorough, that meant sitting through the entire trilogy, some 13 marathon hours of movie Mafia magic.

But at least listening to Marlon Brando as the hamster cheeked boss, Vito Corleone, was a reminder to pack the cotton wool.

And I also took along another necessity for a guaranteed pizza of the action – an Italian. In this case, my husband.

Fourteen years ago he took me round his native Rome on the back of his moped, Italian-style. I saw more in those seven days than other British tourists could in a lifetime of trips.

And so it seemed only right that now happily married, and with a family, he should show me around the island where Al Capone supposedly had his luggage pinched.

Alexio spent his childhood family holidays happily playing on the golden sands here, jumping waves as the emerald Mediterranean broke against the shore, and seeing the sights in a tiny cinquecento.

He and his father were convinced every flower stall owner was a member of the Mafia, while his brother and mother demanded daily doses of Sicilian ice cream and world-famous marzipan cake, cassata Siciliana.

Twenty five years later nothing has changed. The ice cream and marzipan are still as tasty, the sea is as clean and warm as my husband remembers and the sun blazes down on us from morning until dusk even though it’s the tail-end of October when we visit.

We’re staying at the pretty Club Med village of Kamarina, an actual mini-town on the coast near Siracusa, made of local stone and trimmed with bourgainvillea, a two-hour drive from Catania airport.

Along the way, I gaze out of the window onto the scrubland criss-crossed with stone walls, the familiar backdrop to the movie that made Al Pacino a house-hold name.

I stare at the white goats picking their way across the rolling hills and realise that Sicily is an island of two halves – the timeless rustic beauty that was captured on film – and the sophisticated retro chic of the Palermo and Taormina where shopping and food are nearly as important as football.

This is the island where Hollywood movie stars like Cary Grant and Rita Hayworth came in the Fifties. Today Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Elton John and Hugh Grant are regulars, while Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr owns a hotel here.

We are in an all-inclusive village where Kayaking is as available as pasta and so there’s little incentive to leave our little spot of paradise.

But we manage to prise ourselves away from the two private sand beaches to explore the island. How could we come to Sicily and not visit the mother of all volcanoes – Etna?

She’s the biggest, active volcano in Europe and exercises her mighty power every few years to keep the Sicilians on their toes. The most recent eruption in 2002 put the cable car spectacularly out of action, so we drive the 11,000 feet to the top in a four-wheel bus.

'Mamma Mia,' just about covers it as we take in the gigantic crates and listen to steam hissing noisily out of gaps in the sooty mountainside. I can almost feel the lava bubbling away beneath my feet and want to leave as the high altitude is making me feel dizzy.

Next stop the medieval town of Taormina where we stroll along the traffic-free Corso Umberto licking our gelati while we check out the bars, shops and restaurants.

Taormina is home to two of the island’s most sophisticated hotels where the glitterati stay – the San Domenico Palace and the Timeo.

The San Domenico is a former 15th century Monastery and boasts rooms that were once monks’ cells. But if it’s a room with a view that you’re after, book into the Timeo with its terrace overlooking the town and Etna.

And then we hurry back to Kamarina for our son’s acting debut. He’s a lion in the Club Med’s circus in the amphitheatre tonight and after a tearful goodbye backstage we wait nervously for the theatre lights to dim.

Finally, our little boy is centre-stage in his furry costume and face paint and on cue jumps through a ‘burning’ hoop of fire (made in reality out of orange and brown tissue paper but it’s very convincing in the dimly lit theatre) to much applause.

I’m nearly crying with pride and join in the whoops of ‘bravo’ as he goes for an encore. It’s Sicily season in Italy –and this has been one holiday isle never forget!

Getting there:

Stay at Club Med Kamarina departing 27 August, from London, £1092 per adult, £712 per child.

What to see:

In June, Taormina’s film festival attracts the likes of megastar Tom Cruise. Stay at the celebrities’ favourites Grand Hotel Timeo (tel 0039 0942 23801) or San Domenico Palace (tel 0039 0942 613111).

Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr’s hotel, the 21-room Villa Angela in Taormina ( tel 0039 0942 27038 have rooms from £60 to £120 per person  

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