For any traveller interested in sampling the true delights of the Mediterranean, with offerings of sumptuous food, fascinating historical sites, sunny coastal beaches and charming locals - then the South Eastern corner of Sicily is a must see destination.
Recently made accessible to the Irish holiday maker, Ryanair now provide reasonably priced, regular flights into the region. You can fly directly to Cosimo (a new modern airport belonging to a small town of the same name) in a little over 3.5 hours. There are buses, taxis and car hire available at the new terminal, and within minutes you can be whisked into the historical town of Cosimo itself or various other nearby towns in the area.
I enjoyed a brief trip to the area and quickly realised that there are plenty of activities to keep even the fussiest traveller happy. Sicily offers the finest beaches, golf courses, divine eateries and for those cultured individuals an array of churches and architectural curiosities too.
Generally I tend to take myself straight to the sandy beaches on a glorious sunny afternoon, but even I couldn't resist checking out the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Cosimo (also known as the Church of the Capuchins). The church is famous for its mortuary chapel 'the chapel of the dead' which frankly was as terrifying a spectacle, as it was fascinating.
Within the confines of the cellar are over twenty Capuchin monks displayed in mummified form... some of which are so well preserved that you could virtually make out their facial features. The intention of maintaining this crypt is supposed to remind us to respect life and remember how fleeting it is (I remember fleeing, rather than fleeting, in sharpish fashion after I swore one of the mummies winked in my direction). Perhaps my imagination was working on overload.
The chapel is a must see for those who are perhaps a little braver than I, though perhaps you should leave the children outside. They can distract themselves by sampling the refreshing granita di limone (an ice and lemon concoction that tastes so much better than any slush puppy you've ever consumed).
About 20 minutes drive from Cosimo is the delightful seaside resort of Marina di Ragusa - one of the most picturesque towns in Sicily and a famous filming location for the detective drama Inspector Montalbano.
For those looking for a touch of luxury I would recommend Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa (a luxury 5 star resort which lies on a 500 hectare estate once rumoured to be owned by Sicilian aristocracy). Certainly the spectacular rooms and relaxing spa would make you feel like royalty.
I have also been assured that the golf course is quite appealing too, for those who like that sort of thing. In fact it was included in the Rolex World Top Golf Course Guide. The beach is less than 5 minutes away ... that's assuming you can drag yourself away from the vast pool, or indeed drag himself away from the golf course.
Once you tire of the beaches, I would suggest a little trip to Donnafugata Castle (Castello di Donnafugata) which is located nearby and set in some beautiful grounds.
The castle boasts 122 rooms, many of which you are welcome to explore, with some magnificent furnishings. Each room is themed and has an array of different designs - ranging from Gothic Venetian to the powerful 'fairy-tale' style Renaissance towers situated at the four corners of the palace. There is also a large maze in the garden which should keep the children, and some of the adults, entertained in the sunshine.
In case all the sight-seeing, or sun-bathing, makes you hungry... this region offers some of the finest restaurants in Europe. Just south of Ragusa, located in lush countryside, is an award winning historic country house hotel called L'Eremo della Giubiliana.
We feasted on local specialities in their renowned Don Eusebio Restaurant and sampled some of the best pastas, risottos and magical local delicacies I have ever devoured.
The fact that the head chef was 'easy on eye' was an added bonus! Let's just say the vast range of local Sicilian wines washed the food down rather well too. In fact the southeastern corner of Sicily prides itself on a stunning range of restaurants, many of which are very reasonably priced, and all of which offer wonderful local wines.
I would also happily recommend Quattro Quarti Marina di Ragusa, where you can sample some of the local seafood delights.
For those with a sweet tooth, a trip to the nearby town of Modica, should be on the bucket list, which is famed for its unique way of making chocolate. All in all - it's safe to say that you won't starve in Sicily - in fact this particular region is truly a feast for all senses.
With options to suit all budgets, convenient local flights, friendly and welcoming locals and enough curiosities to keep all the family preoccupied, I'm already counting the days for my return (and hopefully prolonged trip). Though perhaps next time I should pack jeans with an elasticated waist-band.