What’s the best way of upping the family fun during a sunny holiday in Taormina? Whether you’re seeing the local sights, tanning on the beach or getting your heart rate up on a hike, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as finishing off your day with your favourite gelato. But from where does this ambrosial delicacy originate, and where is it best sampled? We at Prestige Holidays are here to give you the inside scoop.
When my clients ask about warm winter getaways that guarantee family-tastic fun, my recommendation is always the same. In my books, there’s no better spot for sunny shenanigans than Taormina, whose golden beaches, ancient artefacts and surrounding mountains allow for a varied holiday that all ages will enjoy. But while its cultural and natural troves definitely warrant a visit, there’s always something else that makes my clients’ eyes light up when they tell me about their trip: the unforgettably delicious gelato!
Now, you may think that I’m exaggerating. After all, how much more delicious could Taormina’s frozen treats be than the one you get at home? But trust me: while your children may love your local parlour’s chocolate or mango ice cream, their gastronomic experiences in Sicily will blow their and your previous ones right out of the water. Thanks to Sicily’s longstanding culinary prowess, you’ll find that savouring its ice cream is not merely a one-time thing – instead, scoping out Taormina’s best gelaterie will quickly move to the top of your holiday bucket list.
Let me tell you a bit more about Sicily’s sugary sensation, which I could eat all day!
The Palatable Past
While the history of this beloved dessert is complicated and somewhat controversial, everyone agrees that Sicily played a large part in making it the delicious delicacy that we know today. Although its origins are highly debated, ranging from theories about ancient Rome to Egypt to Greece, it’s often said that foot messengers from one of these empires introduced the predecessor of today’s treat to Sicily. While traversing Mount Etna, these messengers had the ingenious idea of flavouring snow with berries and nuts, creating a gastronomic innovation that the aristocrats of Taormina (and also Catania) fell in love with at first taste.
In its beginnings, the snow was sweetened with honey, which was replaced with cane sugar in the ninth century. However, it wasn’t until the late seventeenth century that the icy indulgence that we know today began to take shape. Around 1686, the Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, who was originally a fisherman, invented the first gelato machine, significantly simplifying and popularising its production. Grazie mille, Francesco!
Since its beginnings as a snow-based sweet, Sicilian ice cream has come a long way. Along with featuring remarkable flavours, such as hazelnut and cherry, most Sicilian gelaterie offer the must-try variation of gelato con brioche, which is exactly what it sounds like: a buttery brioche stuffed with ice cream. Although this dish is a great afternoon snack, it’s traditionally consumed for breakfast. What better way to start your day? The only downside is that your children will probably be begging you to have ice cream for breakfast when you return home!
A Taste of Paradise
While gelato’s history is contentious, its delicious taste is not – and neither is Taormina’s involvement in creating and promoting it. It should come as no surprise, then, that the resort is home to some of Italy’s best ice cream parlours. If you and the children would like to cool down after strolling through the town or after hitting the beach, be sure to check out my favourite shops (and say hello to the owners for me!).
When you’re walking down Corso Umberto, the main street of Taormina, it’s worth making a stop at this artisanal gelateria, which has been at the forefront of the industry for two decades. In addition to sampling traditional Sicilian gelato, which is prepared with high-quality fruits, cottage cheeses and more, don’t miss out on the parlour’s almond pastries, cakes and cannoli. If you’re looking for a place that strikes the perfect balance between traditional and creative flavours, this is it!
For an ice cream shop with a more casual feel, drop into the artisanal Gelatomania in Piazza Antonio Abate. Whether you and the children are after Sicily’s most traditional gelati, such as pistachio or strawberry, or you want to tantalise your taste buds with some exotic flavours like passion fruit or pineapple, you certainly won’t be at a loss for choice. By chatting with Gelatomania’s own ‘gelato master’, Placido Prestipino, I was able to sample some of his favourites, which included white chocolate gelato and awe-inspiring ice cream cakes. Why not stop by after dinner and sample some of Placido’s astounding creations?
The Cherry on the Gelato
A holiday in Taormina wouldn’t be complete without the perfect place to sleep off the food coma. During my past visits to Taormina, I’ve not only eaten my way through the town, but have also tried out several hotels. While I’ve always had trouble deciding which gelato flavour I enjoy most, I’ve identified one clear winner on the accommodation front: my – and many of my clients’ – favourite place to stay is undoubtedly the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, featuring breathtaking views across the Mediterranean.
In addition to its private beach, spa and airy rooms, some of which are interconnected family rooms, this hotel’s child-oriented facilities couldn’t get any better. Not only do all children receive a fun welcome kit, but they’re also invited to participate in the activities organised by the kid’s club and sign up for child and teen spa treatments. What’s more, you can organise babysitting services, which will come in handy if you’re hoping to go out for a romantic dinner (and post-dinner gelato) with your partner.