This was our first stop after taking the car ferry to Sicily. We knew it was going to be a gastronomic treat when popping into the service station to find families enjoying spaghetti with clams and olive oil and balsamic on every table. I cannot imagine this happening off the M1 even with Heston’s best intentions!

Taormina is perched on a hillside and this is where the life is along the one main street but there is also an area down by the sea, which is where we stayed. You can take a two-minute cable car between the two very easily. Choosing where you stay here is important but having been I can help ensure you make the right choice

I have been aware of the Villa Sant’Andrea for many years but the brochures and website do not do the place justice. It is absolutely beautiful with amazing service and sparkling views across the bay from your veranda. What they don’t capture on line is the relaxed feel of the place. The staff have personalities and time to be friendly. The bay has local people enjoying the sea as well as tourists and there is a shriek of joy as someone leaps off the big rock in the bay. It feels like a beach on an typical Italian Riviera scene.

The rooms cleverly combine luxury with a sense of place. Some of the furniture is delicate and old fashioned but ultra luxurious too. The view is sensational. Every time you think you have taken your last photo you find a new angle and more snapping ensues.

The sister hotel to the villa Sant’Andrea is the Grand Hotel Timeo. This is up in the town within 100 meters of the main street and right by the Greek Theatre. It is an unbeatable position for someone wanting easy access to the shops, bars and restaurants of Taormina. Small pokey hotel then? Not at all. As soon as you enter the property a sense of calm space washes over you and the gardens are stunning. They have a large quiet pool so easy to hide from the sun here too. They also have an hourly shuttle between the hotels so if you feel like lunch and an afternoon on the beach that’s fine and all bills are just signed to your room.

The bar and restaurant at the Timeo overlook a smouldering Mount Etna. It is beautiful and the place to come for a drink as the sun sets. We enjoyed a fantastic dinner there with bustling attentive service and every table was taken so I would definitely recommend booking in advance.

Taormina is such a wonderful town. I thought it more than rivalled any along the Amalfi coast. There are masses of bars, restaurants and gorgeous shops all along the main street.  One restaurant we stumbled upon was called La Piazetta and this was quite a find. Again every table was full so we waited with a drink happily. The food was gorgeous and the local wine was delicious. A little bit like a Pinot Noir, which was perfect on the warm evening.

You could spend a week here in summer easily or a long weekend in spring and autumn as there is plenty to do nearby. It is somewhere I already know I want to go back to. For anyone keen to explore the Baroque architecture and stunning towns in the south east of the island it is a great base but I’ll come onto that in my next blog.