The last time I was in Italy, my bag was ransacked on a train while I went to the bathroom, I got scammed into a fake iPad by a Houdini, and saw a man get pick pocketed by a group of gypsy kids. Needless to say, I had an awful time and I wasn’t planning on returning anytime soon.
But for the sake of Operation African Asylum, I had to return. Fortunately, this time, I wasn’t going to Rome or Naples but rather the southern island of Sicily.
Despite my past qualms with Italy, I arrived with an open mind, and I am glad I did. Eastern Sicily, to me, represents the best of Italy. It scores high on all my runaway preferences. It’s relatively cheap for Western Europe, the people are warm and love New Yorkers, the climate is brilliant, and there’s nothing like the fresh produce and seafood inspired cuisine.
After 5 nights of hostels at 24 Euros, I decided I needed to find a cheaper and more long term living situation. I tried to work out a discount with the hostel manager but with no luck. I messaged loads of people on Couchsurfing but no one got back to me. Then I tried AirBnB where I found paradise for 26$ or 19 Euro a night.
This Runaway Retreat is Villa Augusta, in Eastern Sicily.
Villa Augusta consists of 6 private apartments in a 2 or 3 bedroom layout. Each apartment is furnished, incredibly clean, and tastefully decorated. They include wireless internet, a large flat screen TV, an air conditioner, a nescafe machine, new beds and linens, and a private patio space.
Not only are they fully furnished but the owners also supply Nescafe capsules, a large bag of coffee, milk, cereal, croissants, biscuits, bread and bottled water.
And the best part is, they only cost 26$/night, 164$/week, or 597$/month.
Villa Augusta is set about 40 meters away from a quiet road nestled between orange orchards and palm trees. Aside from the birds and the breeze, this place is quiet. It’s perfect for meditation, yoga, gazing out at the Mediterranean sea or at the snow covered peak of Mount Etna.
Villa Augusta also has a pristine swimming pool. While it isn’t big enough to do proper laps, it’s perfect for a quick dive, dip, or cool down after a jog. I’m just happy to have a pool!
Augusta, Catania, Carlentini and Siracusa have great restaurants, but you’ll need a car to get to them. Even if you have a car, your cheapest option is to cook in your new fully stocked kitchen.
Before arriving, head to the famous outdoor market in Siracusa for cheap and delicious fish, vegetables, and fruit. Be sure to pick up some Olive Oil to cook with as well. 40 Euros, if spent wisely, should last you about a week.
The owners of the house are in their late 40′s and live in a separate unit just 30 meters away. Like almost everyone I’ve met in Sicily, they are very warm, helpful and kind, and love to share their love of Sicily with others.
After only one night here, they invited me to a fresh fish dinner at their place. Everyone at the dinner party couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming. I felt more like a family member than a guest. From what I could decipher, the conversation switched from making fun of each other to serious health topics and back to taking the piss. I really wish I spoke some Italian, but I managed by putting an Italian accent on French and Spanish words. Definitely beat the banana and crackers I had planned for dinner.
How To Get Here
One of the reasons why Villa Augusta is so cheap is because you can’t really get here by public transportation. But that doesn’t mean it’s totally out in the sticks. In fact, Villa Augusta is just a 15 minute drive from the city of Augusta, a 25 minute drive from Catania airport, and a 30 minute drive from the market in Siracusa.
If you’re on holiday and are willing to drop a few Euros, car rental companies at Catania airport offer compact cars at a decent price for around 30 Euros a day.
You can also get here by taxi from Catania or Siracusa for between 30 and 40 Euros. Don’t forget to haggle!
Finally, if you’re on a budget, you can get here the way I did. Just take a bus for 4 Euros from Siracusa or Catania to Carlentini. Then walk 5 miles east and the house will be on the left next to a small solar farm. Check out the video below to see how I got here and tour of the apartment!
After hours of research, I’m confident that no place can match Villa Augusta in terms of value. It’s just 3 kilometers from the beach and equi-distance from two of Eastern Sicily’s most vibrant and historic cities, Catania and Siracusa.
If you are looking to base yourself in a relaxing, spacious, private and comfortable setting, Villa Augusta is it. It’s the perfect place to eat well, get healthy, meditate, swim, jog, and write, and that’s exactly what I plan to do.
As with all my runaway retreats, all opinions expressed are entirely my own and written of my own volition.
Huge thanks to Neari from Sheffield, UK for his sizable contribution towards keeping me alive. If you like Runaway Retreats like this one and want to send food money so that I can keep writing more, check out the rewards of becoming a sponsor.
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