This unique Cooking and Exploring Tour of Sicily reveals Sicily’s complex past through visits of amazing historical sites, while savoring a wonderfully varied cuisine influenced by the many cultures that have dominated the island. In keeping with Sicily’s diversity, we enjoy the delights of staying in three distinctive lodgings – an intimate historic inn, a seaside hotel and a stylish city hotel - and also participate in two hands-on Sicilian cooking lessons featuring different styles of Sicilian cooking.
|•||Feast on Sicilian couscous made with pistachios grown on the lava-rich slopes of Mt Etna, and pair it with a glass of sweet Marsala|
|•||Visit the cutting edge cellars of the Donnafugata winery, and taste wines inspired by The Leopard|
|•||Plunge into the wild food market in Catania, resisting the temptation to buy a whole octopus, and cook in the kitchen of a friendly chef|
|•||Trace Sicily’s turbulent history through its delectable sweets, from ancient ricotta to Moorish cassata, regal Norman marzipan to spicy Spanish chocolate|
|•||Pick olives and watch them being pressed, breathe in the fruity fragrance of new green oil, then pour it over rustic pane nero for a lunch of the gods|
Meet at a centrally located hotel in Palermo and head to Segesta, with its splendid Greek theatre and solitary temple gracing the hillside. Continue to an olive oil producer and a lovely farm lunch with a delightful array of antipasti, and we taste the special pane nero, still warm from the oven and anointed with the farm's extra virgin olive oil—heaven! Continue to our hilltop inn, where we enjoy sea view rooms over the Egadi islands.
|Piles of Salt|
We follow the coastal via del sale where sea salt is still gathered as it has been for centuries and the warm scirocco wind blows from North Africa. A short boat ride across the lagoon brings us to the tiny island of Mozia, which was a mighty Carthaginian stronghold until 397 B.C. Visit the tiny but rich museum of amazing finds, including bronze, glass and ceramic pieces, as well as the elegant statue of the Young Man of Mozia, a Greek masterpiece displayed in both Athens and London* during the last two Olympics. In the afternoon, we visit the beautiful town of Erice, a maze of twisting cobblestone streets perched on a lofty hilltop, with breathtaking views stretching to the Egadi Islands. Continue to our lovely boutique hotel on the Planeta wine estate. Dinner at the communal table overlooking the herb garden, with a pairing of Planeta wines with each course. (*Note: Exact return date unknown. Statue may still be on an international museum tour.)
|Teatro Greco a Segesta|
After breakfast, meet in the kitchen for a hands-on cooking lesson with chef Angelo Pumilia, an engaging Sicilian who will teach us the tricks of preparing a superb Sicilian meal, and we’ll test out our results at a leisurely lunch. In the afternoon, tour the magnificent Greek site of Selinunte, with is powerful Greek temples standing in regal splendor above a turquoise sea. This evening we’ll dine at a seaside trattoria known for serving the freshest fish in the area.
Depart for Agrigento, and a guided tour of the Valley of the Temples, with one of the best preserved Greek temples in the world. After lunch, continue eastwards across the island to Ragusa, a Baroque hill town with lovely churches, tiny winding alleyways an evening passeggiata that includes everyone from cool teens to retired men in brown wool suits, for a genuine look into the real Sicily. Take a walk to the lower section of Ragusa Ibla, with dinner in a family run place known for its warm welcome and tender ravioli in a rich tomato sauce studded with hunks of pork.
Today will be dedicated to the great cheeses of Ragusa, including the freshest ricotta from the morning’s milk, to the aged Ragusano, bearing the prestigious PDO stamp from the European Union. Head through the farmlands to the home of Italian Connection’s founders Anita & Emanuele, and enjoy a sumptuous home-cooked meal in our kitchen, overlooking our Mediterranean garden. After lunch, visit the town of Modica and taste its Aztec style chocolate spiced with hot pepper or, if available in October, visit an olive press where olives become olive oil right before your eyes.
|Il Figlio di Moby Dick|
This morning we tour the Villa Casale at Piazza Armerina, where we view the astonishing Roman mosaic floors that have survived intact for hundreds of years. Room after room is decorated with dazzling mythological figures and beautifully detailed scenes depicting the Roman’s opulent lifestyle. Today’s lunch is simple yet rewarding, in a family run trattoria known for its grilled meats, rustic pasta dishes and piacentino, a saffron scented cheese studded with black pepper. We continue to city of Catania, where we combine a short tour with the passeggiata to dinner, then indulge in a farewell feast at a lively restaurant frequented by the locals. Overnight in a centrally located hotel with a rooftop bar with views of Mt. Etna.
Visit the colorful market, alive with the riches of the Mediterranean, where every imaginable kind of fresh fish and a dazzling array of exquisite produce are displayed amidst the raucous cries of street vendors. Visit the resort town of Taormina and visit the spectacularly situated Greek theatre. Poised above the turquoise sea with grandiose Mt. Etna, an active volcano, puffing in the background, this is indeed a magical setting evoking the power of the Greek gods. Time for a free lunch and last-minute shopping before we head to the Catania airport, arriving by 4.30 pm. Arrivederci!