TASTES OF SICILY
As the gastronomic writer Marlena de Blasi once wrote, “It has always been true for me that to know a place, I must first know how it eats and drinks. Everything unravels at the table.” Sicily is a land of contrasts, from the rawness of the Etna to the exuberance of colors and flavors of cities like Palermo or Siracusa, crossing through the green mountains covered in vines and the turquoise water of its beaches. Gastronomy in Sicily is as rich as its territory and history, and in this tour, you will discover what makes Sicily such a delicious destination, granted to inspire, conquer and marvel your all your senses.
Are you ready for a delicious gastronomic journey?
Benvenuti a Palermo!
ARRIVAL IN PALERMO
Welcome to the warm, beautiful, and pleasant island of Sicily! Upon arrival at Palermo Falcone-Borsellino Airport, and passing through passport control, you will collect your luggage and then be greeted by our local representative that will transfer you into town and take you to your hotel for check-in. Free afternoon. Overnight.
DISCOVERING THE SICILIAN HISTORY AND FLAVOURS.
Breakfast at the hotel. Meet your English-speaking guide and transfer to Monreale. Upon arrival see where Arab-Norman art and architecture reached their pinnacle in the Duomo launched in 1174 by William II. It represents scenes from the Old and New Testaments, all in golden mosaics, in a fabulous and fascinating fusion of architectural styles, artistic traditions, and religious symbolism. Later we drive back to Palermo and we start our walking tour of the city center. You will visit the Palermo Cathedral erected in 1185 in the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. The medieval edifice had a basilica plan with three apses, of which only some minor architectural elements survive today. We then continue onto the Four Corners which is the junction in Palermo. Effectively, it is the center point of the four areas of the old town center. You will almost inevitably pass through it and it is worth stopping for five minutes to have a look at its sculptures which were commissioned by the Spanish Viceroy in 1611. The sculptures on each of the four corners depict a variety of themes, including the four seasons, four Spanish kings, and the four patron saints of the old town areas.
Going south-east down Via Maqueda you will come across Piazza Pretoria which is home not only to a splendid fountain but several other impressive buildings including, on the right, the City Hall. Then explore a lively open-air street market, a place overflowing with beautiful fresh fish, and local vegetables and cheeses. Originating from the era when Sicily was occupied by the moors, this 1000-year-old market has run much in the same manner for centuries. It has strong Arab influences, resembling an eastern souk, and these influences are also evident in the merchandise itself. Here you will have the opportunity to taste a typical Palermitano dish, such as the famous Panelle (a thin paste of crushed ceci/garbanzo beans rolled into sheets, fried, and served in pizza-like slices). Street food tasting included. Afternoon at leisure. Overnight.
THE SUN, THE SALT AND THE SEA…
After breakfast and check-out of your hotel, you will depart for Erice uptown, which was an important religious site associated with the goddess Venus. Wander through its ancient streets and visit some of the famous homemade pastry shops – world-famous for marzipan candies and other delicacies like almond and pistachio pastries. Towering over the west of Sicily at 751m above sea level and often covered in its own personal cloud, Erice is a wonderfully preserved Mediaeval town offering the most breathtaking views and a palpable sense of history. Originally an Elymian city (the Elymians were around before the Greeks ever set foot in Sicily) Erice, or Eryx as it was first called, was a town of no little importance and renown and is said to have attracted the likes of Hercules and Aeneas. Amongst the most visited sites are the two castles, Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle. You will have a local olive oil tasting and lunch in an olive oil farmhouse to taste genuine dishes and enjoy the fine golden liquid. After lunch, you will depart to Marsala, where you will see the saltpans traveling along the Salt Way Road and through the Nature Reserve of the Stagnone (that literally means large pool). Since this large lagoon has shallow and very salty water, it is the ideal place for saltworks. You will be fascinated by this unusual landscape: panels of mirror-like water, held by thin strips of earth and white windmills. The sea salt, in the tradition of this part of Sicily, is obtained by the evaporation of the seawater, through a simple but functional method of “handmade fractional distillation”, that allows highlighting the positive qualities and at the same time eliminating unwanted compounds such as calcium sulfate or gypsum. Then we visit a winery to taste the Marsala wines. The region of Marsala was always known for its fine grapes, but it was the Englishman John Woodhouse who introduced the fortified wine business here in 1796, having already developed a similar product (Port wine) in Portugal. After that, you will continue to the city of Agrigento. Upon arrival, accommodation at your hotel and overnight.
AS THE GODS LIVED
After breakfast, you will visit the finest of all ancient Greek sites – the complete Doric Temples, one of Sicily’s most famous historical attractions. This is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The area was included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list in 1997. Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century B.C., Agrigento became one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean world. Its supremacy and pride are demonstrated by the remains of the magnificent Doric temples that dominate the ancient town, much of which still lies intact under today’s fields and orchards. This splendid archaeological park consists of eight temples (and various other remains) built between about 510 BC and 430 BC: the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Heracles, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Castor, and Pollux, the Temple of Hephaestos, the Temple of Demeter, and the Temple of Asclepius (the God of Medicine). Later we drive to Siracusa, and while on the route you will stop in an amazing winery estate to enjoy a delicious wine tasting and light lunch. In the afternoon we continue onto Siracusa, where you will check-in at your hotel. Overnight.
A JOURNEY OF FLAVORS…
Breakfast at the hotel and transfer to the meeting point where your private chef will wait for you to start a tour around the oldest open-air marketplace of the island. You will be overwhelmed by all the stall’s smells and colors, the vendors’ yell to attract clients. It will be an engaging and fascinating experience that will imprint an unforgettable memory of our land’s flavor into your heart. After you will discover the original secrets of the traditional Sicilian cuisine cooking, helped by the Chef, to prepare your lunch. After lunch, you will meet your licensed local guide and stroll through the streets of Ortygia Island, the heart of the city center, to visit the Dome. This delightful pedestrian square is home to the wonderful Cathedral built on the site of an ancient Temple of Athena as can clearly be seen from the original Doric columns that were incorporated into the building’s main structure. Also on this square is the beautifully symmetrical Baroque Palazzo Beneventano and the Church of Santa Lucia, the town’s patron saint. Then transfer to the Archaeological Park, highlights of which are the Greek Theatre, the Roman Amphitheatre, and the Paradise Quarry. The resulting park contains some of the most extraordinary monuments that classical antiquity has left us and, given their degree of interest and importance, has few equals elsewhere in Italy. Even a quick stay in Syracuse must include a visit to this archaeological site. At the end of the visit transfer to your hotel. Overnight.
IT’S TRUFFLE HUNTING TIME!
Breakfast at hotel and departure to enjoy the experience of walking in the forest with a local experienced truffle hunter and his trained dog. You will be introduced to the magic of the world of the truffle, made of mystery and passion for nature. Follow the dog hurriedly through the forest as he sniffs about and experience the surge of excitement as he starts digging for these edible treasures. The tour starts with a brief description of the trees, the hunting technique, and the training methods the dog has been through. While hunting, you can enjoy the charming Sicilian countryside and the beauty of the Iblei mountains forests, breathing pure air in gorgeous wood. The walk is very easy and requires no particular effort. Once some truffles have been found, you will be treated with a delightful meal that incorporates the fresh truffle you just discovered along with a wine tasting of local area wines. You’ll be transferred to a restaurant where a truffle-based menu will be prepared for you, paired with local delicacies and excellent Sicilian wines. After lunch, you will have a walking tour of Palazzolo Acreide, an ancient Greek town founded in 650 BC, with a perfectly preserved greek theater and a downtown built in Barocco style, with two of the churches that recently became UNESCO heritage. You will enjoy a nice walk in the old town, with many options to taste refreshing drinks, ice cream, and almond pastry from the old Sicilian culinary tradition. Later you will be driven back to Syracuse. Return to your hotel. Overnight.
IT’S GOING TO BE A SWEET, SWEET DAY!
Breakfast at the hotel and departure for Modica. Like the other towns in the Val di Noto, was badly damaged in the 1693 earthquake and largely rebuilt in Sicilian Baroque style. It is divided into two parts, “higher” Modica and “lower” Modica, which are connected by numerous flights of steps. Palazzi and houses rise from the bottom of the gorge seemingly stacked one on top of the other. Magnificent churches, with their inspiring domes, bell towers, and intricate facades, punctuate the red-tiled roofs and one is struck by the uniform beauty of the whole. Modica has a long and varied history, complete with the usual toing and froing of successions of invaders, but nowadays the city is renowned worldwide for being the custodian of a 400-year tradition of Sicilian chocolate making. Being part of the Spanish kingdom for so many years meant that Sicily was often one of the first recipients of the new foodstuffs being brought back from South America. Cacao was one of these and today Modica still specializes in making granulous chocolate, often flavored with chili pepper, cinnamon, or vanilla, that is based on Aztec methods and recipes. Chocolate shops abound and, for the real chocoholic, it is sometimes possible to watch the “chocolatiers” at work. Tasting Modica chocolate is a must and you will also learn how to make your own chocolate bar.
Late, you will be driven to Ragusa, one of the most fascinating towns in Sicily. Ragusa has caused many visitors’ jaws to drop as they first set eyes on the lower part of the town. Essentially Baroque, the Ragusa you will see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbors, Noto, Modica, Scicli, and Catania, was razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily. Public opinion on where to rebuild the town was divided, and so a compromise was made. The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens built a new town in a different site, now “Ragusa “Superiore”, while the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now “Ragusa Ibla”. The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica. While the upper part has its fair share of architectural delights, it is the smaller Ragusa Ibla down below that really draws visitors. Whether you approach it from Modica to the south or from Ragusa Superiore, the sight of the jumble of houses, churches, and civic palazzi piled on top of each other, clinging to the walls of the gorge, is really quite breathtaking. Although seemingly Mediaeval from a distance, once you enter the town’s heart, the Baroque logic of its plan becomes more obvious. Return to your hotel in Siracuse. Overnight.
AIN VINO VERITAS (THE TRUTH IS IN THE WINE)
After breakfast departure to the Etna Natural Park – South Side (Rifugio Sapienza) a beautiful volcano rich in sounds, perfumes, and colors. On arrival, those interested in experiencing the Etna craters will have the opportunity to explore the Silvestri Craters and also the option to ascent to the top (by Funivia dell etna Cable car company) purchasing cable car tickets on the spot (weather and volcanic conditions permitting) to experience the lava fields and incredible landscape view from Europe’s highest and most active volcano. How to Ascent to the TOP? How to ascent to the top up to 2.500 meters: From Rifugio Sapienza, we can catch on the first cable car ride up to 2.500 meters (Montagnola). Upon arrival at 2.500 meters, you can walk around or hiking or just take a cappuccino at the bar overlooking the area. How to ascent to the top from 2.500 meters up to 2.920 meters: From the Montagnola (located at around 2.500 meters) you can jump on board on the UNI-MOG (mini-coach WD4X4) to reach 2.800 meters with Licensed Etna Guide. Hiking to reach 2.920 meters.
Later you will be driven to an Etna winery estate for wine tasting and lunch. After lunch, we drive to Taormina. You will have a couple of hours for a guided walking tour of Taormina: the famed Greek-Roman Theatre and the attractive principal thoroughfare, Corso Umberto, that is pedestrian and ideal for strolling and window-shopping. Return to Siracusa. Overnight.
After breakfast, you will check out of your hotel and head to the Vincenzo Bellini Catania airport accompanied by a private transfer. Time to say goodbye to Sicily! End of our services.
Please take note that this program is given depending on the sanitary conditions in 2022.
Depending on the Covid-19 evolution, gauges could be established and sites could be closed by our partners.
The agency reserves the right to modify or reverse the order of visits for the benefit of the traveler.