Meeting of participants at the Catania International Airport. Group transfer to the hotel. The tour kicks off with a welcome dinner and a ”brindisi”.
Day 2 – Taormina and ‘volcanic’ grapes
Today we follow the wine route of the volcano Etna. We visit two quality wineries, both of which offer us the full flavour profile of the viticulture of this region. We taste many indigenous grapes, among them is the Carricante, a white with high acidity, citrus and green apple notes and a nice amount of minerality, and the Nerello Mascalese, a fruity red, to drink when it is young and fresh. These wines are all included in the appellation “Etna DOC”. The volcanic soil has an incredible impact on the wines, notably adding minerality and structure. On the way out of the Etna region we stop at Taormina, a city carved out of mountains, full of Greek archeological sites, amphitheaters, and art, a true gem. From that elevation, the view of the sea and Etna is just spectacular! You have the time to tour the town and shop at your leisure in the many characteristic small ”botteghe”. Also make some time to visit the Greek amphitheater and archeological site (the entrance fee and the English audio-guide for this site is included in the tour). Back to the hotel in the evening.
Day 3 – A taste of Ragusa & Modica: Chocolate, Olives, Wine & Baroque
On the way to Ragusa, we meet with a celebrity local vintner, member of the trendy network of ‘Le Donne del Vino’ (Women of Wine) who is taking the Italian and European wine world by storm. This is an excellent introduction to the region and to two indigenous varieties: Frappato and Nero d’Avola. The approach to winemaking is celebrating the natural, therefore we taste wines fermented using indigenous yeasts, a true taste of the area ‘Ragusana’. Next we head to Modica, a town famous for it’s traditionally made chocolate. The technique comes from pre-Columbian Mexico, and involves slow, cold processing, preserving the delicate, individual flavors and aromas of the cacao. Over time, other ingredients have been added to the chocolates including cinnamon, chilli, ginger, sea salt, and more. We will visit the oldest chocolate producer in Sicily and will assist in a demonstration of the traditional techniques. Of course, there will be many samples to try. Sicilian olive groves are emblematic and postcard perfect places to visit: the grey green trees with their gnarled bodies, the expanses of rolling hills and craggy paths, the traditional wooden tools mixed with new technology. This is exactly what we see today at an olive grove and mill that produces DOP Monti Iblei extra virgin olive oil. We taste what makes this DOP (Denomination of Protected origin) unique and worth protecting and recognizing as a regional, Sicilian product alongside a number of other olive oils that has made this family an outstanding producer in the country.
Day 4 – The Greek Sicily: Agrigento and the Valle dei Templi
This morning we will visit the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine area and stop for a tasting. Heading west we stop in Agrigento where we visit the “Valle dei Templi”, an UNESCO World Heritage site and an incredible example of preserved Greek architecture from the 4th century. This site is also one of the largest archeological sites in the world, spanning 1,300 ha. The entrance fee and English audio-guide is included in the tour. In the early evening we arrive at Marsala our most western destination and homebase for the next two days. Antonio selected a very charming hotel in an historical building in the town centre. The sunsets visible on the coast in this part of Sicily are breathtaking! Anyone care for a walk on the beach at sunset?
Day 5 – Wine and salt: a winning combination!
Just like the volcanic soil influenced the terroir of the wine at the beginning of our tour, so too does the sea salt. We visit the salt flats (‘saline’) to understand the traditional production and history surrounding this product, and then we taste the local grape varietals and learn the influence of salinity in the air on the wine production. This is a densely cultivated wine region so there are many varieties to try. Since we’re in Marsala, we also appreciate this world renowned fortified wine made with the native Grillo and Insolia grapes. Perhaps when we say Marsala, you conjure up an image of a sickly sweet, syrupy after dinner drink, or a creamy sauce to save that dry chicken. But Marsala is so much more complex depending on aging, coloration, and grape varietal, it can range from the dry to sweet. Trust me on this!
Arrivedeci dinner in Marsala.
Day 6 – Marsala to Palermo – End tour
After breakfast we depart for the Palermo airport where our tour ends.