Sicily Wine and Food Touring.
This is a double past as I accidently posted into the USA forum previously
Just returned from Sicily and as there was very little in the way of help on Sicily and the wineries we thought it would be useful for people to know a little more.
We do not post too much as I am still in employment but happy to answer any other questions.
Sicily being the biggest Island in the Med is really somewhere you need at least 7 nights..We pushed ourselves to 9 nights as we wanted to try to get the feel for Palermo too. Our Ground Agency was absolutely correct you need as much time as you can allow.
The hotels were chosen for us and they were just what we wanted. Being on an intensive tour we did not want the money to go on just a wonderful hotel and bedroom but we wanted the wine and food to be where the budget went.
As we are big fans of Etna wines that we were introduced to at a tasting held at our local wine shop we stayed in Taormina..it only takes 40 mins /1 hour to climb up to Etna to the wineries. Its our understanding that these wineries are not particularly open to the public, Thats why we choose a tour operator. The wines are just sublime, with a minerality and mouthfeel that is utterly unique, we got to meet the owners or at the very least the winemakers and each winery approaches their visits in completely different approaches, We often jumped in to a 4x4 and saw the bush or Alberelli as they are called in Italy. Food, well we had three superb meals on Entra.. Shalai in Linguaglossa, CaveOx in Solicchiata and San Giorgio e il Drago, Randazzo, all the meals were just incredible, Shalai was the more elegant and elaborated but Cave Ox was informal and with the most outstanding wine list. San Giorgio e il Drago was more of a osteria but with wonderful service(English spoken) and a great selection of meats BBQ style and a good mix of dishes.
In Taormina we stated at the villa Schuler, its a very low profile and well run hotel, we felt at home the moment we arrived and our tour operator got us an upgrade to a suite with a remarkable view, and the prices were absolutely fine, understanding that there are a lot of rip off hotels in this sort after hilltop town. We ate again fabulously in AL DUOMO and AL DUOMO both high end places but the meal of this side of the trip was Osteria Rosso di Vino, We ate raw seafood till we felt like we could swim, so many wines by the glass, it was lovely and english spoken.
We were worried by Taormina's popularity that it would be difficult to escape from the day trippers and cruise ships..Not so, like Venice, just one street of the main drag you are in a Wonderful Sicilian town with spectacular views everywhere you look.
We moved to south to Ragusa via Romane Casale and the Mosaics which were worth the drive, we pretty much had it to ourselves which was a treat. We ate close by after the visit at Al Fogher and it again was a brilliant meal, more fish based. We visited Modica and Noto, Syracuse and all these towns deserve and merit more time than we had, but now knowing how wonderful Sicily is and having had the stress taken out of it by doing with with a company we would come back and do it ourselves for sure, the only thing is the driving is not for the faint hearted, I guess a smaller car is the way to go but then you feel exposed, some of the roads are in a terrible shape as are the way people drive. We ate in OINOS in Syracuse and it was lovely sitting outside in the old Jewish quarter. In Modica we ate Fattoria delle Torri, understated Michelin star, the terrace was just gorgeous and it was one of the best meals, but the problem was they have all been of such high calibre its hard to Choose. In Ragusa Ibla we had dinner at Il Duomo, Well it is pretty pretentious for Sicily and VERY expensive, we enjoyed it all, but came away feeling we could have spent 1/4 of the money on a wonderful meal somewhere local.
We stayed outside of Ragusa in the Eremo della Giubiliana which was a knights of Malta bastion, Food service and room were all excellent, its a quiet place with plenty of time to recover from days out exploring, We really enjoyed their natural water and it seemed to us the Management did care about our stay. The Wineries in this zone are generally based on the Nero D'avola grape which we were shown some outstanding examples of. Cos and their Orange Wines made in Amphora were just amazing and have put us into the this new realm of Long Macerated white wines. The Trip to Palermo via Agrigento valley of the temples was a long day but you have to cross the Island at some point and this was the day. About 4 and half hours or 200 miles in total but me and my wife would not have missed that view of the temples for anything. Palermo, well our hotel was very centrally located and our understanding of Palermo is there are not many really upscale hotels that are not in need of a serious refit so our hotel was a great choice again. Palermo like Naples needs guidance and we were pleased to be escorted everywhere with our driver and guide. Two nights cannot do a city like this justice but we got the vibe and feel and liked it. its Like most port towns, a little decrepit in some areas but the energy and franticness lets you forget that. ONe night we were taken to a countesses palazzo for dinner which was frankly such a unique experience dining with her and listen to her stories, Utterly fascinating. So all in all Sicily and her wines and cuisine are there for the taking, it does not seem there is a lot of information out there about how to find these places. Wines were generally 30 USD a bottle to 70USD for something really special. Each night prior to dinner our wine guide showed us some of the wines of Sicilian wine regions we did not have time to get to and we feel we have had a great immersion into that. Naturally we get back to the US to find the wines here are double if not more in price. Very happy to answer any further questions anyone might have. We have all the wines we tried if you are interested just let us know.
This is the Itinerary we followed.
DAY 01: Arrival IN / Taormina / Villa Schuler
DAY 02: Taormina / Wineries of Etna: Destro & Passopisciaro
DAY 03: Wineries of Etna: Girolamo Russo & Frank Cornelissen
DAY 04: Benanti Winery / Villa Romana del Casale / Ragusa / Welcome Dinner / Eremo
DAY 05: Ragusa / Wineries of Vittoria: COS & Arianna Occhipinti
DAY 06: Siracusa / Noto / Riofavara Winery
DAY 07: Valley of Temples Archaeological Park / Palermo / Palazzo Brunaccini
DAY 08: Sightseeing Palermo
DAY 09: Monreale / Ceuso Winery / Erice / Farewell Dinner
DAY 10: Departure OUT
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Sicily Wine and Food Touring.