We all meet at Rome airport in the afternoon from where we depart in our comfortable private bus and set the compass to South! Destination: Campania. We arrive on the Amalfi coast after approximately 3 hour drive. Welcome dinner.
After breakfast at the hotel we depart for a short drive to visit one of the best wineries of the Irpinia DOC appellation near the town of Avellino and sample a variety of wines. Fiano, a white variety, Falanghina, an ancient white packed with citrus blossom aromas, Greco white, with peach and fresh green foliage notes. Aglianico is the red of the area, a very unique grape variety that is quite difficult to find elsewhere. Afternoon: Anchovies are absolutely essential to the Southern diet; they are rich, fatty, buttery fish packed with flavour. We visit an anchovy processing plant in the town of Cetara to taste the freshly caught as well as the packaged product. Some people think they don’t enjoy the briny, robust flavour of the anchovy, but something tells us they’ve never tasted freshly caught and packed anchovies. Let us know how you feel after you taste the real thing.
Sunny yellow, tart and lush, the lemon is a fitting symbol of Amalfi. In the morning we will tour the town of Amalfi and discover everything about lemons and limoncello liqueur. Lunch will be in the lemon grove with a menu inspired by this regional DOP product. To finish our meal, we enjoy limoncello, served chilled. This aromatic, alcoholic drink is the closest thing to enjoying the pure flavour of the lemon, without the bitter bite. We then spend the afternoon in Pompei. The visit to the ancient city, destroyed by the volcano Vesuvio 2,000 years ago, is led by a local professional historian.
You haven’t really tasted Mozzarella di Bufala until you’ve had it in Campania. A traditional product of the region, it is creamy, pure white, hand cut and delicate. We visit a Bufala farm and Mozzarella producer in the town of Capaccio on our way to the region of Basilicata. Today the star of our lunch meal is ... mozzarella of course. After lunch we stop in Paestum for a guided tour and then depart to go to the region of Basilicata where we check in at our hotel at the foot of the majestic volcano Vulture.
Take in this lesser known region of Basilicata, which is removed and remote, hot and dry. The food perfectly reflects its climate featuring a blend of spice and simplicity. For centuries the local people were reticent to mix with the rest of Italy. The region has preserved a strong and distinct cultural and regional identity due to its lack of roads and physically remoteness. The region borders on Calabria, Puglia and Campania to the west. Basilicata is known as the most mountainous region of Italy, and we have the benefit of seeing how this landscape influences the wines. We visit one of the top wineries of the area growing the Aglianico del Vulture varietal around Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano. After lunch we transfer to one of the beautiful seaside towns of Puglia, our final destination for today.
A lot to discover on this day, fully immersed in this precious landscape. We are in the north part of the Puglia peninsula, in the kingdom of the Nero di Troia, a red grape producing an intense ruby coloured wine, with elegant tannins and a rich, spicy bouquet. A morning visit to one of the prestigious Antinori wineries and tasting is followed by one of the greatest meals I have ever had! The soil here is very rich. Locals eat their food right out of their garden, why shouldn't we do the same? Yes, today after some vino tasting, we will "experience" food from a local family kitchen and visit their traditional 'orto', a vegetable garden full of seasonal goodies! Time to relax at our hotel this afternoon and evening.
After breakfast we head south and visit the UNESCO village of Matera, truly, a city lost in time. The homes are known as Sassi, or houses of stone and were excavated by hand into the side of the gorge, one built one on top of the other and connected by an elaborate system of staircases and alleyways. We visit a typical over ("forno") discover their ancient cooking methods and sample local bread, pizza and focaccia all just coming out from the oven. Then we follow our local guide for a private tour of the "Sassi". We then continue and stop in Alberobello, known for the characteristic Trulli houses. Time on your own in Alberobello. Transfer to the hotel.
Ready for today's challenge? The making of orecchiette, a homemade pasta typical of Puglia! Then tour of the facilities and a traditional lunch. To burn the calories (no worries, Pugliese cuisine is very tasty and low in calories!), we will tour the historical city centre of the nearby city of Lecce, named the Florence of the South due to its ancient romantic beauty and baroque architecture and history. We will learn all about it from our local guide while savouring a true example of the Salento; strong, dry, and rustic.
The Manduria region is currently attracting international attention for its distinct wine and food culture. This hot, dry country is agriculturally abundant and olives, wheat, and grape vines, all grow perfectly here. Because this region is so fertile, there are many diverse varietals that we will taste today. Among the best local grapes are: Pampanuto, Bombino Bianco, Bombino Nero and Nero di Troia. However, you cannot be in Puglia without tasting Primitivo, the king of grapes, known for its powerful intensity and bouquet. The sun gifts this plant with everything needed to transform the grapes into a sumptuous wine, with an opulent red colour and cherry notes on the palate.
Note in the photo: wine is sold 'by-the-liter' at one of the numerous ‘cantine’.
After breakfast we check out from our hotel in Puglia and head south. The entire morning drive will bring us to the western coast of Calabria and the sea town of Amantea where we check in at our hotel on the beach. Time to relax and to join later the rest of the group at dinner for a 4 course meal paired with Calabria wines.
Check out and drive towards the Messina Strait where with our bus we will ride a ferry (30 minutes) and reach the island of Sicily. We plan to arrive to our hotel in the early afternoon.
Today we follow the wine route of the volcano Etna. We visit a quality winery and discover 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.
On the way to Ragusa we stop at 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 also 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.
This morning we will visit the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine area and stop for a tasting at a small top-quality producer. 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. Our professional historian guide Simona is one of the favourite of our tour! In the early evening we arrive at Marsala our most western destination and homebase for the next two days. The sunsets visible on the coast in this part of Sicily are breathtaking! Anyone care for a walk on the beach at sunset?
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.
After breakfast we depart for the Palermo airport where our tour ends.
Participants have the possibility to choose their trip extension:
- In the city of Palermo
- At the famous beaches of Mondello or Capo San Vito
- In the islands of Favignana (Egadi Archipelago) or Vulcano/Lipari (Eolian Archipelago)