We will check out and drive towards the Messina Strait where, along with our bus, we will ride a ferry (30 minutes) and reach the island of Sicily. We plan to arrive at our hotel in the early afternoon.
Day 12 – Taormina and ‘Volcanic’ Grapes
Today, we follow the wine route of the volcano, Etna. We visit a quality winery and discover the full flavour profile of the region’s viticulture. We also taste many indigenous grapes such as 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 that is best to drink when it is young and fresh. These wines are all included in the “Etna DOC” appellation where the volcanic soil has an incredible impact on the wines and notably adds minerality and structure.
On the way out of the Etna region, we stop at Taormina, a city carved out of mountains and full of Greek archaeological sites, amphitheatres and art – a true gem. From this elevation, the view of the sea and Etna is just spectacular. You will have time to tour the town and shop at your leisure in the many characteristic small “botteghe”. Also, make some time to visit the Greek amphitheatre and archaeological site (the entrance fee and English audio-guide for this site is included in the tour). We will then go back to the hotel in the evening.
Day 13 – A Taste of Ragusa & Modica: Chocolate, Olive Oil & Baroque
On the way to Ragusa, we stop in Modica, a town famous for its traditionally-made chocolate. The technique comes from pre-Columbian Mexico and involves slow, cold processing in order to preserve the delicate, individual flavours and aromas of the cacao. Over time, other ingredients have been added to the chocolates including cinnamon, chilli, ginger and sea salt. We will visit the oldest chocolate producer in Sicily and assist in a demonstration of their traditional techniques. Of course, there will be many samples to try.
Olive groves are emblematic of Sicily and are picture perfect places to visit with their grey-green trees with gnarled bodies, expanses of rolling hills and craggy paths and 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 as a regional Sicilian product alongside a number of other olive oils that have made this family an outstanding producer.
Day 14 – The Greek Sicily: Agrigento and the Valle dei Templi
This morning, we visit the Cerasuolo di Vitoria DOCG wine area and stop for a tasting with a small top-quality producer. Heading west, we stop in Agrigento and visit the “Valle dei Templi”, a 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, and our professional historian guide Simona is one of our favourites of the tour!
In the early evening, we arrive at Marsala, our most western destination and base home base for the next two days. The sunsets that are visible on the coast in this part of Sicily are breathtaking! Anyone care for a walk on the beach at sunset?
Day 15 – Wine and Salt: A Winning Combination!
Just as 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 of this product and then taste the local grape varietals and learn about the influence of air salinity on wine production. This is a densely cultivated wine region, so there are many varieties to try. Since we’re in Marsala, we will also enjoy the world-renowned fortified wine made with the native Grillo and Insolia grapes.
Perhaps when you hear Marsala you conjure up an image of a sickly sweet and syrupy after-dinner drink, or a creamy sauce to save dry chicken, but Marsala is so much more complex depending on the aging, coloration, and grape varietal. It can range from dry to sweet, trust me!
Arrivederci dinner in Marsala.
Day 16 – Marsala to Palermo: End of Tour
After breakfast, we depart for the Palermo airport where our tour ends.
Participants can also choose from a number of possible trip extensions:
- In the city of Palermo
- At the famous beaches of Mondello or Capo San Vito
- In the islands of Fayignana (Egadi Archipelago) or Vulcano/Lipari (Eolian Archipelago)