Five destinations you must see when travelling to Sicily. Join a wine and food tour to see the best of Sicily, then spend some extra time in and around some of these amazing regions, like Ortigia, the wineries of Mt Etna, Marsala. There are so many places to be discovered.
ORTIGIA. The historical port and island off the eastern end of Syracuse is the wonderful ancient fortification of Ortigia, also known as Citta Vecchia, linked to the mainland via bridges. From the island you get both sunrise and sunset by walking 150 meters from west to east. Walking the Baroque architecture streets and alleyways, deciding on which of about 50 restaurants you will choose, will be the main decision of the day. Some great spots for Aperitivo! Steer clear in August
THE WINERIES AROUND MT ETNA. Try to spend at least 3 days in this region, just south of Taormina. We chose Monaci delle Terre Nere, a wonderful wine estate on the southern side of Mt Etna. There are more than 40 wineries in this region, some with accommodation and excellent tasting facilities. Book in advance or get a guide. Every Sicilian wine company is trying to get a piece of the action on the slopes of Mt Etna where stone terraced vineyards grow from the volcanic soil beside old lava flows. Where tradition and history meet modern technology, and viticulture is unique. Where ancient varietals are being nurtured and reputations forged, this is the most fascinating wine region in Italy. Add Benanti, known as the founding father of the Etna wine movement, and Barone di Villagrande. On the Northern side visit: PietraDolce, (for a modern take on ancient tradition), Cottanera, Tenuta di Fessina, (also has 7 amazing rooms steeped in history) and Passopisciaro. If its open visit Cave Ox Vineria and Pizza in Solicchiata to taste the ones you miss. For more information on the wines of Sicily click here.
MARSALA CELLARS. The DOC certified Marsala wines must be made from Grillo, Catarratto or Inzolia white grapes, or Nerello Mascalese, Pignatello, Nero d’avola & Damaschino red varietals. Categories of Marsala reflect how long it has been aged in barrels, “superior” for 2 years aging, “superior reserve” for 4 years, and “vergione solera stravecchio” for at least 10 years. The fortified version of Marsala was “invented” by John Woodhouse in 1773. A trader who spent time in Marsala and concluded that the local drop was as good as the Madeira and Port that the Poms had been bringing in from Portugal. He further fortified the local drop and shipped the barrels to England. By 1796 he had opened Baglio Woodhouse in Marsala and the rest is history.
My favourites were Marco De Bartoli, who is a relative newcomer only making Marsala since the 1990’s and re-inventing the way they make wine, plus Cantina Florio who has been about since the 1880’s in awesome cellars. For innovation and style Donnafugata is a must-see winery.
The ancient cellars are a sight to behold, the history is amazing, and its worth visiting 2 to 3 of these places. Try to do a trip out to the island of Mozia easily reached between Marsala and Trapani, an island where many wine companies have vineyards and there are some amazing archaeological sites.
VAL De NOTO comprises a cluster of towns in the South East corner of the island, included on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for Baroque beauty. Noto, Ragusa, Modica, Vittoria and Scicli to name a few. This is Occhipinti territory, the leaders in winemaking with Frappato grapes from Arianna Occhipinti, and Baglio Occhipinti run by her sister Fausto. A food and wine experience that is very special.
VILLA ROMANA. Central Sicily’s biggest attraction for Italians, located in a valley 5 kl outside the town of Piazza Armerina. Its home to the finest Roman mosaics in existence, and thought to have been the country home of Marcus Aurelius Maximianus, Rome’s co-emperor (AD 286-305)