Explore Sicily with us!
Join us for
Evening departure from USA to Italy arriving in Rome Monday morning and transferring to a flight for Palermo. The driver and I will be there to meet you when you arrive in Sicilia.
Upon arrival, transport from Palermo airport to our Palazzo in Trapani, where we will be welcomed by the Adragna family whose ancestors, members of the nobility arrived in Sicily from Bologna over 800 years ago. Our Location Manager while we are in this area will be my dear friend Franca Adragna who lives with her family in the lovely Adragna Pallazzo pictured above.
The Palazzo was recently renovated and completely modernized with the addition of an elevator, in-room air-conditioning and a mini-frig in each room. Your comfortable accommodations are conveniently located within walking distance of the shopping area and the old city. The inconspicuous monuments in the old city give only small clues as to its rich history. Trapani flourished as a Phoenician trading centre and was an important stopover in the middle ages, linking Tunis, Naples, Anjou and Aragon.
After your arrival, you will have some time on your own to rest or explore. A welcome supper and wine-tasting event will be held in the evening. One of the most famous dishes here is fish couscous, where steamed coarse-grained couscous is served with an intensely flavored fish broth, a throwback either to the days when the Arabs ruled Sicily, or from the island's more recent commuters, fishermen from nearby Tunisia.
After our breakfast which will be served each morning in the upstairs dining room of the Palazzo, we will begin our day with a ride to the port area where we will embark on a Hydrofoil tour of the Egadi Islands, the three Islands that form a mini-archipelago off Trapani. The islands are known as Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo. Known to have been inhabited since prehistoric times, they are blessed with lovely coastlines immersed in glorious crystal-clear water. It was in these waters that the treaty sealing an end to the First Punic War (241 BC) was signed, whereby Carthage assigned Sicily to the Roman Empire. The Island of Favignana in my opinion is the most charming, a picturesque fishing village with a lovely beach. You will have time to swim, work on your tan and relax into the slower pace Sicilian life style In the village are some great spots for lunch, a coffee some gelato, interesting bouti que shops and people watching. Everything is within easy walking distance. Later in the day we will take the hydrofoil back to Trapani in time to freshen up for dinner in a restaurant within walking distance of our Palazzo.
We have a full day ahead of us so we will leave the Villa early this morning. Today we will have an opportunity to catch a glimpse into the past, a glorious time thousands of years ago, when this area was the riches most powerful spot in the world, a chance to develop an understanding of how the Sicilian people developed.
First stop: Segesta, this ancient Greek temple can make a valid claim to being the best preserved in the world, and its amphitheatre boasts a hilltop position on Mount Barbaro second to none. These archeological sites, reflect the presence of several ancient civilizations beginning with the elusive Elymians.
Next stop: Selinunte. It was founded in the 7th century B.C and is an area of magical ruins, filled with temples, statues and friezes. The site has two main areas: the Acropolis and Eastern Temples. One of the temples, built mid-6th century B.C., was dedicated to Apollo. The oldest temple was dedicated to Neptune. The most endearing of all of the temples, identified as "Temple E", was completely reconstructed in the 1950s. You will see how the columns reflect the sun and cast shadows on the plateau, as you explore the ruins at your leisure.
Later we will have a wonderful lunch at a nearby Trattoria on the sea. My friends here will make you feel so welcome that it will be difficult to leave. A short drive further and we will arrive in the Marsala/Mothia area. Here we will visit the picturesque Saline Ettore Infersa salt pads, and have a glass of the famous Florio Marsala, in production since 1833 and still the leading producer of Marsala wine in the world.
Today we will have a special treat! After breakfast we will travel up the mountain to nearby Erice and have an opportunity to walk through a medieval village and visit Pepoli Castle, which dates back to the Saracen times. Hippolytus, mentions three distinct peoples in Arabia during the first half of the third century, the Saraceni, Taeni and Arabes. In some literature this group was referred to as pagan tent-dwelling raiders of the lands on the eastern fringes of the Roman Empire, but there are also many accounts of their expertise as soldiers and generals.
We will visit the "La Pasticceria di Maria Grammatico" for its famous sweet cakes, duplicated elsewhere, but none are as decadent as these. Our Location manager, who inherited a percentage of Pepoli Castle, has arranged for us to have a cooking lesson there followed by lunch. Perhaps the chef will teach us how to make one of my favorite pesto sauces. There are a number of dishes in Sicily with almonds, which grow alongside date and citrus trees all over the countryside. The Trapanese version of pesto, is a heavenly mix of chopped almonds, garlic, basil and fresh, partly skinned cherry tomatoes, pounded together in a pestle and mortar before being stirred into Trenette, thick hand-rolledspaghetti, eaten with a handful of grated pecorino. Mmm delizioso! Grazi Chef Francesco Pinello.
Erice is the best-known city in this area of Sicily, and with good reason. Located in a panoramic position 750 feet above sea level, it preserves all the fascination of an ancient medieval village, with little piazzas, winding streets, gorgeous flowering courtyards and more than 60 small churches. On a clear day it is possible to see Trapani, Marsala and the Egadi Islands. However the city has a notorious past involving the Cult of Venus (Astarte to Phoenicians and Aphrodite to the Greeks) founded by Elymians, worshippers of the goddess of fertility, claiming descent from Aphrodite's Trojan son Aeneas, who mentions the place as a holy landmark in the Aeneid. In his book "On the Nature of Animals," Aelian writes that animals chosen for sacrifice would voluntarily walk up to the altar to be killed. Many Sicilians choose to honeymoon here believing this will ensure that their union is blessed with many healthy bambini.
After bidding the Adragna family "arrivederci," we will head towards Taormina known as the "Jewel of Italy" about 150 miles away. Stopping mid-way for lunch and a brief walking tour of the beautiful seaside medieval village Cefalu then we continue towards Taormina. Our final destination will be Castelamola, a small "Paese" located on top of Mount Taro overlooking Mt. Etna, Taormina, and the sea, our home base for the next several days.
Castelamola "Your Room with a View"
Upon arriving at the Villa you will have a few hours to organize yourself and relax in your luxurious suite. I feel certain you will be delighted with your new surroundings, decorated with antique period furniture, a comfortable large bed, private master bath with Jacuzzi tub and shower. In your spacious room, you will also find a bottle of wine, fresh fruit and flowers to welcome you. Each suite has a private balcony so that you can enjoy the panoramic view. Perhaps you will want to open your wine, put your feet up and thank the lucky stars that put you in this beautiful place at this time in your life. Several quaint shops and restaurants are located only steps from our villa, if you feel like stretching your legs a bit. Later about 8:00 pm we'll have a light dinner at a restaurant in the village.
Our Location Manager in this area is Sebastiano Alibrandi, a native Sicilian who speaks English fluently having lived and studied in the USA when he was younger. Charming and professional, he is a delightful person to spend time with. He lives in Taormina and has worked in the tourism business quite successfully for some time
A hearty buffet breakfast will be served every morning in the Villa, prior to each day's activities. This morning about 9:30 AM we will be chauffeured down the mountain to Taormina where our private escort will conduct a casual walking tour of the main street, Corsa Umberto.
We will visit several carefully preserved 14th and 15th Century palazzos and chapels and have a chance to explore the trendy shops along the way. Just off the end of Corso Umberto is the entrance to Teatro Greco, a beautiful theatre dedicated to the arts, built in the 3rd Century B.C. Beyond the columns you will be able to see the town's rooftops, the arc of the coastline and Mt. Etna in the distance.
When we have concluded the tour, our driver will pick us up at the piazza just below the Teatro for a short sightseeing tour as we drive along the coast to a village appropriately named Isola Bella... Beautiful Island. A delightful lunch has been arranged for us at a Ristorante on the sea, overlooking the lido (beach) and Isola Bella. Following lunch we will return to the villa and you will have an opportunity to rest until 8:30 PM. when a light dinner will be provided in Castelamola at a charming fun-filled Caffé Bar.
After breakfast we will tour the area of Mount Etna, one of the world's major active volcanoes. The cone rises 10,902 feet above sea level. Plato sailed in just to catch a glimpse in 387 B.C. We will take the funicular up to the first point where there is a great place to enjoy a drink on the open air terrace and watch the activity from a safe position. The rings of vegetation change as you rise, with vineyards gradually giving way to growths of broom grass. Dependant upon Mount Etna's temperament on that day, those who are more adventurous (at an extra charge) can go further up the slopes via an all-terrain vehicle to an area where it is possible to walk near the summit, wandering over its moonlike surface and peer into the crater itself. Those who choose not to go up further (I will be in that group) can venture back down and browse through the numerous gift shops located at the bottom.
After we have done our Volcano exploration we will head for the charming village of Zeffarana, where we will enjoy a full-course lunch. This is always a treat. The young chef whose parents own the restaurant is a fabulous cook and quite charming.
On the way back to Taormina, we will stop at Aci Trezza for caffé and dolci. A small coastal village that is a photographer's dream and the myriad of boats in all sizes along with the aroma of a real fishing village are an added bonus. This area is dominated by the "Rocks of Cyclops", treacherous pointed masses of black lava rising up from the crystal-clear waters. "The Odyssey" relates that these were the rocks hurled by the Cyclops against Ulysses, who had blinded him by thrusting a flaming stake into his only eye. The hero escaped with his companions by clinging to the bellies of rams belonging to the Cyclops.
Following an early breakfast, we will drive to Catania, Sicily's second largest city, founded by the Chalcidians in 790 BC. We will visit the Katane Palace Hotel to meet the "Guida Michelin" Chef of the popular "Ristorante il Cuciniere" and director of the ristoranti. Signora Nadia Mosca will accompany us to the outdoor market, Le Pescheria, and the adjoining food market, featured in Renato Guttoso's famous painting "La Vucciria." The markets are located in center city Catania and are a tourist destination not to be missed. Here we will learn about food selection.
After our visit to the market we will return to the hotel to watch Chef Nadia in action, She is a dedicated professional and an expert in pasta and breads. Her dishes are innovative, with a modern twist to traditional recipes. I have eaten Chef Nadia's creations on several occasions and know you will enjoy whatever she decides to create for our "pranza." The full-course lunch will be served in the atrium dining room overlooking the hotel's garden area complete with Chef's selection of the appropriate wine for each course.
Click here for more info on Senora Nadia in our travel articles. You will also see more info on Taormina and this area of Sicily there, too.
After leaving Katane Palace, our driver will give us a short tour of the city of Catania. Among some of the sites you will see are: Teatro Bellini - dedicated to "Vicenzo Bellini," Catania's home-town composer of 10 operas among which are "La Sonnambul" and "Norma" immortalized by Maria Callas and the Castello Ursino, built by Frederick II of Swabia in 1239. Our last stop will be at the Piazza del Duoma, a world heritage site. In addition to the Cathedral we will see the monument known locally as Liotru, the symbol of the city and in true Italian style, we will sit at a bar and enjoy a final caffé before returning to our Villa late in the afternoon.
I love the story of the Piazza Liotru. The male elephant, mighty creature as he is does not appear to have testicles since they are hidden in the foals of his skin within his abdomen. The artist created him anatomically correct, but when the statue was placed upon its pedestal for all to see, the men of Catania were outraged. This part of their and the Elephant's body were considered a symbol of strength and manhood. An elephant in their Piazza representing the strength of Catania, missing these important body parts could not be tolerated. So, the statue was removed and redesigned to reveal the only elephant in the world complete with testicles. Bravo, mighty Liotru!!!
Later in the evening we will have a light antipasti dinner at the Granduca on Corso Umberto. We enter at street level and go down a flight of steps. The view from here is one of my favorites, as well as the food. I have asked the chef to provide us with a selection of antipasti. Among them will be their version of eggplant parmesan. The eggplant is sliced thin and stacked with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil then sauced with a simple fresh tomato sauce and shaved parmesan, sublime! From the enclosed terrace you can see twinkling lights of the villages below and Teatro Greco on the mountain side.
Following breakfast, we will travel down the mountain once more to Taormina to Ristorante Licchio's, where you will meet my good friend the owner, Angelo Longo, who is also a Certified Sommelier. The first thing we have to do when we arrive is congratulate Angelo who just got married. He plans to honeymoon for the month of January in the Orient, but will be here to greet us and take us to the market in Taormina. Angelo likes to get student input and designs the class around what you want to learn to cook. It's a hands-on class with staff members assisting you in the preparation of your lunch. Pasta will all be made my hand, no machines for Angelo! So be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get cooking. During the lunch which we have created, Angelo will give us a wine class.
The remainder of the day will be at your leisure to explore Taormina's shops and attractions or take the funicular down to the beach. Perhaps you will want to meet me later for a light farewell supper, a farewell drink and listen to some local romantic music before we return to our mountain top retreat.
Day 11: Last Day:
Enjoy your final morning in this magical spot and prepare to be transported to Catania Airport for your flight back to Rome for an overnight stay near the airport so that you are on hand for your flight back to the states early Thursday morning. Or perhaps you have decided to take advantage of our extension option and spend a few days exploring the Eternal City, in which case you will be embarking on another adventure.
Whichever choice you make, it will be hard to say "Arrivederla" but don't despair now we are friends and you may want to come and join us again on another adventure, so we'll just say "Ciao" for now.
Day 12: Flight Rome to USA
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*Tour details subject to change without notice.