Surrounded by shimmering turquoise sea, the Italian island of Sicily has been a crossroads of the Mediterranean since ancient times. Vistors throughout the ages have influenced the Sicilian culture and cuisine making it unique to Italy and the Southern Mediterranean.
The island is a rich and rewarding destination for the traveller and on this itinerary, we slow the pace down to get an in-depth and totally authentic experience of Sicily where you will learn about the people, history and culture through what Sicilians hold most dear… their food and drink. Explore markets, sample street food, learn how to cook Sicilian food and meet the passionate local artisans making some of the finest cheese, chocolate and wine!
On arrival at Palermo’s Airport, you will meet your personal English speaking driver, who will escort you to your charming centrally located hotel, where you will be welcomed by the kindly staff. Get ready for your first Italian Culinary experience, as you will dine at a local Osteria, a traditional Italian restaurant. This is a great introduction to Palermo's culture and the centuries-old culinary tradition, with Greek, Arab, Spanish and French influences. Local favourites are like arancina (rice ball), panelle & crocchè (chickpea and potato fritters), the famous pani ca' meusa (spleen sandwich), and the historic Sicilian dessert: il cannolo (cannoli).
Your second day begins with breakfast at your Hotel, after which you will be ready for your first Sicilian experience. In the morning you will travel down to the coastal town of Trapani for a visit to the Saline, the salt harvesting pans. As you will travel along the “Salt Road” it is not hard to imagine the importance of salt in early times when there was no refrigeration. You can even join in the Salt Making process, where you will understand that thanks to the favourable conditions, high temperatures, shallow waters, and a constant wind that evaporation occurs rapidly, making salt one of the Sicilian more valuable economic resources. The restored windmills recall a time when they were used to pump the water and for grinding the salt. In the afternoon, you will enjoy another memorable culinary experience, visiting a Cheese Making local farm, where you can know more about this typical Italian and Sicilian food and, of course, tasting it. You will learn the secrets of typical Sicilian dairy products, and, among the other things, you will be able to assist in making ricotta
After breakfast, you will indulge all your senses with a 3-hour walking tour of Palermo's rich street food traditions. You will join a knowledgeable guide for a walk through the historic part of the city and its vibrant outdoor markets, like Ballarò and Vucciria. You will have the opportunity to taste some of Palermo's unique street foods, such as 'panelle' and 'meusa’. Watch the lively scenes all around you, observing that the scenery seems like another time. Later, you will experience a Cooking Class in a real home-kitchen followed by a wonderful full course meal in the home. Discover the secrets of the Sicilian traditional cuisine, and learn how to cook some of the authentic and typical dishes (pasta al forno, sarde a beccafico, arancine, pasta con le sarde, involtini di pesce spada) and, of course, how to eat them too! You will follow recipes and techniques passed from generation to generation in Sicilian kitchens: a taste of this wonderful land to carry along and rediscover once at home. In true Sicilian tradition, a meal begins with a starter, followed by a primo (pasta), a second (which includes fish or meat), caponata (a vegetable stew of eggplants, celery, green olives, and capers), and a typical Sicilian cake.
After breakfast, you will check out from your hotel in Palermo and drive the short distance to Ortigia, the old town centre of the ancient city. This enchanting 3000-year-old city has a jewel, the Apollo temple, the oldest Greek temple in Sicily, walk from here through picturesque narrow streets to Cathedral Square to visit the Catholic church built above an ancient pagan temple. But before checking in at the new accommodation, you will stop on the way for lunch at an amazing local Winery. The owners will welcome you with an appetizer, then a typical Sicilian lunch with a marvellous panoramic view of the vineyard; of course, all the courses will be matched with an excellent glass of wine, chosen for you by an expert.
Today, after breakfast, follow in the local fishermen’s footsteps thanks to an exclusive tour restricted to a small number of participants to guarantee and enhance an authentic experience. You will board a typically Sicilian wooden fishing boat and you will stop at a local fishing spot. Our local fisherman will show you the tools used every day to catch the local fish. You will learn to fish like the true Sicilian and locals who regularly enjoy this past time. With the fishing over there’s just enough time for a dip in the shimmery blue waters, then it’s time to enjoy a meal of the fresh catch. A chef will prepare and serve you lunch just a few meters from the water’s edge.
After breakfast, you will live the sweetest day of your life, a real dream for chocolate’s lovers: an excursion to Modica, the city of Chocolate The long love affair between Modica and cocoa - which started when the Spanish brought the ancient Xocoatl recipe during their occupation of Sicily. Become chocolatier for an in a chocolate laboratory dedicated to uniting local raw materials (organic and fair trade carob, oranges, hazelnut, hemp, manna, spices and chili) with the traditional cocoa processing techniques. While your newly created chocolate bars cool, you can visit both the shop and the lab and learn about the machines and production secrets. The cool processing temperatures, the gritty texture, and the organoleptic characteristics make the chocolate of Modica a unique product. It is a true reflection of the flavours of the region, of its fruit products, its handcrafting excellence. At the end, some sweet-tasting treats await you, along with some thoughts on a new and fairer way of thinking about business. In the afternoon, you will visit a local winery to discover and taste one of the most important Sicilian Wine, the Sicilian Passito, a wine made from grapes that have been dried to concentrate their juice. The name Passito comes from the Latin word passum – an ancient Roman sweet wine that was named after the Latin verb pando to spread out. This grape sort was originally cultivated in North Africa, probably around the Nile Delta, close to ancient Alexandria. Later it was transmitted to the European continent and cultivated by Romans who in turn made it popular all over their Empire. The process of producing sweet raisin wine is called rasinate (to dry and shrivel) dates back to the Bronze Age and continues almost unchanged until today. The winemaking process consists of different grape drying methods - either the grapes are left on the vine without watering or are dried after harvesting on racks or straw mats. And after a tour of the wine cellars and vineyards, an unforgettable tasting will be waiting for you!
Today, after breakfast you will head to your next hotel in Taormina where you will have free time to relax and explore the charming medieval village of Taormina. The lovely Aeonian pearl, is popular for its natural landscape, beautiful sea, its ancient monuments and an unforgettable view of Etna! The main attraction is, without doubt, the fascinating Greek Theater. Now home to all manner of events, including plays, fashion shows, concerts, and cinema festivals. The Teatro Greco, as its name suggests, started its life in the 3rd Century BC hosting performances of works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes. Originally quite small, it was enlarged by the Romans to accommodate their own particular brand of theatrical extravaganza. The views from the theatre are spectacular, taking in a (usually) smoking Mount Etna and the Bay of Naxos down below. Another testimony of Taormina’s ancient origin is the Odeon. Right in the middle of the old Roman town, just below Palazzo Corvaja, this small theatre was built by the Romans when the town became a military colony in 21BC. It was used both for theatrical and musical performances organized for the cream of local society. Taormina is served by its very own cable car which ferries tourists to and from the seaside resorts down along the coast. Extensive beaches, rocky coves, tiny islands (such as the famous Isola Bella) and sea stacks abound, making this enchanting coastline a firm favourite with Sicilians and visitors alike.
Today, after Breakfast you will depart for Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe and UNESCO world heritage. You will reach by Jeep the "Crateri Silvestri", small now inactive volcanic cones, surrounded by ancient lava flows. The view beyond the hundreds of secondary cones and craters of the mountain can extend throughout Sicily, the Aeolian Islands and Calabria. You will walk to the impressive “Monte Fontana” and our English-speaking guide will show you the great variety of flora and fauna: plants and animals which populate our active volcano. While walking through ancient forests you will learn a lot about the vegetation and the wildlife of Mount Etna. Lunchtime! You will stop in a local Organic Winery for lunch matched to a unique glass of wine and later you will visit a local Pistacchio cultivation. The Organic Winery is managed by people who focus their philosophy on absolute respect for the Earth. They will be the guides of your tour if available and you will get the chance to personally talk to and meet them, having lunch in a wonderful location with a view on the vineyards. After lunch, you will reach a local Pistacchio farm where you will discover the "green gold", so called because of its importance in Sicily’s economy. A tasty delicacy enveloped in a light, bright green hue, the Pistachio is good on its own, or when used in recipes savory and sweet. Whether fresh or dried, it is perhaps the most precious ingredient in Sicilian cuisine, and symbolizes its town of origins, Bronte, in the Province of Catania. The pistachio actually has several names in Sicilian dialect, including scornabecco, spaccasassi and fastuca. The pistachio plant can live between 200 and 300 years. While the nut’s most ancient origins lie in ancient Persia, that grown in Bronte is distinguished by very unique characteristics – even in comparison to other Sicilian pistachios – and is thus known as pistacia vera.
Today, after breakfast, you will meet your English-speaking guide who will take you to discover a 3-hour gastronomic and historical walking tour of Catania. After the proper presentation and the handing-out of the personal foodie's passports to all travellers, your guide will lead you to the fish market for a tasty bite. In the market, your guide will unveil the secrets of shopping for fish and other seasonal products. Your guide will share tips regarding recipes and restaurants, enriched by historical information to provide you with an easier understanding of local culture. Your guide will then take you to the more elegant side of the city, the Via dei Crociferi or the Benedettini area. This tour will give you the most authentic overview of Catania and offer you intimate secrets of locals' daily life. You will stop at a syrup kiosk for refreshment and to take a break, before heading for a sweet treat. After every sampling stop, you will receive a stamp on your foodie passport. In the afternoon, enjoy a cooking class dedicated to Sicilian pastry, especially two of its absolute musts: Cassata and Cannoli. It starts with the original recipe and an in-depth focus on the raw ingredients used, such as fresh ricotta cheese, sponge cake, marzipan and candied fruit, up to the contemporary version revisited by our Resident Chef. A sensory journey through scents, colours, flavours and legends of two symbols of the island’s gastronomic tradition. From their Arab origins to the present day, these Sicilian sweets par excellence have been influenced by foreign invaders that came to Sicily, each one bringing some changes and transformations.
All aboard the historic little train, the Littorina, that climbs the slopes of Mt Etna volcano. Today we will discover the wines and culture of Mount Etna. The first stop will be the medieval historic centre of Randazzo. Getting lost in its wonderful narrow streets to reach the "Casa della Musica" where you'll enjoy a unique and unrepeatable musical experience. The day will conclude with wine tasting, at a prestigious winery; we will walk through the typical Etna vineyards and taste excellent volcanic wines.
Time to say "arrivederci" to Sicily and after breakfast, you will check out of your hotel to and transferred to the airport in time to board your onward flight.