Perfect Pairings: The Food & Wine of Sicily

June 15-22, 2017 (8 days, 7 nights)

We have fallen in love with Sicily now it’s time to see it yourself. Together we will cook, eat and explore the Sicily of yesterday and today. Visiting stunning UNESCO sites, charming farms and vineyards, all nestled among panoramic mountains and along the azure blue sea, we will enjoy the magic of the island over 8 days. Unique, experiential, and local, we will uncover the many layers of Sicilian history and how they have influenced its renowned food and world-class wines whose terroir is influence by minerals from hardened lava and the many days of bright summer sunshine and cool breezes.

Over the last 20 years, a new treasure trove of Sicilian wineries has emerged from the ancient grape varieties that made the island’s wine famous during Roman times.  We will sample the very best vintages on offer and meet the vintners behind the recent Sicilian wine revolution.

In addition to food and wine, this tour explores fifth-century BC ruins, the Arab-Norman architecture of Palermo and has free time built in so you can relax and absorb the beauty all around you.  Join us this June for a magical eight-day tour of the magical island of Sicily.

 

Delicious highlights

  • A sunset toast and welcome dinner at one of Palermo’s best rooftop restaurants
  • Walking tour of the street markets of Palermo with Duchess Nicoletta, one of Palermo’s top chefs
  • Private cooking lesson in a restored palazzo and dining on what you prepare with fine wine from Sicilian family vineyards
  • Two cooking-class lunches with Annalisa, a local chef who will guide us through Agrigento’s and Favara’s regional fresh food
  • Lunch at the two-star Il Duomo restaurant
  • Food story-telling about the recipes and their connections to Sicilian history and culture
  • A visit to a frantoio where award-winning olive oil is pressed – with a tasting
  • Tour and tasting at the vineyard of Arianna Occhipinti, the most celebrated organic winemaker in Sicily
  • Hands-on cooking class following a visit to the world-famous La Pescheria fish market.  The class is guided by local chefs and includes the preparation of a full course menu inspired by Sicilian and Catanese traditional cuisine.

Sightseeing highlights:

  • Guided tours of Palermo, Agrigento, Taromina, included admission fees
  • Boat excursion with wine and lunch in Taromina Bay and the lovely Isola Bella with time for swimming and snorkeling
  • Visit the unique town of Favara, a unique contemporary art village near Agrigento
  • See the hilly town of Ragusa Ibla, a Baroque gem in the mountains, surrounded by stunning vistas

Included in your tour is:

  • Two nights at the Hotel Piazza Borsa or similar in Palermo
  • Two nights at the Hotel Fontes Episcopi or similar in Agrigento
  • Three nights at the Hotel Royal or similar in Catania
  • Breakfast daily
  • 6 lunches and 2 dinners
  • 4 cooking classes with two market tours
  • Private transportation as per itinerary by insured carriers
  • All sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary
  • Gratuities for drivers and guides
  • Single transfer to Catania Airport

Day 1
We meet at the Hotel Piazza Borsa, a beautifully restored monastery with a cloister that is now a lovely place to stay and considered one of Palermo’s best hotels. We meet for orientation, dinner and to enjoy a stunning sunset from one of Palermo’s best rooftops, overlooking a sparkling city-scape.

Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa, Palermo

Day 2:
This morning after breakfast we will take a walking tour of the street markets with the Duchess Nocoletta, one of Palermo’s top chefs.  She will introduce you to Palermo’s local and seasonal specialties and together you will purchase the ingredients for your cooking lesson.  In the restored palazzo where she lives – and the last residence of the author of Sicily’s classic The Leopard – you will create a meal worthy of the dining room in which you will sit to enjoy it, sipping wine from the estate of one of Sicily’s most historic families.

In the afternoon, you will embark on a walking tour of Palermo’s central sights, many under UNESCO protection.  Our wonderful guide will regale you with stories about Arabs and Normans, Spanish nobles and Byzantine craftsmen, all of whom lived in Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, nestled in the Conca d’ora, or Golden Shell. The name, referring to Palermo’s one-time citrus fertility and its position on the coast, was given to it by the Arabs in the 9th century.  The tour includes a visit to the famous Monreale Cathedral to see the incredible Byzantine mosaics, some of the best preserved in the world.  Dinner on your own.

Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa, Palermo

Day 3:
Today, travel south to the province of Agrigento, on the Mediterranean Sea. The city of Agrigento was once one of Greece’s most prestigious cities.  You will arrive at Fontes Episcopi, a quietly beautiful bio resort very close to town but otherworldly.  After checking in, you will meet Annalisa, the lovely chef who will guide you through the regions of foods in the first of two lessons. Fontes Episcopi has a kitchen perfect for hosting guests who, with apron and spoon, will cook a wonderful meal.  Then, in a lovely space, you will enjoy your creation with local wines.

The rest of the day is on your own to swim, visit the spa and relax.

Fontes Episcopi, Agrigento

Day 4:
This morning you will take a short ride over to the town of Favara to once again meet Annalisa.  Favara is a unique town, turned into a contemporary art village.  Annalisa will take you around and into her favorite kitchen space.  Here, she will introduce you to more delicious dishes from the region.  Eating your lunch in this very different and interesting environment will give you a different flavor of Sicily!

Remove your apron for the afternoon and visit the Valley of the Temples, an astounding collection of some of the world’s best Greek ruins.  Amidst almond and olive trees (and local sheep) your knowledgeable diode will give you and understanding of what the amazing city was like circa 500 BC.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

Fontes Episcopi, Agrigento

Day 5:
Leaving the area, we will go into the wine and food country of south eastern Sicily.  The first stop will be at a frantoio where award-winning olive oil is pressed.  Here you will learn about the cutera process and taste the “green gold”.

Later, you will drive to the nearby vineyard of Arianna Occhipinti to meet with her and tour her vineyard. A  wine-making phenomenon, Ariana grew up with wine in her family at COS, but she had ideas of her own. She now makes some of the most written-about organic wines on the island, which you will sample and judge for yourself.

Your day will continue a drive to the hilly town of Ragusa Ibla, a Baroque gem in the mountains surrounded by stunning vistas. Here you will lunch at the famed Duomo Restaurant, a Michelin 2-star destination for food enthusiasts.  After lunch and time to explore, you will continue on to Catania, Sicily’s second largest city with some 600,000 inhabitants.

After checking into the Hotel Royal, settle in and relax at this stylish boutique hotel done in Tunisian style.  Here you will be able to enjoy breakfast and drinks on its lovely rooftop and be within an easy walk of the main historic center.  Dinner at leisure.

Hotel Royal, Catania

Day 6:
This morning you will meet in the largest piazza duomo and begin a walking tour of tastes and smells. At La Pescheria, Catania’s world-renown and ancient fish market, you will be mesmerized by the sounds of the calls and learn about the riches of the sea and a fisherman’s life.  Together with your guide and chef, you will collect ingredients for your final cooking class and proceed to a historic location to learn different recipes and skills.  The menu will be inspired by Sicilian and Catanese cuisine.  Guests will be divided into two groups and provided all the tools in the class.

Hotel Royal, Catania

Day 7:
A guide will help you visit this much written about town, once a stop on the Grand Tour. The Greek Theater is the main historic attraction, situated in a staggeringly beautiful setting that has inspired and moved generations of travelers. Taormina is also known for leisure strolls on beautiful streets, fine quality shopping, including for Sicily’s traditional ceramics and linens, and enjoying an icy granita in a café, as if on a movie set.

We will arrive at the beach below town via panoramic cable car ride and depart for a luxurious afternoon cruise aboard a yacht. You will sail around the clear blue waters of Taormina Bay, and the lovely Isola Bella, drinking in the beauty, with prosecco in hand. Then you will enjoy a buffet lunch with chilled wine.  Following lunch, there will be time for swimming and snorkeling, or you can lounge on deck in the warmth of Sicily’s sunshine.

Return to Catania

For your farewell dinner, a local sommelier will join you at a hot contemporary restaurant. In a relaxed and friendly way, she will guide you through the history and variety of Sicilian wines, pairing them with your dinner. She will explain to you about Sicily’s exploding wine scene and why it is attracting so much international attention. This evening will leave you with the sensation that Sicily is still evolving after all these years.

Hotel Royal, Catania.

Day 8:
After breakfast, transfer to Catania Airport for your homeward flight.

CAPONATA

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup olive oil
1 3/4 lbs eggplant, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced
11 oz ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 1/2 tsp sugar
scant 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp pine nuts
scant 1 cup pitted green olives
3 tbsp capers
1 tbsp golden raisins, soaked in hot water & drained
salt and pepper to taste
fresh basil leaves to garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

Put the eggplants in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let stand for 30 minutes.  Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Heat 5 tbsp of the oil in a large skillet.  Add the eggplants and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown all over.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in another skillet. Saute the celery and onion over a low heat for 5-10 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and continue to cook until thickened and pulpy. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in sugar, vinegar, pine nuts, olives, capers and raisins and bring to a boil over low heat.  Add the eggplant and simmer for ten minutes.  Serve the caponata hot or warm, sprinkled with small basil leaves.

– The Silver Spoon, 1950

“Sicily is an island lying outside time, where past events endure in an external present, a beach on which the tides of successive civilizations have heaped in disorder their assorted treasure.

– Vincent Cronin, The Golden Honeycomb

Click on the image
to download a printable PDF
version of this tour.

Priced from $3,990 per person, land only for 12 people.  Flights from Chicago/New York to Palermo and returning from Catania estimated for these dates at $1,250

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