The island of Sicily is famed for being a place that’s totally unique, a culture and a distinct way of life that extends far beyond what we know of Italians. The diversity of its landscape, from its restless mountains to the spectacular coastline, is just one of the main highlights. With its Mediterranean climate, sparkling beaches and charming towns and villages, it’s a favourite holiday destination for those who dream of European luxury. But what’s really remarkable about this eternal crossroad of the Med is the enchanting culinary scene and the hectares and hectares of vineyards that make wine-tasting here such a delight.
The local people are proud of their island cuisine. And while Sicily is very much a part of Italy, by geography and by heart, residents here consider themselves Sicilians first, Italians second. When it comes to discussing matters of the kitchen, they will assure you that their recipes are Sicilian, not Italian. Sicilian customs are also rather different from the mainland. The old Sicilian language is still used in everyday language, and the island has managed to retain its rich history.
Of course, when it comes to Sicilian wine, there’s a whole universe of wonders waiting to be unlocked. It’s one of the largest and most productive wine regions in Italy, with many varieties to choose from. And with such passion and such a focus on authentic dining, whether it’s a low-key café or a high-end restaurant, there’s no better region for a luxury wine and gastronomy break in Italy.
When people think of Sicily, Palermo, the island’s dazzling capital, often springs to mind. Currently, the city is still basking in the limelight of being named the ‘Italian Capital of Culture 2018’. But the truth is, Palermo never needed an award to attract visitors. It’s been a cultural melting pot since antiquity and is home to some of the best places to eat and drink. From a cooking tour with the Duchess Nicoletta to exploring the Sicilian Old Quarter and sightseeing on an extended tour, there’s so much to do here.
Other spellbinding cities on the island are Catania, Syracuse and Taormina. Stroll along Catania’s ancient port discover hidden caves such as the Ear of Dionysius in historic Syracuse, and commence your tour of Mount Etna from the charming Taormina.
In southern Sicily, there’s the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Valley of the Temples, Agrigento and the Kolymbetra Gardens, the Feudi del Piscotto vineyards, and many other attractions. One of the best places for a wine tour is the city of Marsala. With its warm, mineral-rich soil and cooling sea breeze, the area has formed a hospitable environment for quality grapes. Located between Marsala and the city of Trapani along the coastline are the famous Salt Pans, definitely worth a drive if you’re out there. This route is called “La Via del Sale” (the Salt Road) and is instantly recognizable with its Dutch-style windmills.
The summer months in Sicily are without a doubt the most popular time to visit for tourists. With over 1,000 kilometers of coastline and smaller off-lying islands surrounding the mainland, it’s the perfect destination for a beach holiday. Sicily’s Mediterranean climate is characterized by moderate temperatures, so travellers should expect hot and dry summers and wet winters.
If you want to beat the crowds, May, June and early July are great times to plan your visit. In September and October, the weather is still lovely and warm and there will be far fewer tourists to contend with.
Many wineries are open throughout the years, so there isn’t a bad time to enjoy a wine and food tour of the island. In winter, indoor wine activities are popular, while in spring, summer and fall, hiking or cycling around the vineyards is utterly charming. The wine harvest runs from September to around mid-October most years, with some fantastic events going on from north to south.
Sumptuous Sicily is a prolific region for wine production, making it one of our top destinations for enotoursim in Italy. The island makes a long list of different wine varietals, and many of the wines reflect Sicily’s long and rich history, with each one telling a unique story.
Any discussion of Sicilian wine begins with Marsala, the island’s most famous bottle. It was first made in the city of Marsala, an area also known for its Port. Another well-known variety is Malvasia, a sweet wine that is quite similar to Moscato and its full-bodied flavour. It’s ideal as a dessert wine, and because it’s slightly fortified, it holds up well in travel.
Novello, of course, deserves a big mention. This is a great Sicilian wine that many consider to be a newer vintage. Known for its robust and fruity flavour, this is an easy red for both experts and beginners. For some of the best white varietals, there’s a version of Chardonnay that offers something unique. Like other regions in Italy, Chardonnay is popular here and over the years it has become a noble and popular wine choice for any occasion.
The vineyards in the Vittoria area are known for Frappato – a rare, fruity find with an explosion of flavour from sweet red berries and incense spice. This variety is sometimes blended with Nero d’Avola to make it more complex. It’s medium-light in body and has medium acidity, making it the perfect pairing for harvest foods like roast turkey or ingredients like roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomato.
There are so many places to stay in Sicily. As one of the most popular beach destinations in Europe, there’s an abundance of seaside hotels and resorts by the coast. Both north and south are worth exploring, and whether you’re here for the sun, sea and sand or the spectacular wine tasting experiences, we can help you find the perfect place to stay.
From exclusive 5 star hotels and stunning boutique accommodation located on the slopes of magnificent Etna to wine hotels complete with spa and wellness facilities, there’s something for every luxury seeker.
There’s something seriously special about dining out in Sicily. With its own unique culture, separate to that of mainland Italy, and its own distinctive take on national dishes, foodies can enjoy a culinary journey like no other.
Local gastronomy is important to the Sicilian people, and restaurant owners are extremely passionate about their menus. Cities like Palermo are home to the most stylish venues for eating and drinking, including Michelin starred restaurants. In Catania, there’s also a thriving restaurant scene, with neighbourhoods like Zafferana Etnea being a popular place to eat. Zafferana Etnea’s Locanda Nerello is an example of the best organic fine dining options in the area.
Travel experts at Wine Paths can help you create a bespoke luxury holiday to Sicily with food and wine tours to make your journey unforgettable. Find out more from our local expert Peppe.