Sicily is roughly shaped like a triangle, earning it the name Trinacria. The Romans called the island Trinacrium, meaning “star with three points.” Sicily’s distinctive landscape boasts Mount Etna, the largest and highest active volcano in Europe, and shores that touch three seas: the Mediterranean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian.
Its strategic location has made it a territory in dispute for millennia. Among those who have inhabited Sicily are the Sicels, Sicani, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Aragonese and Bourbons before the Savoy and the kingdom of Italy.
These past dominations left distinctive marks on the island still visible today in its people’s features, the local architecture, culture and cuisine. Sicilian foods and recipes represent for sure one of the quintessential expressions of the Mediterranean diet, now listed as a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage, specifically in its Italian, Spanish, Greek and Moroccan expressions.
To savor a meal in Sicily is to encounter an extraordinarily rich collection of culinary traditions. UNESCO defines them well where it describes protecting the Mediterranean diet as “a set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions ranging from the landscape to the table, including the crops, harvesting, fishing, conservation, processing, preparation and, particularly, consumption of food.”
Among the most typical and unique of Sicilian dishes are: granita (crushed ice flavored with juice from local fruits or nuts), arancini (fried rice balls traditionally filled with meat and tomato sauce or mozzarella and ham), caponata (sweet and sour cold salad of eggplant, celery, bell pepper, capers, olives, and tomato sauce) and cannoli (pastries filled with ricotta). You will enjoy washing them down with one of Sicily’s wonderful indigenous wines: Frappato, Nero d’Avola, Malvasia and Caricante.
Beyond being a great culinary destination, Sicily is also exquisite for sightseeing given its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among them the Valley of the Greek Temples near Agrigento, the Roman Villa of the Casale in Piazza Armerina, the late Baroque towns of Catania, Modica, and Ragusa, the Roman and Greek sites of Siracusa, the volcano Etna and the Aeolian Islands. We visit some of those fascinating sites on our two itineraries and two post-tour extensions in Sicily.
Other highlights include: visits and tastings to olive oil and wine makers, to local Slow Food Presidia (worldwide initiatives to support quality production methods that are at risk of extinction) such the Ragusano Dop cheese from Modicana cow, and Magghia Masculina (anchovies caught with a traditional fishing method), and visits to local agriturismi (usually, family-run “farm stays” combining agriculture and tourism).Typically, an agriturismo features room and board in a farmhouse, which has been either partially or totally transformed to provide accommodation and meals.
On our special departure “Olive to Oil: Sicily during the Harvest” in October we visit a Sicilian family and taste their extra virgin olive oil, while being part of the exciting experience of the harvest and the production directly from their mill.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. Given internal distances of over 250 miles, our tour centers on the eastern and central parts of the island (and look forward to featuring Palermo and the west side of the island in a future itinerary). If you have more time, join us on a post-tour extension to the UNESCO site of the Aeolian Islands, or to visit Sicilian Temples, Villas and Olive Oil in Sicily.
Benvenuti (welcome in Italian) in the heart of the Mediterranean! What are you waiting for? Ti aspettiamo! (We are waiting for you!) A presto! (See you soon!)