Dates: May 14-19 // October 15-20
- Wine estates: Planeta, Donnafugata, Ceuso, de Bartoli & more
- Greek temple at Segesta
- Sea-salt in the making
- Meals at an olive oil farm & 4 wineries
- Byzantine mosaics in Palermo & Monreale.
Day 1: Welcome to Palermo. Glittering Byzantine mosaics, ornate Baroque churches, domed Arab mosques, and grandiose Norman cathedrals stand shoulder-to-shoulder in Palermo, once the richest city in the Mediterranean. We'll start with a walking tour of Palermo, going through the historic city center as well as its open market bazaar. After lunch, we visit the renowned estate Abbazzia di Santa Anastasia and have our first sip of Nero d'Avola, Sicily's most important native red grape. Dinner introduces the multicultural cuisine of Sicily, which includes couscous, seafood, exotic fruits, and marzipan pastries. Includes: (D).
Day 2: Planeta & the Renaissance of Sicilian wine. In 1166 the Norman King William II commissioned the Cathedral of Monreale to stand on the spot where the Virgin allegedly appeared and revealed where his father had buried a treasure. Covered with mosaics, gold leaf, and stone intarsia, it's an awesome sight. We then continue south to Planeta. More than any new winery, Planeta has put Sicily on the map. After gaining recognition for their intense Chardonnay and Merlot, they subsequently introduced wine-lovers to Sicily's indigenous grapes: succulent Nero d'Avola, bright berry Cerasuolo, and fragrant Fiano. We'll have lunch at their Ulmo vineyard, located in a gorgeous valley near Sambuca, then continue to a newer producer, Alessandro di Camporeale. Antonino Alessandro will personally escort us through the family's boutique winery and pour their syrah, a symphony of dark berries and spice. Dinner is on your own in Palermo, where you might encounter Sicily's seafood-based cuisine, such as pasta with swordfish, tomato, and mint; or couscous with sardines, fennel, and raisins -- always an exotic medley of flavors. Includes: (B).
Day 3: Splendid Greek Ruins. Transferring from Palermo to Marsala, we'll visit Segesta, one of Sicily's most perfectly preserved Greek Doric temples and amphitheater. Lunch follows at a boutique olive oil estate, where the different types of olives are pressed separately for diverse oils. After a tasting, we'll dine inside their baglio, or 18th century plantation house. In the afternoon we drive to the picturesque saline, or sea-salt ponds. Here sea salt is made using an ageless technique involving windmills, diked evaporation pools, and a steady sea breeze. A chartered boat will take us past the windmills and the Isle of Mozia, a Phoenician settlement. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Alcamo's Boutique Wineries. Today we'll head to the wine region of Alcamo, catching view of Sicily's mountainous terrain, prickly pear, giant eucalyptus, and vast vineyards. Our first stop is Spadafora, an award-winning, family-owned winery with vineyards scattered across the island. Our tasting here will give us a panorama of wines and terroir from shore to shore. For our second tasting, we'll visit Ceuso, a boutique vineyard started as a labor of love by three brothers - a farmer, an enologist, and an agronomist. In short order, their oak-aged blends of Nero d'Avola, Merlot, and Cabernet received acclaim and justified their leap of faith. Here our escort will be Giuseppe Melia, who will show us around the baglio they're renovating and give a first-person perspective on their breakthrough. Dinner is at cozy restaurant near the sea-salt ponds. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 5: The Port of Marsala. In 1773, John Woodhouse docked in the port town of Marsala and found the local sweet wine to his liking. He immediately sent a shipload back to his native England, and soon Marsala was the most famous wine of Italy. We'll spend the morning in the old city center and visit its baroque churches and bustling outdoor market. Next, a tasting showcases marsala - the real marsala -- at Marco De Bartoli. This single-minded producer has done more than anyone to resurrect the reputation and quality of marsala wine. We'll taste his full portfolio, including the nutlike 10-year-old Vecchio Samperi and sweet passito wine from the windswept island of Pantelleria. We'll then continue our afternoon wine tasting is in Marsala at Donnafugata, a top estate and also a setting in the novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). Here we'll sample native Sicilian grapes like Nero d'Avola and Ansonica, and see how finely Cabernet and Merlot behave in this Mediterranean climate. Some free time before going to dinner in town. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6: Arrivederci! A shuttle to the Palermo airport and assistance with your travel plans. Includes: (B).
17-22 of May
4-9 of October.
Also see tour packages in:
Europe Italy Local Culture Food & Wine Archeology/History
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