What a wonderful experience that was! We met her in Catania near the outdoor market area. She took us shopping in the markets in Catania: the cheese vendors, meat stalls, fish stalls, vegetable stands and the amount of shouting that was going on made it a bit difficult for all of us to hear her comments. To many in the group they had never experienced this before. To me it was the largest food market ever! And I have been to a few in Italy. After everything was purchased we walked back to our bus and we followed her to her private home/cooking school and prepared our lunch. We made caponata, homemade pasta, Sicilian meatballs, salad and she prepared a lovely dessert for us. Of course, it was served with local Sicilian wines. She made it very special for all of us and we all appreciated her techniques and hospitality. Hopefully many of us will take what we learned from Monica and try to duplicate the meal in our own kitchens. She did provide us with the recipes . We all received a certificate and a very contented appetite. No need for dinner that night.
Taormina is a very picturesque small town on the eastern coast of Sicily and is a very popular destination. The views from this part of Sicily are well worth it that it really should not be missed. A stop in this town in a must!
Hotels are located from the seaside area of Mazzaro’ to the top and the town is connected by a cable car. If your hotel is in the middle of the mountainside chances are the hotel has a shuttle to the top where the town is located. There are a few hotels at the the top and if you do not stay there it is worth a stop to have a drink and take in the views. My son and I decided to take in the views from the Belmond which is in the center at the top of Taormina. Pictured is the Belmondini. Delicious!
Not far from our hotel, Grand Hotel San Pietro is the beautiful Villa Comunale di Taormina and it’s beautiful gardens. No entrance fees so if you are in the area it is well worth the visit. It is full of lush greens: palm trees, flowers and succulents.
While staying in Taormina many took advantage of the free time to shop in the many boutiques. I always give my group time to shop as it is so important to us ladies.
In between time we had a tour of Mt. Etna with a wine tasting and then one day we took a cooking class in Catania with Monica Consoli. More on our cooking class in another post.
As we left Agrigento and headed to our first wine tasting at Occhipinti the sun was not shining, in fact it was our first, and not our last, day of rain. That did not dampen our spirits. Arianna Occhipinti, the owner, has worked in the wine industry since the age of 16 and by age 22 started labeling her own wines. She is known for her SP68 red wine which is a blend of two varieties. We had the pleasure to taste both her white and red wines. You might want to try to buy some of her wines which are available in the states at select wine stores..
After our delightful tasting we headed east to Siracusa and our new resort hotel: Grand Hotel Minareta for the next two nights.
We arrived and it was still raining but not enough to stop us from exploring this seaside resort. Our view was overlooking the waters. Siracusa at night was splendid. This resort offered us a rocky beach, a jacuzzi terrace, pool, a spa and beautiful gardens among the 77 rooms which offer terraces so one can watch the sunsets in the evenings. You can venture into town or dine at the resort. What more could one expect, but maybe some sunshine.
Siracusa has much to offer its tourists. One can use this town to visit other nearby towns such as Noto and Raguso and Catania
Our first morning began with a tour of the archeological park. We waiting in the market area for the downpour to stop and when it did we walked the short distance to the park. Within the park is a Greek Theatre, a deep quarry called the Latomia del Pariadso and a huge cave called the Ear of Dionysius ( in Italian it is Orecchio de Dionisio).
There was more to see but we decided to head to Noto to explore this Baroque town and come back to Siracusa later in the afternoon to visit the cathedral.
The beautify in this town is in the golden colored stone buildings with wonderful facades and fancy balconies. Here is where I took everyone for an arancini tasting and then on to Café Sicilia for the best gelato tasting ever. We were delighted to meet Corrado Assenza the owner who has appeared on Chef’s table episode 2. I encourage you to watch it!
I brought my group to Sicily at the end of September for an eight-day journey around the island.
Since my return I have asked myself, what took me so long to discover this wonderful island?
We began our stay in Palermo. Upon our arrival we visited the Opera House and the Palermo Cathedral. On your walk our guide brought us to a famous pastry shop in the middle of town to sample their cannoli. Nothing like what I have tasted here. Much more creamy and just the right amount of sweetness!
Palermo is full of history and the architecture, especially in the Quatrro Canti area, is very fascinating, not to mention the ruins from WW II are still in existence throughout the city.
Our hotel was centrally located so if anyone desired to venture on their own it was very easy to do.
The next morning, we took the private bus to Monreale, a hill town just outside of Palermo. Monreale sits high above a valley where they grow almonds, oranges, and olive trees. We took the time to wander the streets and alley ways and took in the views from above. The cathedral in the center of town is aglow with mosaics inside and out. Just beautiful!
After our time in Monreale and brief respite where everyone enjoyed an espresso or cappuccino we boarded the bus for Cefalu’.
As we were approaching Cefalu’ by bus we marveled at the blue Mediterranean waters. Cefalu’ is east of Palermo and it is known for its sandy beaches. We stopped for lunch by the water’s edge and some took the time to dip our feet into the Mediterranean waters. As we strolled the streets and visited the glorious cathedral with our guide, many of us could not resist boosting the Sicilian economy with our purchases at the lovely boutiques. It’s picturesque charm and inviting beaches could encourage one to spend a few days here to enjoy the simple life.
After two nights we boarded the bus for our 2.5 hour drive south to meet our guide, Lorenzo, at the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
Lorenzo greeted us as we exited the bus. He was full of enthusiasm and energy and proved to be an excellent guide. We toured the area for two plus hours with a brief break to keep us refreshed as it was a hot day in Agrigento! These temples date back to the fifth and sixth centuries and Lorenzo put everything into perspective for us. It is well worth the stop even for just one night. After the tour we went straight to our hotel: Villa Athena, a gem not far from the ruins. Here we relaxed by the pool and sipped our Aperol spritzers. That evening we dined at the outside restaurant of the hotel under the stars and the temples in the distance. Does not get any better!
More to come!
Because we were staying five nights at the Miramare Hotel in Santa Margherita Ligure I took the group to Cinque Terre one day to explore and have a wine tasting. This is a string of five seaside villages all connected by local trains or walkways. All these little towns have very colorful houses, vineyards hugging the cliffs, and harbors filled with colorful fishing boats.
As you walk these villages you are in constant amazement how the Italians creatively constructed their homes and businesses clinging to cliffs. The views are spectacular and hiking trails are abundant.
After we explored the town of Vernazza we ventured on to visit Monterosso al Mare. We walked the steep slopes, resting in between, and arrived at a vineyard. The owner bought this property about 12 years ago and explained to us how they had to clear the cliffs and cultivate the land. There was once a vineyard here that suffered years of neglect. They fell in love with it knowing they had years of work in order to bring back to working order. They did a marvelous job and their wines were wonderful. Because we arrived at lunch time they treated us to a delicious and unforgettable lunch! It was more like a feast!
Here is a sampling of our lunch! We were more than satisfied!
And with our dessert wine!
If you have the time it would be worth it go to these charming little villages. Explore and enjoy the food in this area!