Spectacular landscapes, magnificent baroque buildings, fusion food at its best paired with delicious wine – and in the midst of it all, several fire-breathing divas. There is something going on in the Mediterranean island and its little sisters! But that does not mean tourist hordes, no, in Sicily you can still enjoy a relaxed holiday – or go on a wild explorer tour. Andiamo!
Legend & Truth: According to legend, Dionysus (ancient Greek god of wine, winemaking, grape cultivation, fertility, ritual madness, theatre, and religious ecstasy.) brought joy and wine to Sicily. But the legend aside, it is a fact that wine has been produced for thousands of years on Sicily. There is evidence that Mycenaean traders already around 1,500 BC. cultivated grapes in the Aeolian Islands. When the Greeks settled in Sicily in the 8th century, they could not be without “oinos”, their favourite libation and so they introduced different varieties of grapevines.
Renaissance of Sicilian viticulture
Over the last 20 years, Sicily’s wine culture has seen tremendous changes, as confirmed by many of the international awards won by Sicilian producers – some of Italy’s best wines come from Sicily. A new generation of producers is exploiting the full potential of the enviable island climate, local grape varieties, and fertile soil. With now 112,700 hectares of vineyards is the island of Sicily, which also includes the volcanic island of Pantelleria in the southwest and the northeastern Aeolian Islands, the largest wine region in Italy. Sicily wine region has been investing in sustainable production methods for more than 20 years. The island is now in the lead in Italy: 83% of the vineyards processed by Assovini producers are organic.
Divine wines of Sicily
Despite the hot and dry climate in Sicily wine region, there are significantly more white wines than red wine. The great outcome of this natural conditions is Marsala, the fortified wine from the wine land of Sicily, which historically dominated the market. Since the mid-1990s, however, the red wine has grown also because the native and newly arrived wineries have planted international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon,Merlot, and Syrah. These new plantations are located almost all in the island west within easy reach of the capital Palermo.
Further, both the mineral white wines from Catarrato, Carricante, and Minella, but above all, the elegant Rosso dell’ Etna from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio is currently taking attention of wine lovers worldwide, as there are very few of them. You could put these red wines from Aetna between best Burgundy and Barbaresco.
Appellations: Since September 2005, there is the first and only DOCG-classified wine. There are 23 DOC wines in Sicily wine region, but they account for only about 5% of the total vineyard area. Nevertheless, there are excellent IGT classified wines. A special feature is the foundation of the DOC Sicily (since the year 2012), which includes the territory of the entire island and may appear on the label as an addition “Sicilia”. You can taste the DOC Sicily in this surprising winery, where the land shines with the moon. Thus, the Sicilian origin can also be clarified in the more unknown DOC appellations. For example, the Limonio winery produces its own appellation, Limonio.
The most sought-after sweet wine is currently the Passito di Pantelleria, a Moscato (Zibibbo) from dried grapes of the well-known small island in the southwest, which is closer to Tunisia than Sicily.
Why wines from Etna are so Special?
The mount Etna is an active volcano that has erupted from time to time. The wines of Mount Etna are considered the stars by many experts and connoisseurs. And what exactly makes Etna wines so special is the terroir and soil. Vines are cultivated on the terraces and high elevation which makes it difficult to use mechanical equipment and most of the work is done by hand. Also, Etna soils are rich with volcanic nutrients that give special qualities and minerality to wines. In particular, white wines thrive on the fertile mountain slopes up to almost 1000 meters in height, which, in contrast to the boiling interior, have large temperature differences between day and night.
Grape Varieties from indigenous to international
Since the time of Phoenician colonization when the first vines were planted, Sicily wine region went through a lot of changes and cultural dominance. Which also had an influence on grape varieties used in wine production. Some of these grape varieties are indigenous and centuries-old and others are newer imports.
Red grape varieties account around 33% of total vineyards of Sicily wine region and are dominated by Nero d’Avola, which is followed by Perricone and Nerello Mascalese, which is one of the most highly appreciated variety bus somehow hidden under this shadow of Nero d’Avola. Nerello Cappuccio is very often blended with Nerello Mascalese. And we shouldn’t miss Frappato, which produces ruby wines with violet hues. International reds: Cabernet Sauvignon,Merlot, and Syrah. The Nero d’Avola is considered the original Sicilian grape variety. The resulting dark wine is often blended with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon and is characterized by a velvety-grounded taste.
As for white grape varieties, it occupies two-third of total vineyards. Catarratto Bianco Comune, Inzolia and Grillo are the most loved grape varieties in Sicily. However, Grecanico andZibibbo(Muscat) are also favoured here. White wines from Catarratto grapes has a yellow colour with hints of green and it displays a delicate bouquet of white flowers, aromas of ripe citrus. Besides, white wines from Sicily wine region are expressing exceptional minerality and balanced acidity. In addition to native grapes, Chardonnay and Trebbiano grapes also found a comfortable home in Sicilian land.
Carrasco grape variety also serves as the basis for many more white wines, including the sweet and aromatic Inzolia. Ideal for expressive whites, which are often trained as shrubs (Albarello), which are protected by stone walls from the constant wind.
Where to taste these exceptional wines?
Sicily is a paradise for wine lovers, so different, complex and abundant is the unique gift of Dionysus, the god of wine and viticulture! The best way to taste this divine wines from Dionysus is to visit wineries in Sicily, where hosts will share their secrets, passion and love of wine.
On the slopes of Vulcano!
The Antichi Vinai winery locates on Mount Etna. Four generations of family has been working to enhance production of indigenous Sicilian grapes on this exeptionally fertile land of the island.
Spend your day at Antichi Vinai, where you will learn more about Etna wines and will be able to pair them witl local food.
Tenuta di Castellaro is a monument devoted to the countryside, art & culture, architecture, and technology, in respect of territory and nature. It is located on Aeolian Islands. The vineyards stand in the Piana di Castellaro, a land full of viticulture history and traditions.
Discover historical ruins converted into micro residences and taste their diversity of local wines!
Every piece of land and every little stone in Sicily carries a lot of history and jewels of each and every relationships they had with outsides. Started with Greeks and Arabs, Finished with Normands. That’s why It is so difficult to underline the best places to visit there. However here, we tried to take you out of big and mainstream cities. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit Palermo, Catania, Syracuse and many more big or small villages with a long history.
Cefalù – City layered with different cultures
Variation of the city name talks a lot about cultural influences and layers of history sedimented on Sicilian land. in the Sicilian language, it is CIfalù. However, the name has Greek origins and coming from word Kephaloídion (Κεφαλοίδιον) or Kephaloidís (Κεφαλοιδίς), which later was Latinized. But this is not the end of the story, the name of the city also changed under Arab and Carthaginian rule.
The small town of Cefalu on the Italian island of Sicily is perfect for a relaxing beach holiday: Cefalu offers sun-seekers year-round sunshine, a beautiful white sandy beach and a characteristic old town with numerous restaurants, bars, and shops. The reason for the high number of visitors is certainly as well the appointment of the Cathedral of Cefalù as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which should definitely be visited.
Worthwhile, however, is the 2-hour hike to the castle hill of Cefalu. Also ideal for a trip with children, since the ascent to Diana Temple is quite easy. From there you have a beautiful view of the sea, the old town of Cefalu and the Madoni.
Erice – The medieval jewel
In order to reach the mountain town, you have to drive up from Trapani a steep serpentine road. On the way, there is a unique panorama and breathtaking views of the green, southern mountain landscape to the Mediterranean Sea. Another nice possibility to get there is the cable car from Trapani to Erice.
Strolling through the narrow streets of the small town, there are numerous small shops selling souvenirs. Very popular souvenirs from Erice are the famous Sicilian sea salt, good Marsala wines, ceramics, and sweets. Especially the delicious biscuits made from almonds, nougat, pistachios, and ricotta. The most famous pastry shop in the town is the Pasticceria Maria Grammatico, which is praised for its delicious home-made cakes.
The most visited attractions include the two castles Pepoli and Venus. The first was built by the Arabs, whereas the latter is a Norman structure with impressive towers, which derives its name from the fact that it stands on the site of the ancient temple of Venus, allegedly founded by Aeneas.
Gangi – Where houses are sold for 1 €
In Gangi, there is little to be felt from the hectic and busy atmosphere of Palermo. The place was built on a rock and about 6 700 people still live there. In the old town, the time seems to have stopped in the Middle Ages. Between stone walls and innumerable churches, one encounters in the narrow, steep streets even on a sunny September day only a few people.
Picturesque is the place, no question: surrounded by hiking trails, overlooking the proud volcano Etna. But from only a beautiful view no one can live. Many are moving away to the larger cities or abroad. So that is the reason why a house costs as much as an espresso there. Anyone who buys a house in Gangi for a euro undertakes to restore the building within three years, so the Historian centre should be upgraded again.
Nevertheless, a visit to the picturesque village from which you have a great view of Mount Etna, is worth – and who knows, maybe there is also a house for you?
Untouched nature of Sicily
Holidaymakers are looking for sun and sea in Sicily. In fact, both of them present themselves in full beauty. In addition to the sea, a Sicily holiday also includes the green sides of the sun-island. Sicily offers various nature reserves to be explored. Nature that gives you the feeling that there still some places that are pure, untouched.
Cava Grande del Cassibile – a bathtub with turquoise water
The gorge Cava Grande del Cassibile presents itself as one of the most beautiful nature experiences of Sicily. Spectacular are the turquoise pools and waterfalls deep down in the valley.
Surrounded by a gigantic landscape, the Cava Grande exudes a heavenly peace. The canyon is located in the middle of a nature reserve with an area of 2696 hectares. Lush macchia and giant Asian plane trees dominate the landscape.
Once upon a time, the waters of the Cassibile River formed a 250-meter-deep canyon, the so-called cave, in the soft limestone of the Iblei Mountains. Today, the river laps gently through the valley and forms turquoise pools that invite you to a cool bath.
Nature reserve Lo Zingaro – a wonderful place irrespective of the season
West of Palermo, just after Castellammare del Golfo, the coastline becomes rugged, rocky and at times spectacular. The most natural sculptor – the sea – has chiselled a small wonder at countless bays, surf pillars, and grottoes into the hard limestone cliffs.
A part of this coastal stretch is home to Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve. It extends for 7 km along the coast between the small village of Scopello in the east and San Vito Lo Capo in the west. This park and its surrounding areas are among the most beautiful areas of western Sicily.
Lo Zingaro was formed in a natural way with breathtaking effects of wind and water. The cliffs fall abruptly into the azure-colored water, the mountainsides climb steeply to 1,000m and the beautiful gravel beaches with crystal clear, turquoise waters are among the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. The reserve attracts hikers and swimmers, and in the summer when many beaches are overcrowded it is a good idea to come to Lo Zingaro, walk half an hour through the park and to spend the rest of the day in relative seclusion on an almost deserted beach.
Scala dei Turchi – Staircase of the Turks
Near to Agrigento a rock protrudes into the sea as it is rarely seen in the world: The Scala dei Turchi is a white rock with a beautiful beach in the south of Sicily. Such a snow-white rock, which gradually strikes the sea 50 meters higher from the sea, can not be seen every day.
There is a story that the Scala dei Turchi (The Turks’ Gate) was the gateway to the conquerors. Another is that the second part of the name goes back to Saracen pirates, who are popularly called “Turks” and are said to have anchored their boats in the slipstream of the cliff during raids. We’ll leave it to you. In any case, you should have seen this monumental rock with a beautiful sandy beach.
Sicilian cuisine – Taste of an Orient
The long history of relationships with Mediterranean neighbours gave a birth one of the most balanced, colourful and flavoured diets, the Mediterranean diet, which is in the UNESCO intangible heritage list and Sicilian diet is one of the distinctive parts.
In Italy, every region tends to stand out, but apart from regional pride, Sicilian gastronomy is unanimously considered the highest expression of Italian cuisine. Accompany your dishes with Sicilian wines you will be delighted!
In the dishes from Syracuse to Palermo, there are (also) ingredients that we do not quite correspond to the Italian standard. This independence of Sicilian culinary art stems from the varied history of the island. Above all, the flavours of the Orient are the culinary heritage of ongoing campaigns and conquests of Arab peoples. Spices and fruits are found, such as cinnamon and saffron, raisins and pomegranates.
Here are some of the outstanding local dishes, which is of course just a little part of Sicilian cuisine:
Arancini – Sicilian rice balls
Sicily is divided into two for the love of this mouth-watering dish. One part calls it Arancini and another Arancine. However, in one way or another, this is an absolute must to taste while you are in Sicily!
This dish, which is presumed of Arab origin, is deep-fried rice balls filled with various fillings. The name derives from the colour and the shape, which is reminiscent of small oranges. Arancino is the Italian word for “little orange”. In the east of Sicily, other forms than balls are common.
In Palermo, the use of saffron is very common to give the rice the fine taste and the golden color, while in the region of Messina and Catania tomato sauce is used. Countless are the ways to fill the arancini. The most common filling consists of ragù, peas, and carrots, mozzarella, ham and bechamel, or mozzarella and spinach. In the area of Catania, there is arancini “alla norma” with eggplant and pistachio filling, for which the famous pistachios from Bronte are used. There are even sweet variations, such as those powdered with cocoa and sugar which are often prepared for the Feast of Saint Lucia.
Caponata – An old Byzantine dish
The marvellous Parmigiana is made all over Italy, but its origins lie in Sicily, where this sweet and sour aubergine dish is prepared called Caponata. Normally it is served as a side dish or appetizer.
Everyone makes the Caponata different. Those who are looking for the unmistakable original recipe and its origin will probably perish. Only their sweet and sour character (which some achieve by adding sugar, others by pickled raisins) and the fact that several vegetables (mostly eggplant and tomato) are fried to an almost creamy spicy mass, they are characterized. Find out your favourite Caponata and combine it best with a nice strong red wine from Sicily.
Cannoli – An icon of Sicilian art of baking
Cannoli are the Sicilian desserts par excellence. It consists of a deep-fried dough roll with a sweet creamy ricotta filling, which may contain vanilla, cocoa, pieces of chocolate or candied fruit.
Cannoli was originally one of several lard pastries that were eaten during Carnival but are now produced year-round. They are now available throughout Italy from larger bakeries and restaurants. The Italian word cannolo literally means “small tube” and does not refer to the dough piece, but to the tube around which the dough pieces are traditionally wrapped for frying.
Calabria is a jewel on the toe of Italy. Calabria has a large number of wineries that offer wine tasting and tour. Visit our website to book beautiful wine-filled experiences and learn more about the wine region.