Do you feel like you’ve been everywhere? Do you want to go somewhere none of your friends, neighbors, or colleagues have been? Sicily and Sardinia might just make the perfect trip...
The Strait of Messina, which is only two miles wide, is all that separates the toe of the boot in Calabria, Southern Italy, from the island of Sicily. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s one of the five Italian autonomous regions.
You may know Sicily from The Godfather and associate it with the Mafia. The Cosa Nostra is indeed the most powerful organized crime group in Sicily, especially around Palermo, the capital. But did you know that Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy and is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines?
Sicily has a long history of winemaking. Grape residue recently found in a cave outside the town of Sciacca was 6,000 years old and suggests that wine has been produced on the island that long. Regaleali Estate in the center of Sicily is where the Tasca family has been making some of the best wines in Italy for eight generations. The Benanti Winery has been producing wine since 1734. It’s one of the first wineries in Sicily to produce high-quality wines using native grapes. The wines produced in the area around Mt. Etna and the volcano have the special Etna DOC (Designation of Controlled Origin) classification, and many winemakers would love to have grapes in the region.
Due to its location and the many groups that have ruled Sicily throughout history, it has incorporated the best of many cultures into its eclectic cuisine. Arabs brought eggplant, the main ingredient in Sicily’s famed “pasta alla Norma,” currants, pine nuts, oranges, and mint. Couscous was brought from North Africa and is used as a base for many seafood dishes. The Greeks planted lemon and pistachio trees, and the Spaniards brought chocolate and tomatoes.
Between eating and drinking, there’s time to visit the Valley of the Temples. The valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in Agrinento. The valley is an exquisite blend of nature, including almond trees and an amazing group of ancient monuments of Hellenic architecture. The Temple of Concordia, also built around the 5th century BC, is one of the best preserved Greek temples in the world.
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the five Italian autonomous regions. In addition to its turquoise waters and white sand beaches, it is home to approximately 4 million sheep. The island is unknown to foreign tourists, which adds to its allure.
Sardinia’s distinct cuisine includes roast suckling pig, a lasagna-like dish made with layers of lamb and stale bread, and malloreddus pasta, a bowl-shaped noodle that catches sauce and cheese. The island also boasts a variety of tender fish, plump figs, and lemons.
Pane Carasau is a thin, crispy bread that traditionally required three people to stretch into a thin layer. Sardinians have been making cheese for more than 5 thousand years. Pecorino Sardo is the most popular local cheese. Casu marzu, a maggot-infested cheese (yes, you read that correctly!), is banned from commercial sale, but you can find it if you are adventurous.
Sardinia also harvests some of the most pristine wines in Italy. DNA studies found that Venetians brought the Cannonau grape (local name for Grenache) to more than 3,000 years ago. Sardinia is also home to Vermentino wines made from Sardinia’s superior white-wine grape. Primarily produced from seaside vineyards, Vermentino displays unique characters that you won’t find from warmer, inland varietals. It is a light-bodied, complex white wine similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
Sardinia is a premier destination for wine because of the land and how the growers treat the land. Most vineyards in Sardinia are family-owned, with vines as old as 30 to 60 years. Clean growing and harvesting practices are adhered to on the Island. The majority of vineyards do not use pesticides. Growers in Sardinia are proud to put quality over quantity, making Sardinia’s wines some of the purest and most exclusive wines in the world.
Sardinia has ancient ruins you may want to visit, but the beautiful beaches and mountain hiking trails offer vacationers an excellent alternative. While hiking in the mountains, you will notice the nuraghe, tall, round structures shaped like beehives. There are more than 7,000 nuraghe, and the oldest dates back to 1,500 BC. Their use remains a mystery because each one is unique
While enjoying these Islands off the coast of Italy, you may want to visit some of the smaller ones. While Sicily is the name of an island, it is also the name of an archipelago formed by seven islands. There are more than 400 islands off the coast of Italy. Some have no roads or cars, and some are home to only a few hundred people. Islands you might want to visit:
Enjoy a wonderful vacation off the beaten path with our favorite itinerary. We would be happy to add other islands to the itinerary for those who wish to extend their stay. Prego!
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A Luxury Wine Tour Of Sicily
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