Please write to design your itinerary, below are some examples of places, sites and producer visits that give an overview of the Island, a variety of kitchen experiences can be incorporated.

Western Sicily .. the Val di Mazara

From the capitol at Palermo this corner of the island is characterized by a rugged mountainous interior, beautiful coastline ancient ruins and farmers and producers who make some of the Island's best materia prima, raw ingredients.

Palermo .. with a naturally safe harbor that was first identified by the Phoenicians, the city was properly settled by the Arabs and, rare for Sicily, never overtaken by the Greeks. The city was capitol of Mediterranean civilization for centuries, at one time rivaling the exotic centers of Cairo and Cordoba for intellectual and artistic activity. Layers of history and the inclusive nature of Palermo's culture are revealed in Norman buildings with Arabic architectonic details; visit museums with ancient, ethnographic and modern collections; taste your way through one of the most boisterously riotous markets on the island: sweet seasonal fruits, delicate fresh seafood, pannelle, frattaglie and pani cunzatu.

Segesta .. the temple, city, theater complex at Segesta is perhaps the most romantic site of ancient ruins in all of Sicily. The fickle Elymian\Greek city was founded by Egesta who escaped burning Troy with Aeneas and compatriots. Mystery surrounds the Doric temple's true purpose (a Greek temple built by non-Greeks); from the cavea of the theater carved into the rocky mountainside the view out to the Golfo di Castellammare is dramatic as it should be at any ancient Greek theater worth its salt.

Trapani .. on the west coast is a breezy seaside town with the best cannolo di ricotta on this side of the island (but don't try complimenting them on it, they know it already: Lo so.), nice shops, craftsmen, fresh fish cous cous and the port for launching off toward the Egadi islands (more amazing seafood, tuna fisheries, prehistoric cave paintings).

Erice .. after a steep cable car ride up from Trapani walk through the medieval village, sample excellent cous cous (whole grain semolina with almonds), historical pastries and see the ruins of the medieval castle built into the ancient ruins of the Temple of Venus Eryx.

Lo Zingaro .. hiking in this nature reserve is some of the best in all of Italy. Trails crisscross the gorgeous, mountainous landscape that follows the coastline, paths lead down to coves of turquoise sea.

Selinunte .. The evocative ruins of ancient Selinus, a powerhouse border town founded at the westernmost reaches of Magna Graecia, cover an undisturbed plateau high above the sea. Selinus enjoyed centuries of prosperity before being sieged during the First Punic War - largely fought on Sicilian soil. Vast remains of the residential and commercial sectors speak to the prosperity of the city; solid, graceful Doric temples stand out against the bright blue sky and wine-dark sea.

Mazara del Vallo ..Inside the medina that was the original Arabic settlement, see a rare, original Greek bronze sculpture, the surprise catch of a fishing boat that hauled it up from the seabed where it lay for millennia after an ancient shipwreck; taste delicacies made by the cloistered Benedictine nuns, some of the very last to practice Sicily's centuries-old monastic tradition of pastry making.

Marsala .. with an interesting wine making tradition, an important role in Italian history as Garibaldi began his unification march from here, a sunbaked piazza, a museum with the petrified remains of a Punic war ship and one of the best bread bakers on the island (he's got the touch, and he bakes twice a day so there's always warm bread at mealtimes).

Motia ..In the VIII century BC the enigmatic, mighty seafaring Phoenicians fortified not only the ports but the entire tiny island of Motia in the lagoon that lies off coast between Trapani and Marsala. A beautiful site with intriguing history.

Producer visits in the Val di Mazara:

In the rugged interior meet a family of shepherds/cheesemakers who follow traditional methods making cheese just the way Polyphemus used to do (that's Polyphemus, as in the cyclops who terrorized Ulysses and who gets a bad rap when really he was just a harmless cheesemaking shepherd... and this is his recipe). Watch the magical process as perishable milk is transformed into long-aging cheese, tasting along the way: la zabbina (curds and whey), the vastedda typical to the Belice valley and their sharp, aged picurinu sicilianu.

The artisanal fishing fleet based at Selinunte returns to the small port early each morning to have their catch, fresh from the sea, sold in a live auction to the highest bidding housewife or restaurateur. Participate in the action, have a cappuccino with the fishermen, and then head over to the archaeological park.

In this arid territory meet one of the small-scale winemakers who produce markedly territorial wines from autochthonous grapes (Cattaratto, Grillo, Zibbibo and Perricone) under difficult farming conditions, proof that grapes have to suffer to produce ethereal wines. Windy and dry, some of the vineyards are planted in red sandy soil that's actually been blown up from the Saraha by lo scirocco, and many of the vines are trained using the ancient ad alberello system as adapted to this windy region, tutorless bush-trained vines pruned low both for protection from the wind and to keep yields low and quality high.

Learn the history of the cloistered monastic pastry making tradition while sitting in the kitchen with one of its proponents.

The olive groves here are planted with traditional cultivars like Biancolilla and Nocellara del Belice which give oils that are spicy, sharp and fruity - clearly Sicilian from the first sniff. In fall participate in the raccolta, harvesting olives and accompanying them to the mill, witness the extraction process and have a taste of the spicy, new oil.

Visit a miller and a baker who work with ancient varieties of grain first cultivated by the Romans to produce pane nero, the dark loaves typical to Castelvetrano and a perfect match to this area's olive oil.

The Phoenicians were the first to harvest salt from the sea in this lagoon. Visit the salt pans where they still intelligently harness the powers of the sea, sun and wind to harvest a savory salt naturally rich in microelements.

Purple garlic, a Slow Food presidio is cultivated at Nubia, and it gives the spicy, clean taste that forms the base for so many Sicilian preparations.



Southeast Sicily .. the Val di Noto

The Baroque villages of the Monte Iblei and a wide limestone plateau with fields marked by drystone walls and shaded by carob trees characterize this corner of the Island; villages are built with and roads are paved with white limestone flagstones, shiny smooth from centuries of wear. The landscape, food, air and people are unique. The ancient Siculi of the interior held out longest against Greek colonization perhaps explaining some of the fiercely independent yet oddly suspicious personalities you run into today. Food traditions are practiced by grandmothers in the countryside and elaborated upon by an extreme concentration of cerebral, creative starred chefs.

In Ragusa Ibla, Modica, Scicli and Noto the Baroque explosion is more readily apparent than the layers of complex, ancient history as the cities were rebuilt after the devastating 1693 earthquake, and rebuilt in the style of the time, a distinctly elaborate Sicilian version of Baroque architecture and town planning. The architecture is masterful, the successful urban plans make for a pleasant atmosphere, the pastries, gelato and savory street food add to the experience.

Caltagirone .. has been a ceramic center since at least Arabic times, the upper and lower towns are linked by a magnificent staircase each riser of which is tiled in a different scheme; lots of good ceramic shopping, a museum with an extensive pottery collection from ancient times to the present and excellent, forward looking food with a base in tradition as codified by Sicily's preeminent food historian and as practiced by the chefs' grandmothers.

Morgantina .. Siculi and later Greek site, the remains of the town, civic structures, water works and residential area have been excavated by Princeton University.

Aidone .. with its collection of objects from ancient Morgantina has an excellent collection of rare, locally produced Greek colonial sculpture including the powerful cult statue of Demeter that was recently repatriated from the American museum that (innocently?) purchased it after a grave robbery.

Piazza Armerina .. within the remains of the hunting lodge of the Roman co-emperor (Maxentius perhaps?) see some of the most successful and also best preserved mosaics of the late Roman empire.

Siracusa .. ruins of the ancient Greek colony that grew to rival Athens for wealth and power (so much so that Athens attacked it, and lost) and the nucleus of the original city on the tiny peninsula of Ortygia with the powerful Duomo of Santa Lucia, built into an old Greek temple, ancient Jewish baths and paintings gallery.

Pachino and Marzamemi .. on the far southeast coast vineyards of Nero d'Avola lead down to the sea and to the small village of Marzamemi which grew up around and still occupies an ancient tonnara and the 18th century palazzo of the Prince Villadorata. With a small port and tuna processing facilities, courtyards and side streets lead past fishermen's homes and directly into the sea. The airy piazza (truly the most romantic piazza in all of Italy) is lined with shops, cafes and a restaurant where the ventresca braised with bay laurel may be the most tender morsel of tuna ever served.

Producer visits in the Val di Noto:

The opportunities for great meals or kitchen experiences are endless, from pastry chefs, Michelin starred creators and the sweet, grandmother cooks in the countryside who practice la cucina d'amore.

Olive oil in this area comes from the Tonda Iblea and Moresca cultivars which give fruity, full-bodied oils notable for their balance.

Winemakers work with the indigenous Nero d'Avola and Frappato varieties from vineyards inland to seaside; this is the home of Nero d'Avola and where, in the right hands, it is able to express itself most sincerely.

Take an olfactory journey at a nursery with a wide selection of indigenous aromatic herbs, organized tastings with a sea view.

Here in the Iblei, history is told through pastries: pastries and chocolate which have a direct connection to Christopher Columbus and the Aztecs; pastries with a modern spirit and a direct connection to the monastic tradition; pastries, delicate and savory with impossibly simple fillings (parsley) that are almost impossibly good, and then of course gelato and granita, typically eaten in a soft sweet bun, the original ice cream sandwich.

Cheese here is made of cow's milk, delicate or pungent, it's decidedly different from the sheep's milk cheeses of the other areas of the Island.

Conditions are perfect for organic farming, especially tomatoes (several varieties of which are produced here and sought after for their purity of flavor) and for making sundried tomatoes, the extreme southeast of the Island has recently been identified as the sunniest spot in all of Europe, not that we didn't already know that, Cicero wrote that 'Siracusa knows no day without sun'.



Northeast Sicily .. the Val Demone

Dominated by the Montagna as the local residents refer to their volcano, and her influence is inescapable. The heights dominate the landscape from afar, the system of central craters is extremely active so there is generally a little something to see from mere gas emissions to subtle glows to dramatic lava fountains. The soil is rich and mineral, excellent for the cultivation of citrus and olives but most magnificently giving in the cultivation of grape vines, so much so that the ancient Greeks believed that the original grape vine was born here on the slopes of the volcano as a gift of the gods.

The energy here is palpable, making the west seem asleep in comparison, and it must be due to the presence of the volcano, the always evident explosive forces of the very center of the earth. What other explanation is there?

Catania .. Sicily's second biggest city is a black jewel standing on the edge of the blue sea. Again layers of history are visible, this time in black lava stone. Creativity as expressed in food and the arts is easy to come by. The pescheria, fish market, is a true piece of cultural patrimony as every Mediterranean marine creature is represented, freshly caught, offered for sale by its fisherman and ready to be tasted, often crudo, raw, the best way to enjoy the sweet, saline purity of the bounty of the seas.

On Mt. Etna the cycles of life of the earth are clearly visible. Not only does the volcano make the inner forces of the earth felt through frequent eruptions, but the lava flows that have poured down the mountain over the centuries regenerate from crunchy black lava into fertile soil each on its own time. In hiking around the volcano or just passing from village to village by car or in the Circumetnea railway, swaths of lava flows of differing epochs are evident: some fresh, crunchy black and barren, others slightly older with just a bit of broom poking through the surface, and still others already brown and crumbly, ready to give life and mineral constituents to anything planted in the now-fertile soils. Visit wineries to taste the minerality of the volcano in your glass, at impromptu markets taste fruits and vegetables found in no other region (bright purple broccoli, bitter wild greens, small floral tasting peaches, wild strawberries, tannic sorbe) and then stumble upon pastries from another time, mushrooms, baked ricotta, hearty mountain food of pork in all its forms; hike the volcano or take a 4x4 as high up the slopes as volcanic activity will allow, visit the black stone paesi etnei and even ski in winter.

Taormina .. the lovely small town is known for its Greek theater, passeggiata, romantic views, luxury hotels and great food, fish from the sea, seasonal fruits including wide varieties of excellent locally grown citrus and mushrooms from the nearby volcano.

At Messina the punto Faro, home to the Scilla and Charybdis of Homerian myth, has been known since Homer for the delicacy of its red wines, and in addition to the wine find a good selection of chefs producing traditional hearty seafood recipes, less delicate and more home-spun than you find in Catania, and excellent cannoli too.

Along the north coast visit the ancient sites of Tindari and Himera. Hike, ride horses and visit tiny mountain villages in the Nebrodi and Madonie mountain ranges. Visit Cefalù, a popular sea-side village with a relaxed atmosphere, Byzantine mosaics, nearby beaches and hiking.

The Aeolian Islands are worth a visit on their own, spectacular nature, carefree island hotels, a cucina isolana based on fish and strong flavors, a wine making style all their own and great hiking, beaches and boating.

Producer visits in the Val Demone:

Viticulture on the volcano expresses thousands of years of history and exalts its autochthonous grape varieties: the ethereal reds Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio that go hand in hand to express the energetic, minerality of the volcanic soil, and Carricante that matures at high altitudes and which, although not easy to vinify, produces lithe and agile whites suitable for aging.

Olive oil producers in the northeast work with cultivars like the Nocellara Etnea, Cipressina and Sant'agatese to produce oils that are grassy and flavorful, delicate in comparison to more well-known Sicilian oils.

Pastries here on the mountain are more folk than baroque but no less elaborate and often rigorously linked to festivals and feast days: mostarda (from grape must) during harvest season, minne of Sant'Agata for her winter feast day, terribly life-like bones of the dead for the I Morti, frutta alla Martorana for All Saints, and then their everyday pastries are loaded with local, mountain grown hazelnuts or ricotta, and here on the volcano they have a way with ricotta.

The Nebrodi mountains have been known forever for their salume and more recently for the revival of their black heritage breed pigs, the nero dei Nebrodi, meet a butcher who raises his own animals and, in a laboratorio in one of the medieval mountain villages, transforms them into eight different richly-flavored, salt-cured preparations.

Learn about and taste gelato in the Madonie (there's even a gelato flavored with the renowned local artichokes).

Honey has been collected here since ancient times and a move is underway to protect the small black honeybee, taste honeys made from the Island's typical flowering plants (Mediterranean maquis, cactus flower) and from the same producer, an amazingly sublime, non-agressive honey vinegar, perfect for making a caponata.

In the minor islands meet producers of capers and winemakers practicing their own winemaking styles with their own native grape varieties from the tiny, spicy red corinto to the aromatic white malvasia, vinified dry or as passito.