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  • Wine tour of Sicily

    Planeta estate

    Planeta estate

    Planeta estate

    Wine tasting in Sicily

    Wine tasting in Sicily

    Wine tasting in Sicily

    Agrigento

    Sicily salt pans

    Phoenician port

    Wine tour of Sicily

    A comprehensive tour of 7 nights for a small group of up to 14 people, accompanied by an experienced wine and food expert, visiting vineyards on the western side of the island, but tasting wines from across Sicily.


    About the region and the tour
    Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, was for a long time a prized possession for strategic reasons and today, is a land rich in history and variety of scenery thanks to the endless list of conquerors who have invaded over many years, including the Greeks, Vandals, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, Angevins, and Spanish to mention only a few, as well as even the British for a short while during the Napoleonic wars!
    Today, the island offers countless, fascinating places to visit, from its capital city, Palermo, full of Baroque palaces to the wild, rolling countryside of the interior. There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites on Sicily, ranging from the Greek temples of the 6th century BC at Agrigento to the Arab-Norman architecture of Palermo, and to the Baroque architecture of the Val di Noto.
    The story of wine on Sicily is naturally very much coupled with the history of the island, and there is evidence that grapes were cultivated here as long ago as 1500 BC. Later the Greeks introduced several varieties of grapes when they settled. In the late 18th century, Sicilian wine in the form of Marsala was developed by the British and then in the 20th century, Sicily was known for the quantity of wine the island produced, but then since about 1980 a wine revolution was started on the island. Fresh planting took place and both new and revitalised estates made Sicily’s first modern wine. The families Planeta and de Bartoli were instrumental in this.
    Our 8-day wine tour of Sicily sets out to explore both the historic and the modern sides of Sicilian wine, coupled with an appreciation of Sicilian food, in the context of the variety of scenery, climates, terroir and history. This tour focuses on the western side of the island, starting and ending with Palermo, but travelling along the coast with its saltpans, edged with windmills and its vast expanse of vineyards, to the rolling fields of the southern interior and vineyards near the coast not far from the Greek temples at Agrigento. In these areas, we will discover the indigenous grape varieties such as Grillo, Catarratto and Inzolia for the whites as well as the famous, ruby-coloured and flavoursome Nero d’Avola and Nerello for the reds. There are also the international varieties planted such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, both of which have found a particular expression of Sicilian flavour. For the British over the years, traditionally Sicily has meant Marsala, which is located on the western side of the island, and we will discover the real version of this wine with its lengthy ageing which gives a delicious taste of dry nuttiness – a far cry from sickly cooking types!
    Yet whilst our visits are on the western side of the island, we will also taste wines from across the Sicily – including the exciting wine region of the volcanic Mount Etna as well as wines from the distant island of Pantelleria, whose black soils produce grapes ideal for making delicious passito wines.
    Sicilian food is undergoing a renaissance but of course the island’s rich and varied history has shaped its food as well as its wine. The Arabs brought almonds, spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon along with aubergines and their influence is strong in recipes such as Caponata or even the wonderful aubergine based, Pasta alla Norma or Cous Cous with spicy fish.
    It’s a brave statement, but the Sicilians firmly believe they make the best gelato in the world – hardly surprising given the quality of ingredients thanks to the volcanic soils, also making refreshing granita from aromatic tangerines and pungent lemons. For those with a sweet tooth, Sicily is a dessert heaven from the sponge cake of ricotta and orange, Cassata, through to the classic Cannoli and of course cakes featuring the DOP protected pistachios from the town of Bronte, on the slopes of Mount Etna.
    Sicily is a fascinating place to visit – so do join us to discover the soul of this beautiful island through its food and wine.
    Download a pdf of this itinerary here
    Day-by-day itinerary
    Day one – Arrive and travel to Marsala

    You travel on the British Airways flight departing London at 13.25, and landing in Palermo at 17.30. From here there is a private coach transfer from the airport to Marsala (journey time about 1 hr 15 mins) where you check-in to the hotel. This evening, we dine together at our hotel on the outskirts of Marsala, enjoying views at sunset across to the Egadi islands. Paired with a Sicilian menu will be a selection of wines from the island as an introduction to its typical grape varieties such as Grillo and Nero d’Avola.
    Day two – Explore the wines of Marsala and the western coast
    After breakfast this morning we have a tasting visit at of one of the most respected names of Marsala, Marco de Bartoli. A visit to their cellars illustrates to us the way this much under-rated wine is produced, and then we enjoy a tasting of their wines discovering how true Marsala is: glorious, nutty and actually, surprisingly, food-friendly. As well as their traditional Marsalas, we will also try the elegant wines from their estate on Pantelleria, a small volcanic island closer to Africa than Sicily, made from the intriguingly named Zibbibo grape variety. We then make a short journey of about 30 mins to have lunch at a local restaurant, before taking the 6-minute ferry ride to the Phoenician city of Mozia, on the island of San Pantaleo, and today home to the Whittaker museum. We sail pass the salt pans and windmills that dominate this corner of Sicily, before having time to visit the archaeological museum with its collection of Greek and Punic artefacts including the famed Greek statue of ‘a youth from Mozia’, – or simply take a stroll around this small island of only 40 hectares. We return the short distance to the hotel, with time to relax and perhaps a dip in the pool, before we dine together at the hotel to discover wines from other regions of Sicily such as the exciting wines originating from the Nerello Mascalese grape, grown on the slopes of Mount Etna.
    Day three – Donnafugata cellars
    After breakfast, we check out of the hotel and then, this morning there is an opportunity to visit the town of Marsala itself, with its Cathedral dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, where there are 16th century Flemish tapestries. Marsala came to represent wine for the English, but it was hugely important in the Carthaginian era, before it was conquered by the Romans. The weekly market takes place this morning, with stalls laden with violet-hued aubergines and bundles of aromatic herbs. Alternatively, you could visit the Baglio Anselmi museum with its Roman Mosiacs and a Punic shipwreck. It is just a short hop to our next visit at the Donnafugata cellars in the centre of Marsala. Owned by the Rallo family, they took the decision to concentrate on ‘table wines’ rather than fortified Marsala and helped revolutionise the Sicilian wine trade. Today, their multi award-winning wines show how elegant and complex the wines of Sicily can be, such as the engaging white from Catarratto grapes or the beguiling Mille e una Notte, named after Scheherazade, a spicy deep blend of Nero D’Avola, Petit Verdot and Syrah. We taste these wines paired with a typical Sicilian lunch. After lunch, we continue to Planeta La Foresteria to check-in for our next two nights. After time to enjoy their infinity pool overlooking the vines, we have dinner at this boutique hotel, owned by the most dynamic wine estate in Sicily, Planeta, and so dinner will be paired with a selection of their wines.
    Day four – Planeta – the modern face of Sicilian wine making
    After breakfast, we head to the original Planeta cellars in Sambuca di Sicilia, for a visit to understand how this one family were so instrumental in achieving recognition for the modern face of Sicilian wine making on the world stage, most notably with their Chardonnay. They achieved the coveted ‘Italian Winery of the Year’ award in 1999 and have expanded quickly since then, now producing wines in five different terroirs of the island. We taste a selection of these wines this morning. Lunchtime is free in the coastal town of Sciacca, which was long fought-over in history for its importance on trade routes. The looming Monte San Calogero meant that the town became well known for its thermal waters and spas, but today it remains better known for its beautiful ceramics, made here since Greek times and even today showing Arab influences as well in their design. We return to Planeta La Foresteria with time to relax before dinner which will be paired with a final selection of Planeta wines from their various Sicilian estates.
    Day five – Morgante and Agrigento
    After breakfast, we check out and head along the southern Sicilian coast towards Agrigento. Our lunchtime appointment is at the family-run estate of Morgante, whose focus has been producing wines from the Nero D’Avola grape, showing cherries and chocolate on the palate. They also make an unusual white wine from red grapes – and a delicious olive oil which we will taste over a rustic lunch at the estate. We continue to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Temples of Agrigento. Under the Greeks, Agrigento thrived and eight temples were built between 510 BC and 430 BC which UNESCO rates as ‘one of the most outstanding monuments of Greek art and culture’. There is time to visit these fascinating temples, which include the well-preserved Doric Temple of Concord with its 34 columns and the Temple of Hera. Our next hotel is located close to the Temples and we check-in here in the late afternoon. We dine together here this evening.
    Day six – Regaleali estate and Palermo
    Today is our big day to cross Sicily, and so, after breakfast, we check out and journey through some spectacularly wild countryside to the heart of the island for our next visit which is at the Regaleali estate. This spectacular property has belonged to Tasca D’Almerita since 1830. The land reforms of the ‘50s saw their lands reduced from 1200 hectares to just 500 but the family have concentrated on making some of the most iconic wines of the island, and won the first of their many wine awards in 1871! They were very forward thinking in planting international varieties as early as 1979 – and we will taste a range of their wines such as the classic white Nozze D’Oro made from Inzolia and Sauvignon Tasca before lunch at the estate. After lunch, we continue through rolling fields to the north of the island and the capital of Sicily, Palermo. We check-in to our hotel here in the centre of the city for two nights and have the evening free, for you to choose your own restaurants from our list of suggestions.
    Day seven – Palermo and private Palazzo visit
    After breakfast, there is a short drive the Conca d’Oro to the hilltop town of Monreale, where the remarkable Norman Cathedral stands. Thanks to the enlightened William II, the Cathedral is a wonderful blend of Arabic, Byzantine and Norman architecture has a truly impressive luminous set of mosaics from the 12th century. The cloisters are also worth a visit for the 228 columns and intricate carvings. Lunchtime and the afternoon are free for exploring Palermo at your leisure. A wonderful chaotic mixture of the ancient art and modern life, Palermo is a city of contrasts showing the hallmarks of a series of invaders across the centuries. There are a host of UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the Palazzo dei Normanni, with its frescoes and the beautiful Palatine Chapel with its wooden carved ceiling and the golden mosaic of Christ. Or simply explore Palermo’s individual quarters, discovering the Pretoria Fountain, or the largest opera house in Italy, the Teatro Massimo, or simple enjoy the winding alleyways and street markets between Baroque palazzi. This evening, we have a special invitation to a 12th century Palazzo, in the heart of the mediaeval quarter, the Kalsa, which remains today the private residence of a Sicilian noble family. We will enjoy a dinner of Sicilian dishes, the recipes chosen by the current Count who adores cooking and paired with a selection of wines from his family’s wine estate in the west of the island, including a delightful white from local varieties as well as seductive reds.
    Day eight – Alcamo wine region and the Brugnano estate
    After breakfast, we check out of our hotel and head to the Alcamo wine region for our final wine tasting at the welcoming Brugnano estate. Founded in 1970, this is a relatively new company by Italian wine standards, and the family focus on making wines with great drinkability. We taste a range of their wines before a relaxed buffet lunch at the cellars, showing off how well their wines pair with local salamis, cheeses and other local specialities. We continue a short distance to the coast to Castellammare del Golfo, a pretty, small town that was an important trading port and used to be one of the main tuna ports of the Tyrrhenian Sea. There will be time to stroll the streets of the mediaeval quarter or perhaps what better way to end your Sicilian experience by simply relaxing on the sea front with a gelato! We continue to the airport for the return BA flight to London.
    Your tour leader
    Cindy-Marie Harvey tells us that having discovered a love of Pinot Noir at an early age, she seemed destined for a life in the wine trade. However, her love of languages led her to work in Italy. After living in Piemonte for five years, discovering the delights of Nebbiolo and white truffles, she returned to the wine trade in the UK. She has spent the last 20 years planning and escorting wine tours to all the main wine regions of the world, from South America to Burgundy and Bordeaux. She now shares her passion for food and wine on her own website, Love Wine Food Ltd as well as in her own kitchen where she is often found surrounded by recipe books in Italian, French or Spanish. She looks forward to sharing her passion for the region of Sicily with you.
    Dates and prices
    This tour departs on the following dates from London for these prices per person sharing a double or twin room:
    15 September 2019 £3,240
    Supplements: Single use of double £470 per person
    Deposit payment : £400 per person  
    We include
    ● Flights with British Airways London Heathrow to Palermo, Euro traveller. Club upgrade available on request at a supplement.
    ● Transportation from Palermo airport in a small luxury coach for a maximum of 14 people, with one piece of luggage per person.
    ● English-speaking tour guide with knowledge of the wine and food of Sicily.
    ● Two nights’ bed and buffet breakfast at the Baglio Oneto near Marsala. Plus, two dinners with wine.
    ●Two nights’ bed and buffet breakfast at the Planeta la Foresteria at Menfi. Plus, two dinners with wine.
    ● One night’s bed and buffet breakfast at the Hotel Foresteria Baglio della Luna at Agrigento. Plus, one dinner with wine.
    ● Two nights’ bed and buffet breakfast at the Hotel Plaza Opera or similar in Palermo.
    ● Other meals included as follows: Lunch on day 2, Lunch with wine on day 3, Lunch on day 5, Lunch on day 6, Dinner with wine on day 7, Lunch with wine on day 8.
    ● Entrances and wine tastings as mentioned in the itinerary
    Important note
    Please note that the tour is not suitable for anyone with mobility issues as we are visiting working cellars. At Monreale, from the car park to the Cathedral is a relatively long flight of steps (there are taxis but there may be a long wait).
    Download a pdf of this itinerary here

    Sicily Wine Tour 17 Aug 2017

    Baglio Oneto
    The five-star Baglio Oneto is a boutique hotel surrounded by the flat plains and vineyards of the Marsala countryside. The fortress dates from the 18th century, and originally served as a wine and olive oil factory; a legacy that remains evident in the ‘old village’ style of the rooms and the estate’s continued wine and oil production. As you approach, the old stone buildings stand out in their peaceful, isolated location, privileged with unimpeded rural views, with the sea and Egadi Islands visible beyond. In the grounds, at the bottom of an old, tiled stairway, is a pool terrace half-sheltered by the hotel itself, which remains open on the other side to the extensive green views. La Calandra Restaurant spills out from its separate ochre-hued building onto canopied terraces and patios, perfect for a relaxing evening after a day spent enjoying the sunshine or venturing out into the vineyards.

    Planeta la Foresteria
    La Foresteria is a boutique resort at Menfi that combines nature and relaxation with the impeccable flavours and aromas of the island. A surprisingly modern building, perched on a gentle hill laden with vines, La Foresteria is intimate in size and therefore remains in-keeping with the natural beauty of the Sicilian landscape. Its pale peach exterior walls are interrupted by sheltered terraces and patios and creeping plants. Inside, guests will be struck by the distinct homely feel of the hotel. Unique antique pieces of furniture add extra character to the public rooms, where guests are brought together in a real sense of community.
     
    Hotel Foresteria Baglio della Luna
    The Hotel Foresteria Baglio della Luna is a 4-star hotel in a secluded position, about a mile from the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento and has been beautifully converted to accommodate 24 guest rooms. In the courtyard pots of flowers add splashes of colour and a gazebo offers a shady corner, ideal for relaxing with a drink. From the terrace of its popular restaurant specialising in Sicilian cuisine, you can enjoy marvellous views over the Valley and of the sea beyond. Interesting antiques are to be found in the cosy public rooms, such as the lounge, bar and restaurant where the atmosphere of a traditional Sicilian home has been skilfully created.

    Principe di Villafranca
    The four-star boutique Hotel Principe di Villafranca sits at the centre of the most prosperous areas in Palermo, Sicily. The streets, though tinged with history, are home to designer shops and eclectic modern buildings, and are just minutes away from Palermo’s picturesque marina. From the outside, the hotel has a very sleek, contemporary appearance; however, when you walk in through the lobby, you will be struck by the characterful arches, the antique Sicilian furniture, and the distinctive colourful artwork on the walls. A homely and traditional fireplace sits as the centrepiece of the main lounge, crested with a coat of arms. In the lounge bar, teas and coffees can be enjoyed in a stylish, cosy atmosphere, and in the library, you can select a book from one of the many shelves and relax into a comfortable and quirky sofa. In the mornings, breakfast is served in the bright, airy breakfast room, which is more overtly modern than the other ground floor rooms. Guestrooms take on a neutral palette of silver, or brown, and white, brightened by rich hues of blue or purple. Textured figurative paintings are hung above the beds.

    Possible extensions With this Sicily wine tour you will have explored the west of the island from Palermo in the north, across to the western coast and down to Agrigento in the south. There is another vast side of Sicily, worth exploring from Taormina to Siracusa and Ragusa but also you could venture to the Aeolian islands and perhaps stay at Capofaro on Salina, which is owned by the wine estate Tasca D’Almerita, visited on the tour and where their Moscato vineyards are located.
    Different travel arrangements
    If you want us to arrange flights on different dates and from UK regional airports, or to extend your holiday with a stay elsewhere in Italy, just let us know. If you are not arriving from the UK, then we can give you a price that excludes flights and perhaps with extra transfers included. We will adjust the details and the price accordingly.


    Terms and conditions
    This tour is based on 14 people participating. If there are fewer than 14 people participating we may modify the tour (smaller coach but the visits would remain the same). We do reserve the right to alter the itinerary if we cannot be accommodated at any of the venues for any reason closer to the date of departure. Holiday insurance is not included but it is absolutely essential that you are fully insured.

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