The Wine Trail
Legend has it that the Greek god Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, brought pleasure to mankind and wine to Sicily. What is certain is that wine has been made in Sicily since ancient times. The soil and climate are ideal for the purpose and most farmers and smallholders would have had their own vineyard, producing wine for the family. The wines of Mount Etna, from vines grown on the rich lava terrain, were especially well-known, but many varieties of grape are now cultivated and many different wines produced in what has become a wine-lover’s paradise. For decades, Sicilian wine was exported to France to bolster mass production and today, with advanced irrigation and harvesting techniques, Sicily has reinvented itself as a producer of internationally award-winning vintages. To celebrate this, we have introduced a wine trail which leads travellers from east to west, showcasing the oenological ingenuity of this often overlooked island.
From £992 per person*
Return flights from London Gatwick to Catania and returning from Palermo to London Gatwick; 9-nights’ bed and breakfast accommodation in a Standard room; 10 days car hire Group A.
Arrive at Catania airport, collect your hire car and drive to the hotel in Santa Venerina (45km).
The property produces its own DOP and IGP wines, spumante (sparkling wine) and brandy.
Day at leisure – opportunity to visit the Murgo winery, located on the slopes of Mount Etna. The rich lava terrain gives a unique character to the wine and spumante produced in this region. In the afternoon, visit Nelson’s Castle in Maniace. Admiral Horatio Nelson, one of England’s greatest heroes has long been associated with this area of Sicily. The castle holds a great deal of memorabilia including family portraits, furniture, personal letters from Royalty and the decanter and glasses used by Nelson before the battle of Trafalgar.
Day at leisure – take a morning dip in the Mediterranean at the blue flag beach at Marina di Cottone in Fiumefreddo (15km). Later, drive up to the pretty hilltop town of Taormina for lunch. Stroll through the town’s ancient main street with its many shops and boutiques and pause at one of the many piazzas for a fabulous view of Mount Etna, Europe’s highest volcano (3320m).
After breakfast, drive inland to the Agriturismo Gigliotto in Piazza Armerina (129km). Home to Nero d’Avola – a native Sicilian grape, Agriturismo Gigliotto is an attractive fortified farmhouse surrounded by acres of vines. The winery has a modern visitors’ centre where guests can view the entire process, from grape-picking to bottle-corking. In the afternoon, head south to the visit the ancient Villa Romana del Casale (18km), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This fabulous Roman Villa contains a collection of some of the most important, well-preserved mosaics in the world.
Day at leisure – drive south to the ancient archaeological site of Morgantina (28km) which dates back to the Bronze Age. Finds from Morgantina are on show in a little museum in the town of Aidone (2km) which also houses the statue of the Venus of Morgantina, a 2.4m statue believed to be Aphrodite and dating back 2400 years. This work of art was unearthed illegally by grave robbers and sold for $18 million to the Getty Museum of Malibu (Los Angeles) in the USA. The Italian Government fought a hard battle with the Museum who agreed to return this valuable artefact. In the afternoon, visit the fascinating ceramic town of Caltagirone. Set on three hills, the town is particularly known for its famous flight of steps, 142 to be precise, decorated with different coloured enameled ceramic tiles. The town has been the centre of ceramics since the Arab period (9th-11th centuries). Mainly Baroque in character, the streets are adorned with balustrades,vases and decorative ceramics. On the 24th and 25th July each year, the staircase is illuminated with lanterns to create beautifully coloured patterns and to mark the two religious festivals.
Day at leisure – spend the day visiting some of the island’s most important Baroque towns, notably Noto, Modica, Ragusa Ibla and Syracuse (Ortigia Island), located in the south eastern corner of Sicily. Opportunity to taste the rich dark chocolate produced in Modica following ancient Aztec recipes and the delicious local cakes and pastries with their unique flavours.
After breakfast, drive to your next property, La Foresteria in Menfi. This picturesque, family-run winery is located in Sambuca di Sicilia in the Valle dei Belice on Sicily’s west coast. During the harvest season, guests are invited to participate in the winemaking process. En-route stop off in Agrigento to visit the impressive Valley of the Temples. This ancient, archeological park has six Greek Temples including one of the best preserved Doric Temples in the world.
Day at leisure – visit the Cantine Florio in Marsala. The Woodhouses, the Inghams and the Whitakers were late 18th century English traders and merchants who became wealthy through exporting Marsala wine to England and the United States. They fortified the local wine with alcohol, using the Spanish solera system, thus enabling it to survive the long sea journey back to England and across the Atlantic. This was hugely successful and their successors continue to this present day, although there are no longer any members of the family left in Sicily. At the Cantine Florio, one can still admire (framed on a wall) Nelson’s original order for wine for the Royal Navy, with which it was understandably very popular, signed by him as Duke of Bronte. After the Battle of Trafalgar it became, for a time, known as ‘Victory Wine’.
Day at leisure – time to relax by the pool. Alternatively, why not book a cooking course led by the hotel’s chef. In the afternoon, visit La Planeta familly cellars and oil mills for tastings and lunch. Later, head to Menfi to sunbathe on its 10km stretch of sandy beach or do some last minute shopping.
After breakfast, drive to Palermo airport for your return flight to the UK.
*Price based on two-sharing.
To book this itinerary, or discuss a tailor-made alternative, call one of our Sunvil experts on:
020 8758 4722
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