Sicily is often described as a melting pot, and there is no better way to describe the rich, fresh flavours and culinary delights that make up Sicilian cuisine. With influences from Arabia, Africa, Spain and, of course, mainland Italy – Sicilian gastronomic traditions are truly unique. This week long self-drive tour will guide you through the fertile lands of this island at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, stopping to sample delicious locally sourced food from some of the top producers in the region. Think, wine produced from the grapes grown on Etnas fertile foothills of Etna, locally produced olive oil and delicious dinners at restaurants in the heart of Sicily’s enchanting ancient towns.
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Day 1: Arrive at Catania Airport and head to collect your hire car. Begin your culinary adventure by making your way south Syracuse. After you’ve settled into your hotel, wander across to Ortyga, the historic Centre of the city. The island is linked to the mainland by a bridge. Explore the beautiful web of narrow lanes, flanked by baroque buildings, that open out into the main square where you’ll see the fascinating Greek temple turned Cathedral. Enjoy a romantic meal at a restaurant in the heart of this historic setting. In Syracusa, the sun ripened cherry tomatoes of Pachino are frequently used in the dishes and food is often accompanied by traditional durum wheat bread, with its crusty exterior and dense, soft centre. Why not wash down your meal with a glass of Nero d’Avola wine, made from a vine cultivated in Syracuse since ancient times. After dinner make your way back to your comfortable hotel in the Syracuse area.
Day 2: Drive from Syracuse through the Baroque Valley, stopping at Noto and Ragusa to admire the beautiful architecture. If you’re feeling peckish, the Valle di Noto region has the perfect antidote in the form of cucche – pronounced “coo-keh”. They are tasty coiled rolls, stuffed with sausage meat, mozeerella, vegetables and garlic, coated in local olive oil and baked to a beautiful golden brown. After a day spent exploring the beautiful eastern towns, make your way to your hotel in the Agrigento area.
Day 3: Sicily is home to some of the finest and best-preserved ancient Greek temples in the world. Today is dedicated to exploring and learning about some of these architectural feats, and the ancient civilizations that once inhabited them. Begin at the Valley of the Tempes, the site of the Greek city of Akragas. Spend your morning exploring the seven Doric style temples. Drive on to Selinunte, another ancient Greek city which was made up of five temples centered on an acropolis. The temple of Hera has been reconstructed giving you the chance to explore the ruins of one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily. Later as you drive towards the Marsala area for your overnight stay, stop off at on of the top olive oil producers in Sicily. The island produces 10% of Italy’s olive oil and for good reason, as it is some of the finest in the world. Explore the ancient olive groves and enjoy a tasting some freshly pressed olive oil as you learn about its production. For dinner, taste the local produce drizzled with the deliciously flavoured olive oil from this award winning producer.
Day 4: Set off towards the enchanting medieval town of Erice. Mount Erice rises up out of the surrounding landscape, topped by the town. Towering 750m above the coast line with views across Trapani, it’s a pleasure to explore. As you wander through the maze of historic lanes, lined by antique buildings, give yourself time to pop into the famous Pasticceria Maria Grammatico for a sweet treat (payable locally). We’d recommend trying the traditional almond cake. Drive on towards your accommodation in Palermo, stopping to take in the awe-inspiring Doric temple of Sagesta.
Day 5: This morning set out to explore Palermo, the islands capital. The city has a thriving street food scene. Strat your day by heading to one of the local markets, like the central Ballarò street market, with its vibrant colours and aromas. Ranked as one of the best places in the world to snack on the street, why not try a tasty Arancine, the crisply fried rice ball with a rich ragu centre. As you make your way through the city you will see the melting pot of influences that have shaped it – you’ll notice this in the food too. Take a break from the busy city and enjoy the golden sands and clear waters of Mondello, a former fishing village, lined with Liberty style villas that hark back to Mondello’s heyday as a fashionable seaside retreat for aristocracy. While you’re here try a Gelato con brioche, a delicious icecream filled sweet roll. Later on drive up to Monreale, set above Paletmo surrounded by groves of olives oranges and almond trees. Spend time visiting the Norman cathedral with its ornate Byzantine mosaics and admiring the panoramic views over La Conca d'oro (The Golden Valley), before making your way back to your hotel in the Palermo area.
Day 6: Today continue your road trip towards Taormina. On the way stop off in the medieval town of Castelbuono, set in the Madonie Mountains. Explore the beautiful old town before enjoying a tour of a top wine-producing vineyard, set in a former Medieval abbey, and have the chance to taste some of the local organic wines. Next stop, Piazza Armenia. Here you can visit the ancient Roman Villa del Casale, home to one of the richest collections of Roman mosaics in the world. Finally drive on to your comfortable accommodation in the Taormina area.
Day 7: Dedicate your last full day on this culinary adventure, to exploring the Mount Etna, with its fertile foot hills, bursting with local produce, such as grapes, almonds, pistachios, lemons and oranges. As you drive up through the fertile flanks of the volcano you’ll notice the lush vegetation change. As you reach higher altitudes the scenery transforms into a luna like landscape of rich black lava. You can get close to the summit by taking the cable car or if you’re feeling energetic you can walk to the dormant craters. Once you’re at the top, on a clear day you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Sicilian coast. Later on explore the beautiful hilltop town of Taormina. Wander along the Corso Umberto, Taormina’s main street, soaking up the buzzing atmosphere. Home to a stunning ancient theatre along with quaint bars and restaurants, it’s a lovely spot to spend your final afternoon. Once you’ve finished exploring head for dinner, where you’ll enjoy Sicilian delicacies, in the beautiful setting of Taormina’s old town.
Day 8: Enjoy your final breakfast at the hotel before making your way back to Catania Airport to return your hire can and to catch your flight home.
- Flexible daily arrivals
- Car hire with unlimited mileage
- 7 nights’ 4* bed & breakfast accommodation
- Dinner at top restaurant in Syracuse & Taormina
- Olive oil tasting and dinner in Trapani area
- Wine tasting in Castelbuono
- Detailed driving instructions, maps and suggested itineraries
- Any extras, lunches, drinks and personal expenses
- Parking costs (where applicable)
- Entrance to museums and archaeological sites
- Tourist Tax
Siracusa area - Villa Politi ★★★★ (1 night)
Agrigento - Scala dei Turchi ★★★★ (1 night)
Trapani area - Baglio Fontanasalsa ★★★★ (1 night)
Palermo - Porta Felice/Palazzo Sitano ★★★★ (2 nights)
Taormina Area – Hotel Crystal Sea ★★★★ (2 nights)