Sep 30-Oct 9 2018
Sicily is a beautifully historic and rugged island off the boot of Italy, rich with generations of Sicilians harvesting the richness of the region. It’s a place where enjoying the bounty of the land and sea is simply part of the culture. Food and wine enthusiasts increasingly consider Sicily as a must-experience destination. Over multiple centuries Sicily has been a significant crossroads The cuisine from the southernmost island of Italy includes an impressive diversity. The spices and flavor combinations are a result of Greek, Roman, Moor, Byzantine, Islamic, Norman, Catalan, Spaniard civilizations. From the pistachios grown in the volcanic rich soils of Etna, to the salt flats of the western coast, the endless bounty ranges from the mountains to the sea, contrasted by olive trees as old as the Greek temples, with date palms growing between Moorish minarets, Arabesque palaces, and Baroque cathedrals. Sicily’s unique wines of indigenous grapes, such as Etna Rosso, Carricante, Nerello mascalese, and Nerello cappuccio, have grown on the volcanicslopes of Mount Etna since the 5th century BC. Such specialties as chickpea fritters, lemon granita, sword fish with mint, anise biscuits, mozzarella filled arancini, sesame seed studded breads, bitter almond stuffed sweets, and spaghetti with sea urchins, showcase the array of flavors in the Sicilian kitchen.
This trip highlights our favorites on the eastern region of the island-taking you to experience the culture through wine and food, art, architecture, history and natural landscape. If you would like to broaden your Sicilian experience, we plan on offering a 2019 adventure on the western part of the island, featuring incredible experiences in Agrigento, Trapani and Palermo. Or, if you’d prefer to extend your 2018 trip, we can make solid suggestions or we would be happy to help you with arrangements on the heels of our eastern island exploration.
For 2018, the adventure begins in Catania, heads up the coast, then inland, and then takes us to Siracusa and the Island of Ortigia, just 50 miles south of the airport in Catania. Over our 10 days, we will have the opportunity to visit markets, duomos, beaches, wineries and farms, cook, and take ample time to do as you wish. We’ve scheduled 2 or 3 nights at each hotel, with short hops between destinations, so the time in our luxury Mercedes van will give you the opportunity see the beautiful landscape, while minimizing drive times. This is our base plan for this itinerary, but of course it is subject to change based on the pace of bookings and other opportunities that arise between now and late September.
You don’t need to consult your guidebooks, Yelp, or anything. We’ve done that work (yes, we like to call it work J). And while some may be a little skeptical about traveling in groups, there are clear advantages: You’ll sample more than if you travel as a couple. You will make new friends (we are so pleased when we see people back in Portland hanging out who met on our trips—or even traveling together!) Plus, most all of our clients are from Portland. You have that common food thread, and can stay in touch when you return.
While you may travel solo, there are two nights where we may need to match you with a roommate, as accommodations are limited on the farm we will visit.
THIS ITINERARY IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. The cities will stay the same, but hotels and experiences may be changed (for the better!) We are working with the folks at San Pellegrino to add experiences.
DAY 1, Sun 9/30 – Catania
AM: Arrival in Catania and check into your hotel, settle in. PM: Convene for a welcome aperitivo, pre-dinner walk through the historic old town and discover the Baroque beauty and hidden river that runs underneath the town. Dinner together. Stay at a 4-star hotel in Catania.
DAY 2, Mon 10/1 – Catania
AM: Morning walk to Catania’s oldest fish market to see the biggest red peppers imaginable and the animated orchestra of fish mongers selling sword fish. With the fish we purchase from the market, learn to cook with a local chef and lunch together, preparing local specialties and discover gastronomic history while drinking Sicilian wine. PM: Afternoon art history tour by local guide. Hotel in Catania.
DAY 3, Tues 10/2 Mt Etna – Taormina
AM: Depart after breakfast (25 minutes) heading North to ascend Mt. Etna to visit a local winery, taste Catarratto, Etna Rosso DOC, and Sicilian grape varietals that thrive on the volcanic soil. Lunch at the vineyard. Nap or sip by the pool with a view of the hills surrounding Mt. Etna PM: Depart for Taormina, 45 minutes to the cliff side town. Check into another 4-Star hotel.
DAY 4, Wed 10/3 Taormina
Explore the Greek amphitheater. Time to chill in this beautiful city of Taormina. Dinner together at one of the most panoramic dining views in the world, with the site of steaming Mt. Etna as the backdrop.
DAY 5, Thu 10/4 Taormina – Chairamonti Gulfi
PM: After breakfast, and a morning to relax, we head into the Sicilian Countryside to a beautiful vineyard and olive oil farm which was originally a medieval watchtower. Enjoy the indigenous black-skinned pigs, called the suino nero on the farm. Relax by the pool just past the olive groves, with expansive views of the vineyards and plains for miles, until dinner at a Michelin-Star restaurant at our beautiful contemporary hotel in the country.
DAY 6, Fri 10/5 Chiaramonti Gulfi
AM: A wine tasting and a tour of a cantina and olive oil production. A day to relax – perhaps by the pool at our beautiful hotel.
DAY 7, Sat 10/6 Modica – Noto – Marzamemi – Ortigia
AM: After breakfast drive about 45 minutes South to the Baroque City of Modica, known for its chocolate and great food. We will wander the streets and shops for about an hour, and then hop into our van for a quick drive to the Village of Noto for a second breakfast treat to tide us over to our late lunch: a brioche filled gelato at the best gelateria on the island. PLEASE SEE NETFLIX CHEFS TABLE SEASON 4, EPISODE TWO ON CAFFE SICILIA. (The last time Astrid went, Mrs. Prada was there next to her ordering her favorite gelato!). Noto is a beautiful cobblestone town to meander, discover the baroque balcony sirens or climb the tower to get views of the town. Then we will head south to towards the southern tip of the island for lunch to Marzamemi for pranzo. Try bottarga-salted cured tuna roe pasta. Walk the beach. Relax in this sleepy fishing village. Then, before dusk, we’ll make our way north to the Island of Ortigia. Settle into the quaint hotel in the heart of the peninsula walking distance to the Cathedral.
DAY 8, Sun 10/7 Syracuse and the peninsula of Ortigia
PM: Free day to explore the crooked alleyways and Roman-Baroque Cathedral or relax at the spa. Dinner on your own. Boutique Hotel in Syracuse.
DAY 9, Mon 10/8 Ortigia
After breakfast, we’ll meet at the docks in Siracusa to take a boat trip to explore the old city bridges, caverns as well. After working up an appetite, we’ll have a finale patio lunch, with views of the museums and duomos. The evening is yours to wind down as you wish, and pack for your morning departure to the Catania airport
DAY 10, Tue 10/9
Arrivederci! After breakfast (or whenever your itinerary indicates), depart for the Catania airport (50 minutes away).
Ready? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call to get more info or to book your spot(s). LIMITED AVAILABILITY for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Astrid Ensign: Our co-host - you must read this.
While the PFA format for our trips usually involves a chef or producer, in Italy our experienced tour planner and on-the-ground guide is Astrid Ensign of Taste of Italy. Astrid grew up in – of all places, rural Montana – in a town that had a one-room school house. Four of the other eight students in her school were her siblings. As a fifth grader, Astrid got her hands on a National Geographic Magazine, fell in love with an article about Italy, and announced to her parents that her dream was to go to Italy. “Sure, Astrid. If you can earn the money, then let’s talk about it…” By the age of 15, she’d saved enough money to gain the attention of her parents as being serious, and the arrangements were made. So, not yet speaking any Italian, this small-town girl was Italy-bound on a plane for the first time in her life, for an almost year-long exchange program in Italy.
That was 25 years ago, and since then, she continued her studies in Italy, living and flourishing in Florence and elsewhere, Astrid was taken with the food and wine of Italy. So she set about getting to know chefs, wine and food producers.
Astrid bases herself in Portland, and has been treating Portlanders to her findings for years, either through her work with travel companies or her own. Now, Portland Food Adventures has teamed up with Astrid’s Taste of Italy brand to curate everything we do in Italy. This will be our second trip with Astrid, and we can’t harp enough about how delightful her guidance and presence is. You are welcome to ask our previous guests. You’ll see her pictured in some of the images below, as Astrid and PFA’s Chris Angelus (who is your co- host) took a few days before their Tuscan trip in 2017 to experience first-hand much of what Astrid had in store for this 2018 Sicilian adventure, as well as some new discoveries. We are pleased to offer your chance to experience the best of Eastern Sicily.
NOTE: When in the USA, Astrid pronounces her name Aus-tree En-sine. (You'll hear the "d" in Astrid when in Italy and she's conversing in Italian.)
Some Instagram images from our last trip to Tuscany can be found here
$5775/pp Double Occupancy / $900 single supplement (see deposit and payment details below)
Price subject to increase for new bookings if dollar continues to decrease vs. the Euro.
50% of cost of trip due upon booking. Then, balance of full cost of trip due by 6/15/18. All payments made after 12/31/17 are non-refundable. Payments made by check only. While our trips feature smaller groups for maximum enjoyment and interaction, this trip is subject to a low minimum number of guests. Please do not buy airfare until we inform you that the minimum has been met. UPDATE: THIS TRIP HAS MET ITS MINIMUM AND WILL PROCEED!
Our trips include accommodations in beautiful, 4-Star hotels, hotel taxes, buffet breakfast, all transfers to and from the airport. In addition, all dining experiences cited in itinerary, and transportation to our excursions away from the city. They do NOT include airfare or trip insurance, which we strongly encourage you purchase (can be purchased online), tips, mini-bar, incidentals and personal expenses.
We can help you with excursions before, during and after as well.