Italy is one of my favorite countries in the world. There is nothing like the canals of Venice, the countryside in Tuscany, the cliffs of Cinque Terre and the Amalfi coast, the history of Rome. This year, I decided to venture to an area I had never been before, the south of Italy. And by south, I mean all the way south to Sicily.
Escape to Sicily
Sicily’s two sides are quite different, with the east being more beautiful and picturesque, and the west known for its wine tasting. We decided to go to the west side and stay in Palermo, the capital, which is also known for its historical sights and its street food culture.
What to Do
Palermo Walking Food Tour: We hired a wonderful guide, Domenico Aronica, who is a professional photographer and licensed tour guide in Palermo. He took us through the city, showing us beautiful cathedrals, architecture, and historical sites. He is very knowledgeable about Italy history and the local culture. Along the way we stopped to visit local outdoor food markets and sample specialties like local white wine, arancini, fried chickpea flour sandwiches, and the best of all: famous Sicilian cannoli.
We hired a driver through Sicilian Days who drove us to Erice, a stunning medieval town in Sicily. It is surrounded by walls, and features a castle and series of other historic sights. Upon entering you can purchase a map and do a self-guided tour through the walled city. There are churches from the 14th century, temples, castles, a bell-tower, and spectacular views. The town is well-known for its delicious pastries. Be sure to stop at one of the local bakeries for a bite.
Needless to say this was the most fun part of our trip! We visited Florio Winery, one of the oldest wineries in Marsala, Sicily. The tour began with a short 3-D film about the winery, toured the wine cellar, which originated in 1832, and then enjoyed a wine tasting, paired with small snacks. We sampled everything from Marsala wine to silky Sicilian reds to dessert wine.
This coastal town is not too far from Palermo, we went for lunch on the waterfront where we got to try the popular Sicilian tomato pesto pasta and to see the famous salt pans, which are some of the oldest in Europe.
Where to Eat and Drink
- The Ambasciatori Hotel’s Rooftop Lounge: For the best views of the city, grab a pre-dinner glass of wine on this gorgeous rooftop. Drinks and service are great.
- Gagini Restaurant: We indulged in creative Italian fare like risotto with cucumbers, stuffed artichoke, rosemary gelaton and deconstructed cassata, a Sicilian dessert of liquor soaked cake layered with ricotta. , and of course Sicilian wine.
- Oste dello Stabile: This small, modern venue has some of the best food we had in Sicily. We stuffed our faces with fried cheese, a decadent cannelloni stuffed with vegetables and doused in melted cheese, grilled vegetables, gelato and wine.
- Pizzo/Gaetano: This adorable cheese and wine shop has small snacks, and awesome Italian foodie souveniors. Stop by for a glass of wine and cheese tasting.
Where to Stay in Sicily
We stayed in an Airbnb that was lovely. Palermo has many modestly priced Airbnb’s that are clean, spacious and very comfortable. Ours had two bedrooms, a balcony, and two bathrooms which was perfect. We also had a kitchen which we stocked with wine and snacks from Pizzo/Garano!
Palermo is a great place for a short vacation where you want to enjoy city sights, foodie activities and wine tasting. The weather is great, the people are nice, and the food is amazing!