25 Must-do Food and Wine Experiences in Sicily
Where are the best food and wine experiences in Sicily? Do you love food and wine and are you looking to experience a new culture? Sicily is the best.
Where are the best food and wine experiences in Sicily? Do you love food and wine and are you looking to experience a new culture? Sicily is the best.
There is so much to do and see when you travel to Sicily, and one of the most breathtaking places to visit in this area, is the Aeolian Islands.
From the beautiful north Sicilian town of Milazzo, take the ferry to the stunning Aeolian Island of Salina.
My love of classic black and white movies started when I was a little girl and I remember watching the afternoon movie matinee with my dad. The likes of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, the Three Stooges, Abbot and Costello, Marilyn Munroe, Doris Day, Tony Curtis to name just a few were some of my favourites. These movies, along with my blue hardcover Film Star Album and a red cover Film Show Annual that were handed down to me from my mother were my most favourite of books to flick through. There was a technicolour style showcasing the famous actors and actresses from the 50s and 60s and they were some of my prized possessions. I recall flicking through and seeing a picture of Sophia Loren and thinking how beautiful and exotic she was in comparison to the other actresses in the books. My father being of Italian heritage would often get very excited when an Italian film or a film starring Italian actors or actresses came on and any film starring Sofia Loren, I found myself mesmerised.
Skip through 40 years and adoration and love for Sofia Loren is still part of my life. I have a signed photo of her hanging in my bathroom; a couple of her cookbooks that I found in a second-hand shop grace my collection, and her memoir “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”: My Life, was given to me just recently for my birthday, so yes you could say I am a bit of a fan.
On my recent trip to the Amalfi coast, I was in a slight craze when I found there was a wonderful restaurant called “ Donna Sofia” in Sorrento that was recommended with rave reviews and dedicated to the Italian beauty herself. As soon as I saw the review, I had it in my mind that I desperately wanted to go.
As we chatted with our driver on a transfer from Naples to Sorrento, he casually asked if we had plans for lunch, and I said no that I had a few restaurants that I was interested in checking out but had not moved any further on the research or booking. The very next thing he said was either synchronicity, laws of attraction, good karma or just as my mother says “ how it’s meant to be”, so my friend… he begins to say, has a restaurant here in Sorrento called “Donna Sofia”… Oh my god! was my reaction and the next minute we had a booking for two, we were getting picked up from the hotel by one of the staff and taken to the restaurant for lunch. I raced through check-in ran upstairs and tried to fix my hairdo…we had been rained on, no makeup and slightly wet hair…it was cold and windy and I felt like I was actually going to meet her.
Upon arrival we were met with such a warm welcome from Mario the owner, his English is very good as he had worked as a maitre d’hotel on a couple of cruise liners in Australia. I explained I was a chef and how enamoured I was with Sofia Loren and of course Italian food. Mario, his wife Lina, who was the chef and our waiter Francesco, could not have been more hospitable as I then began to change seats and tables to obtain the best advantage point for being able to see the most pictures of Sofia as I sat there eating. I immediately started taking photos like some crazed fan and had to have a little talk to myself to just be calm and sit down.
We were handed a menu and as I was so excited not only to be in the restaurant, but the thought occurred to me, I was in Sorrento. I had never been here before and an hour ago I was in Naples, where I hadn’t been since I was a little girl. I was in excitement overload. I couldn’t decide on what I wanted to eat it was all too much so I asked Francesco to see if the chef could just do us a selection of antipasti.
Sitting on our table were a couple of delicious little canapes of finely diced red ripe tomatoes, garlic and olive oil tossed together and set upon little toasted pieces of bread as our bruschetta taster. They were delicious. While waiting for our antipasti, I wandered around the restaurant adoring the hundreds of pictures of Sofia spanning her entire career. Smiling at the images as I scanned each one I remembered the movie “Scandal in Sorrento” where Sofia plays a fish vendor and gets involved with a retired marshal played by the famous actor and director Vittorio De Sica, and who also played along with Sofia in Pane, Amore e Fantasia…making famous the great singalong “Mambo Italiano”.
Our antipasti arrived and to my delight, it was a fantastic fantastia of flavours with 5 little plates bursting with the flavours of Sorrento. Buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and thinly sliced white onion, the most delicious melanzana parmigiana I have ever tasted, a cold salad of thin strips of cooked calamari with raw marinated artichokes, delicately fried calamaretti – tiny whole calamari which just melted in your mouth and a pumpkin budino, a delicate baked pumpkin savoury pudding. With Italian music playing in the background, Italian flavours exploding in my mouth, and a glass of prosecco to carry the song …I was in heaven.
Our second course was a recommendation of Lina, who hand makes all the pasta herself. She had kindly shared the portion between two plates and I was delighted to taste, aldente little full pillows of truffled mushroom, with a plate-licking sauce of butter and porcini mushrooms and a kiss of roasted capsicum puree on the side.
I had also heard about her famous white chocolate oozing pudding scented with orange and lemon. This did not disappoint. Lemons, oranges and mandarins are in full season along the Amalfi coast and line the streets like baubles on Christmas trees, much to my delight as it always makes me feel like summer seeing the Italian citrus in full fruit. Obviously, people have enough at home as no one seems to pick the ones out in public.
We left Donna Sofia with full bellies and a memory that will last forever, thanks to unforgettable warm Italian hospitality and the beautiful Sofia Loren. Day two of our Sorrento visit, we passed by the Chiostro di San Francesco only to see that the acclaimed Italian photographer Raffaele Celentano was having an exhibition called ‘ The Italians” showcasing 150 works taken all over Italy in the past quarter of a century, also in his collection were a series of Sofia Loren photos. Of course, I just had to visit … was it an omen that twice I was blessed to be able to enjoy this classic beauty in all her glory.
After almost a lifetime of watching her movies, having her grace my bathroom wall, reading her memoirs, flicking through her recipes and wonderful 1970 images, I have now completed the trifecta and eaten in a restaurant dedicated to her talent and beauty and seen lost photos of her in her acting glory. Hand on my heart, I can now say I have visited the town where she is blessed as an honorary citizen…my Sofia Loren dream is now complete.
That’s what cracking the misconceptions about escorted tours is all about.
Cracking the misconceptions that escorted tours are expensive is easy when you weigh up the cost and time taken to book and organise your own itinerary. With an escorted tour, you pay the one price up front, usually outlaying a deposit to secure the booking and then using a payment plan to work within your budget to finalise the remainder of the payments. This is a great way of planning a trip in the future as you can make the deposit a year before the trip begins and you have the whole year to pay it off.
Most tour companies include flights in their price, Dominique Rizzo’s Food and Wine Tours offer a land price only leaving more flexibility for the traveller to tailor the beginning and the end of the tour to suit any extra travelling they wish to do outside of the tour dates. Most travellers have their own preferred airline they like to travel with, and for the frequent flyer, of course, there are the benefits of using your preferred airline taking advantage of your accumulated points.
Building relationships with local guides/hotels/restaurants and local suppliers mean that we are able to negotiate special rates and our experience in the industry means that our escorted tours are crafted to maximise the efficiency of time and cost for the traveller. Often people look at the price of an escorted tour thinking it is higher than other trips but in reality, an escorted tour is perfectly pre-packaged, designed to take all the planning out, so the only decision you have to make on tour is what to wear.
People often think that escorted tours leave you no time for yourself to just wander around and explore, which is part of why we all love travelling. Dominique Rizzo’s Food tours offer bespoke itineraries with action-packed days ensuring you get to see, taste and experience as much of a region as possible, but you do have the option to do as little or as much as you like. Often it’s great to get a guided tour of a city from one of our local guides first, for you to get your bearings of the city, understand the culture, history and the importance of the specific sites and monuments and to work out where it is in relation to the hotel. You can then head out on your own for shopping, wandering or just taking in the atmosphere and really make the most of your free time.
There is nothing worse than seeing large bus loads of tourists pulling up to then get ferried onto trains, boats and planes all dragging their own luggage behind them. Dominique Rizzo’s Escorted Tours are small group tours with 12 – 14 people. We travel in comfortable, private, modern, airconditioned small busses for the flexibility of getting onto those small off the beaten-track roads, and narrow cobbled streets often found in Europe. We usually have the one driver for the whole journey who often becomes part of the fun of the tour. Time spent on the bus is minimal in comparison to the rest of the tour, and you are able to leave your belongings on the bus safely when hoping off for lunch or rest stops. Having small group tours means we can accommodate each individual personally, stopping to take photos, bathroom stops and spontaneous places of interest is very easy without fuss or hassle.
Travelling on your own whether you are driving or by public transport, you often will play it safe sticking to guide book routes and recommendations. It’s only when you get out of the big cities and meet people “in the know” that you discover the true essence of a region, its people and their culture. This doesn’t often happen on mass-produced tours as they tend to stick to a repetitious itinerary with “made for tourist” experiences. Dominique Rizzo’s Food Tours are all about offering you unique experiences. Building relationships with local guides who are always on the lookout for diverse and interesting local activities mean that on Dominique’s tours you get to really be part of and feel the European culture in the raw. Visiting the families, who make award-winning sausages and salami, walking amongst their black pigs and enjoying some of their products right in the heart of the Spanish hills; meeting and having lunch on their property in Sicily with the family who owns the sheep farm and seeing them in action making fresh ricotta; kneading the dough with the baker in their ancient bakery handed down through generations; enjoying a true Sicily family lunch, cooking with the family, playing cards, is experiencing a culture that has stood the test of time. This is what travelling is all about. After you have seen all the sights, taken a thousand pictures of monuments and churches, it’s the memories of the people you meet, the relationships you make, the laughter, the inclusion that sticks in your mind. It is these unique experiences that we are always on the lookout for, so our tours are always flexible and changing.
We would all have to agree that trying new cuisines while travelling is one of the biggest highlights. We cringe at the sight of a “tourist menu” on blackboards, menu boards or menus and we do our best to stay away from eateries who predominately cater for tourists. Also quite often large travel companies aren’t so concerned that restaurants tend to all serve the same regional specials or a slight variation of them. Dominique Rizzo’s Food Tours ensure you enjoy a wide selection of a region’s cuisine, guaranteeing that you are not eating the same dishes over and over again. We focus on hand selecting venues for their quality, location, zero food miles and attention to the “Slow Food” movement, taking great care to maintain their regionality, traditions and diversity, resulting in experiences of the sea, mountain, country and city. Most of the meals and beverages are included on Dominique Rizzo’s Food Tours and where we do give you free time to wander and eat on your own, then our lunch or dinner on that day are of bountiful abundance. The main comment on most of our Food Tours is there was “too much” food. We have designed each day to include activities that include tastings of food and or wine-focused around lunch or dinner or both. As well as our hand-selected A La Carte dinners, shared table banquet dining, long lunches, and lavish dinners, we also offer relaxed dining at some of the noted wineries and enotecas or speciality pizza restaurants and also give you the opportunity to practice your language skills, ordering whatever you would like to eat.
Dominique’s Food Tours focus on giving her clients personalised, professional service throughout the whole tour, from booking the tour right through to saying goodbye. We personally select all accommodation with 4 and 5-star ratings, often with Spa experiences available to give you maximum opportunity to relax and enjoy your stay in that particular region. Our aim is to give you a feel of contrasting horizons, vistas, scenery and emotional connection to the land. From modern city style hotels to historic, converted stone convents, caves and farmhouses in the country and mountains, cliff side rooms with sea views, small-town traditional boutique hotels, and family run Agriturismo. All of the accommodations are unique in their own style; some are quirky, some are perhaps not what we are used to, although all have the modern facilities you need to make you feel at home and are well located giving you the opportunity to head out to explore on your own. This diverse collection makes up the bespoke experiences that come with a Dominique Rizzo Tour.
There is such a stigma that Personally Escorted Tours are only for the retirees. Dominique Rizzo’s clients range from 18 – 70+, retirees, professionals, businessmen and women, couples, single women, single men, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, siblings. Dominique’s small group tours are for everyone and are an amazing way to meet new and interesting people with the same passion and curiosity about the world. Often the tours are a melting pot of people from all different walks of life. Some clients meeting on tour have forged long friendships, often planning their next holiday with Dominique’s Food Tours to travel together. For people who may not be able-bodied as others, we do have small amounts of walking on the tour and can accommodate those who find large amounts of walking difficult. In essence, Dominique’s Food Tours are perfect for anyone wanting to just sit back, relax, take in the moment and just have a wonderful time. Let all the organising, bookings and logistics of a unique tour be taken care of for you. Book One of Dominique’s Food Tours today.