Although we could’ve spent a perfectly happy lifetime within the walls of the abbazia, adventure beckoned. Sicily is the original melting-pot, boasting influences from a Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, and Italian past. The buildings are a century by century lesson in architectural history and we needed to get in on some of that. Plus, we heard there was wine? Yeah, we started there.
Our first visit was to the Planeta Winery, one of Sicily’s finest. We joined them for a tasting (and oddly enough, Bernadette Peters was there too. Welllll Helloooo Dolly!) of their fresh pressed olive oils and native grapes found nowhere else on earth. Even in the world of agriculture, Sicily is a testament to its past with olives and grapes brought by the Greeks (thanks Greeks!), wheat brought by the Romans, and pistachios, citrus, and sugarcane brought by the Moors. Sicily has one of the oldest continuously operational wineries in the world, and researchers just found traces of wine dating back 6,000 years in a Sicilian cave (previously, it was believed that humans had been making wine for just over 3,000 years). Point is, Sicily has been aging grapes forevaaaaah and damn are they good at it.
The folks at Planeta were the perfect hosts, refilling our glasses and providing us with fresh pasta, anchovies caught that morning, and more olives than we could eat in a lifetime– but we sure tried.
A big part of this guy’s day is rotating each and every wine bottle using for sparkling wine as the daily agitation helps the bubble-making process.
Arancini lady Part I.
At times, GoogleMaps underestimates the time it takes to navigate Sicilian roads.
Sicilian towns can sometimes feel like one big grandma’s house. All you gotta do is pull up a chair, play a couple hands of gin rummy, have a glass of red wine from an unmarked bottle, and eat some pasta. There are groups of the most put-together old men playing dice, old ladies pushing their carts back from the market, and new families bopping around the town squares. We visited the fishing town of Sciacca on the island’s southern coast, whose sea-faring routes date back to 5th century BCE. Known for its healing thermal water and damn fine fish, Sciacca was the perfect backdrop for a stroll through the back alleys of Sicilian heritage.
Here’s me in my true Sicilian element… Vespas wizzing by, cooler full of fresh fish, and gelato in the beard.
It is almost impossible to not get local produce in Sicily. Especially out in the boonies where our abbazia was, literally everything came from within 20 miles.
Nearby Agrigento is known for the UNESCO world heritage site The Valley of the Temples — the world’s greatest concentration of well-preserved Greek ruins– and for its incredible beaches, of course. We started there, at the Turkish Steps. Legend says the Moors used to crawl up these naturally occurring sandstone stairs whenever they’d come to raid. Now, the stairs provide the perfect beach chairs and such a view of the pleasantly tepid water.
Arancini lady, Part II.
Finally, off to the Valley of the Temples dating back to the early 400s BCE. They valley has best preserved Greek ruins in the world, a Garden-of-Edenesque citrus grove, and a view over the Sicilian hillside that’s best enjoyed with a few local beers. Our day ended with dinner at a local pizza spot overlooking the the temples at night.
Every Moveable Feast excursion seeks to unearth in a hidden treasure of a place, where local culture runs deep and we’re the only American accents around. Sicily was no different… We celebrated bomb wine, fresh pressed olive oil, fish straight from the sea, and an architectural heritage unrivaled on this great earth– alongside some of the best people we’ve ever known (that’s them, looking cute! Maybe you’ll be in this photo in some mind-blowing location next year?)