Mid Summer is not the ideal time to visit Sicily; it’s super hot and very dry. The terrain turns yellow and only the ‘pazzi and the turisti’ are on the streets at mid day. But if you’re planning a Fall visit to the island, then this is a good time to talk about Sicily.
And if you need some convincing, let me say this as a veteran wine tour planner and frequent traveler to Sicily: Sicily is the ultimate destination for any wine and food lover. Everywhere you go, wine is cultivated; the food is diverse and so different than mainland Italian; and the culture just blows your mind. Let’s just say this: the Greek ruins in Agrigento are better preserved than any you’ll find in Greece!
If you have the time, I would suggest starting in Naples, that fascinating city that at one time belonged to Sicily. You can explore the nearby Greek ruins at Paestum and enjoy all that this fascinating city has to offer. (My latest find: Subterranean Naples)
Then you can either fly or for the authentic experience take the high speed ferry to Palermo which departs daily from Naples. You can easily spend 2-3 days in Palermo (stay at the gorgeous Centrale Palace in old town Palermo) Then I would head counterclockwise around the island, going from Trapani to Menfi, then Agrigento, then shoot over to Siracusa and end in the unforgettable Taormina. Many people stay in Taormina itself; I prefer the coast and my favorite hotel is the Grand Hotel Mazzarò Sea Palace.
October is a perfect time to plan this tour although April/May with the omnipresent orange blossom aroma is quite nice.
Here are some wine tidbits that I picked up at a recent Wines of Sicily trade event in New York:
-Western Sicily has mostly white wine
-Eastern Sicily has mostly red wine
-the Cataratto grape “sucks up the terroir and expresses it.”
-This year alone Etna had 15 eruptions
-the best and original place to get authentic Nero d’Avola, Sicily’s signature grape is the area called Pachino, near Noto and Siracusa
-there are more grapes in Sicily alone than all of Australia
-in Trapani alone there are more than 9,000 producers
-it’s colder in Caltanissetta (middle of Sicily) than in Milan
-Etna climate-wise is an island within an island
-in 1960 per capita consumption of wine was 25 gallons; today it’s under 10
-there are more Greek temples than in Greece
-besides the aforementioned Cataratto, here are some other indigenous white grapes to try: Grillo; Inzolia