A visit to Mothya Island is highly recommended. A short boat ride from the shore, the Phoenicians built a settlement here 2,700 years ago. Today it hosts a small museum dedicated to salt. The surrounding area still produces salt today. It is a fun way to spend a few hours.
On the drive back to our hotel, we stopped at the famed Pellegrino Cellars. Known best in the US for the Pellegrino brand of sparkling waters, the two facilities in Sicily are world renown for their wines. The Marsala wines are the most famous but there is an extensive production of white and red wines as well. While not open to the public for tours, we were lucky enough to have a private tour of the winery and a vertical tasting of Marsala wines. The building is a gorgeous statement to modern architecture. (We purchased a 1/2 bottle of a desert red for nightcaps in our room. Yum!!)
Valley of Temples
Just outside of the City of Agrigento, formerly the ancient Greek city of Akragas are the remains of eight Greek temples built between 510 and 430 BC. The “valley” is actually a ridge overlooking the Sea on one side and modern Agrigento overlooking the Temples on the other. They are simply stunning and among some of the best Greek ruins anywhere. Plan a half day at least.
We single out this traditional farm house/agriturismo for two reasons. It is wonderfully unique lodging comprising of a large “manor house” (surrounded by a handful of similar smaller buildings. Opt for the original manor.) Secondly, the dining room served arguably the best dinner of the trip. World class cuisine and superb wines.
Vecchia Masseria, C/DA Cutuminello, Caltagirone (CT), Italy
Villa Romana del Casale
The ruins of this Roman villa built in the 4th century AD was buried by a landslide in the 12th century. Discovered in the 20th century and excavated revealing some of the finest mosaics in all of Europe. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site not to be missed if you are in this area.
Ragusa and Modica
Old town Ragusa Ibla is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are numerous ornately decorated Baroque buildings, the 18th century Duomo di San Giorgio. Plan a day to simply explore and wander the narrow streets, follow your nose for food and your eyes for shopping. Both towns are hilly, public transportation and taxis are readily available.
Modica is the “sister” city although there is and has always been a rivalry between the two towns. Modica’s Val di Noto is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both towns were largely rebuilt after the 1693 earthquake. We joined a local Fiat 500 club one afternoon for a wild ride through narrow street and lanes of the old part of Modica. It was a fun and wild ride.
Another of our favorite restaurants in the entire trip was at Monsu, C.so XXV Aprile, 84 Ragusa Ibla. Husband and wife team up to produce a amazing French fusion menu served in a modern updated ancient building. Very reasonably priced food and wine with exceptional service.
Once one of the most powerful ports of ancient times, Syracuse boosts a 2700 year history. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site with Greek, Roman, Medieval and Baroque architecture coexist. The highlight is the Piazza del Duomo, a huge square adjacent to the duomo built using the ruins of a Greek temple. An afternoon boat ride around the Ortigia Bay is a must to take in the most of this remarkable city.
Catania and Taormina
Catania is a vibrant city, a bustling cross roads of cultures, history, education and culture. At the footsteps of Mt. Etna, the charcoal colored buildings have a distinct unique look, especially at night. There is a awesome WWII war museum well worth a visit. The local fish market is popular for shopping and dining alike.
Taormina is a short journey up the hillside with a Greek amphitheater as it star attraction. There is a charming shopping and dining district and sweeping views of Mt. Etna and the coast.
Mt. Etna, One of the most active volcanos in the world.