1.The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento is always magical
The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento is always magical, but even more so if you explore in the company of an expert who can bring its history to life. After visiting the temples ourselves with Michele Gallo – and never forgetting it — we’d like to suggest that you do the same.
2.The Valley of the Temples is also open at night
In July, August and September, the Valley of the Temples is also open at night — this is not only a lovely cool time to visit, but the temples look amazing under the floodlights.
3.Don’t miss the Giardino di Kolymbetra
1.Have breakfast in the magnificent Piazza del Duomo
Have breakfast in the magnificent, traffic-free Piazza del Duomo of Ortigia, Siracusa. Then take a private boat tour with fresh fish lunch aboard.
2. Walk right around the island of Ortigia
Down on the coast, spring gets into its stride, with lots of wild flowers. It is often too hot to wear a jumper, though probably unwise to go far without one.
Caponata, a voluptuous, velvety sweet-sour amalgam of aubergines, onion, celery, olives, almonds and capers simmered in vinegar and sugar, is one of the most famous of Sicilian dishes. It can be eaten warm, cold or room temperature, as an antipasto on a slice of crusty toasted bread, or as a kind of warm salad.
According to Mary Taylor Simeti, it probably began as seagoing fare, as the vinegar and sugar not only give the dish a tang, but act as a preservative.
Ways of making caponata vary not only by region but from family to family. In parts of the south and west, they add unsweetened chocolate – a distinctly Spanish touch — while heated arguments can arise about the use of tomatoes.
This version is based on Mary Taylor Simeti’s recipe.
- 2 aubergines – preferably the type known as nostrano, which are elongated, and a dark purple brown
- Sea salt from Trapani
- 350 ml/12 fl oz local olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced, preferably from Giarratana
- 6 celery stalks, cut into chunks and blanched for 1 minute in boiling water
- 150g/5 oz pitted green local Sicilian olives
- 125g/4 oz capers preferably from Salina or Pantelleria, rinsed, soaked overnight, and squeezed to rid them of salt
- 350 ml/ 12fl oz tomato passata
- 125 ml/4 fl oz white wine vinegar (from your local vineyard)
- 2 tablespoons or less of sugar (Mary Simeti uses white, I use muscovado which is not traditional, but gives an extra caramelly depth)
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably from Modica
- A handful of toasted almonds or almond slivers, preferably from Avola
The memorable experiences for most travellers, are those when they feel they have stepped behind the scenes and had a ‘real’ taste of the place where they are on holiday. They stop feeling like visitors, and instead, become ‘guests’. One of the experiences we most enjoy offering is for clients to spend a day in the company of Duchessa Nicoletta Lanza Tomasi di Palma a direct descendent of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the great Sicilian novel, “The Leopard”.
‘Sunset on board Fiesta? It was unforgettable. We weren’t watching the sunset, we were a part of it.’
‘At dinner, we were moored under the walls of the castle, and Enrico asked if we’d like to listen to music. But the sound of the waves lapping against the boat was so magical, that we were happy just to listen to that.’
Guests on board Fiesta, summer 2012.
February feels like the beginning of the Sicilian spring – especially when the almond blossoms (at its most spectacular in Agrigento), but down by the coast the first wild flowers will be in bloom too.
The days can be a little warmer than in January, but evenings are still chilly and nights can be cold. Global warming permitting, there may be snow in the mountains. The sea is a little colder than in January, but swimming is certainly possible for anyone accustomed to the seas of Northern Europe.
- Average high temperature 12°C
- Average low temperature 5°C
- Average sea temperature 15°C
- Average sunshine hours 8
- Average rainfall 44mm
From a turreted cliff-top castle to a remote medieval abbey, and from an aristocratic villa to romantic country mansions, some of the most interesting – and certainly unique – properties in our portfolio are suffused with Sicily’s colourful history.
Feudalism only really died out in Sicily in the 20th century (indeed some would say that there are still vestiges surviving today) and the Sicilian countryside is peppered with aristocratic country mansions on vast agricultural estates. Without the vast army of tied workers, many have been abandoned, but some have adapted to the contemporary world, producing quality wines, olive oils and organic fruit and vegetables, or opening up their homes to guests.
- Learn to dive on Ustica – one of the best places to dive in the Mediterranean — with the superb, friendly and professional Profondo Blu team. If you don’t want to dive, take a boat trip to snorkel instead.
- Take a walk right around Ustica island – stopping to snorkel at Punta di Megna and the Scoglio del Medico and to swim below Punta Spalmatore or in the natural swimming pool below the lighthouse at Punta Cavazzi.
- Visit Maria Cristina on Ustica, at Via Petreria 5, just above the piazza – she sells local lentils, home-made preserves, pestos and other island specialities from her living room.