Sicily 2 – Sicily Southeast
Sicily 2 – Sicily Southeast
Paul and I have always wanted to go totally around the island of Sicily. Beach after beach all around the coastline punctuated by backdrops of high rugged mountains forming steep valley walls create the visual extremes from which legends are made. Everything about Sicily was larger than life. Etna, Europe’s tallest volcano, stands over 10,000 feet high. Each region boasts its own beauty.
Our adventure began in Siracusa in the Southeast corner of the island. When we picked up our rent car, a Smart Car, we laughed. It was so small I felt like I should hug it. But as soon as we tried to find parking in this city, I so appreciated our little car. Available parking spaces are scarce and when you do find them they are very small. Even many of the ancient streets still used are not much wider than a smart car! No Cadillac will fit there.
Driving in the Southeast in May with our windows down the car was filled with the perfume of orange blossoms. It truly reminded me of our Messina Hof Orange Muscat wine. Orange grove after orange grove covered the hills and valleys. In between the orange groves where acres of green houses with eggplant, tomatoes, kiwi, and table grapes. Open fields were filled with artichokes.
In Siracusa we stayed at B&B Terra Marique, Via Torre Milocca 17-19, Siracusa. Owners Andrea and Lucia were so welcoming and helpful. The Villa was situated in a miniature farm where we were encouraged to help ourselves to the lemons, oranges, and loquats growing throughout the grounds. All were ripe and sweet while we were there. It seems that Andrea and Lucia were retired teachers and now owned a B&B. Lucia had a voracious appetite for learning languages and wanted to practice English each time we were with her. She ran the business and cooked the breakfasts. Andrea took care of the grounds which were immaculate. He was particularly proud of the ancient farming implements he had found on the property. His collection was lovingly displayed in the breakfast area.
Great seafood is not hard to find anywhere in Sicily. Here we enjoyed an ocean-side fish market/restaurant called Osteria. We went into the market selected our fish and then they prepared it as we sat on the veranda toasting the sunset. From this same restaurant we could watch the fishermen harvesting the mussels and clams in the bay.
Siracusa Osteria where we watched the mussel & clam harvest.
Seafood Insalata at Osteria in Siracusa.
Day trips took us to:
Pachino. The best beaches we found were near Pachino between Marzamemi and Isola Di Capo. On May 5, 2015, the water was in the 40’s. Paul was determined to swim. He is definitely a polar bear.
Noto (beautiful). On the way we came upon a winery – Barone Sergio. An old gate led to a production building surrounded by hills of grapevines, orange orchards, and olive groves. The foreman found us wandering in the vineyard and graciously showed us the vineyards and production areas. They grow Petit Verdot, Nero d’Avola, Chardonnay, and Grillo.
In Paterno we had an amazing lunch at Al Brigante. Thank goodness for GPS. Every town was challenging with one way streets, tiny alleys for mule cars. Even Smart cars could not fit down some of these alleys. Once we found Al’s, Via Filippo Corridoni 1, Paterno, we could not find a parking spot. When I went into the restaurant to ask directions for parking, the chef came outside personally and moved a planter at the front door so we could park there. Now that is hospitality! Once seated inside he proceeded to deliver to the table dish after dish of local specialties – roasted peppers, eggplant and ham parmesan, spinach with garlic, roasted artichokes, stuffed peppers, and on and on. Finally, we could eat no more so he brought us coffee and fresh oranges served tableside.
Al Brigante in Paterno
Ortigia which is the old city had a public parking lot on the east side that cost only 2 Euros. From there we walked the city. The markets were in full swing and the streets are dotted with wine bars. One of our favorites was Retro Wine Bar which carried only Sicilian wines. (If only Texas was like this). The bartender spoke perfect English and introduced us to new varieties: Inzolia, Zibibbo, a frizzante blend of Chardonnay and Grillo.
From Siracusa we moved to Ragusa where we stayed at Artemisia Resort, Via Enrico Caruso, Piano Materazzi. Agritourist resorts are everywhere in Sicily. This one was beautiful with large modern rooms and baths, swimming pool, hilltop views, and lovely outdoor breakfast seating.
Day trips took us to:
Ragusa IBLA which is the old city of Ragusa. Friday is a good day to go because parking is much easier. Saturday and Sunday are crowded. It is very hilly and mountainous with steep streets and sidewalks. At the Duomo Piazza we enjoyed gelato, sausage puff pastries and Sicilian sparkling. Inside the Cathedral the residents were readying for a feast. Alters and statues were mounted on rails ready for the processions. San Giorgio is a magnificent Baroque church filled with elegant stained glass, beautiful paintings, and a cupola that sent rays of light streaming in the sanctuary. We dined at Paola Piazza, via Orfanotrofio. It is in the shadow of the Duomo.
Ragusa IBLA piazza where we dined.
Caltagirone was high on my list for Sicilian pottery. In fact the town is decorated with it. While many places are closed on Sundays, Caltagirone thrives on touristic traffic on Sundays. Just strolling the streets is like walking through an art gallery. Coria is a gem of a restaurant there. We had a lovely local wine called Judeka that was a blend of Vermentino, Sauvignon Blanc, and Grillo. It paired beautifully with the surprise amuse bouche of octopus on pumpkin sauce and topped with fennel foam. The food here was art on the plate and worth a leisurely afternoon of grazing.
Coria restaurant in Caltagirone.
Marina di Ragusa is the beach side of Ragusa – what a delightful sea town! Lunch at Restaurants Il Delfino right on the water was so lovely. I could just have wine and appetizers here and stare at the sea.
Enna is the highest regional capital. Not only does it have a good market but the Lombardy Castle offers free tour guides to give the history. The castle itself is really a shell but enough stands to make the history interesting. Plus it has an observation deck that provides a breathtaking panoramic view. Be aware of the 100+ steps to get there. There is a place to sit at the top in order to prepare to descend. At our Hotel Sicilia which is at the city center and in walking distance to all areas historic, we got a room overlooking a piazza dedicated to war dead. In the old church they had replaced the side arched alters with the marble walls featuring photos of the war fallen. Across the street were Enotecas, bread shops, chocolate shop, tourist info office, and around the corner was a restaurant recommended by the tourist office agent. It was called Le Tre Rose and was delicious.
Piazza Amerina with mosaic floors.
From Enna you can easily get to Piazza Amerina. What an incredible documentation of history in such an elaborate mosaic art form. It is handicap accessible and maintained in pristine condition.