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Sicily June 2022

Since we first tasted Sicilian wines at Valentino years ago we wanted to visit the island. The intention had been to visit Mount Etna and the vineyards in the vicinity, but when we realized how much Sicily had to offer our trip broadened.

By California standards Sicily is not very large, so we opted to drive mostly along the perimeter, landing in Catania and departing from Palermo. Catania has many points of interest, but whoever is responsible for boosting tourism correctly grasped that having something visually compelling would get them a lot of internet postings. The bright umbrellas over the market street provided shade, and an enticing photo.

We did a walking tour of historic Catania which was very interesting, including Roman ruins.

But the hotel we stayed in was filled with art, including a giant foot in our room, which lured my camera more than the historic buildings.

What I did not photograph in Catania was the very well done Museum of the Landing which covered Sicily's role in WWII and the US landing. With a realistic interactive bomb shelter and extensive footage of the aerial bombings and ground war, it was very powerful. And it was especially poignant given the Ukraine war and that the people there are experiencing the same kind of warfare.

We next headed down the coast to Syracuse, staying on the island of Ortigia.

A highlight was meeting Mauro and Paola for an explore of the Neapolis Archaeological Park and a lovely dinner.

In Ortigia I toured but was not allowed to photograph a mikveh (Jewish bath) that was discovered in 1989 during a renovation. We entered via a steep 58-step stairway dug into the rock thought to date from the Byzantine era that lead to an underground cavern. There are rock pillars and five separate pools, including two side pools in private rooms. The water fills naturally from an aquifer that still flows. The bath was used by Jews for ritual baths after they were expelled from Spain in the 1400s and came to Sicily, but the architecture of the baths is similar to what the Greeks built thousands of years ago. It was quite the experience to be down there, and quite the climb to exit.

Our next stop was an afternoon stroll in Ragusa, a picturesque hill town.

A few years ago we enjoyed our stay at an agriturisimo in Tuscany so decided to stay at Agriturisimo Poggio del Gallo in the countryside in the heart of the Iblei Mountain. It was a beautiful location with olive groves and a delightful infinity pool.

The owners Dave and Christina were from Milan and a few years ago made the move to their farm full time. Dave is entrenched in the Italian cooking community and a fabulous chef. Our dinner was delicious, as were the wines of the region.

They suggested we walk the nearby town,Chiaramonte Gulfi, which is another of the scenic hill towns I am so fond of.

Piero had recommended the Feudo del Pisciotto winery and the property now includes a boutique hotel with an excellent restaurant. It was a winning combination of wine tasting, a great dinner with wine pairings, and a beautiful environment for relaxing. The property is a restored 18th century manor, and we discovered a wine we liked enough to bring home.

Our next stop was Valley of the Temples, and the images speak for themselves. I was glad we were there in June, before the blistering summer heat. It was sunny and in the high 80s, quite hot enough for me!

We went to Marsala, famous for it's fortified wines. It is a beautiful seaside town and we visited the Florio Winery to learn more about Marsala wines and taste a few.

A surprisingly interesting stop were the salt flats outside of Trapani. It was very picturesque and the tour in the museum taught us about the history of salt making and the region. The salt is very flavorful and has a higher mineral content than commercial salt; of course we brought some home.

We couldn't be in Sicily without swimming in the sea, so we took a boat from Trapani around the Egadi Islands to snorkel. The salt content was higher than the Pacific so we were more buoyant, and best of all, the water was far warmer. And just like SoCal, we started with an overcast day that quickly burnt off to sunshine.

As always, I photographed some street art and architectural details. And as a bonus June is wedding month in Sicily, and the churches we were visiting were desirable wedding locations. Seeing the brides and their families and the wonderful dresses for the festivities was an unexpected treat.

It was so much fun to be traveling again. Here's to many more trips.


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