Sicily in general is a food and wine lover’s paradise but there is a corner in the south east of the island that seems particularly blessed with earthly delights. Here are a few ideas to inspire a day trip or two to the region.
From Catania it is an easy drive down the coast to Syracuse, one of the centres of the Mediterranean in Ancient Greek times, nearly 3,000 years ago. The glorious baroque style of its buildings and charming cobbled streets are a postcard seller’s dream. In particular Ortigia, the old town, set on an island the shape of a teardrop and connected to the mainland by a road bridge, is picturesque in the extreme.
An hour west of Syracuse is Modica, where there is some serious eating to be done. When cocoa and therefore, chocolate, was first brought back from the New World it was to the small town of Modica that it came. Here it was chilled to prevent the sugar melting and the traditionally-made chocolate has a particularly rich, lingering flavour and a certain graininess that is not unpleasant.
Another twenty minutes’ drive northwest of Modica is Ragusa. Its stone streets and views of the countryside could be mistaken for a film set and, indeed, many scenes for the Inspector Montalbano series were filmed here. Explore side streets and seek out hidden gems, such as the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Duomo, tucked away, appropriately, behind the main church.
Finally, we have not forgotten the wine. Sicily once had a reputation for quantity rather than quality in its wine producing but has a fine tradition of viticulture and, indeed, Julius Caesar was said to favour the island’s mamertino white. One family leading Sicily’s wine renaissance are the Planetas, owners of the Buonivini Estate, where the parched and windswept landscape belies a cavernous, hi-tech, underground winery of the first order. Ask our team about this and other wineries you can visit in the region.
Other than these culinary treasures, the region deals only in sleepy agriculture and some light industry so is a perfect place to rediscover life’s simpler pleasures.