A cultural melting pot with a strong sense of identity
There are some destinations in the world that just have it all… and Sicily is definitely one of them! I haven’t been to this beautiful island in a while, particularly in the south east coast and I was simply stunned. What is so fascinating about this place is its incredible variety. Being the biggest island in the Mediterranean and having been invaded by so many cultures and populations, it really does feel like a cultural melting pot with a really strong sense of identity.
As a luxury travel advisor, I wanted to talk to you about my recent travels around the Ragusa and Siracusa area. These two locations are ideal for when thinking of planning special celebrations in Italy. My trip kicked off in the Marina di Ragusa area where I was staying at a truly charming property called Eremo della Giubiliana, what I would call cultural luxury. Not your typical 5 star hotel, but rather a countryside relais, a bit like a masseria where the staff were among the friendliest people I have ever met. Their goal was simple: to make you feel at home and be part of a big family. And it really was that way; from the delicious food cooked by the chef to the great activities such as ricotta making and in house olive oil experiences; it really felt like going back in time.
Food in Sicily plays a central role in their culture but in the Ragusa area, gastronomy reaches the highest of levels. So much so that Ragusa, a small town in the heart of Sicily, has four Michelin star restaurants! This lovely baroque town features lovely bars, bakery and cafes all with delicious local produces and recipes to die for. My first dining experience was at this fantastic 2 Michelin star restaurant right by the Duomo church. A gastronomic journey where the chef wanted to tell a story by combining tradition with innovation… a fantastic experience that I will remember for a while.
The following day I set off to discover a main artistic feature of this area: the baroque art. This part of Sicily is home to many UNESCO world heritage sites including the gorgeous towns of Modica and Noto. They certainly are among the most romantic places in Italy and it really is unbelievable how beautiful they are. Of course, knowing that this area is amazing for its food and wine, I was on a quest to find these gastronomic treasures. Just off the majestic church of Noto there is a bar that serves arguably the best almond granita in Sicily. This area in fact has some of the best almonds in the world and the pastry chef of this wonderful bar creates the most sublime granitas and cakes. Eating a granita with a freshly made Cannolo while overlooking the main church is without a doubt the most spectacular breakfast experience I have ever had.
After a tour of this pretty small town, I decided to head to another beautiful baroque town: Modica. A place covered with of stunning palaces, people must have had a great time here a couple of hundred years ago. Modica is particularly famous for making a very unique type of chocolate named in fact after its village. It’s basically a chocolate without cocoa butter so its texture is quite grainy. I thought it had a rather interesting taste that felt incredibly authentic and ancient, just like Modica. They also produce a to die for chocolate liquor and a beer that taste like a chocolaty Guinness. After having visited this historic pastry shop, I was ready for lunch. I headed towards coast where I have been told there is a small family run restaurant that serves sensational seafood. There is no menu; they only served what they fished that morning. The recipes are over 200 years old and the wine list would be a paradise for any wine society. A feast for the senses, so delicious and fresh, I felt I was in the middle of the Mediterranean.
After having enjoyed a sublime meal in the company on the charming locals I head out for a relaxing walk through the town. With a delicious pistachio gelato in one hand I continued to admire the beautiful architectural structures that history marked on this mesmerising island.