Travel guide: Sicilian wine and more

We went to Sicily for a week and swung from the Chianti vineyards to the windswept coast of Puglia, the boot-shaped Italian littoral, and a golf course at the top of the mountain.

We’d been told the country was dark and rainy, but the jet-set crowd looked out to sea and then away. It was clear rain and couldn’t be explained away. Those who saw us heading out on the beach were excited about our destination.

It was October and that meant you were drinking in the full fun of the Mediterranean. We flew into Palermo, then drove to the eastern side of the island in search of a golf course. The dirt roads between villages were a tangled mess, but I soon felt well-placed with five villas and a lake on the outskirts of town. An unguarded hilltop that perched outside our window had put the entire range in the hills, so we eyed it but were told not to go.

We made it just before sundown to the hotel. The ground was covered in walnut trees, and green trees bordered the road. I was certain the beach would be pristine, a relic of a bygone era. Green, lush and smell-good, the beach came alive. The lights of Palermo flicked on, along with the streets and the houses. For a few hours I felt so foreign that I walked on my hands. The breeze was strong and wet, so squishy my boots was finally soaked. The tan peeked from their oblong cushions. I caught a smell of the sea and flushed my tanned limbs. I stepped away from the shoreline and realized I was the only person who looked out the door.

The next morning, we returned to the hotel in time for breakfast. In the past few years I’d been addicted to tapas. Early starts, they were a precursor to the finer dining up to about 11 a.m. To sit there in the sunrise, I could smell the freshness of the olive oil, briny fish and meat, street-fresh bread, the scents of herbs, citrus and cheeses.

I went to the glass-enclosed kitchen to sample so I could get my groove on. The olive oil and vinegar have gotten so new, I looked up the origin of each bottle. Since 2010, we’ve been cooking organic Tuscan meals.

The next day, we were on the road again, and through the vineyards I felt like I was crossing the western parts of the U.S. Chez Cowans made the rounds with spoons in hand. There are three styles of wine making here: white, red and Burgundy. I traveled to Masseria Satrobiano, tucked away at the base of a mountain, to taste an especially low-acid white with a floral note from a top-of-the-tree white. I ate a taste of a different style at Livorno, making a charcuterie plate of cheese that red-wine experts tell me they’ve never seen here. The wheatcrushed extra virgin olive oil is poured over every bite. We had carnaroli rice with chickpeas, mushroom, tomatoes and wild garlic as a pasta dish. We went to a vineyard in Sorrento, with olive oil-drizzled grilled chicken, accompanied by goat cheese and red peppers.

We kept coming and drinking wine, followed by camarosas and tuna.

The southern part of Sicily is not what most Americans expect, with its sedate wine country. But I’d lost sight of that when we roamed vineyards and mountains.

Just as in Montenegro, where we went to tour vineyards of great wine, or Zakynthos, Greece, where we took a boat ride and sampled smoked lamb and spinach, we swerved on Sicily.

It’s not the place I normally thought of when I think about Italy, but once I was there, and tasted, I was happy to have noticed the ambiance on another level. My journey is not done yet. I look forward to more adventures.

The trip was courtesy of Valkiers Catering.

Want to read more about our trip? Check out our story.

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