Pistachio of Bronte
Pistachio of Bronte

Gregg Wallace Food Holidays

Gregg Wallace’s Almonds, Pistachios & Aztec Chocolate – The Best of South-East Sicily

8 days From £2,999

4 October 2019

Sicily, so wildly beautiful and rich in history, is another essential Italian food destination. Its cuisine reflects its melting-pot culture, its almost permanent sunshine and its proximity to the sea.

This exceptional tour of the island’s south-east features the ‘world’s best’ olive oil, almonds and ice cream, saffron-flavoured cheese, and chocolate still made according to Aztec methods (dating back to the Spanish occupation of Sicily). Go nuts at the Bronte Pistachio Festival, get hands-on with a Cotumè Sicilian cookery class and appreciate multi-starred Michelin dining at Locanda Don Serafino. Centrally located hotels invite discovery of the majestic Baroque architecture of Catania and Ragusa, and a host of included lunches and dinners at the region’s finest dining venues complete a comprehensive, unforgettable introduction to Sicilian gastronomy.

What's included?

  •  Flights
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local transport
  •  Expert guide
  •  All tastings in the itinerary
  •  Cookery class

Book Now £2,999

Deposit: £500 Single supplement: £329

Tour highlights:

  • A Cotumè cookery class, introducing the highlights of authentic Sicilian cuisine
  • Join the celebrations of Sicily’s ‘green gold’ at the Bronte Pistachio Festival
  • Sample Piacentinu Ennese and Ragusano cheeses, and the ‘world’s best’ almonds and ice cream
  • Visit one of the great Modica chocolatiers, still following Aztec methods of production
  • Watch the highly prized Monti Iblei olives being pressed and enjoy an oil tasting lesson
  • Indulgent Michelin-starred dining at the elegant Locanda Don Serafino

Tour details

Dates 4 October 2019 - 11 October 2019
Duration 8 days
Cost £2,999 Deposit: £500 Single supplement: £329 Balance due by 12 July 2019
Activity Level Easy-Going
Tour code G04A19

Book Now or call 01453 823328 if you have any questions

4 October 2019: Itinerary

Fly to Catania, arriving in the early evening and transferring to the Palace Catania, a stylish hotel in the artistic heart of the city, just in time for dinner.

Meals include: Lunch, Dinner

Hotel: Palace Catania, Catania

Enjoy a very ‘hands-on’ introduction to authentic Sicilian cuisine this morning, with a cookery class in a Catanian palazzo by the acclaimed company Cotumè. In the company of characterful local cooks, learn about Sicilian ingredients and culinary influences, and create a delicious meal, which we sit down to eat at lunchtime with the accompaniment of some excellent wine. The afternoon is at leisure to make your own explorations of this Baroque city, and dinner is under your own arrangement.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Palace Catania, Catania

An early start proves more than worthwhile as we take a rail journey through the changing landscapes of Mount Etna to Bronte. A short excursion reveals the natural splendour of Europe’s highest active volcano. In Greek legend, Etna was the forge of Vulcan, where Odysseus met the cyclops Polyphemus, and an entrance to the underworld through which Hades abducted Persephone. A light lunch in the area follows.

The afternoon is dedicated to the pistachio, which grows prolifically in the farmland around Bronte. This regional variety has an intense green colour, making it highly prized for gelato, but it is also used in such diverse products as chocolate and cheese, pesto and sausage, liquor and cosmetics. At the beginning of October, the week-long Bronte Pistachio Festival celebrates this ‘green gold of Sicily’ with picturesque displays, live performances and, of course, numerous tasting opportunities. We join in the fun for a few hours.

After an aperitivo to sharpen the appetite, we head to the Etnea rooftop restaurant for a superb Sicilian meal with spectacular views of Mount Etna.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Hotel: Palace Catania, Catania

Icons of Italian gastronomy invariably carry a DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) label, assuring the consumer that the products have been made locally by skilled artisans according to traditional methods. It is a mark of the highest quality. One such DOP holder is Piacentinu Ennese cheese, distinctive and recognisable for its rich, buttery yellow colour, derived from saffron flavouring. The addition of black pepper confers a delicately spicy taste to this sheep milk cheese, which we try for ourselves this morning. A visit to a traditional pasta-maker, using flour from ancient grains, follows, and pasta features strongly on our lunch menu in Caltagirone.

Decorative ceramics are a thousand-year tradition in Sicily and the lively Baroque town of Caltagirone is the heart of the industry (indeed the name is derived from the Arabic for ‘Castle of the Vases’), thanks to the abundance of clay in the area. The colours most often used are those of Sicily itself – sage green and yellow – and ceramics may be seen everywhere in Caltagirone, adorning churches, monuments, parks and squares. We visit a ceramics workshop to learn more about this mesmerising craft. We then proceed to the charming town of Ragusa – a veritable symphony of Baroque architecture. Our base for four nights in this hilltop jewel is the majestic Relais Antica Badia, occupying a grand 18th century villa, and dinner is provided at a quality local restaurant this evening.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Hotel: Relais Antica Badia, Ragusa

Modica chocolate is still made according to centuries-old Aztec methods. Manual grinding of the cocoa, rather than the modern technique of ‘conching’, gives the chocolate a grainy, crumbly texture and unique aroma redolent of roasted cocoa beans. Modica chocolate is often flavoured with cinnamon, vanilla, chilli or coffee. We visit one of the great Modica chocolatiers and try some for ourselves. After lunch at the Occhipinti Winery, and the chance to sample wine made on-site from exclusively Sicilian grape varieties, we return to Ragusa where the afternoon and evening are at your leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Relais Antica Badia, Ragusa

The village of Solarino, in the splendidly scenic Monti Iblei region, is renowned for its orange trees and particularly its olive groves, which produce an exceptionally high quality oil thanks to the salinity of the air so near the sea. We visit an olive farm this morning to learn what makes Monti Iblei oil so prized, watch a traditional press in action and participate in an oil tasting lesson. Lunch is provided at the olive farm.

In the afternoon, we head out into the sun-drenched landscape between the Ionian Sea and Monti Iblei, where sugar cane, grapes and lemons grow. Perhaps the greatest gastronomic treat of the area, though, are the Avola almonds, packed with essential minerals and antioxidants – and completely delicious. Three varieties are farmed – the perfect oval Pizzuta, the tasty but more irregularly shaped Romana (little known outside Italy) and the Fascionello, a blend of the others. Avola almonds are used in cakes such as cassata, pastries, biscuits, nougat and almond milk, and are prestigious enough to have a dedicated museum, which we visit, along with a tasting.

Nearby, another of Sicily’s great Baroque towns, Noto, is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is time to admire our surroundings, but this is a foodie tour and Noto is often said to be home to the world’s best ice cream. Sicilians are passionate about this sweet treat, and indeed have good claim to have invented it. We make our way to a renowned gelateria for a tasting. Dinner this evening is under your own arrangement.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Relais Antica Badia, Ragusa

DOP-accredited Ragusano cheese is made only in the environs of Ragusa and Syracuse, and made in the same way as it has been for at least the last 500 years. Unpasteurised whole milk from grass or hay-fed cows of the Modicana breed is separated, with the resulting curds ‘stretched’. Cheeses of different ages are sold – the younger, fresher cheese has a sweet, delicate taste, whilst the more mature cheese has developed a deeper flavour and a hint of spice. No gastronomic visit to this part of Sicily would be complete without sampling Ragusano.

After an independent lunch and further time at leisure to appreciate the grandeur of Ragusa, we enjoy a memorable farewell dinner at the elegant 2-star restaurant, Locanda Don Serafino, where Sicilian flavours dominate and where, according to the Michelin Guide, "the talent of the chef and team is evident in the expertly-crafted dishes, which are refined, inspired and original".

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Relais Antica Badia, Ragusa

After breakfast, we proceed to Catania for our return flight to London, arriving mid-afternoon.

Meals include: Breakfast

4 October 2019: Additional Info

4 October 2019: Accommodation

The 4* Palace Catania hotel is our first stop on this delicious tour. Boasting views of Etna from its lovely rooftop garden, this is both a comfortable and stylish place to stay, located in the heart of the city. Authentic Sicilian luxury can be enjoyed by guests in its Turkish bath, rooms are decorated in a Sicilian Baroque-inspired style, and each room is equipped with modern facilities.

Situated in front of the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista, hotel Relais Antica Badia is our second and final hotel of the tour. Rooms are decorated in a distinct Baroque style, the building itself is a former palace, and modern conveniences are, of course, included.

4 October 2019: Enquiries

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