DISCOVERING THE SICILIAN BAROQUE
Travel itinerary: Siracusa Ibla, Noto, Floridia, Marzamemi, Scicli, Ortigia Island.
“Without seeing Sicily you cannot understand Italy. Sicily is the key to everything”. When I read the words of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, upon returning from my stay in Sicily, I could not help but understand them in their deepest essence. Because if you say goodbye to this region to go home it is not to say goodbye, but simply “goodbye”. Let’s go in order! I want to tell you all the details. My first time in Sicily I will remember it forever because I had the opportunity to experience a whirl of experiences in a few days: the tranquility of a structure that smells of history and tradition, my (first) curious approach to golf, relaxation and well-being, the discovery of characteristic villages. Four intense and unforgettable days that I will carry in my heart and I will show you step by step, so you can be inspired for the next Sicilian holiday.
Arrival in Syracuse from Catania airport in the beautiful Borgo di Luce I Monasteri Golf Resort & Spa of Mira Hotels.
What can I say? Never choice was more appropriate. The Golf Resort is surrounded by nature. Borgo di Luce, so called because the warm Sicilian sun illuminates every glimpse, is not just any hotel. I told you it smells like history! It is the residence of the twelfth Duchess of Floridia, Lucia Maria Migliaccio, second wife of King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, but who never became queen. It seems it was among the most beautiful women of the time. Floridia is a small town of just 20 thousand souls a stone’s throw from Syracuse. The structure is a real luxury residence obtained from an ancient Benedictine monastery (from here, The Monasteries) in which the large halls, the paintings of the time, the furnishings, the courtyard, recall the splendor of Sicily in the nineteenth century. In the Resort you can also take an interesting journey into the past, as millstones and work tools are on display. To me was reserved the Chapel of the residence, a lovely loft room, located in the shade of a secular tree, overlooking the suite of the Duchess of Floridia. The rooms are divided between the main building that houses the reception and the restaurant and those around the village. The beautiful pool with bar. And then the Zagara Spa, for daily wellness and relaxation (I’ll talk about this later). The real gem of Borgo di Luce is the beautiful golf course: 18 holes scattered among lakes, fig trees, oranges and corners of paradise. A marvel. Leaving this residence in the morning to discover the hinterland is a real sacrifice! Service note for friends travelers: Borgo di Luce I Monasteri is not only a 5 star Resort dream, cozy and historic, but is located in a strategic position to visit the main centers of the Sicilian Baroque. Thirty minutes drive and you get anywhere.
As said, half an hour drive from Borgo Di Luce Monasteries and you can easily reach the beautiful Noto. The expectations were great: remember that a few years ago this village experienced moments of glory thanks to the patinatissimo marriage of the Ferragnez. The first sensation was that of an immersion in the Sicilian Baroque. Noto is a small jewel perched on a plateau, as well as a UNESCO heritage city. Rich in churches and historic buildings, a well-deserved stop is reserved for the splendid Cathedral of San Nicolò, majestic and powerless. After a nice walk through the alleys and alleys of the old town, I decided to stop for a bite to eat in a place so typical: the Old Bakery Crispino. Here you can eat the excellent “ncunzati” sandwiches (a pleasure!).
Salutation Known to reach a beautiful seaside resort: Marzamemi, hamlet of Pachino (yes, just from the name of the variety of tomatoes!). It is a colorful seaside resort, which has fishing in the soul and seems almost hand-painted. His Tonnara is one of the most important in Sicily and dates back to the time of Arab domination. The fortune of this center is still mainly in the trade of fish products such as the bottarga and the ventresca of bluefin tuna. Without forgetting the Pachino tomato, a PGI product. The beauty of Piazza Regina Margherita left me breathless. I suggest you stop in one of the many little restaurants to have a drink and then take a ride in the historic Atelier Elio Fronterrè, where you can not resist the temptation of the precious fabrics and arabesque fabrics. I can’t risk being late. It’s time to reach the winery Planeta Vini, one of the wine companies of reference in Sicily, where I thought well to book a wine tour with tasting.
It is a family business in which it is possible to undertake a real journey through time and space, touching all areas of Sicily, from west to east, through a capillary production in the five territories of wine production, of oils and in the places of family hospitality. Tenuta Buonivini, in Noto, is the third stage of this family and business adventure: in 1998 the estate rises in the district that, not surprisingly, takes its name: “Buonivini”. The wine making potential of this land, the cradle of Nero d’Avola, is incredible. The beauty of the hills, where the vineyards open between the expanses of almond trees, descending towards the sea, are the frame of the so-called “Cantina Invisibile” that I had the opportunity to visit in a passionate tour. At the end of the visit to the winery, I tasted among the best bottles of Planeta Vini, accompanied by an aperitif. From the grapes of Moscato di Noto and Nero d’Avola, four wines are born in Buonivini representing three different but full expressions of the territory.
THROW IN THE HOLE
I already told you about the breakfast view golf course in Borgo di Luce Monasteries? Wonderful. Waking up and listening to the chirping of birds is priceless. For me, in the morning, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and local cheeses. Sitting at the table in the outer room, in the background, I admire and enchant myself looking at the beautiful golf course that is heated by the early morning sun. Coffee and so on. I reach the field for my first pitches in the hole. And there is no risk of arriving unprepared! Inside the Golf Resort there is the shop where you can get the necessary (for us girls, lots of colorful outfits to choose from): skirt, polo shirt and cap. How can I describe my first experience? Certainly one of the most fun of my life. As well as being among the most exciting of my trip: I discovered that I am passionate about golf and that this sport has a very precise discipline. With the right concentration, the suggestions of the masters and (some) scenic shooting, I pointed the hole, in fact admiring the professional golfers on the field. I promised myself I’d be better! To enjoy the green show and the view of some holes that deserve prolonged stops, even just for the crazy scenery.
Ragusa Ibla is the oldest district of Ragusa. It is famous all over the world for its more than fifty churches and numerous palaces, evidence of the highest expression of Baroque in Sicily. The city, however, is remembered mainly thanks to the television series “The Commissioner Montalbano”: those who are passionate about fiction will find all the views and landscapes of Vigata and Montelusa, starting from Piazza Duomo and the Circolo di Conversazione in Piazza Pola that appear in several episodes of the series. I could not stop to eat the traditional “arancina” (or arancino?): the tasty rice timbale in sharp shape that seems to remember Etna. From the Ibleo Gardens, in the center of Ragusa, you can admire the most beautiful views of the entire city.
Just a 25-minute drive and I’m almost to Scicli. Along the streets of the old town follow one another, almost like in an eighteenth-century fairy tale, the splendid golden stone churches and sumptuous palaces. Just take a walk outside the city center to recognize the traces of a thousand-year-old past. Between hidden caves and ancient rock churches stands the church of San Matteo, the oldest in Scicli and the main place of worship in the city. You’ll have to make a nice hike (I didn’t count the steps!) but I can assure you that arrived at the top the unique view. (Try to believe).
DINNER TASTING "COVERED"
“Wine Pleasures” is the event that the Mira Hotels group organizes simultaneously in all its facilities. A unique sensory experience: you discover excellent wines but “blind”. The labels of the bottles selected by the wine manager are hidden from the public. The tasting begins and the guests, curious, will have to try to go back to the grape variety and, perhaps, also to the producer! The dinner includes four courses by the chef and it was a very special experience. I highly recommend taking part in the evening!
Third day of this wonderful stay. Breakfast and… spa! Among the more than 102 rooms and suites, there is the spa, reserved for the relaxation and well-being of the guests. “Zagara SPA”, this is the name of the center, is a corner of paradise surrounded by oranges, lemon groves, plantations of prickly pears, pomegranates and carob trees. The name itself is inspired by an autochthonous flower, the zàgara, which with its scent and its delicate color envelops the citrus trees throughout the spring. The centre is at guests’ disposal and offers the possibility to enjoy treatments and massages. In addition to the wellness course – including Turkish bath, emotional shower, sauna, Jacuzzi, relaxation area, 5 cabins equipped for personalized spa treatments and salt room (how much I relaxed!) – I tested the so-called “Cloud Treatment”: an unprecedented experience! Floating in the void, suspended in the warm embrace of water, is priceless. The central nervous system is freed from all external stimuli and the brain can express all its extraordinary potential, while the body relaxes and regenerates. In a word: fantastic!
SYRACUSE - ORTIGIA ISLAND
In the evening, when the sun has given way to the lights of the city on the alleys, I find myself breathing the fresh air that pulls on the beautiful island of Ortigia. A handkerchief of land of just one square kilometer of extension where the oldest part of Syracuse rises, so much to be considered the historic center of the Sicilian city. The squares, the monuments, everything is imposing and majestic. Breathtaking. The advice is to visit Ortigia on foot: you will get lost, nose up, in the beauty of the balconies and terraces. A stop in a historical building of the city is a must: Palazzo Borgia del Casale. Inside you will find nineteenth-century frescoes and stucco restored respecting the original forms. The palace was built by the Borgia family around 1760. An audio-guide will support you, as it did with me, in the tour of the noble rooms. For dinner I chose the Osteria Sveva, a typical restaurant in Ortigia also recommended by Slow Food. I greeted Ortigia with stunning scenery but above all so exciting: in the evening, admire the Castle Maniace, on the sea, among the most important monuments of the Swabian period.
FOURTH (AND FINAL) DAY
The last day of vacation always retains a bit of melancholy. This trip to Sicily, then, has entered my heart. And will remain there. After visiting the most beautiful places in Syracuse, I decide to dedicate the morning to relax in the pool of Borgo di Luce. A few dives, a little ‘tan, a glass of wine and an excellent cold dish served by the pool. For the last evening Borgo di Luce has organized a meat barbecue reserved for all the staff of the structure, golf enthusiasts and guests. The best and convivial way to greet these people, which I found warm and hospitable; to greet this exceptional land where, I promised, I will return very soon. Mine is only a farewell to a land of landing in the heart of the Mediterranean, magical and full of wonders. Its colors, its flavors, its warm atmosphere and its glorious history fascinated me. I anticipate that the next time I want to meet Etna and its breathtaking lunar panorama. Meanwhile I leave you to my “The Best Of”, hoping to make you live at least a part of the emotions that this experience has given me. Bon voyage!