Chaîne Online News

Actualités en ligne / News On-Line

Sri Lanka visit to Sicily

Sicily, May 5-9, 2014

A triple delight: superb …stimulating …. congenial

The trinacria, the ancient three-legged symbol which appears on the flag of Sicily, recounts very well our sunny odyssey through this fabulous island where we enjoyed a triple delight of superb Sicilian cuisine, a stimulating cultural programme and highly congenial company.

Appropriately for the homeland of Bellini, our tour was beautifully orchestrated by fellow Chaîne members Dame de la Chaine Heidy Rampinelli and Beppe Rocchi and lovingly embellished throughout with an erudite and constantly lyrical commentary from our truly outstanding Sicilian guides.

Fourteen members from Sri Lanka found various ways to arrive in Catania. Then on, alongside the clear waters of the Ionian Sea, to the long-established resort of Taormina where the San Domenico Palace Hotel delivers spectacular sea views.

Photos (c) San Domenico Palace Hotel

Here Chef de Cuisine Massimo Mantarro (photo above right) and Chef Pâtissier Adriano Plumari gave us our initial introduction to typical Sicilian cuisine at dinner.

- Chick pea cream soup with white fish fillet and pepper-flavoured oil

- Durum wheat pasta with tomato sauce, basil, fried aubergine and baked ricotta

- Glazed baked piglet loin with caramelized baby oinions and rosemary sauce

- Sicilian cassata with ricotta and Passito wine reduction

Photos (c) San Domenico Palace Hotel

The following morning, with clear views of the summit, we ascended Mount Etna. As we rose to the Rifugio Sapienza, at 5,900 feet, the landscape changed until forest and vibrant yellow broom gave way to bare rock, scree and lichen. There was something slightly unsettling about the familiar café buildings set in that alien landscape. Especially as earlier refuge buildings were now buried under lava!

After a stop at a winery and a much enjoyed lunch, we moved on to ancient Syracuse and the Grand Hotel on the Island of Ortygia. Beautiful sea views, largely car free, with ancient narrow streets, Ortygia is a pedestrian delight.

Dinner at the upmarket Don Camillo restaurant was an impressive treat, preceded by a walk around the beautifully illuminated town in the early hours of the evening.

Wednesday saw a cross-country journey to Agrigento on the south coast to visit the evocative Valle dei Templi. An excellent seafood dinner was enjoyed at our home for the night, the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort.

Leaving behind the wonderful sea view and the beautifully manicured greens of the golf course, the following morning found us on our way to Palermo and to the beautiful art nouveau Grand Hotel Villa Igiea.

After an introductory talk from our Guide, we commenced our walking tour in front of the imposing Teatro Massimo, the third largest opera house in Europe. We meandered through the Mercato di Capo street market, and continued by picking out the architectural highlights especially the stunning Sicilian Baroque church interiors.

Our farewell dinner was celebrated in the Restaurant ‘Cuvée du jour’ at the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, the menu having been planned weeks in advance with the Executive Chef.

The following day, with some of our group already returning home to Sri Lanka, the remaining members spent time enjoying more of Palermo, as well as visiting the old town of Cefalu and having one more outstanding dinner!

Nigel Austin, Bailli Délégué

Photos (c) Grand Hotel Villa Igiea