Archive | agriturismo

6 Places in Sicily that are Worth the Trek {Over 1 Hour from Sigonella}

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Last week I shared our 10 Favorites in Sicily Within 1 Hour of Sigonella, which is also within one hour of Catania, the capital city on the east coast. Sicily is about the size of Massachusetts, though, and it takes about three hours to drive across it and two hours to drive the width of it.

What is your point, Becca?

My point: there is a lot to explore far, far away from Catania and Sigonella!

So, without further ado, here are a few places within two or three hours of Sigonella. They’re all very kid friendly (we took our little kids!) and showcase some of Sicily’s unforgettable beauty.

If you have questions or if my directions are wrong, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to get them updated. And if you have suggestions of your own, add them there too!

Agrigento

becca-garber-agrigento-kiss-family Agrigento, or the Valley of the Temples (Valli dei Templi), is about 2.5 hours from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We’ve visited twice and stayed overnight at this lovely B&B and at this agriturismo (farm stay). Both were very close to the archeological park, where we spent several hours exploring the ancient Greek and Roman ruins.

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The Greek temples are in beautiful condition, rivaling the magnificence of Athens. Some of the ruins are open for exploration, which is a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. The three temples are all in a line along a ridge overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean sea, so bring a picnic and enjoy the view if you can!

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While you’re there, don’t miss the dazzling Scala dei Turchi, or Turkish Steps. It’s a huge white limestone rock rising from a quiet beach, and the rock is easy to climb on with dazzling views. Here’s a map to the Turkish steps, which are about 20 minutes past Agrigento along the coast.

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Here are posts from my blog about our visits to Agrigento and the Turkish Steps:

San Vito Lo Capo & Zingaro Nature Preserve

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For almost three years, we heard friends rave about the turquoise water and soft sand beaches of western Sicily’s gem: San Vito Lo Capo. Finally we got to visit in March of this year, and it was just as dazzling as everyone said! The drive from Sigonella/Catania takes about three hours, which is arduous with small children, but the beauty and beachy low-key vibe of the area were worth it.

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We stayed in this rustic apartment with a gorgeous view. We were about 20 minutes from the town of San Vito Lo Capo, which is famous for that beautiful beach. We also were about 20 minutes from the Zingaro Nature Preserve, where we hiked through the preserve to find three gorgeous white stone beaches.

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The whole area is very popular in the summertime, and for good reason! Be sure to book your hotel or apartment well in advance. Our friends have enjoyed the option of “camping” at La Pineta very close to the beach.

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Here is my blog post about our visit to San Vito Lo Capo.

Granelli Beach

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I’m actually writing this while staying at Granelli Beach, where we have come for the second summer in a row. It’s a quiet cove on the very southeastern tip of Sicily, a 1.5-hour drive from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We loved the warm, shallow, calm water for the kids.

becca-garber-granelli-beach-sicily-12 Elliott first discovered it because he wanted to stay in a house ON the beach. Weirdly for an island like Sicily, rental houses on the beach are extremely rare. You almost always have to walk or drive a short distance. But he found one, and we rented it with our friends the Arthurs for a long weekend.

This year we returned to a pretty little cottage about three houses down the street from the beach, and I like this house even better. The enclosed garden is lush and beautiful, perfect for kids!

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Here are three posts from Granelli Beach:

Cefalu

becca-garber-cefalu-sicily-3 Continuing with the beach theme (clearly we’re obsessed!), Cefalu (cheff-ah-LOO) is a gorgeous town with a wonderful beach just less than two hours from Sigonella/Catania. Here’s a map. We stayed in this three-bedroom apartment just across the street from the beach.

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We spent a day exploring Cefalu, which has several lovely sites including the gorgeous cathedral and La Rocca (the Rock), which you can hike up for spectacular views of the town. We could even see the Aeolian Islands (described below) in the distance across the pure blue water!

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From my blog, see this post for more of our pictures of Cefalu, and check this one out if you’d like to have lunch in a castle nearby!

Aeolian Islands

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We visited the Aeolian Islands in May for the first time and, to be honest, it was not our best vacation. We both agree that was the weather’s fault, though; it rained most of the long weekend, and we were stuck inside with our kids. Two of my friends have visited since then and have had the same weather! So my first piece of advice about the Aeolian Islands is to check the weather report before you go!

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Nevertheless, the islands are a lovely vacation spot. Here are a few things we learned to make your trip easier:

1) There are five islands, all volcanic, but only one of them (Stromboli) is still an active volcano. The largest and most populated island is Lipari, and the main town on the island is Lipari Town. There’s no beach in Lipari Town, though, so we stayed in Canneto, which has a gorgeous beach and is about a 10-minute drive from Lipari Town.

2) We drove to Milazzo (20 minutes past Messina) where hydrofoils leave every hour for Lipari and the other islands. We parked our car at this reliable, popular garage, and then we took the hour-long ferry to Lipari Town.

3) We rented an apartment in Canneto, which has the only good beach + accommodation on the island of Lipari. It was a 10-minute drive from the port, and our apartment rental lady picked us up. We rented from these apartments. They were small but had great views of the beach! And they were super cheap, so that was nice. They were also right above the main grocery store in the town and right outside the bus stop, which came in very handy. If I could do it again, though, I might rent at Mistral Residence, which we passed and where I went inside to get information. The woman was lovely and spoke English, and it’s really an apartment-hotel situation with very good prices.

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4) There wasn’t much to do in Canneto besides go to the beach, so I recommend going in the warmer months when you are guaranteed to have no rain and warmer water. September (after the high season and when the water’s warmest) would be a dream.

5) Because we had little kids (ages three and one), the only thing we did outside Canneto was take the bus to Lipari Town to wander around and eat pizza for dinner. Other activities would be to take the bus around Lipari to other beaches and hikes, or take the hydrofoils to other islands, or going to Stromboli, the permanently active volcanic island. Tour guides arrange evening hikes so you can see it erupting inside at night, and it’s apparently really cool. You get home around midnight.

6) People also rent cars on the island, or you can take your own, but it’s pretty expensive and those larger ferries run less frequently. I think it’s cheaper just to rent at car in Lipari Town. We didn’t need a car, though, because the buses are very reliable, at least on the island of Lipari.

Madonie Mountains

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To be honest, other than my own house, the Madonie Mountains are my favorite place in Sicily. We visited them in December when the air was crisp and cool, when the fall foliage was at its peak, and when the mountains were lush and green after the autumnal rains. I loved the quaint mountain towns, the focus on Slow Food, and the taste of high mountain life that is so different from the plains of Catania.

For our long weekend in the mountains, we stayed at this wonderful agriturismo and ate amazing farm-to-table dinners in their restaurant every night. Spectacular food! We also hiked in the mountains on one of their guided tours and visited Castelbuono, the largest mountain town in the area.

If you have any interest in the mountain towns of Sicily (including many on the slopes of Mt Etna), I highly recommend this beautiful memoir.

For more information and photos, see this post.

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———

Of course, there are approximately 973 other amazing things to see, do, taste, and experience in Sicily, and — even with three years here — we ran out of time. I hope you get to see all these places and more during your time in Sicily! It is a rustic, gorgeous land, and living here has been one of the best experiences of our lives.

If you’d like to see more of our favorite places in Sicily, check out this post.

As always, I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions about visiting Sicily. Happy exploring!

5 :: in agriturismo, beach, Italy, memories, military life, San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, travel

Our 10 Favorites in Sicily {Within 1 Hour of Sigonella}

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I’ve been wanting to share some of our favorite day trips, restaurants, and beaches in Sicily because these places hold our best memories from the three years we’ve spent in this beautiful place. I hope new generations of visitors and Sigonella military families to enjoy them after we depart!

If you have questions or if my directions are wrong, please let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to get them updated. And if you have suggestions of your own, add them there too!

Taormina

I love Taormina so much that I could go there every week, and Elliott thinks that I pretty much do. It is the prettiest town in Sicily, and it’s what you dream of when you hear the word “Italy.”

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When you visit Taormina, you can park in two different places: at the bottom of town and ride the cable car up into the old town, or in the public garage right outside of the old town.

The cable car parking lot costs about 5 euro a day, and cable car tickets are 3 euro each way per person. (Small children ride for free.) The cable car drops you off right outside the city walls of Taormina.

If you prefer not to ride the cable car, follow the road signs from the toll booth to “Taormina” or “Porta Catania” (the name of the huge public garage). Once you park in the garage, you can walk up the hill and enter the city. I usually do this, and I pay about 8 euro to park for 5 hours.

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Now you’re in Taormina! I always eat lunch at Da Cristina, which was written up in the New York Times and sells the best Sicilian street food I’ve ever eaten. We stop for mini cannoli at one of the little pastry shops along the way. We generally walk through the town until we reach the beautiful Villa Comunale gardens, which has stunning views, quiet benches, stone picnic tables (yes!), a fish pond, Amazon parrots that say “ciao!”, and a dilapidated playground that my kids love.

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On our way back up the hill from the park, we always, always stop at Bam Bar for the best granita (Italian ice) in Taormina. Actually, it’s the best granita in the world. Get the lemon and raspberry (limone e lampone) or maybe the coffee granita with thick whipped cream on top. Order a brioche (sweet bun) and a cappuccino, and take a bite of everything for me!

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Beach tip: The cable car parking lot is also a great place to park if you want to visit the beach in Taormina. You just have to walk out of the parking lot, turn right, climb the hill, and cross the street (follow the signs) to take a long flight of stairs down to the rocky beach. In April, this staircase is full of brilliant purple wisteria! On the rocky beach, you can also wade across to the beautiful little island of Isola Bella, where a Scottish heiress built herself a house when she escaped her unhappy marriage.

To inspire your visit, here are all our many Taormina adventures!

Cassibile Nature Reserve Beach

We love a lot of beaches in Sicily, but Cassibile is our favorite. It’s also called Fonda Pineta del Gelsomineto. It’s an hour drive from Sigonella, past Siracusa, so generally we make a day of it. The pin in this map indicates the beach. Admission costs 10-12 euro during the week and 12-15 euro on the weekend during the summer, and you pay the parking attendant when you turn at the new yellow building by the side of the road.

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Bring food, a portable grill, a beach umbrella, a beach tent, your dog, whatever you like. There are virtually no rules. There is a tiny cafe, and sometimes a guy walks down the beach with a cooler full of fresh coconut, but otherwise no food for sale. There are public bathrooms, but nowhere else to change, so I come and go in my swimsuit.

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My husband loves to take visitors and friends on a short walk/hike (shoes or flip flops are recommended) up the cliffs to a safe place to jump off into the water below. I’m always stuck on the beach with a baby, but he says it’s great! We’ve also explored the pillbox on the northern end of the beach; it was used by the Germans during WWII to watch for invaders by sea.

Siracusa & Ortigia

I love to take visitors to beautiful Ortigia, the little island connected by a short bridge to the city of Siracusa. I usually park at this large parking lot and then wander through the city towards the main piazza.

My absolute favorite place to eat is right there in the piazza at the delicious pizzeria called La Volpe e  l’Uva (The Fox and the Grape). Their menu is trendy and their food is delicious, and I will dream about their four cheese pizza forever.

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After lunch and a gelato cone, we wander down to the waterfront, where papyrus grows in a little freshwater pond. Sometimes we go swimming at the tiny little beach in the port. One summer my sister-in-law and I were so hot, and the teenagers in their mismatched bikinis looked so happy jumping off the pier into the sparkling water, that finally we just took off our shorts and jumped into the water with them!

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While in Siracusa, I have also visited the Archeological Park several times. It’s about a 10-minute drive from Ortigia, and it’s possible to do both in the same day. Admission is 10 euro per person (buy your ticket across the street from the entrance), and there are three large archeological sites to see inside the gates: an amphitheater, a theater that is still in use during the summer, and a cave with a notorious echo.

Here are photos from three trips to Siracusa

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Catania

I visit Catania at least once a month, mostly because I absolutely love the huge market. It’s open every day except Sunday from 8am-1pm, and the prices and produce are incomparable.

I park here underneath the arched bridge. My friend taught me to do this and I’ve been parking here for three years with no issues. The attendant (a friendly guy with gray hair) guides me to a parking spot and will watch my car until about 1:30pm for whatever I want to pay him. I usually give him two euro. Clearly it’s not “legal,” but it isn’t illegal either, a paradox that only makes sense in certain parts of the world.

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Once I park, I walk through the main city gate into Elephant Square (Piazza Duomo/Fontane dell’Elefante). I then might:

  • Ride the tourist train around the city (here are pictures and information from a trip we took)
  • Walk into the huge and magnificent Cattedral Sant’Agata
  • Stroll down the main street of Catania (Via Etnea) to get the best arancini in the city at Pasticceria Savia. I then walk across the street to eat them in the Giardino Bellini, the beautiful public gardens.
  • Wander around the market for fresh produce and fish. When you’re in Elephant Square, look for the white marble fountain. The fish market is behind it (a must-see!), and the fresh fruits and vegetables start there. I buy fresh live mussels (three euro a kilo) for dinner almost every time I come here.

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On our way out, the kids love to visit the playground right next to where we park. The playground is in pretty good condition and has a lot of equipment, which is unusual for Sicilian playgrounds.

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Mount Etna

It is possible to hike most of the way up Mt Etna, and we did it once as a family right after we moved to Sicily. It was an experience I don’t want to repeat — lava is not interesting scenery! — but I’m glad we did it. Mt Etna erupted while we were as high as we were allowed to climb, and that is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can read about that whole adventure (and get some advice) here.

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These days when we hike on Mt Etna, we drive to Etna Sud (the South Station) and hike on a trail nearby. You can find the trail head by driving through the South Station, passing the Silvestri crater on your right, going down the hill, and parking at the T intersection at the bottom of that hill. There’s a little volcanic ash parking lot to your left at that intersection (here’s the location on Google Maps). A wonderful trail starts at that parking lot; just walk around the metal boom and start up the rocky path. The hike takes about 45 minutes for active adults and leads you around the side of Mt Etna to look down into the huge, black lava field. You can continue up the path from there to climb more of Etna if you’d like. Here are pictures from one of our hikes.

You can ski on Mt Etna, too! Here’s everything you need to know.

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Nicolosi

While you’re near Mt Etna, there is a lot to see and enjoy in Nicolosi. This beautiful mountain town is full of delicious restaurants, shops, cafes, parks, and B&Bs. Elliott and I have gone there twice for overnight getaways, staying in this lovely little B&B both times.

We’ve enjoyed delicious spreads at three restaurants and I recommend all of them: Antichi Proverbi, Antico Orto Dei Limone, and 1877 . We also love cappuccinos and gelato at La Dolce Vita and pre-dinner drinks at Santo Doca in the main piazza.

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Here are links to our first getaway without the kids and our romantic skiing weekend (oxymoron?).

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We also love to hike in Monti Rossi, which is a beautiful park on two small hills just outside the town of Nicolosi. There is a ropes course there that’s a lot of fun for kids’ birthday parties (Monti Rossi Adventure Park), and past that is a picnic and grill area. Elliott and I have hiked all over the two hills with and without our kids, and we always feel like we’re in another world when we step into the quiet pine forest.

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Borgo Antico Agriturismo

There’s nothing like Sunday lunch at a Sicilian agriturismo! Our favorite farm-to-table restaurant is Borgo Antico Agriturismo, which is about 30 minutes from Sigonella. As of Summer 2014, the meal costs 30 euro per adult and it is worth every penny. There are four courses:

  • Appetizers, which consists of about 15 different dishes, all more delicious than the last!
  • Pasta, usually two different kinds with homemade pasta
  • Meat, usually three different platters accompanied by a simple salad
  • Dessert and seasonal fruit

The meal also includes as much wine and olive oil as you want to consume, and both are made from grapes and olives on Borgo’s land. The setting is lovely, and between courses the kids can run outside in the citrus groves. I’ve been there at least five times and each meal is better than the last.

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We also enjoyed an incredible agriturismo meal in Randazzo on Mt Etna at Etna Quota Mille. where the meats were grilled instead of breaded and fried like at Borgo. A vineyard called Nanfro (also about an hour from Sigonella) serves an incredible agriturismo meal accompanied by their own delicious wines, and the tour of the vineyard is also fascinating.

Casa delle Farfalle (The Butterfly House)

We love to go here as a family on Sunday afternoons, which is when the butterfly garden is open to the public. We park for two euro for the day, and admission to the butterfly house costs 5 euro per adult. The employees will want to give you a tour in English if they can, and we’ve enjoyed that every time, although it is tedious with small children. Afterwards you’re left alone to enjoy the beautiful butterfly garden.

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We picnic in the grass behind the butterfly garden, usually surrounded by other picnicking families. We’ve always been the only Americans there, so it’s a wonderful chance to mix quietly with Italian families enjoying the sunshine and outdoors on a Sunday afternoon.

becca-garber-casa-delle-farfalle-butterfly-house-sicily-2.jpg The butterfly garden is also open on Saturdays and weekdays, but you will have to call and make a reservation. Only Sundays are public. It’s open from April to October during the year.

I wrote about the butterfly garden twice before: visiting with other moms and kids and a Sunday afternoon family trip.

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The Sigonella Inn Pool

There is a pool on base at Sigonella, but you have to pay to use it (usually $4 for adults and $3 for kids) and it is only open for recreational swimming from 12:30-6pm from roughly Memorial Day to Labor Day. By 12:30, the baby pool is in the shade, and it gets cold for kids and moms.

So, because of sunshine, nap schedules, and general thriftiness, I head to the Sigonella Inn pool across the street from NAS 1 instead. This pool is free if you don’t rent a deck chair (which is 5 euro), and the shallow kids’ pool is beautiful and lit with sunshine. We usually leave by 2pm because apparently the pool party really heats up later in the day. On the weekends, it’s bustling with Italians and Americans together, and I love being a part of the melting pot.

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Also, their restaurant makes pizza at the poolside for about six euro a pizza, and you can eat it in a take-out box right by the pool. This summer my friend Sarah have gotten into the habit of swimming with our kids and enjoying pizzas at least once a week!

Random mom tip: if you’re looking for a cool place to go on a hot day, IKEA is not a bad choice. During the week it’s not crowded, and there is a delicious restaurant to break up your browsing for everything you don’t need but are going home with anyway. The restaurant is also right by the kids’ section, which has a great play area. My kids play, eat the food I brought (hello thrifty), get a 50-cent ice cream cone from the super fabulous machine, and then play some more before we leave. I love the place so much that I’ve blogged about it here as a playdate and here with a brand new baby!

Caltagirone

Home of Sicily’s traditional yellow-and-blue ceramics, Caltagirone is a lovely spot to browse take visitors, shop for souvenirs, and eat a delicious meal at a tucked-away restaurant. In addition to shopping for ceramics, I have visited during the Christmas season to see the many presepe (nativity) scenes set up in garages and little shops throughout the town. More details in these blog posts: pottery shopping and the presepe.

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——–

We have loved our three years in Sicily, but I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of cappuccino. If you’re about to move here, it will probably be a lot different from what you’re expecting. And those who have lived here for any length of time know that it’s easy to focus on the negatives, like the driving, or the trash, or everything that comes with living in a rural area.

What we have found is that it’s best to focus on what Sicily does best: deliciously fresh produce and seafood, rich red wine that’s cheap as water, the tallest active volcano in Europe, farm-to-table meals that last all afternoon, sparkling turquoise water by yellow sand beaches, warm and filling street food, and — of course! — sweet gelato cones on hot summer afternoons.

Combine this with Sicily’s warm, generous, welcoming, wonderful people, and you have a whole new world at your fingertips. I wish you a wonderful time in Sicily!

23 :: in agriturismo, beach, hiking, Italy, memories, military life, Mt Etna, pretty places, Sicily, skiing, Taormina, travel

a weekend in the Madonie Mountains of Sicily

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We took this trip over a month ago, but somehow in the rush of Christmas and the new year, I haven’t had a chance to post the photos yet! Our weekend trip to the mountains was so beautiful, though, and we had a wonderful time with my mom, who was visiting for 10 days. I literally found my new favorite place in Sicily and really hope we get a chance to go back!

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The Madonie Mountains are in north-central Sicily, and they are particularly famous for the beautiful hilltop mountain towns (like the one in the first photo). I was reading The Stone Boudoir, a memoir about Sicily’s mountain towns including several in the Madonie Mountains. The hills literally were alive for me that weekend as I absorbed vistas, streets, and foods in real life and through the pages of my book.

We stayed in an agriturismo (farm stay) because we wanted to enjoy the fruits of the region. The Slow Food movement originated nearby, and our host proudly told us that all but a few of the things we ate were from “kilometer zero,” or were harvested/gathered 0 kilometers away. We loved that agriturismo, and so if you visit, be sure to check out Casale Magherita.

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A little fall foliage in December!

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We also visited one of the five most famous mountain towns in the region. This one was called Castelbuono and is the largest of the five. We explored the castle, wandered through the streets, and ate an amazing lunch at Ristorante Palazzaccio.

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View of Castelbuono from its castle.

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Lena and my mom admiring a huge presepe (Nativity scene).

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I really liked all the clean laundry, I guess…

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We sampled traditional Christmas sweet bread (panetonne) with a spread made from manna, the dried sap of the ash tree for which the region is also famous.

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Salute! Cheers!

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Even more wonderful (and challenging) than visiting a mountain town with two small children was an incredible and verrrrry long hike we took during our visit with an Italian outdoors group. Photos from the hike coming soon!

7 :: in agriturismo, family, Italy, pretty places, Sicily, travel

our harrowing adventure to an Italian winery

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I’ve been wanting to go see Gambino Winery for a long time.  Like… years.  But Elliott and I both wanted to invite friends to go with us, and we just never planned ahead enough to do that.  (Typical.)  Finally we got our act together and invited two couples that are becoming good friends.  (See this post!)

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Unfortunately, the morning that we chose to go also happened to be a day that Etna decided to erupt.  She’s been erupting a lot lately, but it’s usually just a pretty spew of lava.  That day, unfortunately, it was a gigantic ash cloud, the largest we’d ever seen.  We admired it from our kitchen window and then jumped in the car to drive up the slopes of Mt Etna to the winery.

You might be thinking ahead of us and wondering if there could be a problem here?  The fact that we were driving right into the ash cloud didn’t occur to us until we were about to get off the highway and both turned to each other in surprise.

“Is the road under construction?  What’s all this gravel?”

“Wait, is there something falling on the car?  Is it raining?”

“No, it’s ash from Etna.  Wow, the whole road is covered.  It’s not gravel… it’s a 1/2 inch of ash!  And it’s still falling!”

We got off the highway, noticing with a slight sense of anxiety that the highway entrance was now closed indefinitely.  We turned onto smaller mountain roads as we began to climb the mountain toward the winery.

My friend Laura texted me to say that their GPS indicated they would be 15 minutes late… sorry!  (No problem… so would we.  As usual.  Everywhere.)

We continued to follow Google Maps on my phone as it wound up the mountain.  The GPS led us to turn off onto smaller and steeper roads, which is a serious issue when they are covered in loose, gravelly ash.  A couple of times our car’s tires whined, scrabbling for purchase on the slippery roads, and then lurched forward, fishtailing slightly before getting a grip.  We exchanged sweaty glances and ignored our increasingly fussy kids in the back seat.

After a couple of stressful wrong turns, we finally followed our GPS around a tight turn and up a narrow gravel road.  At this point we dead-ended at a farm, made a wrong turn, came back to the farm, and stared at the road the GPS was telling us to take.  I got out and walked down the road to confirm our suspicions.  No, we were correct.  The “road” was a farm lane that petered out into a straggly vegetable patch.  From somewhere nearby we heard a farmer singing as he worked in his garden.

We were officially completely lost.

At that moment we heard a car coming up the road behind us, tires digging furiously in the loose gravel and ash.  We got out of our car to watch as a large, black, American car squeezed around the rock wall and then slowly pulled up in front of us.  Our friends got out.

“So I guess this isn’t the winery?

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I’m going to skip ahead — past the hilarious laughter, past the cheerful Italian man who came upon us then and guided us back to the main road in his car, past the realization that the directions on the winery website were actually correct, past the absurd and second wrong turn that led us up steep gravelly roads that we eventually had to all back our cars down, past the enormous and almost anguished sense of relief we felt as we parked our cars and ran into the winery, ever-so-grateful for that basket of bread and full glasses of dark red wine.

And then there we were, sitting peacefully around a large farmhouse table, eating and drinking and relaxing together the way you assume you always will when you move to Italy.  Roads and GPS units excepted.

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For 20 euro for each adult, we were served a full meal of antipasti, sausages, soups, espresso, and dessert, and we also were given five bottles of wine to taste and take home and as much bread, olive oil, and balsamic as we could eat.

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Three of the five wonderful wines that we sampled.

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Very typical Sicilian food: grilled eggplant and sausages sprinkled with crushed pistachios.

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Alyssa and Jake… who read this blog before they got to Sicily and now get to see themselves on it!  What what!

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Eggs from local free-range hens.  Apparently the eggs went very well with the last, strongest wine!

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My sweet friend Laura and her new fan, Miss Lena-Making-Silly-Faces.

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Growing big and handsome on Italian bread and olive oil.

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After the meal we headed outside for awhile to walk off the wine and take in the view.  The patio outside the winery was covered in crunchy, ever-so-lightweight ash, some of the chunks as big as our palms.

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We could step right into the vineyards themselves and walk around.  Clusters of grapes still clung to the branches, and the leaves were turning red and gold in the cold autumnal air.  becca-garber-gambino-winery-19

The main building of the winery is brand new and beautiful, and the owners are digging a wine cellar now that will be visible through the plexiglass floor of the main tasting room.

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Tasting the season’s leftovers!

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We attempted a family picture in the vineyard, and this one makes me laugh.  So typical of Gil these days!

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But this one turned out pretty well.  To our new friends: thanks so much for braving the mountain right after it erupted (talk about induction into the Sicilian Driving Club) and for making crazy memories in Italy with us!  We’re so glad you’re here.

6 :: in agriturismo, Italy, Mt Etna

saying goodbye, Sicilian style

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Oh, sigh… bittersweet pictures.  They’re from a goodbye party for some of our very dear friends — Emily, Nathan, and their little daughter Ava — who left Sicily last week.  I still can’t believe they’re gone!  Emily and Ava came up to my house every single Wednesday to play and visit.  This Wednesday is going to be especially glum.

They did host a fabulous goodbye party for themselves, though.  The location they chose was the farm of Mariska and Emilio, an Italian and Swiss couple whose beautiful farm — Azienda Agricola Infantino — is hidden away in the rolling green hills of Sicily.  Mariska and Emilio host groups for al fresco lunches and dinners, offer Italian cooking classes, and sell their delicious olive oil online.

We spent a late April afternoon there, soaking up the sun and eating pasta with half-a-dozen different sauces.   The children jumped on the trampoline and played with the animals; the adults traded off child duty and otherwise sat in the shade and drank wine.  If there is a good way to leave Sicily, I think our friends found it!

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^ The town of Mineo is perched on the hill behind Nancy and Becca.

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^ Trampoline time… for hours!  The farm owners’ daughter fell in love with Lena.

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^ Awesome truck, regal turkey.

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^ Bethany and Emily before lunch was served outside.

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^ On the right, this is how you drain a pot of pasta for 30 people!

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^ Cramped photo of my lunch.  I’m learning it’s very hard to take pictures with a baby in your arms!

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^ Four-week-old kittens!

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^ Mama spotted us humans with her baby, gathered him up by the scruff of his neck, and carried him back to his nest.

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^ Gil, just chillin’ and blowing spit bubbles (his new thing).

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Happy trails, dear friend!  Can’t wait to see you soon in your new digs.

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17 :: in agriturismo, animals, friends, Italy, Sicily

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