People, beaches and wines of Sicily

Sicily is the land of contrasts and contradictions.

It is now one of the poorest regions in Europe and yet - for most of its history - it was among the richest.

Torso against a temple in AgrigentoValley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily

Diversity is a large part of Sicily’s identity. It has always been at the crossroads of races and cultures.

I’ve seen native Sicilians with dark complexion - descendants of the Moors. I’ve also met blue-eyed and red-haired heirs of the vikings who left Sicily almost a millennium ago.

Everyone feels equally Sicilian and coexists peacefully.

Moors heads in Ragusa SicilyMoorish heads - an ancient Sicilian tradition
Typical residential street of PalermoResidential street in Palermo
Taormina at nightTaormina at night

Wines of Sicily

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean.

I spent 2 weeks driving around and witnessed an incredible natural variety: tropical forests, active volcanoes, fertile valleys, mountains with snow caps and deserted landscapes.

That’s why there is no such thing as a typical Sicilian wine.

View of Modica SicilyModica - the place of pilgrimage for chocolate lovers
Ortigia square viewEmpty square next to Syracusa Cathedral

You can find everything in Sicily - from Riesling to Cab Sauv. But the magic is in the indigenous varieties.

Grillo, Carricante, Nero D’Avola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese - these names might not mean much to an international audience. But they are the ones we should be looking for on the Sicilian wine labels.

A glass of white wineGrillo!

In Sicily we tried a wine called Mamertino from Planeta - a blend of Nero d’Avola and Nocera.

Mamertino was one of the favourite wines of Julius Caesar and was praised by Pliny the Elder in the first ever classification of wines around 2000 years ago.

Not many wine regions can boast that kind of pedigree!

Bar Sabadi in Modica

Organics and Biodynamics

A Sicilian once told me that Sicily can get very cold - “sometimes you even need a down jacket”.

For someone who spent half of her life in Siberia and another half in Canada - this was very funny indeed.

San Vito lo CapoSan Vito lo Capo - western Sicily

Sicily is warm and dry most of the time. It occasionally rains and snows, especially in the mountains, but strong winds from Africa called Sirocco do away with moisture pretty fast.

I experienced Sirocco when I was in the hilltop village of Erice in Western Sicily. It came out of nowhere, lifted me off the ground - 120 lbs of me - and almost threw me off the cliff.

View from Erice in SicilyThe memorable mountaintop village of Erice - where I had an altercation with Sirocco

Sicily has ideal conditions for organic and biodynamic viticulture.

Some of the most exciting biodynamic producers in the world are here. Arianna Ochhipinti, COS and that crazy magician from mount Etna - Frank Cornelissen.

Cefalu - view from Enoteca

Sicily's wine regions

I was blown away by Sicily and its wines - quite literally (thanks Sirocco).

I didn’t expect any less from a wine region that received its first vine from Dionysis himself, as the ancient Greeks tell us. And who are we to doubt the ancients!

It is hard to find a corner of Sicily that is not planted with vines.

Grapes SicilyWhen no one is looking...


The most famous Sicilian wine region - and the one that’s on everybody’s radar.

It is a cooler region with some of the highest vineyards in all of Europe. Driving up mount Etna towards these vineyards, we crossed black lifeless stretches of land - cold lava from recent eruptions.

Volcanic soils in combination with indigenous varieties and high elevations give Etna wines their distinct character - ethereal and slightly haughty.

Mount Etna - view from TaorminaMount Etna - view from Taormina
Planeta winery on mount Etna - a wall built from volcanic rock.Vines on mount Etna - a terrace built from volcanic rock that is in abundance here.

Val di Noto

Val di Noto to the south of Etna produces Sicily’s big bold reds that I can’t get enough of. The most famous wine from these parts is Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Juicy, hot and sumptuous - like a Sicilian donna.

Planeta wine in SicilyWine from a legendary Sicilian producer Planeta - made from Nero D'Avola - a very important Sicilian variety


Western region called Marsala is struggling to regain its former glory. It used to be famous for Sherry-style white wines. But now it is gaining power as a producer of rich whites.

Grillo is the king here. All hail the king!

Valderice vineyardsSea of vines in western Sicily


There are many small islands around Sicily. Most of them produce fucking sensational wines.

The most iconic is Pantelleria - home to the legendary Moscato di Pantelleria sweet wine that apparently was used to seduce the god Apollo himself.

Cefalu beach at sunsetSunset in Sicily - looking towards Aeolian islands

Sicily's treasures (apart from wine)


The beaches are sensational. Sicily is a mediterranean island afterall.

Every beach has its own unique identity. But one thing is consistent - a sea of bright-coloured parasols.

Cefalu beachLooks like a postcard from the 80s - this is Cefalu in present times.
Tanning and relaxing by the sea in Sicily - top viewIf your definition of a beach is sand - think again!


The food in Sicily is fucking amazing.

Farm to table? Everything is farm to table. Sicily is heaven for a non-meat eater like myself.

Strawberries and Grillo - what else is needed for happiness?Strawberries and Grillo - what else is needed for happiness?


Sicily is the birthplace of modern Italian desserts.

While in Sicily - I had dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not sure where it all went, but I came back from Sicily fitter and trimmer than ever. Some kind of magic!

Cannoli from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto in ModicaCannoli from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto in Modica


Ancient temples, monasteries and villas are everywhere.

Most of them aren’t fenced off and you can freely roam around - smell, touch and lick remnants of ancient civilisations (respectfully!)

I got to watch a play at an ancient amphitheatre - didn’t understand a word of it since it was in Italian. But the view was worth a thousand words.

Piece of history in Agrigento SicilyA piece of history in my hand - at one of the temples in Agrigento, Southern Sicily
Segesta temple in western SicilySegesta temple - an absolute stunner


Roads are a dream.

Renting or hiring a car is the way to discover Sicily. Word of advice - stay away from Palermo and village centres. I’m afraid I am guilty of both of these offences - as a result I lost 5 years of my life and gained a few grey hairs.

Also, be wary of ancient routes that are supposed to be two-way but are barely wide enough for a one-way on a donkey (ahem Sp67).

Sunset over Ragusa Ibla in SicilySerpentine road through Ragusa - one of the most picturesque roads I've driven on

And... art!

In any form.

Churches - of course - are filled to the brim with oil and marble creations by old masters.

But I am more into Sicily’s incredible street and modern art. It’s everywhere. And it creates a perfect bridge between Sicily’s rich past and an even richer future.

No Mafia exhibit in Palermo Sicily
Street art in Palermo Sicily

I left a piece of my heart in Sicily. And I’m definitely coming back to reclaim it.

Ragusa - my back