This year we introduced a new bicycling vacation to the amazing Italian island of Sicily. As the Italy travel experts, we knew we had to return to this Mediterranean island that has developed its own distinct Italian flavor by incorporating diverse influences. We’ve improved our Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages vacation for 2014—including a new Pre-trip to Taormina and an added lunch on a local family’s farm—and wanted to share our Top 5 reasons to join VBT cycling the southeastern corner of Sicily and discovering its rich history, delicious cuisine, and friendly locals.
The Bike Routes
Sicily is a beautiful island in the heart of the Mediterranean with some rolling hills and vast farmlands. “I was quite surprised at the beauty in the countryside with all of the acres of vegetables. We had the pleasure of lemon trees being in bloom which just accentuates the aura of the area” recalled a VBT traveler. The trip also mixes the terrain up a bit from day to day with stops at a couple of beaches and some lovely coastal riding as well. This tour is rated as Easy/Moderate which does include some hills, but rest assured that the VBT support van will always be on call to offer a snack or encouragement or transport you to any point along the way if you desire.
The Pre-and Post-trip Extensions
We listened to traveler feedback and have changed the Pre-trip extension from Palermo to Taormina for this vacation in 2014. You’ll have 2 nights to enjoy Taormina, with its incredible views ranging from its blue waters, the Etna volcano, the bay and rocks, and the little isle of Isola Bella. Take some time to stroll along the Corso Umberto with its classical music cafés, pastry shops and monuments left from the Arabs and Normans—like its gothic and baroque buildings. The tour ends in Syracuse and VBT offers a 2 night extension in the historic city. One VBT traveler advised “don’t skip the post-trip in Syracuse. It’s a delightfully sized, walkable city with our hotel on the island portion called Ortigia. If you’re up for a great walk there are miles of paths along the coast with a shipwreck along the way and views of Mt. Etna.”
The Local Cuisine
The region has a long history of producing a variety of noted cuisines and wines due to the diversity in cultural history and perfect climate—we’ve even heard some refer to the region as “God’s Kitchen”. We’ve added a new lunch at a local farm in Ognina, where we’ll picnic on the private grounds of a local family and learn about the native cherry tomatoes or ‘pomodoro Pachino’—which take their name from the nearby town of Pachino, where they were grown for the first time. Also included on this tour are stops at a Masserie, a local farm that prepares delicious pizza and empanadas, and an exclusive tour of the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto chocolate factory—which has processed cocoa seeds according to old Aztecan techniques since the late 1800’s. While staying in Noto we’ll pick borage, wild fennel, lemons and oranges on our hotel’s estate, and then take them to the kitchen to prepare a Sicilian recipe under the guidance of our chef. “The food and eating establishments VBT selected were beyond description and always served fresh and outstanding food,” said a VBT traveler after returning from a trip last May.
The Rich History
Sicily has a very rich history that is distinct from other areas of Italy. Since 750BC the island has been courted by the Greeks, refined by the Romans and influenced by the Moors. “We forget how young our own country is when walking in cities with history that is over 2,500 years old,” remembered a VBT traveler who visited last spring. Travelers on this trip will stay in a restored 19th century residence, explore fishing village founded in the 16th century and visit the ruins of Noto Antica—a town destroyed in an earthquake in 1693 that was once one of Sicily’s wealthiest and most beautiful towns. We’ll also venture to Ragusa Ibla—listed as a UNESCO World Site for its Baroque palaces and churches— and stroll along the pedestrian streets to discover the incredible architectural beauty.
The Warm Weather
While many biking vacations are only offered from the late spring through the early fall, our Sicily vacation has departures running from March to November, giving you plenty of chances to fit this amazing vacation in to your schedule. Since Sicily is located in the heart of the Mediterranean and lies much more south than most of Europe, you’ll enjoy weather with average temperatures in the mid 60’s or higher on all departures dates. One VBT traveler said “the weather was just right for pedaling; sunny and warm…with clear blue skies and ocean views”. That’s sounds pretty tough to beat!
So join us next year and let us show you the real Sicily. Our expert Trip Leaders are all from the area and know the local customs and traditions, as well as inside information about reliable places to shop, eat, explore, and relax while on tour. To learn more about Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages simply click on the following link: http://bit.ly/VBTSicily