8 Days Sicily Cooking Adventure in Italy

  • Nido del Pellegrino, Contrada Grosso, 91023 Favignana Trapani, Sicily, Italy

Seaside Sicily Cooking & Adventures

This adventure of a lifetime starts on the tiny Sicilian island of Favignana, where you will stay on your own private peninsula surrounded by crystalline waters and rocky cliffs. The cooking classes will focus on traditional Sicilian home cooking, while the sightseeing will take you to wineries in Marsala, the Salt Flats of Trapani, and beautiful Erice. You'll get to know the locals as you explore true Sicilian tradition on days packed with amazing experiences, such as casting nets at sea with local fishermen, harvesting salt, swimming in crystal-clear grottoes, cheese-making with a local shepherd, and much more.

Highlights

  • Enjoy an Italian barbecue on a cliff
  • Italian seaside picnic, Mediterranean food
  • 3 cooking classes, sausage making class, baking class
  • Ricotta cheese making, cheese tasting, wine tour, wine tasting
  • Tuna cannery visit, salt harvest, fishing, boating, snorkeling
  • Boat ride to explore beautiful grottoes or ancient caves
  • 6 nights luxury & 1 night basic accommodation
  • 7 breakfasts, 7 dinners, 6 lunches, wines
  • 4 days with instruction
  • English
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Nido del Pellegrino, Sicily, Italy (6 nights)

For the first six nights of this vacation, you will be staying at the Nido del Pellegrino on your own private peninsula of Favignana Island, off the west coast of Sicily. The "Nido del Pellegrino" (Pellican's Nest), was once an Italian WWII Military Base, and the old gun turrets are still visible on the peninsula. It went through a complete restoration process in 2010 converting the buildings into luxury mini-apartments. It boasts breathtaking 180-degree views of the Mediterranean Sea.

As you walk around the property, there are beautiful trails that take you along the cliffs, and lead down to your private beach on one side, and private dock on the other. All of the mini apartments have an independent entrance, private bathrooms, kitchens, refrigerators. They are all air-conditioned and heated. They have television in each home with satellite service, allowing you to English language programming. Furthermore, free Wi-Fi internet access is available throughout, however the internet on the island is spotty.

La Pineta, Erice, Sicily, Italy (1 night)

Island weather and sea conditions can be unpredictable, so it is important not to stay on the island for your final night due to the risk that the morning hydrofoils may not run in case of bad sea conditions on your departure morning. In order to insure against potential transfer problems, you will be staying in the town of Erice on the mainland for your final night at "La Pineta". This is a rustic little hotel right in the town of Erice, with breathtaking views.

It is important to note that these are not luxury accommodations. There are no luxury accommodations in this area of Sicily, but it is nice, and the trade-off for luxury here is that Erice is the most beautiful town in Western Sicily, giving you a wonderful place to get some last minute shopping and sightseeing in, as well as an excellent location for your farewell BBQ with the sausages you made in your final class.

Cooking vacations in Sicily

Hundreds of thousands of people tour Sicily, but there is nothing anything like this. You will have experiences that will have you telling stories for the rest of your life. This all-inclusive trip offers experiences that give you an insider's view of Sicily that is nearly impossible to have in any other way. This trip is full of incredibly unique cultural experiences that you will never forget.

You will live the Sicilian life as you cook authentic local recipes together, interact with and befriend the locals, get to know small-village artisans, and so much more. The retreat will make you pinch yourself over and over in amazement that you are actually living it. It is an all-access pass to true Sicilian life like nothing else out there, and you limit it to no more than 15 people per trip. Most of all, it is a week of fun, family and laughter as you share what makes Sicily so special in a very personal way.

Going with the flow vacation

To begin with, you are on a tiny island, and the weather often changes on a dime. Add to that that you are in Sicily, which is not nearly as developed as the rest of Italy, and lots of things can interfere with our plans. Remember, you are off the beaten path and you don't do what the big commercial tour companies do.

You deal quite a bit with people that are not so accustomed to the "timing" ad "expectations" of tourism. What this means is that you must always take it in stride. For example, on one week there was a storm on the start date. The ferry boats simply "decided" not to offer service to the island that day, so you had to scramble to find a hotel on the mainland and make due.

Another time, you were supposed to go visit the grottoes of a nearby island. The fisherman on the island called to tell you that the weather was not good enough to go out. On this island, it looked beautiful, but he made the decision, and there was no convincing him otherwise. Was the weather on his island really bad? You don't know. Maybe it was, or maybe he just felt like sleeping in that day. Either way, when you raise a concern, the only reply you ever get is, quite simply "This is Sicily, what do you expect?".

The point here is that this is completely correct. This is, in fact, Sicily. And this is what one should expect there. Things will happen if they happen, and often things that were never planned happen and are better than expected. The trick here is to let it all flow, take everything in stride, live the "island" life, and in the end it all somehow magically comes together as something amazing. That said, those that are a little more uptight, rely on schedule, and expect everything to go as planned will almost always be displeased with "The Sicilian Way".

Italian cooking classes

You will have four half-day completely hands-on cooking classes this week; the cooking classes are not demonstrations. They are 100% hands-on. They are structured so that you can be as involved as you desire in every stage of every course you prepare. So, if you are up for it, you will get wrist-deep as you make eggplant Parmesan from scratch, veal Marsala, cannoli, amazing Sicilian seafood dishes, and much more.

You will even have a class that is all about Sicilian sausage! For those who would rather eat than cook, there is always something to do. Head down to the beautiful seaside with crystal clear waters, opt for a scuba lesson, spend the morning at the beach, or relax in the sun on the giant cliffs overlooking the sea.

Foodie experiences

This vacation is all about rich cultural experiences that are never part of some touristy offering. Most of the cultural experiences are done with local friends that do what they do only with Culture Discovery Vacations, making each a truly intimate experience. When you go night fishing, you are out with a local fisherman on his nightly fishing trip; you cast the nets with him, you get to know him, you clean the fish with him, and you even help him sell the catch at the local market.

When you are making Ricotta, you are on the private farm of a local shepherd, not at a commercial cheese factory that does "cheese tours". You will see many of the same locals over and over on the boats, in their homes for dinner. You will not be a tourist. You will be a guest. While thousands drive the Trapani Salt Road on their tours, they will be looking at the people out there harvesting salt. On these trips, you are the people those tourists are watching out there harvesting the salt and of course, you bring it home with you!

Day 1, Saturday - Arrival, welcome dinner

  • You start your week at the Palermo Airport (PMO).
  • You will be met at the airport arrivals at 14:30 and driven to the Port of Trapani.
  • Once there, you will board the hydrofoil to Favignana Island, that will bring you to your accommodations for the week to get you checked in at the "Nido".
  • As you arrive and get settled in, you will find snacks and drinks available.
  • In the early evening, you will head into town at have some Granita, gelato, and drinks together as you discuss the week ahead and get to know one another.
  • Tonight, you will have our welcome dinner at the Due Colonne trattoria, a lovely place in the heart of Favignana village.
  • After dinner, you'll have time for a nice stroll and visit the local shops, then head home for the evening.
  • Dinner: at the Due Colonne trattoria.

Day 2, Sunday - Cooking class, tuna cannery visit, excursion, restaurant visit

  • As you wake up this morning, you will find breakfast awaiting you in the courtyard outside.
  • You'll have local Sicilian pastries, cappuccino, espresso, tea, etc. at the little courtyard snack bar.
  • Time to get ready for the day while having breakfast overlooking the beautiful morning sea.
  • After breakfast, you will head up to Ivan and Betta's house, which boasts breathtaking views of the sea.
  • This is where you will be having your cooking classes on the island. You will get an "apron up" as you arrive and get right to it.
  • The class will result in today's lunch.
  • Afterwards, you will head back home to rest up a bit before an evening in town.
  • In the late afternoon, you will go to the island's Tuna Cannery.
  • After a brief tour of the cannery, you will have some time to stroll and shop in the village before you head out to the Antichi Mulini trattoria for dinner together.
  • For dinner tonight, you will be having one of the most surprisingly traditional dishes of Sicily: Cus Cus! Historically, Sicily had a tremendous amount of influence from the east, and through the ages, Cus Cus has become a staple item in every kitchen here.
  • Tonight, you will try to get to bed early, as you will be getting up in the middle of the night for the fishing excursion!

Day 3, Monday - Fishing, boat ride

  • Early to rise for those that are up for it! Very early!
  • Depending on the sea conditions, you may start our day as early at 03:00. For those that would rather sleep than fish, spend the morning taking it easy at home, sunbathe, or go swimming.
  • At noon, you will go boating and have lunch. You will have time to swim, sunbathe, and relax.
  • In the late afternoon, you will go back home for some time to rest and freshen up before dinner.
  • You will head to the Lido Burrone Beach, where tonight, you will have a simple pizza dinner after this long day at sea.

Day 4, Tuesday - Boat ride, excursions, picnic

  • A Mediterranean breakfast will be ready for you in the morning in the courtyard at The Nido, before boarding a Hydrofoil that will take you to the Island of Marettimo.
  • Lunch today will be light Sicilian panini on the boat. After the visit, you will head back to Favignana for some time to rest up.
  • This evening, at sunset, you will head down to the private dock on the water below the cliffs.
  • There, Ivan will meet you after having been diving for sea urchins in the local waters.
  • You will have a Sicilian seaside picnic during sunset.
  • Later, you will head back into town for dinner at a local trattoria in Favignana.

Day 5, Wednesday - Cheese making, cheese tasting, cooking class

  • A Mediterranean breakfast will be ready for you in the morning in the courtyard at The Nido.
  • Once you are ready, you will head up to a small farm in the hills of the island for a cheese making session and cheese tasting.
  • You will return again to Ivan and Betta's villa for cooking once again with Adelina.
  • After lunch, you will go back to The Nido and relax by the water below the cliffs where you can simply take it easy or go for a swim. For those wishing to spend some time at the beach, transportation to and from one of the local beaches will be offered and you will be provided with a beach chair an umbrella. You will also have bicycles available for anyone wishing to explore the island on their own.
  • Tonight, you will be having dinner at Ivan and Betta's villa. Ivan will be cooking dinner for you. And tonight, you will be departing from Sicilian food just a bit. Ivan is from Bologna, so he will be making something his mother always made him growing up. You will have fried "Crescentine", served with various sauces, cheese, salame, jellies, and rivers of wine!
  • Tonight you are at home, not at a restaurant, so don't be surprised if locals (some you have surely met) just show up for dinner tonight! When they do, someone always breaks out a guitar, and if you have learned anything about island life over the years, they all sing and play guitar here and you always end up learning some Sicilian folk songs, dancing, and singing along!

Day 6, Thursday - Cooking class, free time, snorkeling, barbecue

  • A Mediterranean breakfast will be ready for you in the morning in the courtyard at The Nido.
  • You will return again to Ivan and Betta's villa for cooking once again with Adelina.
  • Lunch will naturally be what you prepared in class today.
  • After lunch, you will head back home for some time to rest.
  • For those that want to keep on the go, you will have head out by bicycle to a local beach and do some snorkeling.
  • Tonight, you will have a Grigliata (Italian BBQ) under the stars on the cliffs of your private peninsula; you are sure to be joined by many others tonight. Like BBQ's back home, Sicilian grills are a very "come one, come all" experience. Hopefully, Gibbarossa will leave his farm for the evening, and Rosario will still be awake. Expect another night of music, dancing, and singing!

Day 7, Friday - Boat ride, wine tour, wine tasting, salt harvest, salt tasting, sausage making class

  • This morning, you will be checking out of The Nido, as you will be leaving Favignana and sleeping on Mainland Sicily in Erice for your final night, because ferry service from the island tomorrow morning cannot be guaranteed in case of poor sea conditions.
  • You will have breakfast in town before boarding the ferry to Marsala.
  • You'll start your morning with a visit to the "Genna" winery in Marsala.
  • You will then drive up the famous "Salt Road" between Marsala and Trapani an stop at the Ettore Infersa Salt Flats, where Italy's best sea salt comes from.
  • Next, you will head to the town of Val d'Erice, where you will visit the area's most celebrated butcher, Francesco Campo, who will teach the Sicilian sausage class.
  • You will start with a late lunch, consisting of many of his wonderful salamis, local cheese, and more. Finally, you will begin the sausage making class.
  • You won't be having your sausage just yet, though. After you have made your sausage, you will head up to the medieval village of Erice, where you will check in to your hotel for your final night.
  • Once checked in, you will have time to rest or explore this beautiful town and get some last minute shopping. Erice is the only place you go all week that is in the traditional "tourist guides", so they have lots of shopping for souvenirs that you may like to get out of the way before leaving.
  • Tonight, your dinner will be at La Pinetta, in a beautiful location with a breathtaking view! You will be grilling up the sausage you made today, as well as other local specialties. Music, singing, dancing, and friends.

Day 8, Saturday - Departure

  • Morning departure.

Culture Discovery Vacations is located in a part of Sicily that is still real, and you will find yourself discovering fantastic places that the travel business hasn't caught onto yet. You will visit a private winery in Marsala, you'll take trips to incredible places with breathtaking grottoes off the coast, you'll visit the mountaintop village of Erice, you'll experience the Salt Mines of Trapani, and so much more. These excursions are not the worn Sicilian history tours, they are excursions that bring you into a Sicily few foreign tourists ever experience,seeing Sicily not just like an Italian, but like a Sicilian insider.

Cities and islands you will visit:

  • Favignana
  • Marettimo (or Levanzo)
  • Marsala
  • Trapani

Factories, wineries, and mills visit and experiences

  • Florio Tuna Cannery
  • Italian BBQ
  • Make Ricotta cheese with local shepherd
  • Marsala winery
  • Night fishing with local fisherman; selling catch at market
  • Sea urchin "Ricciata"
  • Trapani salt flats

Cheese making, cheese tasting

You will visit a local shepherd, Gibarossa. This is an amazing man that you are sure to never forget. Together, you will make Ricotta cheese that you will be using for the pastry class. You will taste some of the fresh cheese as you make it before heading off to the cooking class for the day.

Day excursion - Boat ride

At around noon, Rosario and Enzo will bring the fishing boat to the private dock at The Nido, and they will have set some of the fish you caught aside for you. You will boat around the island to a beautiful spot, where you will cook up some of the catch from this morning for lunch! You will have ample time for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and relaxing.

Day excursion - Marettimo or Levanzo Caves

When you arrive at Marettimo, you will board small boats that will take you around the island. This island is famous for its breathtaking grottoes, that put those of Capri to shame. In fact, many people liken Marettimo to what the Island of Capri off the Amalfi Coast was once like before it was overrun with mass tourism!

As you visit the magnificent grottoes, you will have time to jump off and take a swim in the crystalline waters from time to time. The ability to visit the grottoes at Marettimo is heavily dependent on wind and sea conditions, to the extent that there is a 50/50 chance of going at any given time. If you are unable to go on the agreed day, you will visit the Levanzo caves, which have some the most ancient cave paintings in the world, dating back more than 10,000 years.

Dusk excursion - Fishing

For those with more spirit of adventure, you are about to have an experience of a lifetime! You will get up in the middle of the night, then have some coffee and fresh pastry with the local fishermen who are about to head out for their nightly catch. Here, you will meet Culture Discovery Vacations' friends, Rosario and Enzo. They are local fishermen that do this every day of their lives, as their fathers did, and their fathers before them. You will board the little fishing boat and head out to the local waters with them to take part in this local tradition.

As you reach a point of their choosing, you will help Rosario and Enzo cast the fishing nets into the sea. You will then start your time of waiting for the catch, during which, you will enjoy each others company as you drink wine and eat traditional Sicilian Pane Cunzato (Focaccia with olive oil and sauce). While you are waiting, you will learn some Sicilian dialect that you will put to good use in a couple hours!

At the moment of sunrise, your work begins; you will slowly pull the nets in, then head back into port as you sort the fish you caught. Once you arrive, you will help Rosario and Enzo set up their market stand, and you will help them sell today's catch to the locals at the village fish market. This is where your newly learned phrases in local dialect will be used, as you will be "calling out our catch" to the locals as they pass by! After a bit, you will head back home and get some sleep while Rosario and Enzo finish their morning at the market.

Salt harvest, salt tasting

While virtually, every tourist that visits Western Sicily has "The Salt Road" on their itinerary, the most popular stop is the "Ettore Infersa" salt mill. The tourists go there, look at a museum, walk through a shop, and stand behind some gates to take pictures of the people harvesting the salt. You will be walking right past the tourists and through those gates.

You will be going right past the tourist zone, and into the harvest area. You will put on some rubber boots and walk out into the flats, where you will try your hand at harvesting salt yourselves. As you often say, you don't just take photos of the view; you are the view people are photographing! You will be the workers out there the tourists are photographing, at least for as long as you desire. You will be taking home some of the salt you harvested ourselves, then do a "Salt tasting" at the mill with more wine, fruit, etc.

Seaside picnic - Ricciata

In seaside Sicily, sea urchins are a delicacy, and a popular tradition is the "Ricciata", which is something of a seaside picnic, in which friends get together to eat sea urchins with fresh bread and wine. You are with Culture Discovery Vacations, you are in Sicily, and you are doing it like Sicilians this week, so you are having yourselves a Ricciata at sunset!

Tuna Cannery tour

Tuna Cannery was once the life blood of Western Sicily. Now closed, it remains a monument to the thriving economy of the island's past. This was once the heart of Italy's tuna market. The caretaker (and former worker at the cannery) will give you a tour of the property and some insight into what life was once like on the island.

Wine tour, wine tasting

At Genna winery in Marsala, you will meet the owner, Diego Genna and taste some of his wines, including Marsala, Zibbibo, and even Almond Wine.

  • Rocky

    You will quickly pick up on the fact that we are all connected outside of "business". Rocky is a great person to start with to convey this! Like Michael, Rocky grew up in Los Angeles... in fact, just a few blocks from Michael. They never knew one another, but they had a very close mutual friend most of their lives. That friend visited Michael and Paola in Soriano in early 2011, and brought Rocky with. He joined in on one of our week-long cooking vacations in Soriano, and felt an instant connection.

  • Alyssa & Sam

    Alyssa is Michael and Paola's daughter, and Sam is her other half. Like Michael, they are both from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angels (Like, Totally!), but they now split their time between Orlando, Florida and Italy. Alyssa grew up actually speaking Italian before English, but was mostly raised in the States, spending her summers in Italy. Sam, on the other hand, came to Italy for the first time in 2013, but picked up the language in a heartbeat and is sometimes even mistaken for an Italian.

Western Sicily is not heavily traveled by foreign tourists. You will not find great shopping here. There is some, but it is quite limited. Those that have been to the "cruise ship ports" like Taormina will find a completely different Sicily. The beauty here is raw and unspoiled, not dressed for mass tourism. It is Sicily as it actually is. This culture is not as rich as Tuscany, for example, so everything (and everyone) is much simpler and down to earth. For those seeking an authentic experience that they will never forget, this is at the core of what makes this trip so amazing.

That said, the shopping here is not just for locals. This is a very popular destination for Italian tourists, so there is no shortage of shops, cafes. However, they are geared more toward Italian tastes. You will be at sea level for most of the trip. The island of Favignana is a tiny little island community where everyone knows everyone. It is an extremely friendly and safe place where any form of crime is practically unheard of. Your final evening will be atop the mountain of Erice, which is at 751 meters (2,464 feet) high.

Culture Discovery Vacations is all about food and wine, and if there is one comment Michael and Paola hear more than any other from their guests throughout the week, it is "I can't eat another bite". You will never be hungry, and you will never want for more wine, period. All of the restaurant meals are in small, local restaurants that are considered the best of the best for their area. These are the places the locals rave about, not the touristy places. Furthermore, Culture Discovery Vacations don't do "tourist food". They insist on the highest quality at all times, and always pull out all of the stops.

The seafood is always today's catch. The pastries are always just-baked. The wine is always flowing, and everything is always the best of the best. Additionally, the meals at your cooking classes are not little "learn to make pasta" classes like many others. Instead, the first three classes are traditional Italian Sunday family meals, done to the maximum and from scratch.

For example, when you make Cannoli, you will make the dough from scratch. You will roll your shells from that dough by hand, and the filling will be made by you, from the Ricotta cheese that you made with your shepherd friend. When the trip is over, you will have experienced the real Sicily that few tourists have ever experienced. You will have made new friends, and you will have learned why Italian culture is so amazing, because you will have lived it.

Welcome dinner menu

  • First course: Pasta with pistachio pesto sauce
  • Second course: Breaded cutlet "Palermo Style" with local veggies
  • Dessert: Sicilian Cassata siciliana
  • Wines: Local Western Sicilian wines

Cooking class number 1

  • Appetizer: Sicilian Caponata
  • First course: Busiate Pasta from scratch with Sicilian Pesto
  • Second course: Polpette with catch of the day, raisins, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes
  • Side: Caper and olive salad
  • Dessert: Sicilian almond cookies

Cooking class number 2

  • First course: Gnocculi pasta alla Norma
  • Side: Roasted potatoes
  • Second course: Veal Marsala
  • Dessert: Casatelle with fresh ricotta you made in the morning

Cooking class number 3

  • First course: Eggplant Parmesan
  • Second course: Sicilian Arancini
  • Dessert: Sicilian Cannoli with the ricotta you made this week

Italian BBQ: Grigliata

You'll fire up the grill and have grilled bruschetta, sausage, Involtini, chicken, and potatoes. Dessert will be local Cassatelle pastries with Marsala wine.

Sausage making class

You will make two kinds of traditional Sicilian sausage Boscaiola and Capricciosa.

  • 1 night accommodation at La Pinetta in Erice
  • 6 lunches
  • 6 nights accommodation in Nido del Pellegrino in Favignana
  • 7 dinners
  • All cooking classes and associated food costs
  • All entry fees for excursions, tours, and tastings
  • All transportation (Including Palermo Airport (PMO) transfers)
  • Culture Discovery Vacations apron and recipe book
  • English speaking vacation manager and guides throughout the duration
  • Daily day trips and excursions.
  • Daily traditional Italian breakfasts (cappuccino and pastries)
  • Wine with all lunches and dinners
  • Airfare
  • Alcohol beyond what is on pre-planned menus
  • Personal expenses
  • Snacks / drinks between meals, or any meals not listed on itinerary

Arrival by airplane

Book your flight to arrive at Palermo Airport (PMO). Culture Discovery Vacations has organized a free shuttle to pick you up at 2:30 p.m.

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 20% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 90 days before arrival.

Florida, United States

Direct operators of Cooking Vacations in Italy, with six locations in Tuscany, Piedmont, Umbria, Sicily and The Amalfi Coast.

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8 days / 7 nights

Departure:
Saturday June 9, 2018
(8 days / 7 nights)

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