Sicily Culinary Tour: The Baroque Cities of the Val di Noto
Baroque Sicily is in southeastern Sicily and known as the Val di Noto—eight distinctive Unesco World Heritage towns. They are noted for their flamboyant architecture evolved from the 17th and 18th centuries, when this region was part of the Spanish Empire. Grinning masks, grotesque flourishes, and chubby putti are around every corner. Masonry uses the local lava stone from Mount Elna, the highest active volcano in Europe. This part of Sicily is doubly blessed with beautiful baroque architecture and a thriving food and wine scene. The local and traditional foods of the surrounding countryside are having a renaissance, and you can find them in easily in restaurants and at open markets: Arancini, a deep-fried, saffron-laced rice balls stuffed with ragu, and scacce, a layered, tomato-filled flat bread. Ancient Greek and Roman ruins are visible everywhere in these Val di Noto towns, and seeing them all is an easy stroll. The neighboring historic towns like Modica and Ragusa—and any number of Ancient Greek ruins and unspoiled beaches—are close to the town centers and to each other. Noto and its neighbors make going town to town feel serendipitous.
Top 5 Sicily Food Tour Experiences:
Authentic street foods at Catania’s open-air market
Greek, Roman, Byzantine ruins in Siracusa
Homemade lunch with millers who make stone-ground flour with a watermill
Chocolate-making in Modica using 500-year-old techniques
Romana de Casale’s renowned collection of Roman mosaics
Immerse yourself in Sicily’s luscious culinary treasures and connect with the warm and generous locals. For more information on our Italy culinary tours, please call 1-800-567-9400 or email us today.
6-Day Sicily Culinary Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Catania. Catania Cathedral and Greek, Roman, and Baroque architecture. Street-food tour at an open-air market.
As soon as you land in Sicily, Mount Etna welcones you. Meander through Catania, Sicily’s second largest city and one of the cities in the Val di Noto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enchanting Baroque façades of the palaces, the striking way in which the gray volcanic stone is alternated with white limestone. Discover the architectural evidence of the Greeks and Romans, including the beautiful Catania Cathedral, Basilica Cattedrale Sant’Agata, built over Roman baths, and the 11th century remains of the ecclesia munita (fortified church). At a colorful open-air market, taste delicious arancini, fresh anchovies, cannoli, and other specialties of Catania street food. Overnight boutique hotel in Noto.
Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Meals Included: (Tastings) Lunch
Day 2: Siracusa (Syracuse) and Ortygia. Cooking class on the secrets of Sicilian dishes. Ancient Green and Roman ruins, such as the Tomb of Archimedes. Meet a family that makes puppets for the tradition of Sicilian puppet opera.
Siracusa has one of the best collections of ancient ruins dating back to the 8th century BC, including a Greek theater and a Roman amphitheater. The city center is just over a bridge on the sun-drenched islet of Ortygia. Start your day at an open-air market as a local chef helps you choose ingredients for your cooking class to the secrets of traditional Sicilian dishes. Your class is located in the beautiful villa Dimora Archimedea, in the heart of the Neapolis Archaeological Park, where two of the most significant sites from both Greek and Roman history are situated: the stunning Greek Theatre as well as the Roman Amphitheater. Nearby is a long street with Greek, Roman and Byzantine graves carved into the limestone cliffs here. Among them is Necropoli Grotticelle, the tomb of mathematician Archimedes who died in the siege of Siracusa in 212 BC.
Stroll, shop, and eat along the baroque Ortygia streets where the Greeks, Romans, and Normans left their collective marks. Discover the tradition of Sicilian puppet opera and cantastorîas (singers of tales) rooted in the troubadour tradition in Sicily. A family of puppet makers will show the secrets of this art. Overnight boutique hotel in Noto.
Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch
Day 3: Working grain watermill in the mountains. Use the stone-ground wheat to make your own scaccie lunch. Ragusa’s ancient architectural history.
In a canyon of the Hyblaean Mountains, a grain mill is full of history and tradition. Listen to the stories of the modern millers and their families who still grind wheat with stones powered by an 18th century watermill. Use their organic stone-ground flour to make your lunch of scaccie: a flat bread stuffed with delicious fillings.
In the afternoon, visit Ragusa, another of the cities in the Val di Noto. It spirals improbably atop a hill and defines ancient: prehistoric necropolis, paleochristian catacombs, medieval ruins, all part of its baroque buildings. Ernesto Lapadula and Ugo Tarchi left their mark on many of the city’s modern buildings. Overnight boutique hotel in Noto.
Drive Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch
Day 4: Cheese tasting in Ispica. Medieval tomb catacombs. Lunch followed by a chocolate-making class in Modica.
Cheese tasting at a dairy farm in, Azienda Agricola Floridia Giovanni Contrada. See the laborious production of provola, ricotta, and DOP Ragusano cheeses. Head to the Archaeological Park of Cava Ispica and discover the Catacomb of Larderia, rocky complexes of tombs used since the Middle Ages to even the last century. Byzantine frescoes are still visible at Saint Nicholas’ rocky church.
Lunch at your leisure in Modica, a city with a chocolate-making tradition centuries old. Inside an elegant old house, a local artisan will share the secrets of this local chocolate recipe, and you will make your own chocolate bar. Enjoy it on the terrace, which offers spectacular views of Modica's baroque Saint George Cathedral. Overnight boutique hotel in Noto.
Drive Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 5: Olive oil tastings and lunch of local foods and wines. Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina’s majestic Villa Romana del Casale.
Visit the olive oil producer Frantoi Berretta for tastings of the different olive oils and then a lunch of local foods and wines. Head to Piazza Armerina, a town famous for its Roman history, seen in the mosaics in the majestic Villa Romana del Casale. The villa was originally the property of a powerful Roman family and dates to the 4th Century A.D. Overnight boutique hotel in Noto.
Drive Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Meals Included: Breakfast, lunch
Day 6: Back to Catania.
Our culinary tour of Sicily is over today. We provide a group airport transfer to Catania for departure flights.
Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Meals Included: Breakfast
This Sicily itinerary is designed to give you an idea of what to expect during our trip. What we actually do on a given day is flexible and can be tailored to the interests of the group.
What Foodies Love About Sicily
Authentic cuisine in the Val di Noto cones both from the bounty of ingredients from the surrounding countryside and the cooking styles and influences of the region’s influences. French, Greek, Roman, Arab, and North African influences distinguish Sicily from the rest of Italy. Typical produce and recipes of the region include octopus with potatoes and oregano, for example, or stuffed gnocchi with lemon ricotta and cucuzza squash. The local dishes, especially the desserts, defy cultural classification. Chocolate arrived from Mexico with the Spaniards in the 16th century, and now 500 years later, Modica’s chocolatiers still hew to the original recipe: freshly ground beans and sugar, heated and mixed at low temperatures. The result is a rich, grainy bar that retains a range of cocoa flavors lost in regular high-heat chocolate production. The dishes change with the seasons in Sicily. October rains bring the i funghi, the wild mushrooms. In November, often a time of Sicily's "Indian Summer," the orange and mandarin season is beginning. The famed almonds of the area blossom in February. In Sicily they are associated with love and fidelity and are often sugar-coated and given at weddings and baptisms.
Wine lovers will want to see the birthplace of the thick-skinned Nero d’Avola grape, suited to Sicily’s hot, dry climate and typically producing full-bodied wines packed with dark fruit flavors. But there are others less well-known: Etna Rosso DOC is made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccino grapes. Noto muscat, Moscato di Noto, was first produced in Noto.
Our Val di Noto Hotels
Our culinary tour focuses on the UNESCO World Heritage cities of the Val di Noto and their beautiful baroque architecture, ancient Greek and Roman ruins, and rich culinary tradition. Our hotel is based in the delightful town of Noto.
Elegant Sicily Hotel
Our elegant 4-star boutique hotel is only steps from the historic heart of beautiful Noto. Featuring a garden, bar and lounge, free WiFi. In just a few minutes, walk to Cattedrale di Noto and the charming restaurants in town. The local lava stone of Mount Elna comes from nearby Modica, and it contrasts beautifully with oak wood accents throughout. Each room is designed with warm pastel colors, and windows looking out over the town. It’s a modern elegance combined with Old World charm. All rooms have a modern private bathroom made entirely of stone and glass. Local delicacies are offered at the international breakfast. Brioche and pastries are baked every morning by a master pastry chef, and juice from Sicilian oranges greet guests each morning.
Note: All Sicily hotels are subject to availability and may be changed as needed.
Sicily Travel Information
Arrival and Departure Travel Information
You should make your flight arrangements to arrive at Catania’s Fontanarossa Airport (CTA). We recommend arriving by noon, in order to participate in the Catania city tour and transfer to Noto.
Please plan to depart from Catania’s Fontanarossa Airport (CTA). We recommend departure flights late morning or after 12pm.
Pick-up & Drop-off Information
We provide a complimentary group airport pick-up and drop-off on the first and last day of the tour. We will not know the transfer time until we have received the final flight information from all guests. We will notify you in advance should there be a wait time longer than one hour from your flight’s scheduled departure time. We will be waiting for you with a sign saying ‘Access Culinary Trips’ as you exit customs at Catania’s airport. If you would like to be picked up or dropped off on a different day, or brought somewhere other than the airport, please contact us.
Note: We are not responsible for last minute adjustments due to changes or delays with arrival and departure flights.
If you would like assistance with purchasing your flight/visa or travel insurance, please let us know and we will forward your contact information and trip details to our travel agent partner.
TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS FOR SICILY
Travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation coverage, is compulsory for all our trips. We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance that includes cancellation protection so that you will be covered in the event that you are unable to attend our trip (due to injury, illness or other unforeseen circumstances). Please do not attend any of our trips without purchasing appropriate insurance coverage and providing the details to Access Culinary Trips.
Please note: proof of insurance is due within 14 days of booking, and delay in receipt may result in late documentation charges.
We do not provide travel insurance for our clients. Additional details are on our website here.
Passports & Visas
Travel to Italy requires a valid passport (most countries require a minimum of 6 months validity) and US citizens do not require a tourist visa. To learn more about visa and entry requirements for Italy, please check out the State Department’s website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Italy.html
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documentation.
HEALTH & SAFETY IN SICILY
If your friends or family need to contact Access Culinary Trips due to an emergency while you are on the tour, please have them refer to the pre-departure email that is sent out three weeks prior to departure, which will have specific contact information relevant to your trip. If you need to contact Access Culinary Trips while traveling, please also refer to the emergency contact information in the pre-departure email.
Guests with preexisting medical conditions are required to disclose this information prior to traveling with Access Culinary Trips, and all guests with preexisting conditions are required to provide a note from a doctor clearing them for travel. The US Department of State recommends that travelers with medical prescriptions consider bringing small additional amounts of prescribed medicines as well as a copy of the prescription and a letter from the prescribing physician explaining the need for prescription.
We strongly recommend that all of our guests visit a travel doctor before embarking on international travel. Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you receive any necessary vaccinations before traveling on your trip with us. If there is a chance that you may be pregnant during your trip, please discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
Please carefully review the health information section of the following webpage for up-to-date health information, including information on the quality of medical care, the availability of medications and the necessity for vaccinations in Italy: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/italy
Our trips are open to anyone who wants to explore our exotic destinations through cuisine. We do engage in multiple walking tours, some of which last several hours.
Safety & Security
To maximize your safety during our tours you should exercise common sense and caution at all times. We recommend that you always stick to set travel arrangements, and avoid unknown areas. We also recommend that you wear minimal jewelry and that you keep valuable items (including cell phones) safely stored. Always keep a copy of your passport, airline tickets, and credit card numbers separate from where you keep the originals. For more information on safety and security in Sicily, please review the safety and security section of the following webpage: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Italy.html
Children ages 12 and up are welcome on group trips. Children under 12 are welcome on private tours. Please contact us with any questions.
Sicily’s island culture has a long and proud history, as a melting pot of influences from the surrounding region. Out of respect for the culture we are visiting, please note the following etiquette tips:
Try to learn a bit of Italian beforehand – this demonstrates respect and your effort to connect with the people of Sicily
Be aware that Sicilian schedules and timetables tend to be loose, and you can expect that many shops may close for a few hours in the afternoon
Italians do not always chat with strangers, but it is encouraged to say hello (“buongiorno”) or good evening (“buona sera”) to a shopkeeper when entering a store or bar
Do not put your feet or shoes on tables and chairs
Avoid handling produce when shopping and instead ask for what you would like
Although most people in Sicily do speak and understand standard Italian, on our tour, you’ll likely also hear Sicilian in use.
This tour takes advantage of the beautiful southernmost region of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The island has a typical Mediterranean climate, with warm, sunny summers and mild, moderately rainy winters. The best months to visit Sicily are late spring (April - June) and early fall (September and October), when rainfall is low and temperatures are comfortable. Spring dates see temperatures in the high 60’s to low 80’s, and fall dates are in the 80s. July and August is prime vacation time for European residents, and can be quite warm with temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s F.
CURRENCY, BANKING & SPENDING MONEY IN SICILY
Italy is part of the eurozone and therefore uses the Euro. There are exchange bureaus in airports, certain hotels, and most banks. Counters require your passport for the transaction.
For the latest currency exchange information please go to: https://finance.yahoo.com/currency-converter
ATMs are available in all cities and major towns. It is recommended to notify your bank or card issuer that you intend to travel abroad so that no block will be put on the usage of your credit or ATM cards.
Meals: All breakfasts and four lunches (including the lunches we cook during classes) are included. Please plan to bring at least $15-$30 per lunch and $20-$40 per dinner for those meals that are not included, as well as money for snacks and drinks.
Tipping is not a common practice throughout Italy, as gratuities are generally included in the bill. However, we’ve included some guidelines below should you need to tip.
Tour Guide/Drivers: If you are pleased with the services provided by your tour guide and driver, then a tip for their hard work will be very much appreciated. In general, we recommend around US $10 -15 per day, per traveler for guides and US $5-7 per day, per traveler for drivers if less than 4 people in a group. We recommend around US $5-10 per day, per traveler for guides and US $3-5 per day, per traveler for drivers if there are 5 people or more.
Hotel & Restaurant Staff: In restaurants, the tip is usually included in the final bill (servizio incluso). However, we recommend checking the bill first to make sure. If it is not included, a tip of 10-15% will suffice. For cafes or bars, just round up to the nearest euro on the bill. In hotels, a tip of .50 – 1.50 euros is encouraged for housekeeping. A tip of about 1-2 euros is customary for porters.
Other expenses: There are no required additional expenses for this trip, but you might like to take spending money for such things as souvenir shopping and nightlife.
ELECTRICITY & INTERNET IN SICILY
In Italy the power sockets are of type C, F and L. The standard voltage is 220V to 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
There is wi-fi access in the hotel.
Most US cell phones will not work in Italy, unless you have a specific international plan. Contact your cellular provider to see what options you have in terms of international calling plans.
WHAT TO TAKE
We strongly recommend using TSA approved luggage locks on your bags and to hand carry valuables on the plane. We recommend that you pack as lightly as possible. There may not always be someone available to help you carry your bags so you should only bring as much as you can carry on your own.
We suggest that you bring the following items:
Clothing & Equipment
Season specific clothing including items to layer with
Clothes to wear for optional upscale restaurants
Clothes appropriate for walking in the woods during truffle hunt
Comfortable walking shoes
Sunscreen / sunglasses / hat
First-aid kit (should contain lip balm, aspirin, band aids, a cream for sore muscles (e.g. deep heat), Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, rehydration powder, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
Passport (with photocopies)
Travel insurance (with photocopies)
Airline tickets (with photocopies)
RECOMMENDED READING LIST
Click here to check out our recommended reading before your tour!
FINAL NOTES ON YOUR SICILY TOUR
This is a tool meant to help you decide what you should bring on your upcoming trip. It is by no means comprehensive. While we do our best to be as thorough as possible, we cannot foresee every possible condition. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
The information contained in this document is provided in good faith. Due to the nature of travel, details in this document may change. You should thus use the above information as an indication only and not as a contractual obligation on the part of Access Culinary Trips.