Welcome to Sicily! The largest island in the Mediterranean not only boasts breathtaking landscapes and a rich history but also tantalizes your tastebuds with a fusion of diverse flavors.
Embark on this Tourissimo Chef Bike Tour through the heart of Southeast Sicily, a seductive and bold region, where every pedal stroke takes you through a gastronomic journey that mirrors the island's vibrant cultural tapestry. As you explore the enchanting eastern provinces of Siracusa and Ragusa, let the aromas and tastes of Sicily's distinct cuisine be your muse and our guest chef be your expert eye.
In this region celebrated for its Baroque and Norman architecture, artistic heritage, and intellectual contributions, it's the food that truly steals the show. Sicilian cuisine is a delightful blend of influences from Phoenicians, Greeks, Moors, Arabs, and Normans, creating a unique culinary tradition. Citrus, wild fennel, resins, and pine nuts, to name a few, make any dish distinctively Sicilian.
Picture yourself dining under the Sicilian sun, indulging in dishes that showcase the island's bounty – ripe tomatoes, succulent eggplants, and artichokes bursting with flavor. Seafood takes center stage, reflecting the island's proximity to pristine waters. And, of course, no Sicilian feast is complete without an abundance of pasta and the finest olive oil.
As you savor the culinary delights, you'll find that Sicily's fruits are a symphony of tastes – from the tangy lemons and oranges to the sweet figs, almonds, and apricots, all recognized among the best in the world.
But this tour isn't just about exquisite flavors; it's a holistic experience. Cycle through landscapes adorned with rolling hills and vineyards, coastlines kissed by aquamarine waters, and ancient sites steeped in history. Immerse yourself in Sicily's past and present, where every turn of the pedal unveils not only stunning vistas but also the authentic and mouthwatering essence of this captivating island. Join us on a journey where each taste tells a story, and every flavor is a piece of Sicily's unparalleled culinary heritage.
Chef Mary Sue Milliken participated in the inaugural Chef Bike Tour in 2017, in the Sicily one in 2018, in the Piedmont Chef Bike Tour 2019, in the Friuli Venezia Giulia one in 2021, Sardinia in 2022 and Puglia in 2023.
She is as happy in the kitchen as she is on the bike and she jumps at the opportunity to come back with Tourissimo for the seventh time! Of course, we are flattered. Her charm makes our trips come alive and she humbly shares her wealth of knowledge with guests.
Bob Blumer is a Gastronaut, Artist and Eight Time Guinness World Record Holder. He's also a friend of Mary Sue. When she recommended him, we knew he would be a great fit for our Chef Bike Tours!
Siracusa - Ortigia
This morning, we will pick you up in Catania and drive to Siracusa-Ortigia (unless you have booked a pre-night in Siracusa). The first group activity is an immersive and enjoyable tour of the open market, followed by a street food lunch and an overview of the tour.
In the afternoon, we will cover bike fitting in preparation for some stunning rides in the days ahead, including the so-called Baroque Triangle. The short ride around Ortigia will offer beautiful views and provide an opportunity to become acquainted with the bikes. Founded by Greek settlers in the 8th century BC, Siracusa grew into an economic and political center in the Mediterranean as a city-state, playing a central role in tensions and struggles. The island of Ortigia is the city's most ancient settlement and its most charming part, but also the most exposed to the power of the sea. A walking tour with a local guide will unveil Ortigia for us.
In the evening, we will dine at a typical Sicilian osteria, where we'll get our first taste of some mouth-watering local specialties.
Siracusa - Noto - 25 or 35 miles - Rolling
Today, we embark on our bike journey, departing from Siracusa and venturing into rural Sicily. Our route promises breathtaking views as we traverse beautiful valleys, verdant hills, and quaint canyons. We are venturing into the Monti Iblei (Hyblaean Mountains), a high plateau in southeastern Sicily.
Upon leaving Siracusa, the landscape undergoes a gradual transformation, evolving from gentle hills adorned with Mediterranean vegetation to an abundance of woods intricately woven with traditional dry stone walls. The local scenery features olive trees, vines, citrus fruit, almonds, and scattered sheep.
For lunch, we stop at an organic farm spanning 100 acres, predominantly cultivated with olive trees, carob trees, and almond trees. Additionally, the farm is home to free-range chickens and more than one hundred sheep.
Concetto, the owner, and his family have been running the business for more than three generations. Our youthful hosts are knowledgeable and hospitable, and their passion for their work is truly infectious. We'll join the family in their daily activities, like making cheese and sharing a simple local family lunch.
Our accommodation for the next two nights is the enchanting Villa Favorita—a rustic villa boasting a pool and commanding a stunning view of Noto.
Noto - Marzamemi loop - 31 or 38 miles - Flat
Today’s panoramic ride involves a gradual descent leaving Villa Favorita and a coastal ride to the natural preserve of Vendicari and the fishing village of Marzamemi.
After crossing several sleepy villages, we will reach the southern coast of Sicily. Marzamemi, a quintessential Sicilian fishing village with roots dating back to the Byzantine times (Eastern Roman Empire), captivates visitors. Sitting in the main piazza, one can easily fall in love with Sicily.
On the way back, we will make a stop at the pristine protected area known as Vendicari. Here, we'll indulge in a swim in the crystal-clear blue waters and relish a picnic on the beach. The remainder of the day is open for a visit to Noto, renowned for its must-see Baroque architecture.
Villa Favorita offers great Sicilian hospitality in a beautiful setting. Relax by the swimming pool and enjoy the view before a dinner prepared by our chefs (feel free to volunteer and join in). Some of the ingredients used are sourced directly from the property.
Noto - Scicli - 30 or 37 miles - Rolling
Enjoy the relaxed pace of the Sicilian countryside on this morning's beautiful route. Pace yourself and take your time when climbing a ridge road with expansive views direction the west.
We reach Modica, one of the most picturesque towns in Sicily. The approach to Modica becomes increasingly dramatic as we descend into the center filled with baroque architecture. During our time in Modica, we make a stop at the Bonaiuto chocolate shop, one of the oldest on the island. Modica's chocolate is distinguished by an ancient and original recipe involving manual grinding (rather than conching), imparting a unique grainy texture and aromatic flavor. It stands out as one of the island's specialties.
In just a few miles, we arrive in Scicli, another excellent example of baroque reconstruction (it was destroyed by the 1693 earthquake). A bit off the beaten path compared to Modica and Ragusa, Scicli holds a special place among our favorite spots on the island.
Our charming "albergo diffuso" (scattered hotel - see blog link on this page) is perched above the San Bartolomeo church, a site worthy of a visit. We spend two nights there, with full access to the kitchen, ensuring you're in for some delightful treats and hands-on cooking experiences with our chefs!
Scicli - Punta Secca loop - 33 miles - Rolling
After our breakfast "made in Sicily," we start today’s ride with a climb out of Scicli followed by a pleasant downhill from the Altopiano Ibleo toward the coast where the landscape consists of tiny farms, pastures, and greenhouses. The economy here is all about agriculture (including winemaking). The lush vegetation is quintessentially Mediterranean and comprised of agave, eucalyptus, carob trees, and olive trees.
Our first stop is a cheese producer, Masseria Sgarlata, renowned for the Ragusano DOP. This cow's-milk cheese, sourced from Modicana breed cows exclusively raised on fresh grass or hay in the provinces of Ragusa and Syracuse, provides a delightful and educational experience. The hosts, though humble, carry a mission to preserve the art of artisanal cheesemaking.
Continuing along the coast, we arrive at Punta Secca, notable for being the home of Commissario Montalbano, a character from the literary phenomenon created by Camilleri (also adapted into a TV series). Montalbano's contemplative swims, immortalized by the author, can be observed at his waterfront residence.Did you bring your swimming gear?
We climb back up the valley with great views of the Irminio River Canyon until we reach our lunch spot: a farm that is all about herbs and aromas. For sure, a visionary concept but, trust us, well worth the stop.
Enjoy some free time before dinner prepared with fresh produce from the market and from the producers that we've visited along the ride.
Tomorrow we are off to Ragusa.
Scicli - Ragusa Ibla - 16 miles - Rolling
A late start today, but a short ride awaits us. Following breakfast, our destination is Ragusa-Ibla, a highlight of the tour. The brief ride is intentionally planned to allow ample time for exploration. Ibla, an ancient town, stands as an architectural treasure where every building showcases typical Sicilian Baroque style (recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Take a moment to appreciate the palaces, their distinctive doorways, and balconies.
Upon arrival, a mandatory stop is scheduled at Iudice, the iconic pastry shop tempting you with its delectable bites of "piccola pasticceria."
The setting of our hotel in the Iblei Garden is stunning. It is a former convent (Capuchin friars) and it also houses a professional culinary school. No doubt, we are in the right place for another Sicilian feast. Regretfully this is also our Chef Bike Tour farewell dinner and good bye to Sicily.
Sicilian cuisine shows traces of all of the cultures which established themselves on the island over the last two millennia. Although its cuisine has a lot in common with mainland Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, sweet melons, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, clove, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon (along with fried preparations) is a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries. Normans influences are also found, such as in the fondness for meat dishes. Later, the Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, corn, peppers, and tomatoes. In Catania, on the east coast, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred instead. Much of the island's cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables such as eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes, and fish such as tuna, cuttlefish, and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.
Sicily is a wine-lover's paradise, such is the variety, complexity and abundance of Bacchus' unique gift! There are 23 DOC zones in Sicily: Alcamo,Contea di Sclafani, Contessa Entellina, Delia Nivolelli, Eloro, Erice, Etna, Faro, Malvasia delle Lipari, Mamertino di Milazzo, Marsala, Menfi, Monreale, Moscato di Noto, Moscato di Pantelleria, Passito di Pantelleria, Moscato di Siracusa, Riesi, Salaparuta, Sambuca di Sicilia, Santa Margherita di Belice, Sciacca and Vittoria. Many grape types are grown, used either in purezza (single grape variety wines), or blended. Some have been around for centuries while others are more recent imports. The following are some of the main varieties: red grapes - Nero D’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Mantellato, Perricone, Frappato, Calabrese and the more recently introduced Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz (Syrah); white grapes - Cataratto, Grecanico, Grillo, Inzolia, Zibibbo, Damaschino, Trebbiano, Ausonica, Moscato Bianco, Carricante, Corinto Nero and the more recently introduced Chardonnay, Viognier and Fiano. Sicily has the most Slow Food Presidia (local projects) of all of the Italian regions. That means that the island has lots to offer in terms of gastronomical discoveries ranging from greens and vegetables to cheese and artisanal bread. Among a few that we will experience are Trapani Sea Salt, The Menfi Artichoke and the Belice Vastedda that is Italy’s only stretched-curd sheep’s milk cheese.