Zest of the West: Cantine Virzì - 15 September 2011
The Trapani province in western Sicily is rich in scenic landscapes
When Giuseppe Garibaldi landed in the port of Marsala, western Sicily, in 1860, he was in a hurry.
Coming ashore with just 1,000 men, the revolutionary leader fought his way across country to unite Italy as a new nation state.
Yet had he chosen to stay in this corner of the island a while longer he could have enjoyed some of its fine food and wine, beautiful rugged coastline and abundance of ancient sights. Of course, if he had then modern Italy would not be celebrating its 150th birthday this year.
Once king and country had been established, Garibaldi did return to Marsala, paying a visit to the town’s famous Florio winery in 1862 – as a plaque on the wall testifies. “Some people say this place is like a museum, I say it’s more like a cathedral,” says Florio tour guide Marcelo, as he gestures towards its lofty ceilings. Giant 100-year-old casks tower above us, giving off a mellow aroma of oak and ageing wine.
Marsala made its way onto the world stage in the 18th-century thanks to the ingenuity of British merchant John Woodhouse. A fortified wine similar to Port, its ability to withstand long ocean voyages made it ideal for export, and Marsala was soon being stocked on the ships of Nelson’s navy.[...]
TRAPANI AND BEYOND
Back in the city, Trapani offers a compact old town, with baroque facades and ancient churches to discover. It’s a town steeped in traditions, one of which can be observed at the Chiesa del Purgatorio. This church is filled with huge religious figures that are carried on the shoulders of the faithful during the city’s fervent Easter processions.
Once you’ve seen Trapani, investigate the nearby countryside. The landscapes here are ethereal, with mountains capped by whisps of cloud framing sweeping valleys of fertile farmland. It’s not normally advisable on any trip to leave the highway and attempt to get lost, but in western Sicily it’s well worth going off the beaten track – and you won’t find a car or soul in sight.
Various farmstays and villas offer a great way to wake up to this kind of vista each morning. Just off the main road between Trapani and Palermo we drop in at Cantine Virzì, a winery and boutique hotel run by the Spadafora family. Their former sharecroppers’ apartments overlook fields of vines, harvested each summer by hand. With space for just 14 guests and a location literally in the middle of nowhere, it’s a peaceful escape for a few days swimming in the pool and drinking the wines – they even leave a free bottle in your fridge!
Where to stay
This working winery is one of several unique accommodation options from soloSicily, a company that off ers tailor-made holidays and expert local advice on Sicily. Cantine Virzì has a pool, on-site chef and wonderful remote location on sprawling farmland near Segesta. Among soloSicily’s other properties are a villa with a pool in Scopello and a period aristocratic residence in Marsala.
TEL: +44 (0)20 7193 0158, WWW.SOLOSICILY.COM
Read full article on the Ryanair Magazine website