Friday, December 9, 2016

on the wine trail in Sicily

Sicily is a “huge, complicated island”,
says Stephen Bayley in The Independent.
And one visit is not nearly enough to do
it justice. Everything is more “deeply
etched” here than mainland Italy: “the
wines are stronger, the volcanoes more
active, the dolci more sweet, the despair
more profound”. This is an island
largely defined by the many outsiders
that have colonised it – Romans,
Normans, Byzantines and more – and
left behind “a culture as rich as ricottastuffed
cannoli”. Giuseppe de
Lampedusa wrote of “the violence of
the landscape, the cruelty of the climate
and the continuous tensions in
everything”. His book, The Leopard,
should be compulsory reading for anyone planning a visit.
In Palermo, Villa Tasca is one of Sicily’s great houses, evolved
“through layers of architectural accretion into a magnificent
palazzo”. Its gardens are “swarmingly exotic”, filled with dense
palms and “the largest ficus in Sicily”. Its interiors are a study in
“Baroque splendour and spectacular, melancholic grandeur”. The
house is owned by the winemaking
Tasca family, and it’s possible to rent a
room here with butler service, making
it “the most exuberantly grand and
glorious b&b imaginable”. About two
hours’ drive along a potholed road lies
the family’s Regaleali winery. It’s rustic
and isolated, with a cookery school and
rooms to rent in the big house. “The
remoteness here is tangible, the silence
ineffable and the romance intense.”
Wine pilgrims meet in the evenings for
an aperitivo, then “eat robustly in a
solemn dining room”.
Over to the west, off the coast near
Trapani, the Tascas are extending their
reach to Mozia, where a development
is planned. This “strange little island sits in a tranquil lagoon
called Stagnone, lined with windmills and salt pans”. Settled
by the Phoenicians around 800BC, it remains scattered with
“shards of classical pottery” as yet undisturbed by archaeologists.
Villa Tasca (www.villatasca.com) has a range of suites. Contact
info@villatasca.com for information.

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