Hockey in Sicily

Hockey and Sicily don’t seem like two words that should find themselves in the same sentence.  It’s hard enough to find ice for drinks let alone a whole sheet of ice to play a sport on.  Luckily ice isn’t absolutely necessary and luckily I didn’t leave my hockey equipment in the States when we moved here to Sicily.  From everything I could find online there wasn’t going to be a chance for me to play hockey.  This was a tough pill to swallow since I have played competitively for the past 30 years!! Yes I am old!   I packed my hockey equipment anyway Continue reading “Hockey in Sicily”

Surfing in Sicily

Before moving to Sicily we lived in San Diego for 10+ years.  When I moved to San Diego from Michigan I immediately got in the water.  Surfing was my daily obsession after work and whenever I had any free time.  Eventually I learned how to avoid drowning and then moved onto actually surfing and I was hooked.  I was lucky to have a bunch of friends through hockey that were also excellent surfers.  They taught me and protected me when I made stupid mistakes with the locals.  These are the negative types of experiences that end surfing for a lot of people.  To say that surfing Continue reading “Surfing in Sicily”

Lipari Island – A Sicilian Getaway

What do you do when you are on an island for an extended period of time? You go to a smaller nearby island. Sorry for the random thought, but I think its funny how many islands we have been to over the past couple years. We might have an obsession with them or maybe some type of “hermit” psychological brain condition that we should spend some time looking into. But who has time for that when there are so many islands to visit in the Mediterranean. MUST SEE more islands. One thing that I like about islands is that they always have their own identity. Lipari definitely has its own identity despite the fact that it is less than an hour away from Sicily via hydro boat (or is it hydrofoil? Continue reading “Lipari Island – A Sicilian Getaway”

Sicily Gets “Best Beach in the World” Honor!

Tripadvisor has put out their “Best of 2013” and a Sicilian beach scored the best beach in the World!  Yes, beating out all the Hawaiian beaches, Caribbean beaches, and Mexican beaches.  The beach is called Rabbit beach and its on an island off the southern coast of Sicily called Lampedusa.   We have yet to go to this island, but it was on my radar before this.   Its about an hour flight from Catania airport or a boat ride from the southern coast.  Darwin airlines (whom I have never heard of) seems to be the only airline that flies direct to the island.  Then once your there you have to take a boat to the beach, since that is the only way that it can supposedly be accessed.

Im excited that  Sicily got such a great honor and Im equally excited to check the beach out this year sometime.  I will report back with pictures of course.  This beach looks very similar to Continue reading “Sicily Gets “Best Beach in the World” Honor!”

Skiing & Snowboarding in Sicily

Its funny how much is packed on this island.  I always thought San Diego was unique because you could go skiing and surfing all in the same day, but here its even easier.  It takes about 40 minutes from where we are to get up the mountain and its amazing how the scenery changes.  You go from a mild coastal climate all the way up to 6 feet of snow in that short amount of time.  There are two skiing opportunities on Mount Etna,  the north side (Linguaglossa) and the south side (Nicolosi)… we were on the north side.

Granted I don’t think we will be seeing any winter Olympics here based on the caliber of the ski runs, but its a great little getaway.   Especially during the holiday season to go and feel like we are in a winter wonderland. Even if it is on top of an active volcano!

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Serious snow!

 

Lots of snow!
Lots of snow!

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4x4 definitely needed on this day.
4×4 definitely needed on this day.
Donkey trek?
Donkey trek?
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Chairlift pic

 

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Back down the mountain
Back down the mountain

 

West Coast Sicily Wineries – Planeta Winery & Donnafugata Winery

A trip to the West coast of Sicily has been looming over us for the past year.  It has always been on our list to explore over there, but always gets aced for something else that comes up.  The 2+ hour drive definitely has influenced our decision.  Back in August something came up that forced us to commit to a particular weekend.  That something is the annual “E’ la notte di Calici di Stelle”  at the Donnafugata winery.  That translates to “Goblets under the stars.”  Donnafugata puts this event on every year the night of San Lorenzo.  Just a blurb on this particular night:  [quote]La Notte di San Lorenzo. Every year on the night of August 10th, Italians look up at the sky to see shooting stars; more shooting stars fall than any other night of the year (in case you have your doubts, this is scientifically proven!) This holiday celebrates the martyrdom of San Lorenzo, who died on August 10th. These stars create an atmosphere of magic and hope; Italians believe that this is a night when wishes will come true. [/quote]\

It was a great experience at the “Goblets under the stars” event.  We had a pretty big group of friends join us for the event, which made it even more special.  We all gathered on the cool grass looking up at the stars and enjoyed each others company…. and the vino did flow!

We stayed a long weekend in the Sambuca di Sicilia area so that we could also go to the Planeta winery the next day.  Planeta wines are one of our favorite local wines.   They have a very wide variety of wines and all of them are high quality.  I arranged a tour, tasting, and a lunch on site.  The vineyard surrounding the winery was amazing.  The vineyard sweeps around Lake Arancio, which looks like a blue oasis.

Planeta gave us a great tour of the winery followed by a proper tasting of all the different wines Planeta offers.  Sicilians know how to do wine tastings!  The lunch that we had was also a great experience with very good food, very cool ambiance, and great company.  They set you up at a table in an old Palmento, which is an Italian word for the traditional winery where they used to stomp the grapes and bottle.  With the new wine processes the Palmentos have gone by the wayside and have been revamped into beautiful and airy meeting places.  I snapped some pictures below to try to capture the vibe.

This weekend was Bellissima!!  If you get the chance definitely try these places out.

For more info on Planeta:   http://www.planeta.it/vini.php

For more info on Donnafugata Winery: http://www.donnafugata.it/pagine/Homepage.aspx

 

 

Wakeboarding in Sicily

We didn’t expect this… and surprisingly most of the Sicilians we have talked to didn’t know about wakeboarding here.  A couple of my hockey teammates grabbed Jess and I and took us to a random lake in the middle of Sicily.  The lake is called Lago Nicoletti and its near the town of Enna.

The lake is incredible because its a natural reserve and not a single house in the area!  It was like we were explorers and discovered this lake.  I don’t think I have ever seen a lake that didn’t have any kind of development around it… and I have seen a lot of lakes growing up in Michigan.

Back to the wakeboarding…. Jess and I have never done it.   I was very skeptical because despite my many years of surfing in San Diego, I failed miserably at snowboarding.  I don’t like the feeling of being locked into the board in an awkward stance.  Surfing is nice because you can move your feet around as you please.  Wakeboarding looked like it was going to be another snowboarding experience for me.   Our group all went through the rounds and made it look pretty easy.  Then my friend Luca (also a first timer) tried a few times and had some wipeouts, but eventually got it.   So this gave me some confidence to just give it a shot and see what happened.  It started out as a disaster!

Three times in a row I tried to do what everyone was telling me to do in broken english.  “Keep your butt down” ,  “keep your arms straight”, “keep the board horizontal until its ready”.. but when is it ready I asked myself?  All that kept happening was I kept my butt down and strained my arms as the boat pulled them out of the sockets… and I would turn into a human torpedo … just like the torpedos that you see in old submarine movies!  Eventually I couldn’t hold any longer and the rope would snap out of my hand and the speed boat would have to turn back around.   The Italians threw the rope out to me like I was a jumbo buoy just bobbing around in the middle of the lake… and thats exactly how I felt.  I gave it one more try and for some reason as the boat started pulling I had a breakthrough!   Turn the board earlier.   For some reason I was thinking that I was going to have the board horizontal when I got to my feet, but I needed to turn the dang thing to pop up.   I don’t know why no one told me this!!  I should have figured it out, but its a lot easier blaming them for my embarrassment. 🙂

After that it was smooth sailing and I was popping to my feet with ease and cruising around.   Up next was Jess.  I was nervous for her!  Jess’s nickname when she was young was “twiggy” and not too much has changed since then….ha.  Thats all that Im going to say so that I don’t get into too much trouble here.  But as usual the joke was completely on me because super nervous Jess popped up to her feet the very first pull!!  We were all in shock!  My friend Luca and I (Both super tough hockey players 😉 ) struggled to stand up and Jess just cracked it in her first try.  Needless to say I was very proud of Jess and I have some videos and pics of our adventure below.

 

Ricotta Cheese Farm

We decided to make some cheese…haha.   There was an outing to a local cheese farm that has some of the best Ricotta in Sicily.  Part of the deal was that we were able to watch and get involved with the whole process, which was pretty cool.

Agrigento Sicily – Valley of the Temples

Agrigento is a place that every visitor of Sicily should try to make.  Especially if you are into archeological things.  Agrigento is well known for its well preserved Greek temples that date back to 580 B.C. !!  Now I understand why they call America the New World.   Wikipedia has a page about Agrigento that has a lot of information (LINK).

We stayed the weekend in Agrigento to make sure that we got all the sights in.  Plus its about a 2 hour drive from where we are on the island.  I was excited because one of the few surf stores was supposed to be in Agrigento, but after searching the town for an hour I found out that the surf store went out of business. 🙁  I guess not a whole lot of demand.

We found a great restaurant for dinner called Expanificio, which I highly recommend if your in Agrigento.

The temples were amazing.  We also found Jessica’s “favorite spot of Sicily so far” …..the Turkish steps that were at a nearby coastline.  On the way home we decided to take a different route home that was more of a “scenic route”. Along the way home we found the Castello di Falconara, which was a stunning castle on the coastline on the way to Gela.

Also along the “scenic route” we made a stop at “The Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina”.  This is a recently uncovered Roman hunting lodge with very cool mosaics that are supposedly unrivalled in the Roman world in terms of their quality and extent.  Lonely Planet recommended this place in their top 20 places to “not to miss” in Sicily.  It was just okay in our opinion.  Didn’t compare to the Greek ruins.  Near this historic site we stopped in for lunch at a great little place called Pepito in the town of Piazza Armerina.

If you are making the trip to Agrigento I definitely recommend the scenic route for at least one way of your trip.  The road that we used was the 117bis.  Awesome hills and expansive views of the countryside.

Another great Sicilian trip!  There are so many places on this one island.