The Wine Trails of Sicily Through Culture and the Arts of Pleasure part II



trinacria bella how sicily was born


 The Wine Trails of Sicily Through Culture and the Arts of Pleasure  part II



ERICE DOC logoMarsala banner wine 2013ALCAMO DOC logologo_strada_del_vino_val_di_mazara





  Proceeding west from Palermo, you’ll reach the Alcamo D.O.C. trail, which includes Erice D.O.C. as well as the world-renowned Marsala (Lands of the West and Val di Mazara). Meals enjoyed along the Sicilian west coast, whether procured in one of the area’s award winning slow food establishments, a local trattoria, or, better yet. a welcoming Sicilian home, will undoubtedly allow you the opportunity to experience the famous “Nocellara del Belice” and “Biancolillaextra virgin olive oils.



 Read more about Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Produce >>





A bit tangential to this road, but not too far out of the way, beyond the town of Castellammare Del Golfo, and after enjoying some fabulous hot cassatelle di ricotta, a local specialty (one is never enough), you arrive at San Vito Lo Capo, voted the world’s most beautiful beach of 2012, by users of Each year, San Vito Lo Capo celebrates the Couscous Fest, the international festival of this ancient dish that also represents an important appointment for the cultural integration, involving chefs and musicians from all parts of the euro-Mediterranean area and beyond in it’s festive celebration of historical foods and local wines. The next edition of the event is to be held in San Vito Lo Capo between the 24th and 29th of September 2013




Cuscus di pesce San Vito photo by Valeria Casale 400pxCassatelle di Castellammare by VRC copy 2Sicilian white Grillo by VRC  copy Castellammare del Golfo TP by Vanvakys copy









 SicilyWine Vineyard _2 small copy 2The area of Trapani is the most extensive contiguous vineyard territory in Italy, and truly an area to savor mile by mile, from the beautiful medieval city of Erice (do not forget to taste the their special and authentic marzipan), to the salt marshes (first developed by the Phoenicians) of



Trapani, the Museum of Salt, and the antique windmills and SatiroDanzante1wild bird population of the area. Mothia Island (with its famous “Young Auriga”,or best know as  the“Mozia Charioteer,” the only remaining clothed Greek statue, attributed to the famous sculptor, Fidia) faces Trapani from its position in the Stagnone LagoonMarsala, with its eponymous wine, picturesque lungomare (coastline promenade) and unique specimen, the “Punic Ship” (la Nave Punica) of Museum Baglio Anselmi, is a “must”.




Stagnone birds in Marsala copy 3

If have additional time to spend in the area, we highly suggest a visit to the Aegadian Islands, a small archipelago where fishing and the cultivation of wines and grains take center stage.



Mazara by night vanvakys copy

Moving toward the southwest direction toward the peaceful coastal city of Mazara del Vallo, one arrives at the home of Europe’s largest fishing fleet as well as the Dancing Satyr of Mazara, a Roman sculpture fished out of the Mediterranean Sea and recently exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of New York.



Last but not least, in the same area, the unique modern city of Gibellina Nuova, conceived in 1968 after the terrible earthquake that struck the Belice Valley on the night of January 15, 1968 and affected 10 townships. 


Gibellina Nuova: from natural disaster to the “Dream in Progress” and a ruthless fate Sen. Corrao & Judy Rozner May 2009_3Senator Ludovico Corrao, then-Mayor of Gibellina, at the wanted to keep the tight knit community together and set out to build a new town 20 km away at Salinella on a plane in the Belice Valley. The plan for Gibellina Nuova was complete with freeway and railway access. Prestigious city planners, architects and top international artists were called in to contribute to the “Dream in Progress”. They created a town with wide streets, single two-story dwellings surrounded by gardens, piazzas, public gardens, and buildings of postmodern architecture. Modern sculptures, adorn every piazza and road junction, were gifted by artists. Their generous contributions filled a Modern Art Museum befitting a metropolis. Unfortunately, the so-called “living museum” has been nearly abandoned by the authorities for lack of proper funding. The willingness of local employees to keep it running and available to the international community of artists, art scholars and historians who travel thousands of miles around the world to visit is testament to just how precious it is Alberto Burri’s Cretto: the largest sculpture in the world. 


Case Di Stefano 1Gibellina Museum 4 copy 3 Museo delle Arti Mediterranee. A. Pomodoro The Ctretto Burri May 09_11








Prominent artist Alberto Burri traveled to Gibellina, Sicily from his native Umbria at the invitation of Ludovico Corrao, and this visit culminated in a most incredible sculpture. Burri, who worked as a medic during WWII and was eventually captured and held in USA, became an artist during his imprisonment. His signature methods of incorporating non-traditional materials such as wood and plastics in his sculptures and paintings, as well as his “cracked” style, laid the foundation for what was to become his most well-known creation: The Cretto of Old Gibellina spreads over 29 acres and covers the ruins of the abandoned city with a smooth white concrete, turning an area of devastation into a new and unique work of topographic land art, believed to be the largest sculpture in the world. (Thank you to Dr. Judy Rozner for her expert contribution on Alberto Burri’s Cretto).

stock-photo-copyright-symbol-as-a-wax-seal-80699464The Wine Trails of Sicily Through Culture and the Arts of Pleasure

by Salvatore Cottone New York, July 2013

CottoneTranslation and editing by www.OnpointTranslation 

Continue reading READ PART III>>> 




Florio family_1The Florio family is certainly an  important matter  to talk about, for Sicily Wine Stories as well for all South of Italy and the entire region . All began with Tommaso Florio in mid-seventeenth century in Calabria, in Melicuccà and  Bagnara Calabra, when his son Domenico and his nephew Vincenzo, although very young, moved to Sicily, doing  the same  trade, the  blacksmith.






BANNER-La_tonnara_di_Favignana_in_un_dipinto_di_Antonio_Varni copyThe rise of the Florios begins with Paolo and Ignazio, the children of Vincenzo, between 1800 and 1801 they  settled permanently in Palermo opening  a small shop in “Via dei Materazzai” dedicating themselves, for several decades, into the lucrative spices and rare goods trade . Immediately after, they decided to rent ,and then buy, some “tonnare“, factories for tuna processing”, on the coast of Palermo, lending money from a private bank, “Cambio Marittimo“, dedicated to marine business and trades. 

RubattinoIn few years of hard work, the family had greatly enriched and Vincenzo had the chance to buy some units of the Brick-Schooner  ”Santa Rosalia“ (a commercial boat  with two vertical shafts, the first square-rigged, the second gaff sails and bowsprit). Taking advantage of the peace treaties and trade between the Bourbon government and the governments of Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli (Libia, extremely advantageous from the point of view of customs fees, they began to increase revenues acquiring other vessels putting together  a discrete fleet that touched the ports of:  New York, Boston, London, Liverpool, Marseille and Genova: doing import/export of manufactures, sugar, wax, leather, drugs, rum, tar, etc. In a few years the company became an international holding company, from trade to financial activities, from fishing to  wine production and Sulphur extraction and commerce.


zolfatari Siciliani XX century.jpgVincenzo’s talent for business  is remarkable, in fact, numerous are the activities of which is a promoter or share holder: He’s a  modern tycoon characterized by having, as well as an innate entrepreneurial instinct, the characteristics of man sensitive to the culture, aesthetics and business conduct which, together with the conspicuous economic return, was beneficial to the improvement of the entire community. Open to modern ideas, sees great potential in the textile industry by investing in various business and trades , etc.




Logo Florio .jpg

Florio’s logo

Among the initiatives aimed at having better fortune  will  be the construction of a factory for the production of wine “Marsala“, in competition with British families who already worked in the field, such as Woodhouse and Ingham.  The inclusion of Vincenzo Florio in the wine market in 1834 is an important time for both the family history and the history of Marsala wine, aiming specially the Italian market,  rather than make the competition to other English merchants such as Ingham who had a majority of the American market,  or  Woodhouse who had the dominance of the Northern European market.  

Marsala ancient machinery 2 copy 2

In the second half of the nineteenth century Vincenzo Florio and his son Ignazio have the brilliant idea to invest in their wine company to modernize it. In their cellars the Florios realize the first bottling plant mechanic long before the Ingham or Woodehouse. The  undertaken work  has proved to be a great deal and the production  secured a vast market. In October of 1841 the Florio linked their names to the  Aegadian  islands (off the north-west coast of Sicily), renting from the Pallavicini and Rusconi families the old “tonnare”,  and tuna traps of Favignana and Formica (both part of the Islands)  for a period of nineteen years.




Cala rossafavignana_1

In 1874 Ignazio senior purchase entirely the Aegadian Islands paying the amount  of 2 million and 750,000 Liras to  Pallavicini family: the Florios transformed the fish canning industry into a  ”global business“. With the construction of the  plant  in Favignana Florio realized the most modern and important industrial site for processing  and preserving the tuna fish in the Mediterranean.




palermo-teatro-massimo-natale_02The Florio family left an imprint of himself in the art world of that period. They understood that Sicily has had for centuries a great heritage on craftsmanship and fine arts and thought to revive it.Of course they had the good fortune to meet with architects such as: Damiani Almeyda and,


Ernesto Basile and it is with this architect that the link takes pa_villa_igiea_sala2the form of architectural works in unison with the “art nouveau” of Europe (one of most important is the  ”Basile Cottage”, commissioned by Vincenzo Florio, and Villa Igiea). It’s just in the Hotel Villa Igiea and in the cottage, in which Basile accomplished a formidable convergence between architects, craftsmen, decorators, painters, sculptors, speaking the international language of “modernism“. And even at that time Palermo, already part of “The Grande Tour“,  was still a city where, for the climate and the immense monumental patrimony, hosted the cream of high society, as well as  the European ruling families like the real of Austria and Russia, Italy and England. Ignazio junior and his beautiful wife Franca, daughter of the Baron of San Giuliano Jacona Peter and Constance Notarbartolo live as protagonists in fact the period of the so called “La Belle Epoque”.

#6 Portrait of Franca Florio copyDonna Franca is the prototype of woman that combines the aesthetic ideal of elegance with her own taste, becoming a benchmark for the circles  of the European high society, always promoting the salons of the buildings of the Art Nouveau period of Palermo, attracting to herself, for her charm and beauty, the appreciation even of kings and queens. The Florios founded some of the most important opera houses in the world such as the Teatro Massimo (the third biggest in Europe) and the Politeama. These theaters  conveyed in our city very cultured tourists  in search of new lyric operas  in those days, and thanks to the Florio, were made in Palermo. 

Says Cristina Alaimo (art historian): “The interesting thing for Palermo in those years is that, there, they developed a business model based on “fine arts”. The Florio contributed significantly to engage and assist in this model. In several cities, such as Palermo and Naples, developed circles of conversation in which the intelligentsia, entrepreneurs, middle-class, and even men who were part of the administration, aimed  to promote dialogue between arts and industry, arts and public institutions. “




L'Ora XX centuryBut the activities of the Florios did not stop there.The founded: Banks and luxurious  hotels (Hotel Villa Igiea and Des Palmes); Publish company. The  Florios attempted a real cultural revolution creating a newspaper that was both expression of the needs of the people of the  whole south of Italy,  and a benchmark for intellectuals of the ” Meridione d’Italia“. The newspaper initially called “Sicilian Project” then called  “L’Ora”





International car race: the Targa Florio the first international car race in the world. Important was the meeting between Benjamin Ingham and the young Vincenzo Florio, which favored the creation of a number of initiatives on the commercial level but also on the industry, among which included the constitution of the”Società dei Battelli a Vapore Siciliani” or “ Steamboats Company of Sicily” . 


Ellis Island by copyThe company secured the connection between Naples, Palermo and Marseille and between the different ports of Sicily.Around 1880 the Florios started the line  directed to North America beginning the transportation,  of emigrants:  this service was seen very well by the American authorities, therefore, the international prestige of the Florio increased more and more.The first boat steamboat arriving to New York from Palermo was called “Sicilia”, first stop Ellis Island.



Florio pa_manifesto_esposizioneThe Florios had the great ability to represent their interests and those of Sicily and the South of Italy: they achieved a great international  prestige, and certainly,  the entire community benefited from it. But the management policies toward the south of Italy, like nowadays unfortunately, were very inappropriate and disastrous!  In 1896, an external commissioner of Sicily was nominated, and the subsequent advent of Giolitti also began the trouble for Florios. In the city of Palermo, as well as in Naples, Bari, and Taranto, uncertainty and anxieties of a mass artisans and working class, increasingly impoverished added the problem of unemployment.



I moti di Sicilia 1898

The peasants found themselves in a frightful condition of misery and soon joined the protests of urban and industrial class, acquiring an increasingly political level. Initiated in south-central and Sicily with the riots of Troina and Modica, the riots swept across the country between March and May of 1898 , as a result of the increase in freight rates, also as a result of the Spanish-American War, the price of bread skyrocketed…. “La Questione Meridionale” or” The Southern Question“, as later Antonio Gramsci will define this, “a never ending gap between north and south of Italy” that still last till nowadays.  

Cantieri Navali Palermo by www.cittaduepuntozero.itFrom this situation Ignazio Florio , advocated he project to build a shipyard “Il Cantiere Navale di Palermo” and also to expand the dry dock of Palermo port. But, as we shall see, this great project will fail to revive the fortunes of Sicily, the island suffered from a political and moral deficit that, like a cancer, gnawed (and still corrode) the political leadership of the municipal and provincial levels. The  economic Fall of the  Florios was caused by incorrect speculation, such as, for example, the shareholding Credito Mobiliare* the verge of bankruptcy, high interest rates charged by the *bank of Milan, and a certain naivety of the last of the Florio family , perhaps too committed to the “la dolce vita” the good life instead of business. After 1898 the policies for big investments where all directed  to built the north of Italy between infrastructures and industrial sites.  Despite all, the Florio in Palermo have created, directly or indirectly, an industrial structure that is still ongoing, as in the case of the Palermo’s Shipyard. They also place Palermo and Sicily in part to the attention of Europe, their collapse, unfortunately, involved the region and south of Italy.

Article, Story board and English   by Salvatore Cottone (to  be edited)

Sources:  Le province siculo-partenopee nel Regno d’Italia di Fara Misuraca ed Alfonso Grasso