Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Buying property in Sicily

Hello again!

It's been a long, long time since my last post, but due to personal circumstances, I'm not longer living in Sicily.

As I had people asking me about this, and I'm interested and sort of involved in real estate, I wanted to post something about buying property in Sicily.

So you've decided that you like the sunny weather, the laid-back atmosphere, and you want to live in a place where all you have to worry about is gaining weight form eating too much gelato? Well, now that the important stuff is sorted out, lets move on to other matters.

Some points to consider when planning to invest in Sicily:

- Sicily has the same property laws as the rest of Italy.

- The procedure: when you find a house you like, you should make an inspection of the property with an expert (geometra or architect). Then you can make an offer, if your offer is accepted, you and the seller sign a preliminary sales contract, and you make a downpayment to secure the property. At this point if the seller backs down, he has to pay you double the deposit, if you back down you lose the deposit unless there's a legal reason to justify that. Then you go to a sort of escrow period the length of which you agree with the owner. That ends with the final contract when both parts sign in front of a notary (official registar). He or she will make sure that the property doesn't have any outstanding debts, inheritance issues, etc.

- If you are planning to buy land to build a house, you should consider that any plot classed as rustic or agricultural land (terreno agricolo) has restricted building and will cost much less than urban plots. That's because you are only allowed to build 1 house that can take up to 1% of the total area.

- If you are a EU citizen or a citizen of a country with reciprocal agreements, you can receive your pension in Italy and will also have the right to free healthcare.

- Sicily is undergoing some improvements to it's infrastructure. A new airport has been built at Comiso, near Ragusa, and there's a new freeway connecting Catania with South-Eastern Sicily. However bear in mind that the airport was due to open in 2008, and 3 years later, still nothing has happened. Allegedly it is ready, but I'm beginning to wonder if it will ever open. Hopefully it will... some day.

- Before you ask, yes mafia still exists in Sicily, however they have their own bigger scheme of affairs, they won't go after you and your new house, and you will only learn about them in the news every now and then. Generally speaking Sicily is a very safe and relaxing place to live in and there's rarely any violent crime. You just have to be more careful about petty crime in bigger cities like Palermo and Catania, as you would in any bigger city around the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good value Sicilian wines

The wines I list here are in no particular order, and they are not necessarily expensive, but you’ll probably get a good price-quality value here without hurting your wallet (I also included their approximate price):

Some of the most popular Sicilian vineyards include Planeta, Rapitalà, Donnafugata, Tasca d’Almerita, Duca di Salaparuta, Florio and Pellegrino. Top varieties include: Red: Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Syrah. White: Inzolia, Catarratto, Grillo. Dessert wines: Passito, Moscato, Marsala, Malvasia and Zibibbo.

Red Wines:
- Faro D.O.C., Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera – Bonavita Winery – Price: 18 euros
- Cerasuolo di Vittoria – COS Winery – Price: 14.50 euros
- Don Antonio, Nero d’Avola – Morgante Winery – Price: 22.50 euros
- Mille e una Notte, 90% Nero d’Avola,10% other varieties - Donnafugata Winery – Price: 40 euros
- Santa Cecilia, Nero d'Avola – Planeta Winery ¬– Price: 19/20 euros
- Corvo, Nero d’Avola, Pignatello, Nerello Mascalese – Duca di Salaparuta – Price: 6/7 euros
- La Segreta, 50% Nero d'Avola, 30% Merlot, 20% Syrah – Planeta Winery – Price: 8 euros
- Camelot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend – Firriato Winery – Price: 23 euros
- Etna Rosso, Mascalese 85% Nerello Mantellato 15% – Murgo Winery – Price: 8 euros
- Noà, Nero d’Avola 40%, Merlot 30%,Cabernet Sauvignon 30% – Cusumano Winery – Price: 20 euros
- Regaleali, Nero d’Avola – Tasca d’Almerita – Price: 7 euros
- Tanè, 85% Nero d'Avola, 15% Syrah – Valle dell’Acate – Price: 24 euros

White Wines:
- Anthilia – Donnafugata – Price: 8 euros
- Altavilla della Corte, Grillo – Firriato – Price: 8 euros
- Colomba Platino, Inzolia – Duca di Salaparuta – Price: 8/9 euros
- Bidis, Chardonnay, Inzolia – Valle dell’Acate – Price: 13.50 euros
- Kaid, Syrah – Alessandro di Camporeale – Price: 14.50 euros
- Principe di Corleone, Catarratto 80%, Damaschino 20% – Alcamo Bianco D.O.C. – Price: 8 euros

Dessert Wines: Do as the locals, dip some Italian biscotti into the wine and enjoy!
- Moscato Passito di Pantelleria – Martingana 2000 Salvatore Murana – Price: 49 euros/ 50 cl.
- Passito di Pantelleria – Pellegrino Winery – Price: 16 euros/ 50 cl.
- Vergine Baglio Florio, Marsala Vergine D.O.C. – Florio – Price: 18 euros/ 50 cl.
- Malvasia delle Lipari Passito , Malvasia D.O.C. – Barone di Villagrande – Price : 15/25 euros
- Ben Ryé, Moscato Passito di Pantelleria , Zibibbo – Donnafugata – Price: 10/15 euros

Where to buy:
Enoteca Ristor Vip:
- Via O.M. Corbino 29, Ragusa - Tel. 0932.652.9990
- Le Masserie Shopping Mall - SS 115 Freeway - V. Grandi 26, Ragusa.

Enoteca Vini Olindo:
- Via G. di Vittorio 116 - Tel: 0932.623311

Enoteca/Wine Bar Vino Veritas
Via Sammartino 29, Palermo - Tel. 091 6090653
Hours: 9 am- 2 pm and from 4 pm – 9 pm

Enoteca Picone
Via Marconi 36, Palermo – Tel. 091 331300

Cana Enoteca
Via Alloro 105, Palermo – Tel. 091 6101147

Locanda del Vinattiere Enoteca/Wine Bar/Restaurant
Via E. Merletta 13 (close to Piazza Duomo) – Tel. 095 7158152

Enoteca Regionale di Sicilia
Viale Africa 31, Catania – Tel. 095 7462210
Hours: from Tuesday to Saturday 10 am-1 pm and 5 pm-8 pm; Closed Mon/Sun

Liquori E Dolciumi Di Meli Alfio
P.zza Giovanni Bovio 18, Catania
Tel: 095 532796

Acireale, Catania:
Enoteca il Tocco di Vino
Via Galatea 18 - Tel: 095.763.4215

Enoteca Laganà
Via G. di Giovanni 47 - Tel: 094.223040

Winery tours and tastings:

1• PLANETA Vineyards, offer tours and wine tastings at the following locations:
o Dell'Ulmo Winery in Sambuca di Sicilia
o Della Dispensa Winery & Sella Segreta Winery in Menfi (AG)
o The BUONVINI Winery in Noto (SR) and DORILLI Winery in Vittoria (RG) can be visited by appointment only and in certain months of the year.
Tue-Sat (except holidays) from 9 am to 3 pm
How to book:
Send an email or a fax at least 2 days in advance to: visits@planeta.it or fax (+39) 091-612-4335, indicate the day, time of arrival and number of people that want to take the tour. Tel: (+39) 091-32-7965.
- La Segreta : Bianco IGT Sicilia - 50% Grecanico, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier, 10% Fiano – 7 euros
- Chardonnay: IGT Sicilia , Chardonnay- 18 Euros
- Moscato di Noto D.O.C. – Moscato 100% - 19 euros
- Santa Cecilia: IGT Sicilia , Nero d’Avola – 15/25 euros
- Cerasuolo di Vittoria : D.O.C., Nero d'Avola 60%, frappato 40% - 7/10 euro

2• DONNAFUGATA Cellars - Via S. Lipari 18 in Marsala offer wine tastings and tours in English for a minimum of 6 people with prices varying from 5 to 36 euros.
9 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 6:30 pm (Monday - Friday).
How to book:
Tel. 0923 724 245/263 - E-mail enoturismo@donnafugata.it
- Anthìlia I.G.T. bianco inzolia 50%, catarratto 50% - 7/10 euros
- Contessa Entellina : D.O.C. bianco.: ansonica, chardonnay- 10/15 euros
- Mille e una Notte : I.G.T. rosso: nero d'Avola, altri vitigni autoctoni - 40 euros

3• TASCA D’ALMERITA Vineyard offer tours and wine tastings but only for groups from 8 to 25 people. Weekdays only.
Contrada Regaleali - 90020 Sclafani Bagni (PA) - Tel: +39 091 6459711 - www.tascadalmerita.it
Hours: Mon - Fri. 8.30 am - 1.30 pm / 2.30 pm - 5.30 pm
How to book:
Fill the form on their website www.tascadalmerita.it under contact – visits – booking. or call +39 0921 544011 / +39 091-645-9711

- Almerita Brut : Chardonnay - 20 euros
- Leone d'Almerita : IGT Catarratto – 7 euros
- Nozze d'Oro :D.O.C. Inzolia – 13 euros
- Rosso del Conte : I.G.T. rosso , nero d'Avola 90%, perricone 10% - 15> 25 Euro
- Cygnus: Nero d'Avola 75%, Cabernet Sauvignon 25% - 12 euros

4 • AVIDE Winery - Avide Vitivinicola
Contrada Mendolilla - Strada Provinciale 7 - 97013 Comiso (RG)
How to book:
Tours by appointment only on Saturday & Sundays - Tel: +39 0932 967456 - www.avide.it

- Barocco Cerasuolo di Vittoria doc rosso: Frappato con Nero d’Avola 21€
- Cerasuolo di Vittoria Etichetta nera 8€

Wine related products:
Also excellent are any of the wine jam marmalades that play very well with strong flavoured cheeses like Ragusano DOC or Parmiggiano Reggiano.

Where to buy:
Casa del Formaggio Sant'Anna di Dipasquale
Corso Italia 387 - 97100 Ragusa
Tel: +39 0932 227485

Wine related Events:
  • A great event for wine lovers is Cantine Aperte (Open Cellars Day) this year it was held on May in its 15th edition, looking forward for next year’s.
  • Another great event is Cheese Art. This event is held in Ragusa every 2 years, between June and July. The next one will be in 2009. They have cheese, wine and beer tasting and pairing, you can also buy cheese, wine, salami and other related stuff. They have experts explaining the main features of different kinds of cheese from around the world and, of course, local ones. There’s also live music, plays, seminars, etc. Last time I was there, it was organised in the gardens of the beautiful Donnafugata Castle.
  • A third event not to be missed is Vinimilo,a traditional festival dedicated to Bacchus (or Dionysus, the god of wine in Greek/Roman mythology). It takes place every year in september in the town of Milo, situated on the slopes of Mount Etna. Wine related exhibitions, tastings, seminars, etc. - Info: Tel. 095/955328 e 955437 - www.vinimilo.it

Special thanks to Salvatore Giorgio and Stefania Messina for their valuable contribution to this post.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cool events in Sicily

Here are some nice events in Sicily that will take place from October through December of 2008:

Ibla Buskers - Ibla street artists’ fair
October 8 - 12, Ragusa Ibla
Take the bus service from Piazza Libertà after 8 pm to get there.

Sagra del pistacchio - Pistachio nuts fair
September 30 - October 8, Bronte, Catania
All you ever wanted to know about pistachio nuts and were afraid to ask :-)

Vinum Docet - Meetings for wine lovers, wine tasting, wine matching, news, ecc.
Month of October, Palermo.
Mirabó Food & Wine - Via Rutelli 14 (at Via Libertà) every wednesday at 8:30 pm. Info: +39-3491876193

Mercatino dell'antiquariato - Antiques market
Month of November, Agrigento
Streets of the historic center. Info: +39-0922-401566

Sagra della Ricotta - Ricotta Cheese Fair - Ricotta in all it’s forms and recipes, typical produce, parades, etc.
Within 3 days of January 6th
Piazza Umberto I Sant’Angelo Muxaro (Agrigento)

* all events and dates might change.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pubs and bars in Marina di Ragusa

If you come to Ragusa in summertime, you will probably find high temperatures and a desserted city. That's because everybody is cooling off in Marina di Ragusa (Ragusa's seaside). To see map click here. Here are some pubs in Marina, where you can have a drink while watching the sun go down on the sea.

La Raja, Plaja Grande beach

Decanter great cocktails served with a smile, while listening to cool music. What else can you ask for? Well… from 7 pm to 9 pm it’s aperitivo time. This is the Italian version of a pre-dinner drink and a snack, but it’s brought to very generous proportions at the Decanter. Basically you order an aperitivo, choose your drink, pick up a plate and taste some delicious hors d'euvres from the buffet. I personally like their Bellini, done with real peaches. Two locations for this lovely pub: one in upper Ragusa at Piazza Cappuccini 22. Tel: +39 338 430 4092. Also by the sea on the pedestrian boardwalk at Marina di Ragusa.

Charleston not far from the Decanter, and about 50 yards from the main plaza in Marina di Ragusa, the Charleston has modern décor, orange-blue colored walls and sea view. Not an enormous variety of cocktails here but enough if you’re not too picky. It has tables and booths and usually a nice music selection. It’s one of the few pubs in Marina di Ragusa that opens all year round.

Tre Per Caso: By the sea in the pedestrian boardwalk at Marina di Ragusa right between the Decanter and Quattro Quarti. This two story pub is open all year round and has a nice sea-view terrace (closed in winter). They have a good variety of cocktails, and for those ones missing on the menu... they willingly prepared to my specifications a spicy margarita with tabasco sauce.

Anno Zero towards the end of the lungomare A. Doria lays this nice pub with outdoor tables. Loud music, good vibe and ok cocktails. Inside you'll find cool pictures hanging on the yellow walls and some wooden booths on your right hand side. I usually like this place because it's not as packed as the pubs closer to the main square.

Victoria Pub this place is almost hidden… it took me one year to realize it even existed even if I walked by dozens of times! Lungomare A.Doria. It will be on your left hand side walking from the main square, and you have to enter some sort of gallery right next door to a white building with boutiques. It has a more traditional feel with the wooden bar and pool tables on the back. They also make pizzas. Lungomare A. Doria 20 - Tel: +39 338-491-0241

Quattro Quarti Very nice modern all-white décor. Sloooow service, regular food. Packed on summer nights with all the see and be seen crowd. Not really my kind of place, but good enough for people watching. By the sea in the pedestrian boardwalk at Marina di Ragusa steps away from the Decanter.

La Dolce Vita Caffè this cafè has outdoor sitting and it becomes a disco on weekends, although I wasn't too excited about the music selection. You'l find it towards the end of the lungomare A. Doria.

Chalets on the beach:
To drink by the sea, you have another alternative… do as the locals and head to one of the beach huts (chalets nella spiaggia). These are wood constructions with just a floor and a roof (if any) right on the sand. So you can drink al fresco right on the beach, and maybe swim a little if you dare. Some popular “chalets” are:

La Raja (The Sting Ray): This year’s newcomer is located in Plaja Grande. The best description of this chalet would be a lounge bar on the beach. Candles, drapes, chandeliers, a lot of white and a great location by the sea, make this the perfect spot for a relaxed evening watching the sunset while sipping cocktails. Only bar in Ragusa where they serve cosmopolitan, lemon drop or apple martini. The mojitos and fruit cocktails are exellent too, I enjoyed the watermelon coktail even if I'm not a big fan of watermelon.
Opened everyday, all day on summertime.
Driving from Marina di Ragusa towards Donnalucata you’ll see a sign on your right hand side. Get in the trail and drive until you see a ship on the sand, That’s the entrance.
Plaja Grande Beach
Tel: +39 333-7449990

The Margarita, located in the lungomare A. Doria, in Marina di Ragusa, a few blocks from the square. La Ola, always in the lungomare A. Doria (packed on weekends); the Pata Pata (lungomare in Sampieri), and the Tsunami, (Punta Braccetto, about 2 km after Punta Secca, on the way to the beach). By driving around and asking you can find many more, and that can be part of the fun.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


There are some awesome beaches in Sicily, some of them not really famous but still worth a visit from you sun lovers...

Shoal of Marinello, Messina

Donnalucata used to be a fishermen’s village, as a matter of fact you can still enjoy their lovely fish market (opened all day during the summer and mornings only year-round). The coastline offers a wide extension of really nice sandy beaches. Located 8 km from Scicli.

Calamosche inside Vendicari
Vendicari is an oasis and natural reserve between Noto and Pachino, you’ll need to make a long walk to reach the Calamosche beach, but it’s really worth it. You’ll find tranquil, crystal-clear water in this beautiful little bay. So far this is the only beach in Sicily where I’ve seen topless sunbathing.
*There are no facilities/amenities near this beach so pack everything in.

Beautiful beach near Ispica’s Santa Maria del Focallo, with sea caves and large rocks on the sea (see picture). There is a marsh nearby (Pantano della Marza) where you can do some birdwatching and see flamingos.
*No facilities/amenities near this beach

Laghetti di Marinello in Oliveri
This natural reserve in the province of Messina, near the town of Tindari, has some patches of typical Mediterranean vegetation, and a long surface of cliffs overlooking the sea. On the base of the hills of Capo Tindari, there are some small salt lakes and the beautiful shoal of Marinello, an ideal place for sunbathing or swimming. This is a pebble beach, so you might want to use your flip flops to reach the water.
*No facilities/amenities near this beach. This is a pebbled beach.

Capo d’Orlando
A popular beach town in Sicily, Messina's Capo d’Orlando offers nice spots for swimming and lovely beaches (both pebbled and sandy).
By now you should know that finding ruins in Sicily is quite easy, and Capo d’Orlando is no exeption, after swimming, you can see the 14th century Capo d'Orlando castle’s ruins and visit the Torre del Trappeto.

Nearby, in the town of San Gregorio, the local fishermen have organized (eco-friendly) tourist fishing, so you can sleep in one of the small fishermen’s houses and get aboard an authentic fishing boat to experience some of the secrets and traditions of this profession.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Restaurants in or around Ragusa

The idea of this post is to point out restaurants that you probably won't find in any guides, or don't look like anything special from the outside, but serve really good food or are just fun to visit...

Mexican/Latin American
La Cantinita
Reservations are a must on this lively, busy, self proclaimed latin american restaurant. A long time favorite for bachelor parties, birthday parties or just any kind of parties. In fact it’s the perfect place to party while getting wasted on tequila boom boom (*) under a Mexican sombrero. As for the food, it's good, but don’t expect authentic Mexican or Latin American dishes here. The décor is bright and colorful, but I’m sure people come here for the loud and fun atmosphere and don’t really remember much of the surroundings after a few drinks. Just take a look at the TV screen sharing images of customers in various grades of alcoholic intoxication. Try “el fuego della Cantinita,” a shot of kalua and tequila “on fire” (as seen in the picture).
La Cantinita is located in Via Venezia 18, Marina di Ragusa.
Tel: +39 0932 616506.

(*) Tequila Boom Boom: pour equal parts of tequila and tonic water in a shot glass, cover with a napkin or with your bare palm, and slam the glass down on the table twice. Make sure the drink fizzes. Drink in one gulp.

Sicilian/Local food
U Saracinu
Centrally located in Ragusa Ibla near the main church of San Giorgio, this restaurant serves typical sicilian food with a broad range of great home-made pasta and a good selection of local wines. I recommend the grilled ragusano cheese with honey. The waiter gives friendly service and good advice.
Via Convento 9, Ragusa Ibla
Tel: +39 0932 246976

Seafood / Fish
La Falena
This restaurant isn’t really inviting if you see it from the outside or, for that matter, even from the inside. The fact that it’s located right next door to a gas station doesn’t help either, but… the seafood and fish are excellent. Try the “peppata di cozze” (mussels soup) or the “dentice al sale” dentex fish cooked in a salt crust.
Via Porto Venere, Marina di Ragusa
Tel: +39 0932 239321

La Valle
This unattractive neighborhood pizzeria, looks just like it looked back in the 70’s (and I mean the bad 70’s decoration). But the pizza is wood-fire cooked, with thin crust and, oh yes, really good. Besides it’s one of the few pizzerias that’s opened for lunch.
Via Risorgimento 70, Ragusa
Tel. +39 0932 229341

Other food
Ibla bla
Built inside a beautiful ancient stone building (originally a mill) in the historic Ragusa Ibla, this two-story restaurant serves all kind of food from pizza to cous cous. Closed on Tuesdays.
Piazza Republica, Ragusa Ibla.
Tel: +39 0932 651888.

Quick Bites
Food & Style
Nice, minimalist, modern white-ish décor, in an underground bar-cafè. They have a great selection of tea and iced-tea, decent coffee and the pizza was surprisingly good. I specially enjoy the delicious nero fondente or the cremino, 2 creamy cold coffee drinks topped with chocolate or hazelnut cream made by national chocolate producers Eraclea.
Via G. di Vittorio 63, Ragusa
Tel: +39 0932 246477

This list will continue to grow and get updated as I keep eating out….