Searching for your next great adventure? This Sweet July series taps top travel enthusiasts to share first-hand insight into their ventures across the country and world, so you know exactly what to expect and how to prepare once you book your ticket. Wishing you safe—and sweet—travels!
Today: Chasity Cooper shares her top tips for vacationing in Western Sicily.
As a wine professional, whenever I have the opportunity to visit somewhere new, my goal typically is to learn as much as possible through the lens of—you guessed it—wine.
My trip to Western Sicily was no different. However, not only did I enjoy the island’s unique native grape varietals of Nero D’Avola and Grillo, I also learned a great deal about the rich history of the island and enjoyed some of the freshest seafood of my life.
Palermo, which is the country’s capital, was the first stop on my visit. From there, I spent most of my time in Trapani and a brief moment in Marsala, a town within the province of Trapani known for its salt ponds and religious architecture. My only regret was that I didn’t extend my trip to return to Palermo for more of its vibrant street markets, cultural tours and unmatched dining experiences.
If exploring the beautiful country that is Italy is on your travel to-do list, Sicily is a must. Consider these spots for your itinerary:
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While I may have only spent one night in this charming city, I was blown away by the restaurant that I dined at for dinner. When in Italy, it is a must to stuff your face with as much pizza and pasta as you can. Palermo’s Mastunicola has the most delicious pies I’ve ever had. As someone from a pizza loving city, that is saying a lot. The toppings on the pizza were creative, ranging from buffalo mozzarella and mortadella to black pig bacon drizzled with Sicilian black bee honey. The dough was light and airy with a crispy crunch, and the desserts were borderline sinful. Each of the pizzas were paired with Grillo and Nero D’Avola (courtesy of Wines of Sicily DOC) and it was such a joyous way to begin the Sicilian experience. For a nightcap, slide by Ferramenta, a wine and cocktail bar tucked behind the Plaza Saint Domenico that plays R&B classics and has a killer outdoor patio.
FOR A BUDGET:
Whether you choose to spend your time in Palermo or Trapani, you’ll have an opportunity to lay your head in two very cozy hotels. Palazzo Santamarina, which opened in December 2022, is located in the heart of Palermo and has a number of luxury suites as well as a top-of-the-line fitness center and spa for relaxation. Before beginning a day of exploration, you can enjoy a buffet breakfast complete with Italian pastries, meats, cheeses and espresso.
In Trapani, the Room of Andrea Hotel, which used to be a palace, was transformed into a hotel in 2017. Just blocks away from the Mediterranean sea, the hotel also has a rooftop bar that provides a breathtaking view of the water and the rest of the city. If you’re looking for a late-night spot to catch a vibe and a good drink, Dorian Gray is a cocktail bar (located within walking distance of the hotel) that feels like a cozy basement library.
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For a more luxe wine travel experience, Firriato Winery has vacation properties located in Favignana and Etna that are truly unforgettable. On the island of Favignana, specifically, the winery offers guests a choice of apartments they can relax and release in. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill vineyard tasting, but guests have the chance to experience an immersive wine tasting with an oenologist and take culinary classes, where they can learn how to properly pair Sicilian wines and cuisine.
A Perfect Blend of Wellness & Adventure:
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One thing to note about Palermo is that it is a walking city with magnificent architecture. One of the stops you absolutely must make is to Teatro Massismo, the largest opera house in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Opened in May 1897, this structure underwent renovations in the 20th century and today, it still hosts concerts, ballets and other events. In Trapani, a walking tour will provide you with the best view of the city, from the Corso Vittorio Emanuele to the Chiesa del Purgatorio.
Located about 35 minutes by car, south of Palermo is the city of Marsala, which is known for its religious architecture and really good wine. I only spent a few hours exploring this city, but Porta Garibaldi has a lot of cute shops where you can grab souvenirs for yourself and loved ones. Before leaving Marsala and heading back to Trapani, we made a stop at the sea salt pond, which has a number of windmills and some of the oldest salt marshes in Europe.
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What To Pack
What I love about Sicily is that it is an island, so if you’re exploring any of its coastal cities, you’re always going to be kissed with a gentle sea breeze. While traveling, I do my best to keep my beauty routine as minimal as possible. Since I’m usually in the sun for a nice part of the day, I keep my face free from makeup, but I always keep Ami Cole Lip Treatment Oil in my bag to keep my lips hydrated and with a hint of shine. My hair is always in knotless braids to make getting ready in the morning a breeze, and Sunday II Sunday’s Root Refresh helps to alleviate an itchy scalp. Also, it’s crucial to dress for the season. I visited in May, which was abundant with spring showers but also lots of sunshine, so I brought jeans, a few sundresses, and athleisure for working out. Sunscreen is a must! Two of my favorite brands are Black Girl Sunscreen and My Block Skin. Also, you will be doing a LOT of walking, so pack one or two pairs of comfortable shoes. At night, it does cool down, so make sure to pack a light jacket.