By Rhea Saran
Sicily and the Mafia. Mention one and the other leaps immediately to mind. Sure, the Italian island has a lot more going for it – a cultural history that includes Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, French and Spanish influences, a rich heritage of art and architecture, warm Mediterranean climes, and spectacular landscapes and views. But, let’s face it; you’ve always wanted to explore Sicily as Victoria Gotti might. Here are some tips to get you started.
The Flight: Fly Alitalia/Delta from New York to Naples – business class, of course. The flight, which makes a brief stop in either Rome or Milan, costs about $7,100 roundtrip. Don’t forget to custom order in-flight meals by celebrity chef, Michelle Bernstein, while on the Delta-operated sector. Think of her linguine in brandy and goat cheese sauce with tarragon and roasted tomatoes as a taste of what’s to come.
The Wheels: The main point of going to Naples, instead of just stopping in Rome, is to rent yourself Gotti-worthy wheels that can be ferried across to Sicily. While there are trains and buses on the island, the best bet is to have a car of your own. Calandres Luxury Sports Car Hire and Maranello Service both rent Ferraris that can be picked up or delivered in Naples. So, get yourself a Ferrari F430 Spider F1 at the rate of about $2,500 a day.
The Boat: Now that you’re equipped with the most essential accessory, book a two-person first class cabin on a ferry to the Sicilian capital, Palermo. The overnight cabin rate runs about $90 and the Ferrari can be accommodated for another $120. Restaurant, bar and entertainment are available on board.
The Capital and the Must-Sees
The City: Before escaping to a place far away from the bustle of life, spend a little time in Palermo, experience Sicilian city life and take in some of the sights. Check in at the Centrale Palace Hotel and request the presidential suite, which has antique and designer furniture and two Jacuzzis. The suite rate runs at about $400 per night (plus $20 for the Ferrari’s spot in the garage). The 18th century hotel is especially recommended for its proximity to everything in the city’s center. A walking tour through old Palermo to take in the architecture – Arabic, Norman and Baroque – will give you a real sense of history. The Quattro Canti, the cathedral, the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Museo Archeologico Regionale are all worth a visit.
The Food: Then, hop into your hot wheels and take a 45 minute drive to Il Mulinazzo, an Italian restaurant near Palermo that comes highly recommended for its legendary tasting menu and two Michelin stars. Nino Graziano, the chef and owner, serves up Sicilian food with some tweaking to lend it his own flair. The seafood is fresh and the fava bean puree with scampi, ricotta and olive oil gets raves. Don’t expect to spend less than $70 per head at dinner to do the experience real justice. Also be sure to sample Sicily’s wines – the well-known Marsala wine comes from this island, as do Moscata, Malavasia, Novello and Faro.
The Villa: Sight-seeing is great and must be done. But if you were a Mafioso, that wouldn’t be the highlight of your trip. What you’d need is a beautiful, secluded place in which to luxuriate – in the company of members of your “family,” of course. So, warm up the Ferrari’s engine because the rest of the vacation will be spent at a luxury villa halfway between Taormina and Catania. L’Olmo is an 8-bedroom mansion set part way between the sea and Mount Etna (there are views of both from the house). The grounds include several terraces, gardens, citrus groves and a large pool. Inside, all the bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms; there is an open fireplace, several living and reception areas, and a dining room and kitchen. Most importantly, the villa comes with 3-5 permanent staff, including a cook and a caretaker for the grounds. For a week, the villa costs about $25,000.
The Road Trips: In case floating in your own private pool or eating Sicilian fare isn’t enough, the villa is located close enough to other destinations for some variety. Head to the town of Taormina, 25 minutes away, for some beach time. While in the town, some of the sights check out the Teatro Greco, the cathedral of Taormina and the Palazzo Corvaja. Syracuse is an hour’s drive from the villa, and with its rich history, is also worth a trip. In this Greek-influenced city, be sure to stop by the Temple of Athena encased in a Baroque cathedral, the Fountain of Arethusa, the Greek theater and Parco Archeologico della Neapolis.
If you’ve lived right, you’ve now dropped well over $60,000 on this vacation in Sicily. Victoria Gotti would be proud.