Sicily’s unique history and contemporary predicament – rich in culture, relatively poor economically – makes it ideal for sustainable tourism. If you want a laid-on corporate experience, then it is not for you. Yet, the quality of the accommodation in agriturismi, (basically, family-owned ‘farm hotels’, often of 5 star quality), the food – an endless menu from streetfood arancini and panelle, to many varieties of fish, fruit and vegetables – and the renowned Etna wines, would put to shame much of what is counted as ‘luxury’ in today’s elite tourism. Sicily is famous for its hospitality where visitors are often regarded as guests rather than tourists.
Sicily Unlimited was set up to explore this rich culture and work with local associations to help promote a sustainable vision of the island. Each year, we offer summer and Easter courses on Sicilian history, film and food, taught by Geoff Andrews, writer and historian, and the London-based Sicilian journalist Francesca Marchese, http://www.francescamarchese.co.uk/ We stay on an agriturismo and collaborate with groups like FAI (the Italian National Trust) and Slow Food, in order to bring local knowledge and experience to the course. In the Kolymbethra Gardens in Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, for example, FAI has done magnificent work in restoring an abandoned area of outstanding natural beauty. Nearby, at the Scala dei Turchi (Turkish Steps), a familiar site in the Inspector Montalbano series, it has led a successful campaign to remove illegally-built eyesore buildings which threaten the environmental heritage of a UNESCO protected space. In Sicily Slow Food has been a grassroots movement which has done much to get just pay for small producers, defend traditional foods at risk, promote ‘eco-gastronomy’ and celebrate the simple pleasures of eating local food in a period which has seen the inexorable rise of global fast food corporations. The film and food week we organise on the Aeolian Islands in May includes visits to film locations as well as tastings of local food and wine during ‘Salina Isola Slow’, a Slow Food weekend. A perfect Sicilian combination!