May 5: Regaleali winery loop

The day started with a beautiful haze shading the mountain tops with the sun fighting to break through.  The weather promised to be perfect biking weather – not too hot, not too windy.  Today’s mission – a ride over the rolling terrain to the only private winery still in existence in Sicily – Regaleali. It is a vast Sicilian estate owned by the noble Tasca d'Almerita family since 1837. Then back to the agriturismo for a private cooking lesson -- assignment: make the dinner for the guests of the inn! 

After a breakfast of a variety of sweet tarts, fresh ham and homemade cheese from the Agriturismo’s farm the group received a lesson in the history of the Mafia rise and decline in Sicily.  Sicily at one time was predominately divided up in territories of only a few families who for years “ruled” the area.  Most of these estate owners’ families preferred to not live out in the country on their land but rather in the city of Palermo in a villa enjoying the cosmopolitan culture rather than the life on a farm.  This, however required a “manager” of the property to oversee the day to day operations and protect the interests of the estate owners.  During the unification of Italy in the 1860s Garibaldi sent 1000 soldiers to Sicily to “conquer” the land and remove the lords from their position of power.  The estates however had become self-sufficient businesses and thus the need for managers in the country to oversee the day to day operations still existed.  The “managers” had always assumed the position of power in the field but now with the removal of the “lords” in the city, were the new “head” and decision makers for the territory.  At first this was a social leadership position, but as time moved on and the desire of power grew the element of control entered.  The manager positioned himself as the “protector” of the people. In the early 1900s the development of a more “protector” using methods not necessarily the most legal began to appear.  Extortion in the name of protection was a regular phenomenon.  The Mafia, as we know it, was born! 

After WWI with the turn of the economy into a downward spiral, many Italians immigrated to the US, South America and Asia.  The Mafia spread along with this population shift.  The organization in Italy had become strong and powerful integrating itself into the Italian government system always with the guise of “helping protect” the people.  As members of the powerful Mafia family left for other lands, they established their own new power base and continued the protection.  To this day there are remnants of the Mafia all over the world. 

In Italy, it is still strong, but over the last twenty years there has been a slow and steady movement to rid the country of the corruption.  Several prominent people have stood up to the Mafia and have made attempts to resist the power play.  Most recently the newly elected president of Sicily has made it his platform to rid Sicily of the Mafia.  In the late 90s a local Palermo priest spread the word among the youth that life is not dictated by the Mafia and that every person had the right to live a free life.  Also in the 90s two very prominent prosecutors took it as their mission to fight the crime scenes created by the techniques of protection professed by the Mafia.  Each in their own way wanted to “clean” up the corruption and allow Sicilians and the rest of Italy to be free of extortion.  Unfortunately, the priest and the two prosecutors were slain – the president lives today under heavy guard with the threat of death a constant.   

History lesson over and off to the winery! The route entailed some muscle work in that the destination sits high on a hill overlooking the vast acreage that encompasses the Regaleali organization. With each push of the pedal one climbs higher and higher allowing for a broad view of the valley with its many colorful fields. Mother Nature has painted this area with a bold paint brush. The reds, greens, yellows all stand at attention allowing the sense of sight to explode.

The winery produces some of the best wines in Sicily, a fact the group can attest to after tasting several white and red varieties. Wine tasting is an art. It requires an educated palate and a strong sense of taste. In order to assure that each wine is given the proper respect, food accompanies the feat. The Sicilians are artists when it comes to cooking. Each course out does the one before and the accompanying wines compliment the chef's work to perfection.

After a Sicilian lunch made entirely of Regaleali farm produce it is a very full stomach ride over the rolling hill terrain back to the agriturismo and the groups' own cooking class. Food is never far away when in Sicily!

The Hills of Color


Red, Yellow and Green For As Far As The Eye Can See!

Ever Changing Terrain

Olive Trees, Wheat, and Grapes Covering the Land

Grape Vineyard

Regaleali Winery

Front Entrance to The Estate

Resting Bikes After a Hill Climb!

Pam: "Here I Am!"

Ann & Paolo: "Yea! We Are So Happy To Be At The Top Of The Hill Finally!!"

Beautiful Walkway

Dario & Paolo: "We Are The Good and Bad Hat Boys!"

Sasha, The Winery Head Manager & Guide

Stage One of the Wine Making Process

Stage Two

Final Resting Time

Pam, Judy, Monica, Kathy "Wine Tasting"


More Beautiful Sulla

Head Chef: "Time to Get Dinner Ready!"

Dario: "First The Wine!"

The Head Chefs!


Dario Leading the Process

Ann & Monica in Full Cooking Uniforms!

First We Chop the Onions!


Judy: "I'm a Hands On Type of Mixer!"

Monica: "Me Too!"

Monica: "Did He Say Chop Fine?" Ann: "No Just Crush!"

Kathy In Charge of the Sauce


Pam Busy At Work


Ann With The Big Kid's Knife

Dario Whisking The Right Way!

Judy Making Eggplant Parmesan

Kathy & Monica With The Most Important Part of Dinner Making -- Dessert


Monica & Ann: "Yum!!!!!!"

Everyone In The Act -- Sue, Judy, Monica Supervising & Ann