Scents, flavours and feelings - three words that help to describe Italy’s formidable food and wine culture. Italy is a republic in name only. Rather, it is a collection of ancient duchies, city-states, fiefdoms and colonies with more than a hundred dialects and native cuisines together with 250 DOC wine areas and a plethora of varietals - some of which are seldom seen in the UK.
Aboard the 34-passenger Callisto, we will taste indigenous food and wines on our journey from Venice down to Sicily, looking at how the phrase ‘Italy keeps all her best wine for herself’ might just be true. All our vineyard visits are to producers who can best show off their region’s place in the remarkable kaleidoscope of Italian wines. To whet your appetite, we will enjoy wines with views over the Adriatic, in stunning wild countryside and even on the slopes of Mount Etna. We will encounter varietals like Nerello Mascalese, Catarratto Inzolia, Aglianico and many others. Our exploration of this stunning coastline will of course involve sampling local cuisine and we will dine at many of the vineyards we visit as well as some delightful restaurants.
Our voyage will include visits to places rarely seen on cruise itineraries and there will be very few tourists in many ports of call. We have also included many must-see sights such as the lovely city of Lecce and Taormina on the island of Sicily which offers stunning views of Mount Etna. Cobbled streets with years of history will unfold before us as we make our way south aboard our private yacht. Explore UNESCO Heritage sites, walk through historic hilltop villages, discover the secrets of Parmigiano Reggiano and of course, there will be ample time to relax in the sun aboard the luxurious Callisto. While the rest of the world clings to standardisation and mass-marketing, Italy can still offer much that makes you feel alive, human and sensual. Much of what is unique about Italy is the pursuit of pleasure and the skill of Italians to do this. An open mind and a sense of fun are the only essentials on our voyage of discovery and this is your invitation to sample a generous slice of La Dolce Vita.
Gastronomy themed itineraries have been designed around food and drink. You will be joined by a food or drink expert and the tour will include tastings of local produce.
Roger Preece - Wine & Food Expert
For this specially arranged ‘food and wine exploration’ we have enlisted the help of wine expert, Roger Preece. Roger’s interest in wine dates from when, whilst working for Stowells of Chelsea, he helped in broadening the company’s portfolio. This led to extensive travel throughout wine-growing Europe and an ever-increasing love affair with wines. He opened a wine bar in South Kensington which was so successful that the venture grew into an impressive 17 more bars. Roger still has an interest in 2 bars and acts as a wine consultant to several companies. He holds a Diploma from the Wines & Spirits Education Trust. He has helped to design this itinerary to take in the best of Italian culture, cuisine and visit some of the best vineyards from Venice in the north to Sicily in the south.
La Dolce Vita itinerary:
Day 1 - LONDON TO VENICE.
Fly by scheduled flight. Embark Callisto in Venice and sail overnight for Ravenna.
Day 2 - RAVENNA.
Arrive in Ravenna this morning and drive inland through picturesque countryside to visit a dairy which produces one of the world’s finest cheeses - Parmigiano-Reggiano. The cheese is not just manufactured, but it is made today exactly as it was made eight centuries ago. Balsamic vinegar is a treasure of the region and before lunch we will visit one of the finest producers and see the fascinating processes and barrel-ageing involved in its production. Enjoy lunch in a nearby a restaurant where local produce is a speciality. This afternoon return to the Adriatic coast and enjoy some leisure time aboard Callisto or in Ravenna itself. The basilicas and baptisteries of the city contain the richest heritage of mosaics dating from the 5th and 6th centuries and eight historic buildings are included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.
Day 3 - ANCONA & LORETO.
Today we take a short trip to Loreto and to a family winery in the top ten of Verdicchio producers, with their remarkable, rich, Reserva being an interesting jewel in their crown, backed up by some Sangiovese blends as well as a champagne-method sparkler. Loreto itself is a site of world-wide pilgrimage. The Holy House of Loreto is one of the most revered shrines in the world. Since medieval times, the Holy House is believed to have been the very home in which the Virgin Mary lived, conceived and raised the young Jesus. A large basilica has been built around the small shrine. After lunch we return to Ancona and the afternoon is free for you to explore the city independently. From the 11th century Duomo you can enjoy a wonderful sea view, and also worth a visit is the art gallery (Pinacoteca Communale), situated in a historic palazzo.
Day 4 - PESCARA & CHIETI.
This morning visit an organic wine estate a few miles north of Pescara which produces benchmark Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the zesty, savoury pink Cerasuolo. After lunch, visit Chieti which lies on a crest along the Pescara River with its unmistakable profile of the high belltower of San Giustino and the Majella Mountains and Gran Sasso in the background. It was a Roman town, Teate, and important medieval centre which is why, when walking through the city one can see Roman and medieval ruins side by side. Of special importance is also the Pinacoteca C. Barbella, hosting works of Abruzzese artists, as well as the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the richest archaeological museum in the region.
Day 5 - TERMOLI.
Today we will make a visit to the little-known province of Molise and a rising star of the DOC Biferno area, Borgo di Colloredo. The De Giulio brothers produce a range of award-winning wines including a fine blend of Montepulciano and Aglianico as well as whites from both Greco and Falanghina. Enjoy lunch at the winery and the afternoon is free for you to explore the old town or relax onboard.
Day 6 - BARI & SASSI DI MATERA.
This morning, we will take a drive through the Alta Murgia National Park to the old town of Gravina. Here we will visit the Botromango winery. There will be tastings of classic Primitivo as well as two extraordinary blends - a red and a white - each made with 5 different varietals. Lunch at the winery will be followed by a tour of the medieval village of Sassi di Matera, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 7 - BRINDISI & LECCE.
Today sees us in the heartland of the broad shoulders of the deep, rich Negroamaro grape and our visit this morning to Leone de Castris will show what can be done when innovation is paired with the highest of quality standards. Blending it with Cabernet Sauvignon, re-discovering varietals like Aleatico, award-winning whites from Malvasia, some interesting rosés and an outstanding sparkler all showcase this splendid estate. Enjoy lunch at the winery before make our way to Lecce, often called ‘The Florence of the South’ with an amazing collection of Baroque architecture. During our visit you are likely to be impressed by the lavish decorations on its facades. The local sandstone, tinged a warm pink, is so easy to work with that it fostered the rise of a local style (barocco leccese) as ornate and intricate as any the world has seen.
Day 8 - TARANTO.
This morning we cruise around the heel of Italy and dock at Taranto at lunchtime. In the afternoon visit Soloperto, an estate whose success has been driven with their interpretation of Primitivo di Manduria. In addition to the full range of rich, long-lived reds we will taste rosé and whites from indigenous Verdeca and Alessano grapes.
Day 9 - CROTONE.
Having crossed the Gulf of Taranto, today we will visit the jewel in Calabria’s wine crown - Librandi. It was the ancient Greeks who first planted vines in this sun-baked land and whilst Librandi have only been making wine for half a century or so, their quality is first rate. The company nods to the region’s history by producing two wines from varietals known to the Greeks - Gaglioppo and Mantonico. As a complete contrast they also produce wines from modern varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. After a light Calabrian-influenced lunch at the winery we rejoin the ship and begin our cruise to Sicily.
Day 10 - TAORMINA & MOUNT ETNA, SICILY.
This morning visit Taormina, one of the most beautiful villages in Sicily. Settled on a hill of the Monte Tauro, Taormina dominates two grand, sweeping bays below and the peak of Mount Etna on the southern side, Europe’s highest active volcano which is often capped with snow. The views are simply breathtaking, a dramatic and memorable vista over almost one hundred miles of Mediterranean Sea. We then move ever closer to Etna and visit the vineyards of Benanti, tucked away on the slopes of Etna itself; Benantini own vineyards up to an altitude of 1000m. Lunch will be taken at the vineyard followed by some wine tasting. White wines are made from the indigenous Carricante - only found on the slopes of Etna and the more-famous reds are made from Nerello Mascalese, a varietal which thrives in the unique volcanic soil structure.
Day 11 - CEFALU, SICILY.
About an hour south of Cefalù, the Tasca d’Almerita estate is set in pristine countryside. The winery is located on the Regaleali estate close to Vallelunga Pratameno and is one of the most beautiful in Sicily. While much of central Sicily is dry and arid, the area around this wine estate is lush and verdant, with scenic rolling hills. Both indigenous and international grape varietals are planted from the ubiquitous Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to flagship Sicilian varietals like Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Catarratto and Inzolia. Tasca’s wines are often blends of both local and foreign varietals. Apart from vast stretches of over 1000 hectares of beautiful vineyards, the estate is also a working farm and they cultivate all manner of vegetables, herbs and fruits. A full time cheese-maker is also on site. Following our tasting we will enjoy lunch at the winery, featuring some fabulous local specialities. Rejoin Callisto and in the late afternoon cruise to Palermo where, after dinner, we will visit a local bar to enjoy a glass or two before our last night’s sleep onboard.
Day 12 - PALERMO TO LONDON.
Disembark after breakfast and return to London by scheduled flight
The MS Callisto has a guest list which is limited to 34, a party large enough to bring together an interesting mix, but small enough to foster a true spirit of community. Beautifully appointed and filled with amenities one would expect to find in a fine country house, the 17 cabins feature large windows (portholes on the Daphne Deck) that look out to sea. Cabins also feature:
• Satellite TV, DVD/CD player
• Marble-appointed bathroom with fine toiletries
• Plush terry robes and slippers
• Decorated with rich fabrics, handsome wood, polished brass, the yacht’s public spaces are warm and inviting. These include:
• Library with Internet access
• Lounge with audiovisual facilities
• Dining room
• Two sun decks
• Swimming platform
MS Callisto’s steward and kitchen staff seek fresh provisions from many ports of call. Guests savour just caught fish and perfectly ripened produce from local markets, resulting in menus of classic regional specialties as well as creative Continental fare. Select regional wines are complimentary with lunch and dinner (wine is not permitted to be served in Libyan waters). Meals are served at a single, unassigned seating in the elegantly-styled dining room, surrounded by large picture windows. Weather permitting, guests may also dine al fresco on the broad sun decks.
An Uncommon Advantage
MS Callisto’s compact size allows visits to unspoiled islets, pristine beaches and intimate coves inaccessible to larger cruise-liners. She is both large enough to offer every possible comfort and small enough to navigate tiny inlets and berth in exclusive harbours, taking travellers where few have gone before.