My Favorite Culture Discovery Location – Alyssa

Does a parent love every kid equally? Or does Mom have one favorite kid and Dad possibly have another favorite? Maybe you just have more in common, or vibe better with one than the others? I don’t know, I only have one kid (and plan to keep it that way). What I do have, is 7 CDV location babies. I love them all so much, they each offer different culinary experiences, activities, views, and feelings. But do I have a favorite? Of course I do, we all do and I’ll tell you why.

I am a water lover, no matter what is going on in my life, going to the ocean is the answer. Tired? Ocean. Sad? Ocean. Celebrating? Ocean. Happy? Ocean. Stressed? Ocean. Are you seeing a pattern? The ocean calls me, when I first smell that ocean air, everything else in my life melts away. There’s a reason I moved to Florida… OCEAN!

The tour we offer with the single most days spent on or in the ocean is Favignana. So, no matter what the vacation was like, I was sure to love it. My expectations were high, like really high. I have been working with CDV since 2010, Favignana debuted in 2012. All I heard year in and year out was “You HAVE to go to Favignana, YOU would LOVE it!” from everybody on our team. well, 2012 passed, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and FINALLY in 2017 my opportunity to experience Favignana comes.

If you don’t know about out Favignana Vacation week, please take a second to learn about it on our website, you won’t regret it.

Anyway, I was so excited, so much hype had been built around this vacation. There is one day that we wake up at 3 am to meet up with local fishermen to go fishing, this was the only day I was nervous about. I love to sleep. But I was ready, it was going to be LEGENDARY.

This was before I had a baby, now I don’t remember what sleep feels like. Oh did you want to see a picture of her? no? too bad, I’m showing you anyway.

The cutest baby in the world, who has nothing to do with this blog post

Ok, Ok, I’m sorry, I got side tracked. SICILY. Okay this is pre baby.

Day 1: Welcome to Sicily

So my husband, Sam and I are in Soriano, we wake up super early and drive to Rome to catch a flight to Sicily. Once in Sicily, we are greeted by Ivan, our host on the Favignana vacation. I had heard so much about Ivan, mainly that he looked like Beetlejuice, but he must have cut his hair, because he looked nothing like Beetlejuice to me.

Ivan on our Favignana Vacation

We wait for all the guests to arrive for this vacation week, a few of which are alumni that I already knew from other trips (Hi Nick and Cara). Ivan drives us from the airport in Palermo to a dock in Trapani, where we wait for a ferry to take us to Favignana, which is an island off of Sicily, which is also an island. The boat ride is about 45 minutes long, and then we arrive in Favignana.

The hotel we stay at is a short drive from the dock, so we all get settled in pretty quick and then meet up to get to know each other. This goes wonderfully, we end up having an epic dance off to Chamillionaire’s Ridin Dirty because of a joke that Cara told the group. This became our theme song of the week. I wouldn’t call it culturally appropriate, but it was funny.

Cara double fisting Prosecco during our meet and greet

Day 2: Our First Cooking Class & The Tuna Cannery

Cooking was so much fun, we had flour fights, ate some delicious fresh tuna as a snack, drank some wine, listened to Italian music, and ate that delicious menu. It was a great start to the day.

After the cooking class and lunch, we head into the village in the early evening for a visit to the island’s historic (now closed) Tuna Cannery. Our guide is this old man, Peppe Nue, I’m not really sure if that’s the correct way to spell his name. I speak Italian fluently, I can translate from Italian to English very quickly and very effectively. I don’t know what language Peppe Nue was speaking, but I assure you, it was not Italian. Tasked with translating everything Peppe Nue had to say into English for our guests, I had NO IDEA what he was saying. I tried my best, and luckily everyone in our group could tell that his Italian was a thick dialect and went easy on me. We laughed about the language barrier with Peppe Nue all week long. TONNO TONNO TONNO.

Day 3: Night-Fishing Excursion, Boating & Swimming

I have been on a lot of vacations, CDV and personally. This is the single best day I have ever experienced. If a tour could just be this day over and over and over again, I would be all about it.

We woke up at 4am, drove down to the fishing docks, and met up with Michele and Rosario, the local fishermen that would take us out to catch fish at sunrise. It was still a little chilly, but it was so stunning, if I close my eyes, I can still see and smell everything perfectly.

What an amazing morning, I mean, when do you ever get to do something like this. This is what CDV is all about, this is the experiences that you just can’t get on your own. I’m watching the sun rise over the coastline while sitting on a little fishing boat with a bunch of amazing people who have already become friends and family, fishing for what will be our lunch later on. *remember this moment, don’t forget anything about this moment*

“This trip is like no other, this water is like no other. These pictures aren’t photoshopped, the water is really this clear. It’s paradise.”

Later in the day, after taking a shower and nap, we got back on the fishing boats, and headed out again, this time, just for fun. We spent the day basking in the sun, cruising the calm seas while motoring on the crystalline waters of this perfect little island. We stopped at some gorgeous, coves for swimming and snorkeling while Rosario and Michele prepared us a wonderful lunch on board with many of the fish we caught that morning!

PURE BLISS. Honestly, if you’re someone who is attracted to the water, this is your trip, and I don’t just say that as a CDV employee, but as a fellow water lover. This trip is like no other, this water is like no other. These pictures aren’t photoshopped, the water is really this clear. It’s paradise.

Day 4: The Grottos of Marettimo, Local Seafood at Sunset & Dock-Side Dinner

“This is a dream come true. Maybe I’ll move to Favignana.”

Ok, I mean are you reading this? After that day of pure bliss yesterday, we actually get to go out on this water again? Somebody pinch me. Marettimo is another island off of the island of Sicily. We arrive here on another ferry and then hop on a private boat and go boating around in the grottos. Ok Ok, I’ll stop talking, check out these pictures.

Ok, so another day of paradise for me. I mean, snorkeling, swimming, eating lunch on the boat, listening to music, dancing, cannon-balling off the boat, laughing with friends. This is a dream come true. Maybe I’ll move to Favignana.

When we return to Favignana we have time to rest and shower, and then we head down to the water for a surprise Sicilian treat, fresh sea urchins, on bread! Ok, I was uneasy on this one, but there was wine, and that was a huge help, but when in Sicily, live like the Sicilians, right?

After hanging out by the water and trying sea urchins together, we met back up with Michele and Rosario for one of the best dinners of my life. We got back on the boat, but just stayed in the dock and ate together. Unfortunately, my camera had died before dinner, so I didn’t get any good pictures. The one picture I got was this blurry one on my iPhone. They made us all a dinner of their fresh catch of the day, TUNA TUNA TUNA. Carpaccio style, on bruschetta, in pasta, with different dressings, any way you could make it. It was the freshest tuna I had ever tasted in my life. After dinner we sang local fishing songs and danced on the boat late into the night.

Day 5: Making Ricotta Cheese, Cooking Class and The Beach!

If you know me personally, or have been on any tour in Italy with me, you might know that I don’t love (or even like) ricotta. So, although everyone had fun, I was happy to just take pictures and watch as a local shepherd taught everyone how to make cheese. We also got to harvest honey, though. That was so cool, we squeezed out honey with our hands, which was very sticky, but very fun, and got to take some fresh honey home with us!

After the ricotta and the honey, we made pizzas with our new friends, ate fresh watermelon (it was late June) and danced in their private grotto. Is this real life? How else do you get experiences like this?

Day 6: Cooking Class and “The Grigliata”

The cooking class included some of my favorite Sicilian foods:

1st: Eggplant Parmesan: “Sicilian-Style
2nd: Arancini (Sicilian Rice Balls)
Dessert: Cannoli with Fresh Ricottaa

But here’s where the real CDV stuff comes in. The Grigliata. We went up to Ivan’s house for dinner, his local friends, as well as Rosario and Michele joined in, and we had a BBQ, or Grigliata in Italian. Michele brought his guitar and sang as we danced and partied all together. We went back and forth between English songs and traditional Sicilian songs. Singing on the top of our lungs, dancing like nobody was watching, drinking to wine, eating the food right off the grill. It was a night to never forget. Not to be repetitive, but how else can you get experiences like this? There’s something about a CDV vacation, it just fills up your heart.

“We went back and forth between English songs and traditional Sicilian songs. Singing on the top of our lungs, dancing like nobody was watching, drinking to wine, eating the food right off the grill.”

Day 7: Sausage Class, The Salt Flats and Marsala Wine Tasting

Today we leave Favignana and head to Mainland Sicily. I don’t want to leave Favignana. I refuse to leave Favignana. You can’t make me. In fact, I wanted to stay so badly, that I left my passport in the safe of the hotel and didn’t notice until we were back on the mainland. “Accident” maybe, maybe not.

Ivan called the hotel, got the cleaning service to give my passport to a friend, drove it to the dock, gave it to the captain of the next ferry that was heading to Trapani, and safely delivered it to me within 45 minutes. This is the kind of service you can’t get anywhere else.

Ok, so every tourist that comes through Sicily visits the salt flats, but I had heard from everyone on our team, how we take it a step further. Well, we saw the tourists when we got there, and we walked right past them, and spent the afternoon with the owners of the mill. They handed us some rubber boots and a shovel and put us to work. All of the sudden, the tourists were watching us! We weren’t just taking pictures of the view, we were the view! We were ankle deep in the salt, harvesting it ourselves! And when it was all done, we even got to take some home with us!

“We weren’t just taking pictures of the view, we were the view!”

So, Why is Favignana my Favorite Tour?

Well, aside from the ocean factor, the experiences are some of the most memorable and fulfilling things I have ever done on vacation. We not only met and got to know locals, but we became friends with them, we shared our stories, we drank wine, sang songs, shared meals. This group of 12 Americans from Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Texas, Iowa, South Carolina, and New Jersey became Family. Our experiences were real, they were raw, we had adventure, relaxation, laughter, delicious food, and of course, the ocean!

See more about our Favignana vacation Cooking & Adventure on the Island of Favignana.

If you want to see the promo video that I made of our trip to Favignana, you can watch it below. Just try to not get a severe case of wanderlust when you watch.

Dark Chocolate Gelato with Peperoncino and Cinnamon
The FAMILY feeling of our vacations explained
Our Amalfi Coast Vacation in 13 Gorgeous Photos