I wanted to give an enthusiastic review of Matteo for his services in planning the trip we just took in May of 2023. We used Matteo for a trip to Sicily in May of 22 and loved it but also realized that there was so much more to do in Sicily, so we arranged trip #2 to Sicily for this year in May.
We spent two full weeks in Sicily, the first near Noto (east) and the second in the southwest (near Menfi). We stayed at houses we rented through an agency (given that we wanted to rent places instead of staying in hotels, Matteo worked with us on picking out the property we chose near Noto, and that was very helpful).
The first week, we had a wide variety of historic, cultural and food-centered activities in the east near Noto. Matteo kept the geographic range of each day’s activities pretty tight so we were not in the car all day. We enjoyed everything, and sometimes the unexpected delighted. For instance, I had to persuade my husband to do the experience with a chef in Siracusa, where the chef took us through the food market, then we went back to his restaurant and helped him prepare a meal for us. My husband (and I) really enjoyed that activity. Some of the best activities were out in the countryside, like a visit to a sustainable family farm and lunch of home cooking, and the discussions we had with the farmer about his way of life (through our guide translating). On another day, we visited an ancient chapel site and site of ancient olive trees and nearby small villages. Memories of that day I’ll carry with me are the beautiful black horse being walked down the main street of one of the villages, and the friendly reception from the residents…and of course, the wonderful food we had every day.
The second week, we saw various historic and cultural sites in the west, including Agrigento/Valley of the Temples, Trapani, and Salemi, a beautiful small village on a hilltop. We had several relaxation days built into that week. The only place that was crowded was Valley of the Temples, but the ancient temples and ruins were about the best I’ve seen anywhere, including Athens.
We opted to have Matteo arrange drivers, and are so glad we did. Driving in Sicily is challenging and there are very few 4-lanes like in the States. The drivers were all excellent.
We’re glad we built in some rest days to the trip with no scheduled activities.
Matteo wisely did not try to cram too much into one day or have us go too far away from where we were staying (aka “slow travel”).
The guides Matteo found for us were all top-notch—very professional and knew their topics and areas. Plus, they were all good sports putting up with all our questions.
Between the trip last year and the trip this year, we’ve spent 4 weeks in Sicily, and still haven’t seen all the major locations. It was so much fun and so relaxing to take it slow in Sicily—I felt like we gained a better appreciation for the culture, history and people. Sicily has gotten into our blood—it’s our happy place, and it’s likely we will return!!
Matteo did a wonderful job of planning our Sicily family trip! He had many great tour suggestions, as he lives there, so he knows the area very well. We were there on a Holiday week in January, so some restaurants and stores were closed. Matteo found great restaurants that were open and even made some restaurant reservations for us. We had private tours every day. Our tour guides were very knowledgeable and very friendly. The driver we had was exactly on time every morning. He knew our itinerary to have us to each location as scheduled. Every day ran so smoothly.
A highlight of the trip was having a wine-tasting luncheon at the winery owner’s home by Mount Etna. They were such gracious hosts. Matteo was always available with responses right away from many emails of planning the trip AND during the trip. He even surprised us and met up with us at a cafe in one of the towns.
I would definitely recommend Matteo! Our vacation was absolutely, perfectly enjoyable and worry-free because of his expertise and patience in planning!
My husband and I worked with Marcello to plan a 3-week vacation in Sicily which we took in September, 2022. Marcello was fabulous to work with! He listened carefully to how we liked to travel and what we were interested in doing. He gave us a wide range of experiences to choose from and helped us create a fantastic itinerary. He clearly loves his work and his passion and excitement for Sicily is contagious!
We decided not to drive ourselves and opted for drivers to get us around the island. The drivers he lined up for us were excellent. We always felt safe and in good hands. The drivers spoke English well and were happy to talk with us about their lives in Sicily.
Marcello has an extensive network of guides, and we used guides in almost every place we went. They were without exception excellent. They spoke English well, were knowledgeable and passionate about their area of expertise and were able to show and teach us a great deal about the art, architecture, culture and life of Sicily!
He also arranged for us to have some unique experiences. Some of the highlights include —
A morning spent with a local chef. First we went to the open-air food market, learning how he chose fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Then we went to his restaurant (which is closed at lunch) and had a cooking lesson, followed by the delicious lunch we had watched him make for us.
Another experience was spending an afternoon and evening sailing on the Mediterranean in a 52-foot sailboat. The couple who own the boat were lovely and welcoming. They served us delicious antipasti and wine while we were sailing and watching the sunset.
We also visited an organic farm/ranch. We loved spending time with the owner, who spoke so passionately about his way of farming and raising cattle and horses. He was a fascinating man and it was an unforgettable experience.
Thanks to Marcello, we had a fantastic trip in Sicily. He not only planned it well but was in touch with our guides and drivers almost daily. When we needed to change a plan due to weather, he was able to accommodate us with no problem. It was reassuring to know he was so available should any need arise.
I highly recommend working with Marcello if you are thinking of going to Sicily. You won’t regret it!
Sicily was an amazing place to visit and the 4 of us loved it! Lots of history, cultural events, food tasting and preparations, and wine tastings were all included in our itinerary. Matteo did a fabulous job preparing and coordinating our trip and it was executed without any flaws! The only slightly negative comment that we have is that perhaps we were too busy seeing everything and had very little down time. But, I’m not sure what events I would have eliminated!
If I had to pick one highlight, I would say that the trip to Mt Etna with the guide, who was a volcanologist, was 100% worth doing! So much knowledge and information sharing, it was great!
I would definitely recommend Matteo to a friend to help plan a Sicilian itinerary.
My husband Alan and I traveled with another couple to Sicily in early October, 2022. We hired Matteo Rota to help us plan and book our trip. We would highly recommend him and his company for all the reasons that we have continually relied on Wendy’s WOW List for experienced travel professionals: excellent and reliable advice, good listening skills, takes feedback and executes, fantastic connections with top guides, hotels and restaurants. He was sensitive to each couple’s individual wants and needs.
He was able to help us mid-trip with a switch, and was very “present” throughout the process.
There were several “wow” moments on our trip: The market shopping and cooking demonstration in Siracusa, where I learned to make spinach and ricotta ravioli from scratch and enjoyed the most memorable lunch in a gorgeous apartment; the so brilliant and extraordinary vulcanologist on Mt Etna; the wine tasting at Porta del Vento Winery outside of Palermo with the owner, who was as charming as he was great at producing wine!
We would highly recommend Matteo for Sicily travel!
We had a wonderful week in the beautiful Noto area in southeastern Sicily planned by Matteo. This followed a 10-day group tour of the island, which covered Sicily highlights. We asked Matteo for advice and planning for an additional week of independent travel to less traveled areas. After several phone consultations narrowing down our interests (primarily food, culture, and history), he planned an excellent itinerary for us which included private guides for each location we visited and many interesting lunches and tastings (of granita, almonds, chocolate, olive oils and wine). Highlights of the experiences arranged by Matteo were the “geo-cultural adventure” on a less-visited part of Mt. Etna with a volcanologist, the visit to the Catania fish market with tastings of unusual and surprising local foods, and the wonderful granita-making experience with a delightful cooking instructor. All the guides were outstanding, very knowledgeable and provided us with information and experiences we couldn’t have had otherwise. Because we were self-driving a rental car, Matteo arranged for the guides to be with us most of the time. Matteo was in touch with us daily, telling us of the next day’s plans and where we would meet our guides. In several cases, he arranged for the guides to be “our personal GPS,” driving with us to various locations. This was very helpful and much appreciated. There was one glitch which was not Matteo’s fault but was a disappointment. As a highlight of our trip, I had arranged a special winery experience and dinner for my husband’s birthday. Unfortunately, for weather reasons it had to be cancelled at the last minute. Matteo informed us of the issue and arranged for another winery to host us. For an unknown reason, when we arrived at that winery, they were unable to welcome us. Matteo quickly arranged for us to have dinner at an excellent restaurant near our hotel in Noto. The dinner and service were outstanding, and we enjoyed everything about it. My husband is a serious wine enthusiast who had really been looking forward to the evening and we both were saddened not to have the planned experience.
My only somewhat negative comment is that I thought the cost was significantly higher than expected, well over $1000/day not including hotels or rental car. We had extraordinary and unique experiences and Matteo’s service and attention were exemplary and, other than the birthday wine dinner disappointment, it was an outstanding trip in every way. We will have great memories of this trip and they, and not the cost, will be what we take away from this experience.
One more very positive comment is that the hotels recommended by Matteo were superb and I would not have learned of them other than through his recommendations. Q92 in Noto was particularly wonderful and one of the most pleasant and interesting hotels we have ever stayed at.
We just returned from a fantastic trip to Sicily planned by Matteo Rota and Marcello Baglioni. Trip dates were October 12-October 22. We spent 3 nights in Palermo, 2 nights in Agrigento, and 4 nights in Siracusa. We were very happy with this trip! October is a great time to visit Sicily, the weather was perfect and the crowds were present but certainly less than high season.
Matteo did an excellent job of listening to us—how we wanted our trip set up and what kind of experiences we wanted. We wanted time to self-explore and thus modified the original plan to a few less guided days, which worked great for us, but Matteo also knew where the value of a guide was indispensable and he made that clear (and he was right!).
We wanted several experiences on this trip and Matteo delivered on all of them. We wanted a food tour of the Sicily markets—Matteo got us a fantastic guide for a great Street Food tour. We wanted to shop and cook with a chef—Matteo arranged this with a charismatic great chef. We wanted a day on the water to sail and enjoy the sea—Matteo arranged a phenomenal afternoon and sunset sail with Salvo, a very special person who set up an amazing afternoon for us. We wanted an e-bike tour and this too was arranged for us. The vulcanologist on Mt Etna, the archeologist who led us through the Villa Romana del Casale, and the guide at the Agrigento temples were all also fantastic.
We usually like to rent a car and drive ourselves. After a lot of research we decided against this in Sicily, where the driving can be crazy, and the countless cars full of dents, the confusing traffic patterns and restricted access as well as the lack of parking proved our choice was the right one for us. In its place Matteo set up drivers for us who were always on time, professional and with very nice and spacious vehicles.
We liked the fact that Matteo and Marcello make suggestions for hotels and restaurants but had us do our own research into these and make our own reservations. Not only does this provide transparency, but it’s something we enjoy. The suggested hotels and restaurants were fantastic.
A few suggestions for other travelers considering Sicily. Listen to Matteo and Marcello about Palermo. It was very interesting to visit and the market tour is a must. When in Agrigento, spend an evening in the town of Agrigento and have dinner there. It’s a very quaint town with very nice shops and restaurants. We are glad we stayed at the (very expensive) Villa Athena with an amazing view of the temples (15 min from town); this is a unique and great property with a great restaurant that is a bit formal, so another dinner experience in the city of Agrigento is worth it. We listened to Marcello and Matteo and did not see Taormina, as they felt strongly it was not worth the visit. We have no regrets—but just wonder a teeny tiny bit what all the hype there is about. Another observation—we had two wine tastings with lunch—one of which was in the Mt Etna area. They do this differently in Sicily. These were not winery visits like we have experienced in the U.S., Tuscany, France or Istria. No tour of the vineyards or facilities, no meeting the winemaker; just tasting the wines and a brief description with your meal. The meals and wine were good and we are glad we booked these, but just be aware of this kind of experience.
Matteo was always available by WhatsApp or call, but we did not need to communicate much. The trip went perfectly smoothly, with all drivers and guides on time and exactly where we were supposed to meet them—all according to the itinerary. We definitely felt we were very well “taken care of” at all times.
If you are thinking about going to Sicily, you will be in great hands with Matteo and Marcello!
Marcello arranged for a truly memorable two weeks in Sicily for my wife and me the last week of September and first week of October. The guides were excellent, each with distinct personalities and knowledge that enriched our experience as we travelled from Palermo to Agrigento to Siracusa, Mt. Etna and points in between. Some of the many highlights: seeing Mt. Etna through the eyes of a volcanologist, lunches at the homes of two families, and the unique town of Buscemi, where the town itself is like a museum. All the drivers were excellent and everything went as planned. We enjoyed the accommodations and dining recommendations provided by Marcello. He also checked in daily with either our guide or driver to ensure that we were happy and everything was going smoothly.
We booked a month-long trip to Portugal, Sicily, and Malta and unfortunately, had to cancel because of the pandemic. However, we were lucky enough to re-book again with Marcello and Matteo and travel to Sicily this past September 16-22, 2022.
The trip-planning process with Marcello was very well done with terrific responsiveness, lots of choice provided, and attention to detail. Marcello was a good listener and understood what my wife and I wanted in our 6-night trip to Sicily. He recommended we stay 3 nights in Siracusa and 3 in Taormina, which was a perfect blend. The hotel he chose in Siracusa, the Musciara Beach Hotel, was a boutique hotel located right on a unique sandy beach with beautiful views from our hotel patio, and we enjoyed our stay there.
We arrived late the 1st night after a full day of travel from Lisbon, and Matteo was very on top of things, making sure the hotel was expecting us and would be able to accommodate our later arrival after 10 pm, and to have a light meal prepared for us in their beautiful restaurant along the water, given he knew we would be hungry. We had 2 lovely days of tours in Ortigia as well as Noto, Modica, and Scicli, and we really enjoyed the sightseeing. Matteo made the effort to come to meet us for a lovely coffee while we were in his hometown of Moto—it was great to meet him and we enjoyed an hour chatting with him.
While en route to our next stop of Taormina we had a walking tour of Mt. Etna with a Volcanologist, which was both interesting as well as a nice hike to see the volcano and learn the history of the region. We stayed in Taormina at the new San Domenico Palace, now the Four Seasons Hotel. It was an amazing property with incredible Four Seasons service and attention to detail. The hotel used to be a convent in the 14th century and has been beautifully restored and converted. We enjoyed a guided tour of Castiglione Di Sicilia and Randazzo while in the area, which was a relaxing day. Our last day in Taormina we spent walking around and enjoying the lovely streets and views of the town on our own. Taormina reminded us of the Amalfi Coast and its awe-inspiring views from the hills of the ocean below, cliffs, and the quaint town of shops and restaurants to enjoy.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Marcello was amazing. He was constantly available throughout the trip. He matched us with amazing guides who fit the personality of me and my mother. I’m pretty sure my mother wanted to exchange me for Alessandra, who she loved and was so happy to be around. Marcello was also incredibly flexible—one night we showed up to a dinner place and decided it wasn’t our vibe, and five minutes later he had us in a different restaurant that was perfect. My main advice would be to give Marcello the flexibility to design your trip—we constrained him a lot with what we wanted to do and ignored some of his suggestions—to our detriment! For instance, we told him we didn’t want to take a cooking class and only wanted to see historical sites (because we’re not cooking class people!) and that’s what he arranged (to be clear—all our historical sites trips were great). We then had dinner at the chef’s restaurant who he had suggested we take a cooking class with. The restaurant was so amazing and the chef was so kind that when my mother realized that we could have taken a class with him she audibly shrieked. When we go back to Sicily again we will absolutely use Marcello and we will be taking a cooking class with that chef.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL The hotels were very good to excellent.
Most of the guides were very good. The volcanologist was top draw.
Our drivers were terrific. Our itinerary missed the mark and should have been a lot better. The one suggested restaurant we tried was awful.
Response from Trusted Travel Expert Marcello Baglioni
During the trip-planning process, Warren seemed pleased with the Sicily itinerary that we planned for him, telling us that “it looked great!” During the trip, we checked in regularly, and he never indicated that anything was wrong or requested any itinerary changes. Of course, finding out afterward that he was disappointed is too late, since we can’t do anything after a tour ends. Each of our trips is highly personalized, but there will always be at least some adjustments to a tour program, even if it looks perfect at the start. The most successful trips are those with space for serendipity and open exchange between the traveler and the trip planner, both pre-trip and en route. Such collaborative interaction by Warren would have made all the difference. As for restaurant choices, collaboration between traveler and trip planner is again key. Not actually knowing where Warren’s meal took place— whether it was suggested by a concierge, a friend, or by us—underscores once again the lack of communication from the traveler during the trip that could have made all the difference.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Marcello and team are superb, A++, creating a trip of a lifetime
We have utilized the WOW List travel experts for our last 3 trips with great satisfaction. Marcello raised the bar even higher, creating a truly exceptional itinerary for our 26-day sojourn in Sicily, one that exceeded our high expectations! Marcello is an avid listener who understood our desire to learn and deepen our understanding of the culture of Sicily….achieved through a good balance of visits to archaeological and historic sites coupled with engagement with expert guides and local people, visiting out of the way places that most travelers would miss. Marcello checked in every day during our trip, both with us and with the guides, as he genuinely cares about your enjoyment and satisfaction with the experiences he has so artfully and carefully created. In conversations with Marcello, his love of Sicily….the people, the food, its vast and complex history…is palpable, and reflected in the itinerary.
We would not have had the in-depth experience of life and history of this island without our drivers and guides.
All the drivers were wonderful. They were knowledgeable about each region, eager to engage in conversation, and share with us their insights. They were always prompt, professional, and went out of their way to make sure our needs were being met.
The guides were outstanding, each being expert in their field and relaying their knowledge in a digestible way. Importantly, they were fun to be with, candidly sharing their experiences and perspectives of Sicily. Love of family and love of this island’s complex and storied history has drawn them back with an eagerness to share with others the beauty of this land. We bid farewell to each guide with a bit of sadness, as over the course of a few days we had become friends. While every day presented unique and wonderful experiences, some highlights:
-hiking Mt. Etna with a volcanologist, deepening our understanding of this mysterious, mystical place and the mountain they refer to as mother;
-wine tasting/pairing with a sommelier expert on Mt. Etna wines, who introduced us not only to the special quality of wines grown in volcanic soil, but granita, a most delectable treat during a warm summer day
-visits to the Greek/Romans temples of Segesta, Selinunte and the Valley of the Temples with archaeologists who vastly increased our knowledge of Sicily’s complex and complicated history
-visit to the tuna factory on Favignana and the “impossible Garden,” a dream realized by a determined and courageous woman who envisioned a garden in the midst of the rock quarries
-shopping the local market with Maurizio, the entertaining and charismatic chef of Macalle in Ortigia, followed by a cooking class and meal, and many ideas to take home
-hiking and sailing on the island of Salina, enjoying lunch where Il Postino was filmed, visit to a local caper farm, and enjoying the outstanding wines of the local vineyards
-visit to a water mill which has been grinding wheat into flour since the 1690s, a process that results in flour naturally low in gluten
-visits to many small, beautiful villages: Castellammare del Golfo, Castelbuono, Novara Da Sicilia, Montalbano Elicona, Favara, Santa Anastasia, SantAngelo Muxaro, Cefalu – walking and chatting with the men who congregate in the piazzas, enjoying a meal prepared by Annalisa in her home, gaining insight into their traditional way of life over centuries
-a special shout out to Italo, who guided us through Ortigia, Buccheri where we enjoyed a delightful lunch prepared by Sebastiano and his brother, joined in the celebration of St. Paul in the town of Palazzolo, a performance by a puppet master. Italo’s joy and zest for life were truly contagious.
I could go on. This was a trip of a lifetime. We returned home with a deeper understanding of the Sicilian culture, their love and loyalty to family, a well-deserved pride in their diverse and complex history, and their vision, hopes and dreams for the future of Sicily. While 26 days seemed more than adequate, we have continued to talk about our next trip to this beautiful island. With deepest gratitude to you, Marcello, for creating a truly outstanding itinerary, and your amazing team of guides and drivers and all those who made this an unforgettable experience.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Just returned form three weeks in Sicily celebrating 50 years of marriage. This could not have been a better choice for our milestone. Matteo organized our trip to perfection. We did not rent a car and the drivers that were provided were always timely, professional and used very comfortable cars. Our many activities and experiences were too numerous to mention separately but all exceeded our expectations for local expertise. This was a trip of a lifetime. We spent our time in the southeast plus Salina island with days on our own here and there. We also kept our activities to mostly half-days. This pace suited our age and energy. We were very happy to have had Matteo as a local organizer and think that made a huge difference in our very enjoyable time in Sicily.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We just returned from an incredible trip to Sicily, curated by Marcello Baglioni. From beginning to end, Marcello did a wonderful job of listening to the sometimes varied needs and wants of our two couples, crafting personalized experiences that truly helped us understand the beauty and uniqueness of Sicily, and staying in touch to make sure we were having a wonderful time. We knew very little about this amazing island before our trip – and thanks to the interesting places and knowledgeable guides and delightful experiences arranged by Marcello, we left feeling a great affinity for Sicily and looking forward to coming back. This was our first Covid-era trip and we were impressed with the safety measures taken by our guides and throughout our travels. While it is hard to pick a favorite moment, some of the highlights included an amazing vineyard tour and lunch in the hills of Camporeale, making pastries with the incredible 82-year old Maria Grammatico in Erice, experiencing the stunning Infiorata in Noto and hiking on Mt. Etna with a Vulcanologist during a very active time. We will be reliving this trip for years to come. Thank you Wendy for introducing us to Marcello and bravo to his entire team!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We were very pleased with Marcello and Matteo’s services in planning our trip to Sicily. It was such a special trip and the experiences they put together were wonderful and went well beyond what you find in all the guidebooks. The guides they picked out for us were all knowledgeable and enthusiastic. This trip qualified us for a WOW Moment which was very special–a wonderful lunch with a private chef. We highly recommend them and will use them again.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL My trip to Sicily was a long time coming—-originally planned for April 2020, postponed by the pandemic, and finally came to fruition in April 2022—and the wait was worth it!!
Throughout it all, Marcello provided a steady hand in the initial planning, the COVID cancellation, and finally the execution of what is one of the most wonderful trips ever.
When rebooking, adjustments to the itinerary were inevitable. But with Marcello’s expertise and contacts, he succeeded in providing an ever more stellar experience.
The itinerary gave us the perfect mix of the cities as well as hilltop villages and landscape in the hinterlands. Among the highlights—a market visit and cooking class in Ortigia, a day foraging for wild herbs with a food historian and chef near Buccheri, visiting Mt Etna with a volcanologist, touring Palermo and Monreale with an architect and Siracusa with an archeologist, experiencing an Easter procession in Scicli, birding with a naturalist near the temple of Segesta.
Drivers, guides, accommodations were just perfect at each and every location.
Most importantly, Marcello was with us via phone and WhatsApp throughout. He was totally engaged in checking and rechecking to ensure all went as planned and on schedule.
His personal attention had us feeling “like family” as he understood our interests and tastes so well!
I’ve been home less than a week and have already recommended Wendy Perrin and Marcello to friends. Thank you once again for another WOW trip!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL The first time tour of Sicily that Matteo planned for me was an amazing cultural tour of my ancestors’ homeland. I asked him to plan a 10 day tour across the whole island, focusing on culture and food (of course, being Sicilian myself) and he did not disappoint. Sure anyone could open a tour book and pick from the standard museums and cultural attractions, however the benefit of using an experienced local agency like Matteo’s was their firsthand knowledge of experiences I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
For example, I went wine tasting at multiple vineyards, however doing so with a personal guided tour from the owner and a certified wine sommelier made the experience that much more exceptional and personal. I visited an almond farm (didn’t even know you could do that) where we sat down with the owner and ate an amazing traditional Sicilian lunch prepared by his wife. Of course the best was touring Palermo with a local who then helped research and translate the birth records of my great-grandfather in the village where he was born was an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity, (Thanks Enrica!) If youre going to visit Sicily, I highly recommend you consult with an experienced agency like Matteo’s before you do.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Once again, Wendy’s WOW TTEs deliver.
We have just returned from an amazing two week adventure in Sicily planned by Matteo Rota and supported by Marcello Baglioni. The trip was originally planned for 2020 but had to be rescheduled due to Covid. It was clearly worth the wait. We stayed at four fabulous boutique
lodgings in Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa and Taormina. Each location was ideally situated and served as a hub which allowed us to branch out and fully experience all that Sicily has to offer which is a
great deal. Our guides and drivers were superb. Where appropriate we had specialists, i.e., archeologists and volcanologists, to explain the landscape in terms we could understand. All quite fascinating. Matteo arranged a series of private meetings for us with vineyard owners, chefs, dairy farm proprietors, a yacht skipper and, of course, an olive oil firm. All relationships cultivated over several years and not available to the regular tourist. In all cases we were treated to a fabulous lunch after touring and learning about their respective business. We had the opportunity to meet Matteo along the way and to share some wine and small talk while thanking him for the wonderful itinerary. Our high expectations were exceeded. Highly recommend Marcello and Matteo.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL We took a two-week trip to Sicily with the help of Marcello Baglioni and Matteo Rota, with Matteo being our primary contact and planner. Although I had a rough idea of the places I wanted to go, Matteo put it all together superbly, including visits to two wineries which I would not have thought of. Those visits were a highlight of the trip as was a sailboat excursion in the Bay of Syracuse with a delightful owner/skipper who provided a delicious meal, including olive oil he makes himself. Matteo gave us an excellent driver, Salvatore, in western SIcily who was with us for a week. He was fluent in English and a great companion. Our other drivers were also excellent but Salvatore was something special. Our guide in Palermo, Enrica, was exactly what we wanted. I had told Matteo I am interested in architecture and art and he gave us a real expert. Without her, we would not have truly understood a lot of what we saw. And finally, Matteo suggested the most wonderful accommodations where we were comfortable and happy. I never would have found them on my own. I would have liked to stay longer in any one of them. We had to cancel this trip twice and are so glad we finally made it and that Matteo made it so special.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL This is the second trip I’ve taken where I’ve used a trip planner – and I doubt I’ll take another without taking advantage of their expertise if they’re anything like Marcello. He planned out our days (after giving us many options of what type of trip we’d like) – we had direction and saw things we’d never have been able to arrange easily on our own. Tours of ancient cities, quant villages, vineyards, almond farms and Mt Etna. And not just with guides, but with experts – archaeologists & vulcanologists, wonderfully well-versed and entertaining people, we liked being with them and found ourselves learning (in a good way!). We shopped in a farmers market with a guide who brought us back to her beautiful home and we prepared a delicious, traditional meal together. Marcello offered dining and hotel recommendations, supplied directions and suggestions for car rentals and ferry passage – he even found a jeweler who had an unusual pendant I had been searching for (a trinacria).
We had concerns about Covid and the wildfires in Sicily – Marcello researched and addressed them quickly and thoroughly. He also suggested trip insurance to afford us peace of mind (which was worth every penny). We were always able to quickly get in touch if we had questions before, during and even after our trip, and he checked in frequently to make sure we were ok – and because he was in Sicily while we were, he surprised us with a quick meeting while we were out with our guide.
As we write this, we were scheduled to start an exciting 15-day tour of Sicily tomorrow. Instead, like countless other disappointed would-be travelers, we’re home bound and thinking about what might have been.
Given the uncertainties of the virus-impacted future and our senior-citizen status, it’s likely we will not have another opportunity to take the tour that Marcello and Matteo so carefully designed for us. But we want to thank you for recommending them.
Marcello Baglioni and Matteo Rota were a joy to work with. We’re very grateful for the time and effort they spent. Sadly, we won’t get to enjoy the four splendid hotels that Matteo helped us select, or the archeological sites, food markets, museums, private tours, a guided visit to Mt. Etna, and much more that awaited us.
There is also the monetary loss — a cancellation fee under our contract with Marcello and Matteo, and a full nonrefundable payment to Algila Hotel in Siracusa. We had foolishly booked a room at a no-refund rate, which was recommended as the only way to ensure that we would get the room we wanted. We won’t make that mistake again.
Thankfully, Marcello was able to cancel the other hotels and all of the prearranged activities without costing us anything. Marcello provided invaluable help to us during the cancellation process. We thank him for that.
To our surprise and enormous relief, United Airlines refunded everything we had spent with them.
When the coronavirus struck, we discovered that our travel insurance—like most travel policies—didn’t cover epidemics. We are permitted to transfer that coverage to another trip within the next year. Otherwise, that will be a loss of almost $5,000.
If we were able to postpone the Sicily trip to next year, we might recoup some of the other financial losses. But, as we noted, it’s unlikely that will happen.
Like the old travelogues say, so ends our almost spectacular tour of beautiful Sicily. We would like to thank Marcello for planning what we’re certain would have been an extraordinarily memorable vacation.
We worked with Matteo to plan a mini honeymoon in Eastern Sicily following our wedding in Canada the week prior. I really appreciated his honest recommendations and approach to travel while in the planning stages. Exactly our approach to touring – he made sure we avoided the most “touristy” areas and were able to experience some really special and unique places. We stayed in Siracusa for 4 nights and on Mt. Etna for 2, with activities planned with guides each day. It was a good pace – we felt busy the whole time, but never exhausted. The guides were all excellent with good English and different personalities. We were never rushed and everybody worked around our timeline; they were flexible too as we were running late, or wanted to extend certain portions. We particularly liked the market tour and cooking class with Maurizio, our cycling day to the nature reserve, and our sunset boat cruise. We met Matteo in Syracusa and he showed us some of his favourite shops; he checked in throughout the trip and we heard from our guides that he was in constant communication with them making sure everything went smoothly. Food recommendations were excellent throughout. Communication was prompt and easy. The hotels were amazing; in Siracusa we stayed at the Musciara – the photos really don’t do it justice at all. I’m used to planning and organizing all of our trips, so it was a really special treat here where Matteo was on top of everything and we didn’t have to worry at all, and were pampered throughout.
Marcello arranged behind the scenes tours for us that were fantastic. He took care of every detail on where to meet guides, and his google links took us everywhere exactly. Everyone in Sicily seems to know Marcello, his connections are unbelievable. He even verified that Hertz would remain open when our flight to Catania was incredibly delayed, and had the hotel provide us with a tray of food, knowing we would not have had time for dinner.
I can’t say enough about how pleased I was with our experience using Marcello Baglioni.
The guides and drivers we had were wonderful. We spent 5 days in Palermo and our guide Enrica Bruno and driver Giovanni were a delight to see everyday. We had archeologists as guides in the Greek ruin sites and a volcanologist at Mt. Etna so they really knew what they were talking about.
Matteo Rota was the on-site specialist we worked with and one of the things I particularly wanted to see was the small town my mother’s family came from. Matteo knew of a woman who lived there and taught English and agreed to meet with us and tell us more about the town. While we were standing in the Piazza, everyone was coming up to her to say hello, including a relative of mine whom I would not have known how to contact. It was an amazing experience.
I really enjoyed all of the hotels recommended by Marcello and he worked out just the right amount of sightseeing and leisure time. I would highly recommend anyone thinking about Sicily to contact Marcello.
Marcello was a fantastic trip specialist for Sicily. My husband and I could not have been happier with both his trip design and his support while we were there. Marcello suggested an itinerary that focused on food, wine, and culture, and every part of the itinerary was great. The guides he arranged were top-notch. These included a vulcanologist to help us understand the history and geology of Mount Etna, an archeologist who showed us really interesting ancient sites and took us on some beautiful hikes, and a chef who took us on a market tour and then cooked a Sicilian lunch with us. Marcello also assisted us with hotels and restaurants, and every place he recommended was terrific.
I also appreciated that Marcello kept us from making some errors in our trip planning. Originally, we wanted to tour both the eastern side of Sicily and Palermo, but Marcello gently steered us away from that idea since we were going to be there for only 4.5 days. He was completely right that there was more than enough to see on the eastern side of Sicily, and we otherwise would have spent a lot of unhappy hours sitting in traffic.
When we were in Sicily, Marcello checked in regularly with our guides, drivers, and us to make sure that every aspect of the trip was going smoothly. We really appreciated his attentiveness and detail-orientation in making sure we didn’t have to waste any time worrying about our logistics.
I would also recommend Marcello because he was very nice and easy to work with. We can’t wait to go back to Sicily and have him develop yet another itinerary for us!
Marcello kept us from making some errors in our trip planning.
Our trip to Sicily was amazing and so is Marcello Baglioni. Marcello, while based in the US, spends a lot of time in Sicily searching high and low for the best experiences and the best guides all to the benefit of his clients. He listened carefully at the planning stage and incorporated our requests into the itinerary. (For example, I mentioned that my husband was interested in learning how to cook octopus and Marcello worked it into our itinerary and we had a great experience shopping for octopus in the local market with a chef and cooking it back at the chef’s restaurant.) But what really makes a trip with Marcello so special is his selection of guides as each is so passionate about their field of expertise. From the volcanologist (a professional—not a hobbyist) who became enchanted with Mt. Etna as a young boy, to the archaeologists, the chefs, the wine expert—the list goes on. For example, we were very fortunate that there was an eruption on Mt. Etna the morning of our Etna visit and the volcanologist was able to explain not only what was going on at the eruption site but showed us live video feeds from his colleagues that weren’t available publicly. He also had us quietly listen to the eruption, smell the air, and notice the tiny bit of ash that was landing on our jackets. No one else did. Other guides would stop and ask him questions because they had no understanding of what was going on at the eruption site. One guide even turned to her own clients and told them how lucky my husband and I were to have the volcanologist as our guide! This is just one example of the quality of our guides and how lucky and special we felt on this trip.
This trip exceeded our expectations and I could not recommend him more highly.
Marcello and his team of specialists in Sicily were simply fantastic! We have never had a better planner in that he specifically called every driver/guide etc every step of our journey!
We definitely loved our experience from start to finish. Specifically we would recommend to other travelers to visit the Cammarata Dairy Farm which was very special with Marco being a wonderful host! Also, our driver Claudio was amazing! He spoke English with no accent and really should be encouraged to study to be a guide…there is nothing wrong with being the driver but Claudio is very smart and at only 25 years old has a lot of knowledge about the history of his country. Do not miss the visit to Favara with Annalisa as your guide and hostess for lunch and possibly a cooking class. We did not have time to take her class but spending the morning with her was a sheer delight! We loved stuffing our own cannoli (my husband’s favorite dessert on the planet), seeing her interact with townspeople as everyone knows her, and having a delicious lunch at her home was the icing on the cake. We loved Villa Romana del Casale with our amazing guide Serena. She is an archaeologist and professor at the local university and completely brought the ruins to life. We felt that we were being brought around by the person that lived there 2,000 years ago. As for our boating adventure on the Aeolian Islands the only recommendation I would give is to perhaps not have lunch at the restaurant at the Hotel Signum which takes a while to get to and with little time to explore Salina. We would recommend exploring Salina and then having lunch in the middle of Lipari at their best restaurant, Ristorante Filippino, which is probably a fraction of the cost and easier to get to. It is also beautiful and charming. The boat was so comfortable and the guide Kristina was delightful! Those are a few highlights and overall the trip was perfect! Loved loved Sicily!!!!
For the second time, we put ourselves in Marcello’s hands to plan our Sicily vacation, and for the second time, he excelled.
The itinerary he put together contained the perfect combination of culture, culinary, folklore and downtime. As before, his guides were superb – extremely knowledgeable, engaging, and funny – they made each experience come alive. It was also VERY nice to have Italo, one of our guides two years ago, be with us again. Our assigned drivers were fantastic – careful driving, always punctual, and always exactly where we needed them to be.
For a vacation in Sicily, Marcello is the only person we would utilize. When we decide to go again to explore yet more of Sicily, Marcello is the first call we will make.
The itinerary, the daily schedule, the lodging, the tours and guides, all were uniformly excellent. Some highlights
–The Fontes Episcopi hotel in Aragona was friendly, spotless, comfortable, and the food was great.
–Our guide for the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento was so well informed and observant – he found an actual Roman coin (!) buried next to our feet. The walk through Agrigento was an unexpected highlight
–On our day between Agrigento and Mt. Etna, we had wonderful tours of the roman villa at Piazza Armerina. Imagine there are an estimate 120,000,000 pieces of mosaic tile floor still there! This was the single most impressive Roman ruin we had ever seen.
–Although we had torrential rain during our tour of Taormina, an amazing side benefit was there were a good 4 inches of snow as we climbed around Mt. Etna in mid-May. On the way down we had a wonderful chat and lunch at a local winery which was really one of our best opportunities to meet and talk to local people.
Marcello Baglioni is the person you want if you are planning a trip to Sicily. From the moment I talked to him by phone, I knew that he immediately understand what we wanted to see and do.
He provided outstanding guides for visits to archaeological and historical sites, our main interest. With only a week to see Sicily, we narrowed it down to sites in Catania, Siracusa, and Palermo. All of his guides were professional and personable. They well-versed in their subject matter and spoke English very well. In addition, there was no clock-watching with these guides; in fact all of them continued their tours longer than was planned.
Our drivers were outstanding too, always on time, very professional, and eager to help. Carmello (who has an incredible sense of humor too) even drove back to a restaurant to retrieve my jacket while we visited a Roman villa. On our return to Catania from Siracusa, our driver stopped at the airport to drop off our daughter who was flying to Italy that evening.
Marcello surprised us in Ortigia, the old city of Siracusa, by showing up to meet us personally. It was a pleasure to meet him and to work with him on this trip. Everything went extremely well. Our only regret is that we had so little time in Sicily. We shall have to contact Marcello again for the next trip! Grazie, grazie, gracie.
Since this was our first-ever trip to Sicily and we were a little overwhelmed by trying to plan a trip that would cover all the important bases without leaving us feeling frazzled, we felt the need for a travel specialist and went straight to the WOW list. And finding Marcello was absolutely key to the ultimate success of our trip. First of all, he was very flexible in designing a trip that fit our desired pace of travel as well as our budget. And then, once we got to Sicily and realized how fascinating the tours were that he had set up for us, we couldn’t imagine doing this trip without his guidance. Very importantly, he monitored our trip daily from his office in Texas, to make sure everything was going smoothly. He most notably helped us avoid a very difficult day of driving by seeing that a snowstorm was predicted for the area where we were to do a cheese-tasting the next day, so he canceled it and scheduled a marsala-tasting in another area where the weather was clear. In addition, every one of the guides he set us up with was outstanding. He obviously uses the same care to vet his guides as Wendy does when choosing the travel specialists who merit inclusion on the WOW list.
We worked with Marcello to put together an outstanding tour of Eastern Sicily. The guides and drivers were uniformly excellent. We loved the unique experiences and boutique resorts he selected for us. Our guides were excellent, especially Italo who was extremely knowledgeable on both archaeology and geography of the region. We loved the walk through the market in Ortigia with Chef Mauricio and cooking in his restaurant which was amazing and the forest hike with Sebastian in the woods outside of Siracusa. We enjoyed seeing Mount Etna and the surrounding vineyards. In addition, the ancient sites, as well as the beautiful Palazzos, were extremely interesting and our guide allowed us to begin the long history of this fascinating region of the world. Overall Sicily exceeded our expectations and Marcello put together a great itinerary.
Our two week trip to Sicily exceeded our expectations, both in terms of what Sicily has to offer and the adventure that Marcello orchestrated for us.
Sicily is far more than an island in the sun…it’s a land at the crossroads of history and culture. The guides that Marcello provided for us were second to none that we’ve experienced in years of travel and made this amazing land with its deep, complex and fascinating history come alive.
Our itinerary had a wide variety of experiences from historical/cultural sites to fantastic culinary experiences to meeting with local cheese and pasta artisans to sailing Ionian waters. Hotels recommended to us by Marcello were not only first-rate, but each one was unique and different in its own right.
For our trip (which included stays in Palermo, Trapani, Agrigento, Ragusa, Siracusa, and Taormina) we opted for the self-drive option, meeting guides along the way. Everything worked seamlessly. Unlike experiences we’ve had with large travel agencies, Marcello was personally on top on our travels everywhere along the way, checking in with our guides or us directly to ensure that all of our expectations were being met.
One of the reasons for Marcello Baglioni’s success is that he specializes in Sicily and does not try to be all things to all people. My hope for our future travels is that we can find similar, highly focused boutique operations in other countries we visit. In the meantime, Marcello is most deserving of being on the WOW List…make no mistake about it…..Five Stars from us.
Marcello was great from start to finish. He helped me plan an amazing and fun trip for my family incorporating everyone’s needs. His choice of tour guides is exceptional and they all love working with him. I especially liked to fact that he checked in with us and with the guides (behind the scenes) to make sure that everything was going well. Marcello was also great when we got lost trying to find the olive farm. I called his cell not knowing that he was in the US and it was 3 am! He answered and got us directions and an escort from the owner himself. That is full service!
From the initial call with Marcello, he completely understood the experience we wanted in our vacation and offered us perfect options for our family. The local agent Matteo is as an absolute pro who is very knowledgeable of Sicily. Our group consisted of 12 people 3 families with all kinds of requests. Matteo planned and catered to our group flawlessly. The excursions he planned were perfect and memorable experiences. All of the restaurant recommendations were excellent along with the transportation services and guides he provided. I would not do another Sicily trip without consulting Marcello and his team first!
My husband and I just returned with close friends from a glorious first-time visit to Sicily. I can recommend Marcello without any hesitation. In fact, don’t look any further for a travel agent. The itinerary he presented after some email and telephone conversations, was creative, thoughtful and exciting. My girlfriend and I also did research, including from people who had already been to Sicily, so we presented some of these suggestions to Marcello. I must say, he was very patient and carefully advised. And, he adapted the itinerary when we made other suggestions or comments. Each and every guide was extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Our driver for most of our 10-day trip was so congenial and accommodating.
We loved having a 4-hour sailboat ride off the coast of Siracusa; loved our trip to Mt Etna with a Volcanologist; loved our revised visit to Scicli for an outstanding al fresco lunch at a restaurant owned by a woman who was born in Brooklyn, but now a Sicilian. And, an impromptu visit to her fiance’s herb farm, which was a marvel.
When comparing the itineraries from friends, our trip was far and away more interesting and diverse–not your cookie cutter itinerary.
Marcello was outstanding. He was patient with me in designing our trip to Sicily around specific interests (food, wine, archeology) and in teaching me that it’s wiser to do fewer things in greater depth than trying to see the whole island quickly. (It’s large!) He executed the results of our plans perfectly with consistently superior guides and drivers throughout the trip: a vulcanologist on Mt Etna, the winemaker at Benanti Winery, archeologists for walking tours of Catania, Buscemi, Ortigia, Noto, etc. who knew the by-ways to avoid crowds as well as the best places for granita. Marcello inserted surprises for us throughout the trip. On our foraging trip with a chef in the Buccheri woods, who knew that Max, the truffle-hunting dog, would show up and find the key ingredient of our lunch afterward? Who knew that the one wine I wanted to try in all of Sicily would show up on our table at Macalle, an outstanding, small restaurant in Oritigia after the chef supervised us in cooking our lunch from ingredients wed just bought with him in the market? Marcello also adjusted our trip mid-process when we wanted an afternoon to do “nothing” and when we wanted to see a newly renovated palace instead of something else. We recommend him without reservation. Our trip to Sicily was much richer and more meaningful because of him.
Marcello gave us ten unbelievable days in Sicily, the country he loves so much, and he was there checking in on us each day making certain we were experiencing what we wanted to find in Sicily. We knew that we wanted to see antiquities and beautiful countryside, but we didn’t know hidden treasures like Morgantina, the archeological site where Marcello sent us with a charming archeologist whose published articles on Greek artifacts and enthusiasm for the site excited us on a flower-filled spring morning. Nor did we know of a tiny village tucked into the hills where his fabulous guide introduced us to cheese makers and bread bakers (with whom we baked pizza for an outdoor luncheon.) Nor would we have ever found the young olive grower whose mother prepared a sumptuous luncheon served on their veranda, surrounded by olive groves. The list of delightful Sicilians Marcello sent us to stretches from a volcanologist on Mt. Etna to a family whose Mt. Etna winery was recently noted in the New York Times. This was not a “cookie-cutter” vacation!
Marcello listened carefully and gave us an itinerary that matched our dream experience in Sicily. We couldn’t do all that he suggested–sailing the coastline, for example) due to our limited days, but he knew how to keep us enthralled with the things we hoped to see and to help us unwind in luxury in beautiful Taormina on our last two days. I’ve encouraged all my friends to visit the sites of Sicily with the extraordinary guides Marcello knows whether they drive themselves or use a private driver. We ate well, saw and learned so much about Greek and Roman sites, interacted with talented people–bakers, chefs, history experts, and loved the rolling hills of Sicily which we saw with the skill of Marcello’s planning and judgment. We couldn’t have found anyone who knew and loved the famous as well as the seldom-discovered places on this itinerary, customized to the things we love.
Marcello planned a fantastic trip for us to Sicily!
Our driver, John Vito, was with us for the whole time and his timing and driving were flawless. He also has a great sense of humor and imparted some delightful stories during our hours on the roads. All of our guides were well above the norm. Many were archeologists, all had a great passion for the history of Sicily and their enthusiasm transferred to us.
We started our trip in Palermo, and while there, Marcello was able to arrange a private tour of the Palazzo Valguarnera Gangi. (this palazzo was used to film “The Leopard”, (from Lampudusas book) The Princess was our personal guide and was quite generous in sharing information about the Palazzo. It was memorable!
There were 4 of us and we all agree that Marcello’s choices for our itinerary were excellent. From the ancient sites and temples to the modern farms and with everything in between we feel we got an excellent “taste” of Sicily.
Marcello also “popped up” to meet us one morning while we were having gelato – just to make sure all was well.
Sicily is a beautiful place. We highly recommend having Marcello arrange a trip.
I have just returned from one of the more memorable trips I’ve ever experienced. As I’ve told friends, I didn’t just see Sicily, I experienced Sicily. It was an outstanding trip in every way.
I was a woman, traveling alone and driving myself. I soon learned I needn’t have apprehensions, for Marcello checked on me regularly and was a phone call away Day 1 when I found myself lost in a small village. Marcello patiently guided me out of the dilemma; and had me once again on my way.
Every day was a new, wonderful adventure. I would never have had the wide range of experiences without Marcello. Attention to detail was ever present. The guides were outstanding and obviously carefully selected by Marcello for their expertise, passion for their field, and perfectly delightful personalities. I felt a connection with each of them. Each of them seemed to fill part of a special team and, indeed, they are.
I visited Palermo, a dairy farm in Cammarata, Valley of the Temple in Agrigento, the wonderful little village of Sant Angelo Muxaro, Morgantina and the museum in Aidone, Villa Romana del Casale, Ortigia (a favorite) with the tour of the market and cooking class that followed, an olive farm where I had lunch with a charming family, Mt. Etna (toured with a volcanologist), and ending my travels in beautiful Taormina. Every step of the way, the cultural guides made the experience come alive with the depth of their knowledge and passion for their subject.
I would strongly urge anyone planning a trip to Sicily to not miss the opportunities and expert planning Marcello can provide. With his guidance, you will truly come to know and feel the spirit and dimensions of Sicily.
What a wonderful family trip! Once I explained the purpose of our trip to Matteo on Marcello’s team he came up with some wonderful options! We changed our plans a couple of times and it was no problem.
On the trip everything flowed seamlessly we had a small hiccup in the beginning but that was all sorted out. The experiences that were organized like the cooking lesson in Syracuse, the Olive farm visit and luncheon and the Marsala tasting and luncheon were some of the highlights of our trip. Our driver Gianni was wonderful and all our guides very knowledgeable.
I have already recommended them to all my friends and family.
Marcello was involved from start to finish with our trip to Sicily in November 2017. We decided fairly last minute to do this trip and he had to scramble to get all the pieces in order before we arrived, Not only did he manage to book exactly the right places to visit but he also got us the best guides for each location. We did a self-drive (not for the timid) and he was in constant communication as we made our way from location to location to make sure we had arrived and all was well. We loved the mix of history, local color, and food-related activities. In all, it was a fantastic experience.
I cannot say enough wonderful things about Marcello and our fabulous girls trip to Sicily. Right from the beginning Marcello was responsive and put together a great itinerary. We went through several rounds of revisions and I have to say we pretty much ended up very close to what Marcello had originally proposed. We traveled in November – no crowds and luckily still nice weather.
One of the best decisions (though pricey) was to hire a private driver. Not only was Gianni so sweet and easy to be with, it took out the stress of driving and parking and allowed us to drink fabulous Sicilian wines at lunch and dinner!
We had one disappointing hotel but I think that was more a function of the available options in that locale than anything else. The other 2 were fabulous! Villa Athena was a dream and Ortigia Charme was a delight with the most warm staff. Restaurant recommendations were spot on. If I could make one suggestion it would be to put all the documentation (perhaps with a little more description) in a printable .pdf format in addition to the google map.
While we were there we were lucky to get a Wendy Perrin “wow” moment – a reception in a private villa overlooking the Duomo in Ortigia. It was a lovely surprise. I will say, however, that every day of this trip had a wow moment – touring Agrigento at dusk with virtually no crowds, discovering the beauty of the mosaics at Monreale and Villa Romana de Casale, a lunch in Modena, a chefs tour and private cooking class in Ortigia, the list goes on. What made these places so special were the guides that Marcello has cultivated. They were all specialists in their field and were wonderful to be with.
Marcello kept tabs on us at all times and made sure our itinerary went off like clockwork. By the end of the trip, we’d start to giggle every time our driver or guide took a call from Marcello. They all clearly enjoy working with him.
Thank you, Marcello, for showing us such a perfect week. Can’t wait to go back!
I cannot say enough about what an incredible trip Marcello Baglioni planned for my husband and me this month in Sicily. Everything was flawless. Marcello was a master at getting a feel for what we were like as people and planning the perfect trip. And he even did this for us at the very last minute! After a few phone calls, he knew our personal travel style and off he went. We soon came to know that Marcello knows pretty much everyone in Sicily. Marcello is not a travel agent. He is an archaeologist (truly), food and wine connoisseur, historian, lover of nature, and most importantly just a wonderful human being. Every single place that Marcello directed us to was better than the next. The guides that he had at his disposal were amazing. They were highly educated about each place we visited and made each site come alive in a way that we have not experienced before by a long shot. (We generally eschew guides as not very good–but not this time). We stayed in olive groves with views of the sea, on the sea at the site of an ancient Greek city, in the countryside with Etna within easy reach. Marcello, arranged for us to have a volcanologist, whose amazing knowledge of Etnas eruptions made our tours of Etna amazingly interesting. We toured Siracusa, the ancient Greek city by sea, as the Greeks would have themselves by way a a beautiful restored wooden boat with a wonderful captain. We made Modica chocolate and had a delicious traditional Sicilian lunch on the veranda of a house overlooking the beautiful hillside of Modica. We learned everything about the beautiful Baroque city of Noto and its architecture and the earthquake that shattered existence in that part of the world in 1693. We did this while sampling the amazing wines and food of Eastern Siciliy. We avoided crowds. What more could one want. Except there was more and that was because Marcello much more like your cousin or friend, always checking in and making sure that things were going well, always making sure that what he had planned was to your liking. As I said he is an genuinely nice human being– wonderfully intelligent –compassionate, warm, and from our perspective a friend for life.
We just returned from an 8 day trip to Sicily and are still marveling at the great time we had under Marcello’s expert care. Our itinerary was so well crafted – a wonderful balance of old and new, sea and land, fun and education. We loved the fresh night air of our Aetna vineyard and Agrigento olive farm and the smell of the sea from our Ortigia lodging.
And the experiences – exploring a lava cave, drinking wine in the Ortigia marketplace while tasting a “life-changing” piece of smoked mozzarella, Captain Enrico allowing Steve to take the helm for a portion of our Mediterranean cruise, tasting newly pressed olive oil, and sensing what it was like to live in the era of the Greek temples and Roman amphitheaters.
Marcello has assembled an incredible team of resources. Not only was everyone an expert in their field, but what came through loud and clear was their passion for what they were doing – certainly not your everyday guides. And it was clear that everyone felt they were part of a team.
The handoff between the various drivers, guides and proprietors were seamless. Each person knew what we had done the day before and what was next on our itinerary. The attendant at Cavanera expressed concern when we did not arrive “on time”. Salvatore escorted us to our wine tasting lunch (which we likely could not have found on our own.) The young lady at BB22 coordinated with our Palermo driver and walked us out to the designated meeting spot. Every person went out of their way to make our trip effortless.
And of course, Marcello was always there in the background – checking with each of our guides to make sure we were on schedule and in one case, asking for our GPS coordinates (and offering to send out a rescue team) when we were momentarily lost in the mountains!
Chef Maurizio, who gave us our cooking lesson, summed it up the best when he said there is a difference between tourists and voyagers. Thanks to Marcello for making us feel like voyagers.
We traveled to Sicily in late September of 2017. We toured the island for 10 days, starting in Palermo and ending in Taormina. From start to finish, the trip was everything we asked for; filled with unique, authentic experiences centered around our interests. Agave travel exceeded our expectations. From the day spent in the tiny town of St. Angelo Muxaro with the baker and the cheesemaker, to the world class guides in Morgantina, Siracusa, and Agrigento, to the cooking class and trip to the market in Ortigia. Mateo was also kind enough to translate for me during an interview I did while in Siracusa. We also loved the hotels they chose. If we had it to do all over again, we would only make one change. We overbooked our days and needed more downtime. That was on us. Mateo was fabulous!
This was a two week slow food and wine tour of Sicily. From the initial phone call to plan the trips, thru the many iterations of the two week trip, Marcello was phenomenal. Every guide he hired was the consummate professional. Marcello monitored our tour always checking in (daily) with tour guides to make sure everything ran smoothly. When the weather turned for our sailing trip he immediately reorganized the day and we sailed at a later date. The food and wine tours were so special. The market tour and cooking experience in Ortigia was one of our highlights. We would highly recommend Marcello to everyone who wants a tour filled with so many unique experiences and expert guides along the way.
Marcello and Matteo were a godsend to us on our first trip to Sicily. Matteo worked tirelessly to locate our luggage which arrived two days after we did. He even arranged to have our driver collect the baggage at the airport and transport it to our hotel. Matteo also helped when our hotel in Ortigia couldn’t locate our car (temporarily) and put us in the wrong room. He arranged free breakfast and a one night hotel credit as compensation for our issues. And he made sure that our rental car was ready and waiting outside our hotel for a very early trip to the airport on our day of departure. Thanks, Matteo.
Things we loved:
-Hotel recommendations were spot on. We loved our Mt. Etna and Ortigia accommodations.
-Our wonderful guide, Guisy, who spent a lovely afternoon with us in Taormina.
-Salvo, our volcanologist/guide on Mt. Etna. So enthusiastic and interesting.
-Winery tour and lunch on Mt. Etna.
-Our private boating excursion with Enrico—awesome!
-Cooking class with Maurizio. A highlight.
-Our days with our archaeologist/guide Italo. Especially visiting the ruins and making chocolate.
-Our final dinner with Dario and his family at their olive farm. A truly wonderful experience.
The very diverse activities, destinations, and guides arranged for us in Sicily were without exception superb, from Palermo to Agrigento, Siracusa, Mt. Etna and Taormina. The guides we had were all extremely knowledgeable about their respective subject matters (archeology, history, volcanology, climate, current social issues in Sicily etc.) as well as charming. The activities we enjoyed were even more interesting and delightful than we could have hoped for. They met fully and indeed exceeded our expectations as embodied in the wishes and the criteria we had expressed to Marcello. He obviously listens attentively and is creative in figuring out how to meet the wishes of his clients. Notably, we also appreciated that either Marcello or one of his assistants contacted us several times during our trip to make sure that everything was going well. The guides we encountered all know Marcello well, respect him enormously and are looking forward to his next regular visit to Sicily in September. In addition to the mind expanding architectural and historical aspects of our tour we also greatly enjoyed our visit to the Camporeale winery and our day boat trip from Siracusa, which included a lunch in which we were served the most delicious mussels we have ever tasted. We had the opportunity to spend time in a small village where we could experience artisanal cheese making and even participate in pizza making with the owner of a bakery who (to our surprise) spoke English with a definite Southern English accent having lived there for 20 years.This was our first trip to Sicily and at the end of it in addition to a marvelous vacation experience we feel we have a much deeper appreciation of the history, culture, and role of this island that has absorbed/ endured successive waves of Greek, Roman, Muslim, Norman, Spanish, French and Austrian influences ranging from the admirable to the brutal. We have developed a more nuanced perspective on the events of the last century and a half and the position of Sicily since the Risorgimento and reunification of Italy.
Marcelo spent a lot of time with us designing a trip to Sicily that turned out to be outstanding. Here is some of the feedback & thanks we gave him:
– Thank you for a fantastic and memorable trip! We had a great time and appreciated the excellent taste of beautiful Sicily that you helped us experience.
– We loved both hotels. Delicious food, warm personal service, small size. Excellent recommendations. Thank you very much!
– The guide was wonderful. Easy to be with, organized, friendly, knowledgeable, fun. The whole family liked her and learned with interest from her.
– The driver was excellent. Always on time, brought cold water, even took his own lunch out of a small cooler to let us bring it to the beach. Always cheerful, friendly, polite, professional. Car in great shape, spacious & comfortable.
– Every activity was interesting & worthwhile, and every day well planned & fun, with enough sights & visits, and enough free time at the beach & pool.
– The founder of the herb farm was enchanting. The visit & lunch were both great, a real highlight. So creative and beautiful and fun.
– The afternoon boat was also a real highlight. We loved the crew, boat, ride, swim, commentary, everything.
– The head of the olive farm & his parents couldn’t have been nicer at the olive oil maker. We had an interesting visit and such a warm, friendly lunch.
– The beach was great for kids and fun, but we wondered if there is a more beautiful beach we could have gone to instead.
– The lunch and free afternoon at the country hotel were great. The people there were lovely.
– The free time in the little village was great. Gorgeous seaside restaurant & fun shopping.
– We loved the volcano expert & the visit to Mt. Etna. His enthusiasm was infectious, and he told us such interesting things. It was less of a hike than I expected but perfect given the heat.
– We are sorry we did not do a cooking class as you had suggested, but were not sure what we would have sacrificed to fit one in.
– Many thanks again for introducing us so wonderfully to Sicily!
As you can see, we thought Marcelo fully earned his place on Wendys WOW list. We recommend him wholeheartedly for arranging a trip to Sicily. He met us for dessert on our trip, and were so happy we got to meet and thank him in person. We loved the Greco-Roman ruins we visited with Marcelo’s wonderful guide, as well as all the other parts of our trip mentioned above. Sicily is amazing, and Marcelo will open its treasures for you.
Anyone who’s looking for a well planned, faultlessly managed and fascinating exploration of Sicily should call Marcello. Our Sicily trip was one of the best trips we’ve taken, and we travel a lot. In fact, I’ve just contacted Wendy’s expert for Eastern Europe for a trip were taking in August. Marcello loves Sicily and his guides and the people you’ll meet have an infectious enthusiasm for their fields. I didn’t think I’d be interested in a herb farm, but it was fascinating. We toured ancient ruins with professional archaeologists who had actually made significant finds, Mt. Etna with a vulcanologist whose main job is monitoring Mt. Etna, and an organic olive farm of 3rd generation owners with whom we then shared their Sunday family lunch. We had one mishap (sailboat malfunction) and the way that Marcello made up for it was notable. Instead of a daytime sail/swim/lunch, we did an evening sail/dinner overlooking Siracusa. The evening was so magical that I was glad we aborted the 1st sail. Ask Wendy to connect you with Marcello. You won’t be sorry.
We visited Palermo, Agrigento, and Siracusa in Sicily in early June 2017; Marcello was our travel specialist. I have a Sicilian heritage and wanted to visit the island; I had no real experience as to where to travel so let Marcello guide me as to locations, hotels, and itineraries. We went with our grown daughters and son in law (mid-20s) and had a fabulous time. Marcello not only helped me pick hotels and itineraries but checked on us virtually every day to make sure things were going smoothly and when we wanted to change itineraries, was very flexible in finding options for us. The highlight of the trip for our children was the local flavor we experienced in cooking classes, visits to farms and agritourism sites- things you would not be able to do on your own. I would highly recommend Marcello and Sicily as a wonderful place to travel.
Marcello was wonderful in the planning of the trip, with fabulous ideas for our travels including sights, hotels, and restaurants. He was inexhaustible in adjusting the itinerary after we reviewed the trip and adjusting the details to our total satisfaction. During the trip, he was always available to talk and continue to edit our plans almost on a daily basis. He was marvelous in having the most extraordinary guides …a charming incredibly knowledgeable historian/filmmaker who fascinated our well-traveled group of four lawyers with an amazing command of centuries of history and stories and an archeologist who communicated his enthusiasm to our group , while picking up shards of ancient pottery in the “layers” of dirt!!!
He also organized a very WOW experience (thank you Wendy) in a private palazzo in Siracusa, where we all shared champagne with him and the owner. WOW! Marcello made our trip an unforgettable experience.
Marcello is a wonderful travel agent who created an extremely well-planned and varied 10-day trip. He kept tabs on us throughout our time in Sicily, even managing to meet us while in Siracusa. Guides ranged from good to excellent, recommended hotels were divine.
My husband and I traveled to Sicily, with Marcello Baglioni as our trip planner. He was great! We told him our interests (archaeology, history, and food), and the fact that my husband has a bad knee – so stairs, etc. would be an issue. The trip he planned was perfect; the guides and drivers were also excellent. Also, the day we left, there was an article in the newspaper about a new bit of history in Palermo that would be of great interest to us. While waiting to take off, I texted Marcello who replied that he couldn’t promise success, but he would look into it, It turned out that the guide he had chosen for that area had researched this very thing and so we were thrilled to learn about it.
I will say that the guides were impressive – most had graduate degrees in the areas as to which they guided. We also enjoyed our cooking lesson with the delightful chef in Ortigia.
I would definitely recommend Marcello for anyone who wants to visit Sicily.
I used Marcello for a special private journey that I planned for a group of lifelong friends ranging in ages from 34 to 87. Marcello helped me plan a once in a lifetime experience in Sicily for my group of 8 in October, an ideal time to visit Sicily. I had been to Sicily many times over 30 years as a student, and later on cruise ship day trips and pre and post cruise short stays. I knew what to see but I needed help in crafting truly memorable experiences for my group, with someone who had up to the minute connections and furthermore, ideas. Marcello is the man to pull off your dream trip to amazing Sicily!!! Marcello succeeded in getting us through sites with no crowds, into lovely restaurants and the best rooms at the best hotels.
His guides were absolutely top notch in every respect, and some of our highlights were the outdoor food market in Ortigia followed by a cooking class with chef Lele Torrisi. Our olive farm experience luncheon was a highlight, too, as well as the mount Etna Winery. Marcello’s personal contacts add so much to the experiences he crafts for his travelers.
When we had a service issue one night Marcello was right there to fix the issue specially arranging a dinner out in Trapani where tourists rarely go. While in Siracusa he personally checked in on us so our travelers could meet him and thank him for all he had done!!
Marcello is a Sicilian gem, use his expertise to craft your amazing journey to one of my favorite islands. I can’t say enough good things about Marcello!
Spent a week in Sicily planned by Marcello Baglioni. I have to say, it was the most amazing week of vacation I’ve ever had. We were a group of 6, including a 1 year old and a 12 year old. Marcello made it an incredible trip for everyone, regardless of age. We got to experience Sicily like locals, and we’ll always appreciate the memories he helped us create. We’ve worked with other travel agents before and since, but Marcello sets the standard.
My wife and I just completed a late September/early October two week self drive trip around Sicily arranged with Marcello. The trip was spectacular and Marcello’s planning, guidance and in-country services were a major reason for this.
We toured several ancient sites and medieval towns, lunched at wineries, climbed the Scala dei Turchi, sailed the coast of Siracusa and climbed on Mt. Etna…..all of which were extraordinary. Marcello even surprised us with a private tour(with lunch) at a family owned palazzo in Ragusa Ibla. Marcello’s hotel recommendations met our expectations perfectly, all of his guides were expert and excellent and his drivers timely, courteous and punctual. And it was comforting to know that Marcello was following up and looking out for us on each leg of the trip(I have used other WOW List specialist with great success, but Marcello is the first to actually expend the effort to track your daily movements in country to ensure your trip is progressing as planned). We also got to spend an enjoyable evening with Marcello over dinner in Siracusa and learn a bit more about his evolution into a first rate travel specialist.
We wholeheartedly recommend Marcello to others looking to plan a Sicily adventure. You will not be disappointed. Thanks Marcello!
With very little advance notice Marcello planned four cities in Sicily in August 2016 for us. High-quality experts with incredible credentials guided us from Mount Etna to culinary experiences extraordinary in their scope and detail. Look no further than Marcello Baglioni for the best there is in Sicily. —Linda Garrett
Our trip to Sicily in June 2016 has left us with wonderful memories thanks to Marcello. We told him that food and wine are passions for us and he arranged a great itinerary including visits to a flour mill, an herb farm, chocolate maker, dairy farm and an almond and ricotta producer. In addition we visited several wineries and had a personal tour of the market in Ortigia followed by a cooking class. Archaeology and culture were not left out of the trip. Among the things weve raved to friends about were having a REAL vulcanologist show us Mt. Etna and highly educated archaeologists make ancient sites come alive. The caliber of the experiences plus that of the guides and drivers was one of the hallmarks of our trip. It was what we hoped for and more than we expected. Everywhere we went Marcello was given high praise and we would second that . He has made many valuable connections in Sicily and we were the lucky beneficiaries. We appreciated how Marcello checked in with us each day and loved having the opportunity to meet him in Siracusa. We cant thank him enough for making our Sicilian adventure so memorable. We would recommend a trip to Sicily, planned by Marcello to anyone who travels. This trip will be the benchmark for any future European travel for us.
Our trip to Sicily could not have been better. Working with Marcello Baglioni was a dream. Marcello hired us the best guides for all our excursions and every day was a “wow.”
Marcello stayed in touch with us throughout our travels and ensured everything ran smoothly. We had the best time and I would not hesitate to recommend his expertise to anyone planning on visiting Sicily. His knowledge and professionalism are unparalleled.
Marcello knows Sicily. Inside and out.
Marcello has planned several things for me over the years. He can customize anything and will advise you to give you the best experience possible. Marcello knows the best places to go, which ones to avoid and how to spend the day to get an authentic Sicilian experience. This past summer, September 2015, Marcello arranged for us to spend a day going to the market and cooking with a local chef, which was amazing! I traveled with a group of students to Sicily several years ago and Marcello arranged cooking classes for a group of 20 year olds making Sicilian food aficionados out of the most resistant boys, planned visits to wineries on Mt. Etna, lunch at a farm near Siracusa, language lessons, accommodations…everything to make a disparate group of young adults interested and engaged. That was a true test…and he passed with flying colors!
Marcello’s intimate knowledge of the culture of Sicily is the reason to have him plan a trip. Anyone can book a hotel for you or tell you the sights to see in any given city…that’s easy. But to know what to do, eat and see in order to feel like a local yourself is what Marcello does best. Marcello’s knowledge of the history of the island together with his long-term relationships with people ensure that you get the most expert attention in whatever you want to do.
Mille grazie, Marcello!
Marcello Baglioni made our 2015 trip to Sicily a wonder-filled journey and an indelible memory. We’d considered booking a small group tour and looked into several companies. Then we found Marcello. From the minute we arrived to the minute we waved farewell, we were in the capable hands of his exceptional guides and followed a plan that let us see more, do more, learn more, and eat much better than we would have on our own. And we did so without spending our budget on the very posh or the very touristy. We stayed in bed-and-breakfasts where we were treated royally and whose staff made sure we always had the best of all possible breakfasts before venturing beyond their doors.
We only stayed in Sicily for 12 days—and could have stayed another 12. Our friends are astonished: “What’s there to do in Sicily for that long a time?” Our answer: If you have a few hours, we’ll tell you and you’ll put it on your must-visit list.
We toured Palermo; went both east and west of the city. We saw the influence of the many “invaders” whose cultures mixed to create a unique people and place. We visited a remote goat farm and tasted the fresh milk and cheese. We ate lunches along with local wines that left us wanting a nap, but choosing instead to see splendid architecture, churches, cathedrals, historic sites, and tiny villages. From Palermo we headed south and then east to take in archeological sites we’d never heard of and now wonder why we hadn’t. Beautiful towns and landscapes rivalled those we’ve seen in dozens of other countries.
Palermo, Cefalu, Sant ‘Ambrogio, charming Catelbuono (where we ate manna from heaven, really!), Monreale’s glorious Cathedral begun in the 12th Century, Erice high above the sea, Segesta and its Greek Temple, Argrigento’s Valley of the Temples, Villa Romana del Casale, and Syracuse. All with wineries along the way for tasting and refreshing our zeal to see more. And great food.
In Syracuse we stayed in magical Ortygia. From there we journeyed to the vast Pantalica Valley and its ancient tombs, Baroque Noto, an olive farm, a fishing village, plus a day on Mt Etna with a perfect finale at Benati’s vineyards and winery. Plus an herb farm, an olive farm, Caltagirone and its stunning pottery and mosaics, two cooking lessons, and (did we say?) good food.
Our last two days in Syracuse were made for memories. First, we saw a modern production of Seneca’s version of the Euripides’ Greek tragedy Medea in an open, ancient Greek theater overlooking the city and the sea—with a clear sky and full moon above. The next day, we sailed the bay off Ortygia aboard a private sailboard and enjoyed a swim and, of course, a seaworthy lunch.
So how did we do all this in 12 days without a single flaw, bad moment, aching feet, or indigestion? It would have been impossible without the meticulous planning, entrée to rarely seen sites, Tommaso’s driving us beyond where the buses go, and brilliant guides such as Dr. Claudio Italo (archaeologist extraordinaire), Enrico (a caption worth more than his salt) and Marcello who joined us one afternoon.
If we had stayed in Sicily for three weeks on our own, we would have had a wonderful time, but nothing as grand and glorious as what we now call The Marcello Experience.
Having been to Italy several times my husband and I had never had the pleasure of exploring Sicily. Not sure where to start in planning our trip we decided to go with Wendy Perrin’s trusted travel expert for Sicily, Marcello Baglioni. I can only say that without him we would never have had the wonderful experience that we did. We started the process by telling him some of the things we wanted to see and do during our time there. He worked his magic and put together an amazing self-drive trip for us. We visited a working dairy farm–(and enjoyed a delicious meal there!), had a private guided tour of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, took a private cooking class with a well known local chef in Siracusa, and enjoyed an informative, as well as beautiful, hike on Mt Etna with a volcanologist. In addition Marcello took our trip to the 21st century by creating a personalized google map that we could access anywhere with our mobile phones. With this tool we were able to easily navigate between cultural attractions, as well as recommended restaurants, cafes, and museums he personally highlighted for us, using the GPS on our phone. We were so pleased with our trip I recommended his services to a colleague who just came back from his own special journey to Sicily. Bravo Marcello!
Marcello organized our Sicily trip in April 2011 and was one of the first of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts we used. We decided on the trip only a couple of months ahead of time and felt overwhelmed by choices. So we contacted Marcello. He introduced us to the concept of Slow Travel (see his note on Biggest Rookie Mistake) — travel less, see more in depth. The trip he organized for us was packed with absolutely wonderful experiences we never could have had on our own. We focused principally on southeastern Sicily and had terrific guides, wonderful cooking classes, a great hike on Mount Etna, magnificent cheese, chocolate and wine tastings, great horseback riding and one of the most charming hotel stays we’ve ever had — a room in an Ortigia (Siracusa) hotel that had an enormous private terrace with sofas, tables and chairs and a huge, very private hot tub overlooking the ocean that took all our aches away after long days hiking, sightseeing, cooking, eating and horseback riding. (We also got to Agrigento and Palermo and were in Palermo for Good Friday confraternity processions.) Marcello is a charming man (he met us for coffee one day) and we are very grateful to him for introducing us to Slow Travel. We have incorporated it into virtually all our subsequent trips — many organized by more of Wendy’s excellent Trusted Travel Experts. Thank you, Marcello. This is an overdue thank you note to you.