Suzi and I just returned from ten warm days in Italy. Sicily to be precise, one of the regions we had never visited before. Our journey included food, of course, but also city byways like that staircase and some of the amazing ruins that dot the island. Sicily is perhaps the most fought over island in the world: Carthaginian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Norman, German, French and Spanish waves have made Sicily a melting pot for food, architecture, language — literally every aspect of culture is a melange of interwoven layers.
It’s very hard to read up and get prepared for Sicily on your own. Just too much to research, and that spectrum of history is overwhelming. To enjoy Sicily well and with comfort, we needed help.
So we turned to Authentic Italy, a luxury travel firm run with perfect finesse by our friend Gary Portuesi. Gary’s family is from Sicily, he has a house there, and he started Authentic Italy as Authentic Sicily. We trusted Gary to guide us through the island. He wisely advised on a few things:  Don’t drive in Palermo and  Don’t try to do the entire island in one shot. We had a wonderful driver in Palermo, so we could see the sights while he dodged the traffic — and, no, I would never have lasted an hour with a stick shift there. And, we focused on the Western side of the island where the culture has been influenced heavily by Carthaginian and Islamic tides.
Gary arranged the best vacation we have ever had. Lodging, dining, and transportation were expertly provided. And, for walking Palermo and five historic sites around the island, we had marvelous tour guides who customized the itinerary to match our personal interests. “How many churches do you want to see?” our first guide asked. We saw the top five and had time for street markets and trendy dining spots along the way.
Oh, that food dish? Confit of quail with blackberries in a sauce the gods — be they Greek or Roman — would have rewarded. Palermo, on a side street you would never find on your own.
If you are traveling to Italy, for the first time or the twenty-first time, I suggest you contact Gary for an Italian experience that cannot be surpassed. Here you go:
Authentic Italy: Gary Portuesi
315 W 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 917 353 7352