Although I have been to Marsala dozens of times, for some reason I had never been to Cantine Florio Marsala and just between us, I did wrong because it is a really interesting place where you can smell the scents, flavours and stories from other eras. But let’s go calmly.
I have to be completely honest, I didn’t really feel like going, but it was bad weather and by now I had already seen everything I could see in Marsala. So Valerio and I decided to go. Fortunately, since it was one of the most beautiful and atmospheric things I remember about Marsala. If you pass through this city you absolutely must go!
A Tuff and Wood coloured wonder
The cellars are located along the coast of Marsala a few steps from the sea. If you arrive on a day when the sea is rough, from inside the walls you can smell the scent of wine mixed with that of salt.
The Cellars built in 1833 by Vincenzo Florio, are a formidable place for the eyes and rich in history, smells, perfumes and political intrigue. They are open all year round and are one of the most interesting attractions of the city. Thanks to the visit I was able to understand how the “Marsala” is not only a wine, not only a city, but the close union between the territory, its population, its morphology but above all its incredible history.
The Cellar of over 44,000 square metres has pointed arched vaults, of typical Anglo-Saxon origin but with beaten tuff floors, a yellow stone typical of the area. The more than 600 barrels that fill the huge halls, fill the eye and leave you pleasantly surprised. Walking through those rooms is an experience that is difficult to tell.
Each visit ends in one of the two tasting rooms, the Sala Donna Franca Florio and Duca Enrico. Two rooms equipped with a large screen where a video is shown talking not only about the winery but also about the entire Duca di Salaparuta group which owns not only the Florio cellars but also the Cantine Corvo and Duca di Salaparuta.
What do the Dukes of Salaparuta and Tolkien have in common?
And for someone like me who is a little nerd, he must know that somehow, in the distance, this city is linked to the Lord of the Rings. The Dukes of Salaparuta are the Alliata family, a famous Tuscan and Sicilian family that gave life to Vittoria Alliata da Villafranca. A prodigy translator who at the tender age of 16 translated Tolkien’s book as we know and appreciate it today.
The story at Cantine Florio, a spy story worthy of a film
The thing that amused me most about the visit was the interweaving, masterfully told by our guest, that the city and this sweet wine has with the history of Italy. This is because the port of Marsala marks the beginning of the expedition of the Thousand that gave life to the unity of Italy.
It all began way back in 1773 when English merchant John Woodhouses boat in Marsala instead of Mazzara del Vallo because of a storm. Here locals offer him a local “poor” wine called “perpetum.” This wine was made by tucking old wine directly into the barrel with new vintages.
Woodhouse finds this wine very good and decides to bring it to England. In order not to “spoil” it, he decides to add brandy to “fully fill” the barrels. To his amazement on arrival he discovers that this wine was even better.
This is because oxygenation, or oxidation which is normally the mortal enemy of any wine, is the queen here. But back to our Englishman who returns to the land of Sicily accompanied by Benjamin Ingham and nephew John Whitaker.
It was not until 1833 that Vincenzo Florio came into the picture and started making wine. He later bought their wineries from the British and brought Marsala to be one of the world’s most beloved sweet wines.
Garibaldi, who did not like to drink, took a liking to this sweet wine; so much so that the Florio family dedicated one of the types namely Marsala Superiore Garibaldi Dolce to him.
The Cantina Florio Marsala, what are its prices?
I was also pleasantly impressed on this point. I visited other wineries in Italy but this one was one of the most interesting, given the price. The winery is extremely active, so much so that it changes the way it tours according to the season. The price ranges from 20 euros to 5 euros for minors.
Visit Le Cantine Florio in Spring and Summer
- VISIT “STANDARD” you can visit the wineries and have a tasting of four Duca di Salaparuta, Corvo and Florio wines (one white, one red and two types of marsala).
The duration is about 1 1/2 hours and the cost is 13 euros per person for adults and 5 for children aged 6 to 17.
- VISIT “CIOCCOFLORIO” a fun tour of the Florio Cellars ends in the tasting room where 3 different types of Marsala Florio with 3 types of Modica chocolate await you. Again the duration is about 1 1/2 hours and the price rises to 15 euros per person and 5 for minors.
- VISITA “FOOD&WINE” is the visit we took and the one I highly recommend because in addition to the guided tour of the Florio Cellars you will be able to taste 1 Duca di Salaparuta White Wine and 1 Duca di Salaparuta Red Wine and two different types of Marsala to understand how different the various types of the usual “fortified wine” can be. Four typical Trapani snacks are given along with the tasting. The visit takes about 1 1/2 hours and the cost is 20 euros per person but minors are excluded here.
- VISIT “FLORIO LUNCH-TASTING” After the winery visit there is a tasting of four Florio marsalas, two of which are special reserves. The tasting is also accompanied by 4 gourmet dishes prepared by the winery’s chef. Two and a half hours for a truly must-do experience. The cost is 40 euros per person.
- “TOUR ESTIVO FLORIO” during the summer, the Wineries overlooking the sea have a WONDERFUL terrace on which at the end of the visit to the Winery you can taste the usual two Salaparuta wines and a Marsala with some typical snacks while looking at the sea and, I would add, running out of camera memory for the photos you will take of the landscape especially since you leave the wineries just in time for the Sunset! The cost is 20 euros per person.
Florio Marsala Wineries in Autumn and Winter
In autumn and winter things change slightly but they remain more or less similar apart from some changes with prices and the general offer:
- TOUR “STANDARD” a 1.5-hour guided tour with a tasting of 1 roso wine, 1 white wine and two marsalas accompanied by 4 small local samples at a cost of 15 euros per person (5 euros for minors)
- TOUR “FLORIO” the guided tour ends with a tasting with 2 marsalas and a zibibbo di Pantelleria and 3 small pairings. The whole thing lasts about 1 1/2 hours and costs 15 euros for adults and 5 euros for minors
- “FOOD&WINE” TOUR After visiting the winery, 1 red wine, 1 white wine and two marsalas will be tasted with 4 samples of local gastronomy. It lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes and costs 20 euros per person (10 for minors)
- TOUR with “FLORIO LUNCH-TASTING” Also here after the tour there is a seated tasting with 4 marsalas (two are special reserves) with paired 4 dishes prepared by the winery’s chef. The tasting lasts 2 1/2 hours and can be done for 40 euros per person (25 for minors)
On the Cantine Florio Marsala website you can find all the info you need to visit the wineries.