“It begins in January, the Sicilian spring, and accumulates into a kingly bouquet, a wizard’s garden where all things have bloomed; the creek sprouts mint; dead trees are wreathed in wild clamber roses; even the brutal cactus shoots tender blossoms…It is bright as the snows on Etna’s summit. Children climb along the mountainside filling sacks of petals in preparation for a Saint’s Day, and fishermen, passing with their baskets of pearl-colored pesce, have geraniums tucked behind their ears. May, and the spring is in its twilight; the sun enlarges; you remember that Africa is only eighty miles away; like a bronze shadow autumn color falls across the land. By June the wheat was ready to harvest.” (Truman Capote, The Dogs Bark)
I have a friend who has been everywhere and visited the most weird places on earth. Who does not have a friend like this one? This friend of mine enjoys the most improbable museums and he always manages to find them even in the tiniest village. You know, one of those places that gather what in another context would be simply called junk. Having said that, it is no surprise that it was him who first told me about this very spooky place in the heart of Palermo; which is, however, technically not a museum… Continue reading Catacombe dei Cappuccini: the Spooky Side of Palermo
Finally Cannoli Siciliani got the attention they deserve – even on Netflix. The last version of Chef’s Table, indeed, reserved one of its episodes to Corrado Assenza, an artisan of Sicilian sweets and owner of the historical Caffe Sicilia in Noto.
I’m a sweet tooth and big fan of Chef’s Table and this episode is right what I needed to convince myself to head back to Sicily this summer. Again. I’m foodie and I generally love to hear people talking about food as a passion, but Sicilian pastries have a special place in my heart and the way Mr Assenza talks about them is simply romantic. Continue reading The Sweet Tooth of Sicily Conquers Netflix
Let’s start by saying that granita is not syrup and ice mixed together on the spot. This is what you might have been led to believe in other countries or even in other Italian regions. But now that you are in Sicily, you’ll finally know the truth. Granita siciliana is tradition, pride and a meticulous, continuous gesture of uniting water, sugar and fresh ingredients like pistachios, mulberries (gelso), almonds and lemons… Continue reading Top 7 Granita between Catania and Acireale
Seafood is one of Sicily’s most appreciated perks. Even better when it compliments a dish that it will remind you of the scent of holidays by the sea forever. Today I have in mind pasta with sea urchins, alias pasta con i ricci.
For those who are not familiar with these sea creatures, sea urchins are somehow cute and potentially very painful spiky balls often attached to the rocks in shallow waters and found in all oceans. Although I would advise to carefully avoid them while snorkelling, I could not possibly give you the same advice when you find them listed on the menu… Continue reading The Scent of the Sea: Pasta con i Ricci
I never imagined my wedding although it was somehow on my to-do list. It was only when my then boyfriend proposed to me on a dock in Indonesia during a tropical sunset that lasted less than 30 seconds that I actually started picturing it. I was radiant in a wraparound dress. The color was not yet clear in my mind but it was definitely lace. My husband and I were the host of a party that every single one of our guest would have remembered. I imagined them having the time of their life while sharing ours. And too bad if they did not like sea food (of which both my husband and I are particularly fond)… Continue reading Wedding alla Siciliana
It was about 10 a.m. in the morning when my friend Aster and I decided to plunge in the Catania fish market. Quite late for any Italian market that comes to life at 6 a.m and by 8 a.m. has given away all its best products. But we did not care much about that. We were in our holiday rhythm and our only goals were to try something different to snack and to enjoy that warm livelihood swarming around us before heading back to the Netherlands.
We begun strolling along the overcrowded stalls like in a maze of faces and strong smells. We were constantly distracted by the loud voices of the vendors communicating with each others and with their clients as if they were kilometres apart. Our eyes felt overwhelmed by all the different products that the market was ostentatiously selling. Continue reading A Morning in the Historical Fish Market of Catania
On the 15th of August you might find yourself wondering around a deserted Sicilian town with no shops open if not a few cafes that are able to gather together all the people that like you are asking: what is it happening?
This is what Ferragosto does to Italians. The 15th of August is the most sacred holiday after Christmas. Perhaps it is even holier than Christmas although it is strictly pagan (from Feriae Augusti – riposo di Augusto, roman Emperor). On this day every single person is on holiday and in Sicily it will be impossible to find a plumber, let alone a cleaner. On Ferragosto forget shopping and try to stay healthy as many doctors too are joining all the other Sicilians. Where? Well, by the sea, of course!
Sicily would not be the same without Mount Etna, but Mount Etna is a world all on its own. It’s clear in summer, when the Sicilian landscape yields to the burnt shades under the sun while Mount Etna rises in all its craters with lushes green vegetation and its black lava rocks villages.
For the people who have thrived on its slopes, the volcano is a generous mother who gives more than she threatens. Yes, because while dangerous eruptions are rare for this volcano, the products harvested from its lava soil are plenty and of incredible quality. Wine, pistachios, chestnut honey, oranges, lemons, olive oil, ficodindia are just just the first that come up to my mind.
Wine is one of Etna’s most recent prides, although the wine production on this vulcano is not at all new. It can be traced back for thousands of years and in the 19th century it even lived a short heyday when it was able to fill the void in the market left by the Phylloxera, an insect that decimated the Europe production. However, once the threat of Phylloxera disappeared and the Great War followed, the demand as well as the production of Etna wine dropped rapidly into oblivion. Until recent years. It has been, indeed, only in the last twenty years that several wine producers have begun to invest again in its rich black soil. A soil that is able to give a distinctive savory and minerally character to its best production.
Nerello Mascalese and Carricante are the two native grapes of the Etna that are used alone or blended with other grapes to create Etna Rosso and Etna Bianco respectively.
Nerello Mascalese is a red, more in vogue as well as more widely produced and that the most enthusiasts dare to compare to Pinot Noir of Burgundy for its elegance. Carricante is a white, far less known, but strongly supported in the area of Milo where producers like Benanti were able to reveal its distinctive savoury and even saline qualities at best.
A research states that 36% of the travellers have chosen a destination based on a setting seen in a movie. Did you ever planned your holiday this way?
In Italy, one of the most travel-inspiring movies is certainly the award winning ‘Il Postino’ (1994), directed by Michael Radford and Massimo Troisi. The movie retraces the footsteps of the exile of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda on a island in the south of Italy. A must see movie, in my opinion.