Tradition, Craft and Food in Sicily
The beating heart of life in Sicily is its people and their time-honored traditions.
Tradition, Craft and Food in Sicily
Sicily, Italy's biggest island, is a place of cultural fusion. For thousands of years, invaders and conquerors have brought their diverse traditions to the island that still manifest themselves through the language, food, architecture and art. There are Roman ruins, Arab spices, Byzantine mosaics and Norman palaces. The land is also central to the island's identity, from the fertile volcanic soil of Mount Etna to the extensive coastline. The inhabitants of Sicily have learned how to exploit this rich landscape producing unique volcanic wines, pistachios so prized they are known as green gold, and some of the highest quality olive oil.
Travelling around Sicily means crossing between cultures and histories. It means learning the cherished stories of the people who have been creating spectacular crafts like intricately painted carts and armoured puppets, or exquisite foods like ricotta-stuffed cannoli, for generations. On the tour, we delve into street markets and meet vendors with their idiosyncratic sales calls, we visit the houses of elderly women who impart the secrets of pastry and pasta making, and we go sailing with seasoned fishermen. In meeting these Sicilians, we experience the true lifeblood of Sicily.
The dark red carriages of the Circumetnea train chug slowly around the steep sides of Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanos. The 110-kilometer route, constructed in the late 1800s, travels nearly the complete circumference of the volcano, giving passengers breathtaking views of the precipitous slopes and snowy peaks.
Walking through Palermo's Ballarò market is a spectacular, overwhelming experience. The narrow streets are crammed with stalls spilling out from open shop fronts laden with kaleidoscopic displays of fruits and vegetables, feasts of fish and seafood or fragrant mounds of spices. And the Palermitan vendors themselves are nothing less than theatrical.
Maria Pia, otherwise known as Mamma Corleone, is both a passionate cook and an unofficial food historian. In her cooking classes, she recreates and adapts recipes that find their origins in Sicily’s complex, multicultural past.
Watched over by Mamma Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, vintners tend to terraces of vines spread across the eastern slopes. Vineyards like that of the Gambino family have one of the most breathtaking panoramas in the wine world as well as being ever respectful of the fragile environment around.
The fertile slopes of Mount Etna provide prime growing conditions for one of Sicily’s most important cultivations, pistachios. MUSA farm, located at 1050 meters above sea level, produces pistachios along with various other crops. At the heart of their philosophy is being accessible to all visitors, whatever their physical needs.
Around the narrow streets of Modica lined with extravagant Baroque architecture, there is a pervasive, mouthwatering scent of chocolate. Situating near the southern tip of the island, the city is a center of chocolate making using ancient and singular techniques.
Driving along the western coast of Sicily, the road is lined with vast, shimmering salt flats. The mesmerizing geometry is only broken by the occasional old windmill and stone warehouse. These salt flats are a remnant of an industry once vital to life on the island.
Sheep’s cheese known as pecorino is one of the most famous dairy products of Sicily. But when something would wrong during the pecorino cheesemaking process, producers began choosing not to discard the defective cheese, but to transform it into something new.
Ragusa, a hilltop town in the southeast of Sicily, is a stunning UNESCO world heritage site filled with magnificent baroque monuments. In this historic part of the center, you can find Locanda Don Serafino, a hotel with some very special rooms.
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