Sunday, 2 November 2008
Monday, 15 September 2008
This post is for those of you who are passionate about the joys and benefits of truly experiencing a new place by way of riding a bike. The Travel Mag, International Living, has a Special Report on their choice for "The World's 10 Best Travel Adventures", with an adventurous biking adventure in the two most remote islands of the volcanic Aeolian Islands making the list.
Sicily and the Aeolian Islands for Hike or Bike
The seven small islands sprinkling the waters just north of Sicily contain some of the most picturesque living you can imagine. The smallest and western-most of the islands, Alicudi, is covered by pink heather in the spring, and is mostly overlooked by tourists.
The western half of the island is completely uninhabited, and the steep cliffs drop straight into the blue waters beneath, while the eastern half is covered by steppes on which the village sprawls.
While Alicudi is covered in pink heather, the next island, Filicudi, is covered in green ferns. This rugged island has two small villages on a peninsula, and hardly any noise—the only usable road here is a path for mules. The largest island, Lipari, is an island ofbeautiful contrasts. White pumice-stones and pitch-black obsidian cover the coasts.
Volcanic peaks rise above long white beaches. And though there are 600 thermal springs, it only has four towns.
Four more islands, each a magnificent gem in the crown of the Mediterranean, covered in olive groves, fields of golden corn, and strawberry tree woods. The seven volcanic islands contain a spectrum of diverse landscapes from fields to beaches to mountains. And all of it free of smog, bright lights, and city noise.
And then there is Sicily itself. Olive groves, lava fields, and citrus orchards surround the great Mt Etna, while gorgeous beaches, stylish boutiques and chic cafes will leave you in want of nothing.
Walk and bike these fabulous islands for seven days for around $3,500. Bike Riders offers ready-to-go trips. You may want to throw in a few boat tours to see the beautiful island profiled against the aqua Mediterranean waters, which will be an additional (but worthy) cost. And, don’t forget to sample locally made marzipan and authentic cappuccinos along your adventure.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
Via Carso 23
Nestled atop of a scenic mountain overlooking the sea and dominated by a 11th century castle, the mediaeval village of Carini is the perfect spot for those seeking a unique Sicilian holiday. A "real" Sicilian experience.
Siciliamo has just acquired the perfect house for a true romantic Sicilian getaway for those of you who want to immerse yourselves in all the beauty and abundance that Sicily has to offer. Located just minutes away from the Palermo Airport in the village of Carini, Via Carso 23 is an early 1900's building in a mediaeval cobbled-stoned alley, consisting of two floors. The house contains a dining room, one king side bedroom, a living area, a small study, fully equipped kitchen and two bathrooms.
The property is stylishly and tastefully furnished and is ideal for a couple who have an eye for quality and class and who want to enjoy the wine, food and ambiance of this magical land.
Rates are €80 per night or €400 per week. Each booking is entitled to a 20% discount on the "Dangerous Eating" Sicilian culinary experiences in Palermo. Also included is a welcome pack of Sicilian produce samples.
For all enquires, email Siciliamo at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go here.
Sunday, 31 August 2008
Script and Animation: Turi Scandurra
Screenplay: Nino Arcidiacono
Music: Peppe Gullotta
For those of you who want to know exactly what was said, here is the full transcript.
One hundred eighty millions years ago Tethys Ocean splits Pangaea
mountain ranges rise up among coral reeves
flora, fauna and dwarf elephants
the volcano Etna grows up by underwater eruptions
then five thousands years ago in Stentinello the first neolithic civilization
Sicanians get overpowered by Sicels
Pantalica is a necropolis for all the dead
sea urchins and swordfishes
here come the Greeks
Naxos and Syracuse
theaters carved in rocks or built on a hill like in Taormina
Polyphemus and mermaids
Archimedes and his burning mirrors
Scilla and Cariddi
first Punic War with Rome
Republic and Empire
corn and gladiators, then Vandals and Ostrogoths
Byzantines, Arabians and Muslims
tuna nets, orange and lemon trees
scimitars and sheiks
watering and architecture
ceramics and cassata cakes
Roger II and the Normans
heritage to Suebi
Frederick II and Poetry School
Ciullo d’Alcamo, the first parliament
Aragonese and Angevins
The Vespers when the French drove us mad
then peace of Caltabellotta
House of Hapsburg and Charles V
Garibaldi who got injuried
Piedmontese army Carabiniers
the Serval, puppetteers
unification of Italy
the Messina Earthquake
bandits and mafia
coppola and lupara
Giovanni Verga and Luigi Pirandello
emigration and First World War
allied landings, Lucky Luciano
the bandit Giuliano and laced coffee (Sicilian style)
Placido Rizzotto and Peppino Impastato
Tano Badalamenti and Marlon Brando as the godfather
Andreotti and the mafia
the disappearance of Mauro De Mauro
the strange case Mattei and a certain Sindona
lots of Christian Democracy and then Socialist Party
Falcone and the Maxi Trial
the Corleonesi and Totò Schillaci at World Cup
Buscetta and Dalla Chiesa
the mafia massacres of Capaci and via d’Amelio
money of Ciancimino, Totò Cuffaro and Raffaele Lombardo
the Strait Bridge and Franza ferryboats
and then, many things still have to happen
but in the end the island will be eaten by the sea.
Monday, 18 August 2008
No worries. Sicily is one of the few European destination where, if you know the right places, you can get a delicious meal for less than 20 euro and b&b accommodation on a picturesque rustic farm-house for just 30 euro.
Forget group tours: rent a car (possibly with GPS), drive around and explore this fantastic island in all your freedom.
If you are after great Greek temples and ruins, a stunning coastal drive and some serious wine tasting, head toward South West. You can sleep at the pretty Baglio Pocoroba near Segesta , This large archaeological zone, with its magnificent Doric temple, ranks as one of the best-preserved Greek architectural sites to be found anywhere! Tickets to the archaeological park cost less than 10 euro.
From Segesta you can drive along the scenic Strada del Sale (Salt Road) with the backdrop of the islets of Mozia, Isola Longa, Santa Maria and Isola della Schola, forming an archipelago inside the Stagnone, the largest lagoon in Sicily.
You can lunch or dine at the beautiful Duca di Castelmonte an 18th century Sicilian country house for 22 euro and sample delicious Sicilian produce. You can either spend the night at Duca di Castelmonte's for 40 euros including breakfast or reach Marsala for a very interesting guided tour of the famous cellar and some wine-tasting at the stunning and historic Cantine Florio, the place where the Marsala wine variety was first produced.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
A contemporary Sicilian Jewellery designer that draw inspiration from Fulco di Verdura is Claudio Fiorentino.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Cucunci is not quiet a caper. It is even more: like a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly, so too, do caper buds - if not picked - turn into a beautiful. And in my opinion, the most beautiful flower ever.
When a bud flowers, you typically lose the fruit...but with Cucunci, right after the flower buds, magically another fruit grows, even tastier than the humble caper that originally was.
Reputed to kindle the appetite, lower blood pressure, mitigate toothache, lower cholesterol and increase ones libido, capers are ubiquitous and plentiful on the beautiful volcanic Aeolian islands off the coast of Sicily. They turn up in antipasti, in salads, with pasta, meat, fish or as snacks and they’re preserved either with dry salt, in brine, wine vinegar or sott’olio (in olive oil).
Yes, capers and cucunci are really big in Sicily and even have own little festival : La sagra del Cappero (Caper Festival).
This bizzarre festival takes place in Pollara, in the island of Salina, part of the Aeolian archipelago. It is a fiesta of food, music and street games in the main square, all in honour of the humble caper. La sagra del Cappero is celebrated every year, on the first weekend of June.
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
.....No cappuccinos after noon,
.....no cheese on seafood risottos
.....no butter on bread
.....(the list is endless)...
As I broached the topic with chefs and cookbook authors from around the world, I duly noted the wide range of opinions: “It is a very difficult thing for me to accept.” “When I think of this, my mouth does not water.” “Not in our culture. No. Never.” Which all basically boiled down to this: Sprinkling cheese on any seafood will stamp out the subtle flavor of the fish.
Still, it seemed less an informed decision than a mantra. “It’s just a blanket rule they’ve imposed on themselves,” says David Pasternack, the chef at the Italian seafood restaurant Esca in New York. “They don’t want to try anything new.” According to Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, the issue is also a regional one. “Mare e monte — mountain and sea.” she says. “It wasn’t until I went south that I had even heard it was possible to work cheese into a recipe at the sauce level.” A little research, however, turned up the oldest surviving Sicilian recipe — from around 400 B.C. — for fish: “Gut. Discard the head, rinse, slice; add cheese and oil.”
“I just don’t buy it,” says Nancy Harmon Jenkins, the author of “Cucina del Sole.” “A tablespoon of grated cheese is not going to cancel out the flavor; it’s going to enhance it. So many fish-pasta dishes have tomato, usually from a can, and you can tame the acidity with a little cheese. But use an aged pecorino, never a pecorino Romano, which is too sharp.”
To further support my cause, I called the venerable Quinzi & Gabrieli in Rome, having heard a rumor about a certain pasta with lobster topped with pecorino on the menu. At first they denied it, but then the chef, Magdi Nabil, admitted to a pasta all’ Amatriciana with a twist. “We take an old Roman dish and substitute the pancetta with white fish,” he says.
“I decided that the delicate taste of the pecorino di fossa energetically supports the fish and creates gastronomical equilibrium.”
A call to da Fiore in Venice yielded a pennette with sea scallops, broccoli florets and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. And on and on it went in recipes both historic and contemporary: vermicelli alla Siciliana, crostata alle acciughe, not to mention dozens of seafood risottos finished off with cheese. When I pointed these out, even the most hard-line chefs started to backpedal: “Ah! But this is O.K.” As Jenkins says: “One of the great things about Italy is they love making rules. And they obey very few.”
I can’t think of a more subjective art form than cooking; after sloughing through all the chemical reactions that have to occur and the memories that cloud your judgement (your mother’s kitchen, that little diner you loved, what you were eating when the restraining order was lifted), you’re left facing some iron edict of the Italian people that just doesn’t hold up.
While visions of Lucy Ricardo ordering escargot and ketchup dance in your head, I want to mention the one Sicilian dish I feel never needs any embellishment: pasta con le sarde, served at Gusto in Greenwich Village. It’s a perfectly balanced combination of sardines, fennel, currants and bread crumbs (often called “the peasant’s cheese”). Of course, if you want to put cheese on it, go ahead. But it’s an outrage.
Saturday, 21 June 2008
For some great travel articles on Salina and the beautiful Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily, look here, here and here. You can also read what the EasyJet inflight magazine says about The Caper Festival. The Isole Eolie are my personal favourite for sailing, swimming, eating, and just enjoying life. They are stunning...and the capers are world class too!
Sunday, 8 June 2008
A theory suggests that artichokes actually originated in Sicily and were introduced to the rest of Europe around the 12th century. In fact, records show artichokes being grown in Sicily as early as 287 BC, and were a favourite of the Romans in Sicily. They were "re-introduced" again to Sicily by the Moors in the 9th Century. Since then, they always been a staple in Sicilian cuisine: The delicacy and sweetness of Sicilian artichokes contain hidden flavours and fragrances just waiting to explode.
As Capers, Sausages, Ricotta, Cous Cous, Oranges, Pistacchi and other Sicilian delicacies feature their own personal sagre (festivals) around Sicily, even the humble carciofo has a sagra of his own, taking place in Cerda every 25 April, only 58 km from Palermo.
Tasting starts at 12pm
If this tantalises your taste buds, try this recipe.
For those wanting to purchase authentic Cerda artichokes direct from the source, go here.
And here is a nice article in praise of Sicilian Artichokes.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
From Robin Hood to the Illuminati, to the Knight Templars : Conspiracy theories are always fascinating.
The famous "Grotta dei Beati Paoli" is an underground cave near the church of Santa Maria di Gesù, called S. Maruzza, where, as the story goes, the sect of the black hoods established its court. It was linked to several other underground tunnels being part of the compound of early Christian catacombs, still existing near the ancient Porta D'Ossuna. Do not attempt to find these places, it will be impossible to make your way through the labyrinths of Il Capo, besides, it is not the safest place to wander around without an experienced guide.
Whether or not the Beati Paoli really existed, we do know one thing as fact. That is, the existence of various underground tunnels and mysterious places, as large as the entire city of Palermo, have been built in the form of a huge qanat system constructed during the Arab period (827-1072). Many of the qanats are now mapped and some can be even visited today!
A walking tour of the Beati Paoli secret places is available each Sunday at 9:45am starting from Palermo's Cattedral. I am not sure if this tour is available in English, but considering the minimum cost of 6 euros, it might be worth checking it out! Booking is essential. Call Cooperativa Cagliostro tel.091 583218 - 091 334277
Underground Palermo - The Cooperativa Solidarietà, in collaboration with the local section of Club Alpino Italiano, organises guided visits to the qanats, or underground water channels of Palermo. The Qanat is an ancient piping system used for the draining and the transport of drinking water. It is an engineering technique introduced into Europe by the Arabs. You can tour both the Qanat Gesuitico alto (Fondo Micciulla) and the Qanat Gesuitico basso (Vignicella). Both offer amazing, recently discovered, paths though channels and underground tunnels. They can be contacted on +39 0916520067 or +39 091580433 or here. A walking tour of the Beati Paoli places is also available.
For those who feel inspired by our story, why not to indulge your palate at Ristorante Beati Paoli. Although not part of the alleged Beati Paoli underground tunnels, this restaurant is entirely inspired by this mysterious brotherhood. Inside, the dark stone walls create a faintly rustic atmosphere, but outdoor seating is also available most of the year.
A good article on the Beati Paoli can be found here.
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Piazza A. Beccadelli - Sferracavallo (PA)
+39 329 002 7030 / +39 392 560 0285
2 out of 3 Stars
Dinner: 3 course meal, typical Sicilian ; 20 euro per person including wine
Near the foreshore of the Palermo beach-side suburb of Sferracavallo, there exists what appears to be some makeshift buildings, half covered in a tarpaulin. They invoke the image of the temporary structures of a street festival or fare, with each serving their own specialities that are usually only found locally at that place.
The difference at Sferracavallo is that these buildings, while having the look of being temporary, are actually permanent dwellings containing permanent restaurants serving exactly the type of delicious fare you would expect in a festival. Except, this is no festival. These restaurants are open - day in day out.
The cute thing at these selection of five or so restaurants is that each has a spruiker out the front grabbing your attention and imploring you to come inside to try their wares. This again adds to the carnival atmosphere and provides a kind of oriental feel to it. Each restaurant specialises in something peculiarly Sicilian or Palermitan, like typically Palermitan street food (such as Jamie Oliver's favourite, Pane e Panelle) served as a restaurant dish, or freshly caught seafood like octopus, boiled or grilled, with copious amounts of lemon and herbs added.
One of the restaurants, Spaghetteria Andrea e Marianna, is in one of these structures and it's speciality is freshly caught sea-food. The catch of the day usually consists of fresh octopus, squid, mussels and sea urchin (ricci). Adding to the oriental feel again is the fact that the menus have photos so the diner can see how the dish will look when ordered.
While the quality is high, the prices are not. A whole octopus will set you back no more than 6 euro while a pasta dish, such as spaghetti con i ricci, is no more than 4 euro.
Sorry but these are ridiculously cheap prices and are typical of the traditional restaurants that are to be found in Sicily, where the food is always of the freshest and highest quality.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
In mediaeval times the legend of the Black Madonna was augmented in France by some especially "esoteric" popular religious sects, common amongst them were the Knights Templars and Cathars. One of the central excuses the French monarchy issued in the persecution and destruction of the Knights Templars was the fact that they had adopted the Maure and had several "Baphomets" in their monasteries. The Templars had brought back with them the devotion to the Black Madonna from the Crusades.
The mystery of the Sicilian Black Madonna , an image, a countenance which like the sunlight came as a gift to this land, via pathways still fraught with mystery from the Christian East sometime during the 7th Century. For hundreds of years it has patiently withstood raids by Saracens and pirates, conquerors and raiders, old and new, exhibiting the elegant sign of a continuity which recent restoration work has revealed in all its dignified beauty.
Many writers seeking to interpret the Black Madonnas suggest some combination of the following elements:
- Black Madonnas have grown out of a pre-Christian Earth Goddess tradition. Their dark skin may be associated with ancient images of these goddesses, and with the colour of fertile earth (such as around the volcanic Etna).
- Black Madonnas derive from the Egyptian goddess Isis. The dark skin may echo an African archetypal mother figure.
If all of this intrigues you, why not consider a stop over in Patti, only a short stroll from Tindari. You can sleep at the picturesque farm-stay accommodation, Villa Rica surrounded by centuries old olive trees, lemon groves, fruit orchards and the particular Mediterranean vegetation.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
Piazza Armerina (Enna)
In 1997, the Villa Romana del Casale became a UNESCO World Heritage site where it's mosaics were declared as "the finest in situ in the Roman world".
While parts of the building are still open to the public, restoration work is happening on the best section of the house containing two of the most popular rooms, the Great Hunting Room (which depicts the hunting and capture of wild animals in North Africa for transportation to Sicily) and the Room of the Ten Maidens (depicting incredibly well preserved mosaics of what appears to be the first ever pictorial recording of the bikini swimming costume).
A visit is only recommended for the most enthusiastic traveller but with the knowledge that only a small selection of the mosaics and the Villa is open to the public.
On the bright side, entry costs are only 3 euro during Restoration period or free during Sicilian Culture Week, 30 March to 7 April 2008.
For a great 3D tour, go to here.
Saturday, 19 April 2008
This deed of blood spilt would have been lost in the darkness of time, if this poet, had not romanticised that tragedy of the Talamanca-La Grua family, giving us, at the same time, one of the most beautiful poems of the Sicilian literature.
The feudal system is in full flow and the people are subject to injustice and barbarism. These are endured not only by the subjects at large but impose themselves on every social rank to the point that the dreams of young people were exchanged as mere merchandise; in fact weddings were arranged by families based on political motives, keeping in sight the social rank and power together with the price (how much they owned) of the candidates, without any regard at all to the spiritual welfare nor the feelings of those candidates.
Sunday, 30 March 2008
On the other hand, it is often a little disappointing to have travelled half way across the world on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to find out that that amazing cathedral you have always wanted to visit, or that baroque town, or that Greek temple, is under shrouds of tarpaulin for the next five years while painstaking restoration work is carried out on it. While this does not spoil the moment it does dampens your experience a little.
Sicily is an island with more than its fair share of historical monuments that link us to millenia and civilisations past. It too, has more than its fair share of restoration work. What we at Siciliamo would like to do, is to alert any travellers to Sicily where and when such restoration work is taking place in order to prevent anyone from coming to these shores disappointed.
I hope this service is of use and we welcome any input from fellow travellers and lovers of Sicily
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
The little plants are left in the field to dry, then they are uprooted and collected in bunches in the stables in order to be struck.
The richness in fibres make lentils very useful for the proper functioning of the bowel system and they are also useful in lowering cholesterol. Lentils are considered - thanks to the good quantity of proteins they contain - a highly nutritional food, especially when consumed together with cereals (such as rice, pasta and bread), are very digestible and have no cholesterol. They also contain "isoflavones", substances which clean the organism, as well as iron, calcium and vitamin B.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
4 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and seeded
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the lentils in a pot with enough water to cover them to a depth of 3-4 fingers, and simmer them covered over a low flame for about 2 hours; keep more hot water handy should the lentils absorb all the cooking water. When they're close to being done, add the remaining ingredients. Cook for another half hour and serve.
The job location is decidedly attractive, the peaceful and picturesque Sicilian town of Castelbuono, nestled in the hills just 10 miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea. The climate is Mediterranean.
Yes, because the newest employees in Castelbuono are donkeys — Teresa, Valentina, Cosima and Damiana — to be specific. Since February, three of the donkeys (Damiana is presently on maternity leave) have been walking the narrow streets of the old town every morning, helping to collect garbage door-to-door.
The citizens of Castelbuono responded and started separating their garbage, putting it on their doorsteps every morning.
So now in the small streets of the old town the rhythmic sound of donkey hooves has replaced the rumble and smell of the trucks.
"I like to let them loose as much as possible," said Mazzola, so afternoons are often spent grazing on empty plots on the outskirts of town. The local agriculture school is preparing proper quarters for them.
"They are all Sicilian donkeys," explained the jovial Mazzola. "We only keep females, because they are generally more docile, and they produce milk and foals."
Donkey milk, it turns out, is a blessing for babies and young children who are allergic to cow's milk. "It's an excellent milk, very sweet, and good for nursing mothers and babies," said Mazzola.
The donkey venture was given a lot of thought. It is not just about charm. "It is educational for the kids, selling milk will provide money for the school, and it is a service to the community," explained the mayor.
At the park, each of the three donkeys is saddled with a leather and blanket affair, and big wooden boxes are tied on either side. The town first tried the more traditional baskets, but those were too deep to reach into. So it settled on boxes — the same kind that 50 years ago were used to transport sand, rocks and other building materials (the bottoms have a hinge and fall open).
At around 7:30 a.m., the three donkeys set out for their routes, each one accompanied by a garbage collector. The men who partner with the donkeys all volunteered and seem both amused and resigned to the task. "You are walking instead of driving," said Mario Citta, "but as long as I have a job …"
"Today we are collecting 'umido,'" Citta explained. "Umido" is what they call organic waste, which will eventually be composted in the planned compost plant. On other days, recycling and "undifferentiated" garbage is picked up. When the boxes were full, Citta stopped at a garbage container on the edge of town and emptied them out.
But not all the residents of Castelbuono approve. "The townspeople were originally very skeptical," said local police officer Vincenzo Fiasconaro as he watched the donkeys being saddled. "But many people have changed their minds."
But not one resident, who sneered as a donkey passed by. He had a mule 50 years ago "out of necessity, but now there are cars! And the donkeys escape and could kick someone."
He predicted that if the city council changes (elections are May 14) the donkeys will go, "and I hope it changes," he said, as he handed out campaign stickers for the opposing candidate for mayor.
And a street sweeper grumbled that it is all just a publicity gimmick for the mayor, who is up for re-election. "The donkeys take twice as long to do the job," he said.
But Cicero insisted the donkeys are just as efficient and more economical as the "traditional" means of garbage collection. "Three donkeys and three men do the work of two small trucks with four men," he explained. A donkey costs around $1,600 to purchase, compared with $40,000 for a truck. And a truck lasts about five years. A donkey can work until it retires at age 24 or 25. The town is also saving $380 a month in diesel fuel.
"I also think that if we want Castelbuono to become a tourist attraction, and we cannot compete with places like Palermo or Taormina, we have to have something that is both useful and unique, Cicero said. "In Palermo, you won't see donkeys collecting garbage, but at Castelbuono you will."
This program, a nationwide event organized by the Wine Tourism Movement and now in its 6th edition at Donnafugata, has become one eagerly awaited by lovers of fine wine.
It will be an important event for the estate staff, too, who during the evening will be able to meet and talk with the numerous and knowledgeable wine lovers arriving from all over Italy and abroad. Last year about a thousand people attended the most glamorous wine event in Sicily.
The “La Fuga” Chardonnay vineyards, lit up for the occasion, will be the setting for the first leg of the guided tour, where the technical staff will illustrate how vineyards are tended and the vines are grown and pruned. As they walk through the vineyard, visitors may even taste some grapes from this premium vines.
The tour then continues to the estate’s vinification cellar where technology and innovation are mixed with systems to protect and defend the territory, values always espoused at Donnafugata, which manages to cover more than 30% of the cellar’s energy needs with a photovoltaic installation inaugurated in 2001.
Afterward visitors can watch an extremely brief film, “Donnafugata on Pantelleria,” the island of Ben Ryé, to learn about this Sicilian winery’s commitment, values and important endeavors.
The height of the evening and the moment wine lovers look forward to most will be the tasting of a special selection of Donnafugata wines, including some authentic gems: Sherazade 2006, a new red made from Nero d’Avola and Syrah, Chiarandà del Merlo 2000, Mille e una Notte 1998. And of course, the sweetest are sampled last, Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria.
Friday, 7 March 2008
Thursday, 6 March 2008
from 9:00 to 13:00 and from 16:00 to 19:00(from 1st April - 31st October)