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Saturday, 21 June 2008

Sagra del Cappero - The Caper Festival

Anyone who’s seen the movie Il Postino (The Postman), shot on the Sicilian island of Salina, will be familiar with the magnificent beach at Pollara. Thankfully, nothing much has changed since this piece of paradise was captured on film. The best time to come to Pollara beach is at the end of the day to swim under the overhanging cliffs and to later, watch the sunset.

Pollara is not only famous for being the location of the house of Pablo Neruda (Philip Noiret) in the movie "Il Postino", but it also hosts an exuberant annual caper festival, celebrating tondina (or nocellara), the main variety cultivated on the island.

La Sagra del Cappero is held in the village square with plenty of dancing and drinking. There are stalls serving classic caper dishes such as cheeses stuffed with capers, spaghetti with capers and tomato and caper salad.

When : first Sunday of June
Where : Piazza di Pollara, Salina (Aeolian Islands)
Tickets : free

The festival takes place in the square in front of the church of Saint Onofrio, it includes sports events, street games, folklore and musical shows, but the main performer is the caper. This little ingredient seems to delightfully stun visitors who taste the Virgona family salads and crostini, and Michelle’s pasta dishes and many of the other traditional dishes prepared by restaurants and local residents. Gennaro Contaldo, the man who taught Jamie Oliver about Italian food, speaks passionately, not only about cooking with capers, but of the memories of his Southern Italian childhood that their flavours invoke.

Salina is one of the best bases for Aeolian Island hopping. The second largest, lushest and arguably the prettiest of the islands, it has several fine hotels and good connections for day-trips to the other islands. Head for the village of Malfa, on a fertile plain filled with vines and caper bushes, where you’ll find the charismatic Hotel Signum – a great place to stay and day-trip to the other islands.

Renowned Hotel Signum chef Michele Caruso is your ticket to the most amazing culinary experience during your stay : Try the likes of sea urchin (ricci) crostini; palamita e cocomero crudo (marinated bonito and watermelon); pasta with sardines and wild fennel; or simply grilled fish such as mupa (gilthead bream) or ricciola (amberjack) with onion sauce.

...and don't miss the sweet Malvasia dessert wine, made from grapes cultivated in Salina's sun kissed vineyards.

Siciliamo also recommends :

Da Alfredo for the Aeolians’ best refreshing homemade granitas and regarded by some as the best granitas found anywhere! Piazza Marina Garibaldi, Lingua, Salina, +39 090 984 3075.

Cosi Duci: Superb homemade Aeolian pastries, biscuits, jams and honey. Via San Lorenzo, 9, Malfa, Salina, +39 090 9844 358.

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!

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