Trinacria, the heart of the Mediterranean
Surrounded by 3 seas, the Tyrrhenian, the Ionian and the Mediterranean and separated by the Straits of Messina, only 20% of the triangular-shaped island is flat, the remaining 80% is mountains or hills. There is evidence of the existence of Sicilian wines before the 7th century BC. Today Sicilia has more vineyards than any other region. The quality is consistent year after year. The best wines are made from native grapes (Nero D’Avola, Frappato di Vittoria, Grillo and Inzolia) to show the true complexion of the Sicilian ground.
We are novices at talking about the biggest island in the Meditteranean: Sicily. Starting from Siracusa one of the most important cities of Magna Grecia where the beautiful Greek theatre is one of the largest in antiquity. Siracusa was also the culinary capital of the magnogreco world. Not by chance, recipes were mainly sweet and sour; raisin and pine nut based. The Arabs introduced citrus growing and brought us ice cream and cuscus (couscous).
The best blood oranges (Tarocco, Moro, Sanguinello) are still the Sicilian ones. And, just like the ice cream, cuscus is celebrated in a festival in San Vito Lo Capo. Yet another true gem of Sicilian cooking is parmigiana melanzane (eggplant parmesan). The eggplant is cut into thin slices, fried and then layered with prosciutto, cheese, ragù, basil and baked.
From Siracusa onto Catania, sitting down to the table here means to eat pasta con la Norma. This sauce is made of eggplants and salted ricotta cheese. A visit to the Piazza del Duomo to see the celebrated elephant statue, then off towards Messina to the world famous coast and the riviera dei Ciclopi: Aci Castello, Aci Trezza, Aci Catena and Acireale all the way to Naxos, ascending up to Taormina.
Moving on to Castelmola where the scenery is unforgettable. THEN we reach Messina. The Madonna del Porto welcomes the traveller. The largest mechanical clock in the world is in the Duomo bell tower. Among delicacies of Messina are the arancini, tasty fried stuffed rice balls.
We have reached the Eastern corner at Capo Peloro. We are now in Cariddi, facing Scilla. With a small hop we are on the opposite side: Capo Boeo nearing Marsala famed for the wine which holds the oldest Italian DOC. We can sail to the Egadi archipelago heading to Favignana and the Marittimo. Let’s push on to the smallest of the Egadis: Levanzo before we go to Trapani. Ahhh, pause to enjoy almond pesto and fish cuscus before viewing the Romantic style melding with Arab and Byzantine. The Capella Palatina is the absolute apex of Byzantine mosaic art. Palermo boasts the ancient tradition of puppetry theatre.
Let’s fly to Lampedusa, in the Pelagie archipelago. The table is a fish feast and the bottarga is exceptional. Back in Agrigento we are in the Valle dei Tempi, one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. Empedocle and Pirandello were born in Agrigento. Sicily is not only sea; the inland is vast and beautiful. Caltanissetta has its sulfur mines and Enna is the highest regional capital in all of Italy.
A visit to Castello Lombardia to climb the Torre Pisana to look out over the Ionian Sea, the Sea of Africa and the Tirrenia is breathtaking. To see the peak and final flourishing of Baroque art in Europe means a visit to Noto, before heading to the utterly enchanting city of Ragusa.