Summer decadence

Summer decadence post title

Sicily is filled with many culinary delicacies throughout the year, but it seems to outdo itself for the summer holidays when everyone is out to have a good time and forget their diets. There are the usual pastries and the cliché gelati but two particular summer favourites which simply must not be missed by any visitor to the island.

The first is the simple granita, an iced drink offered in a variety of flavours including lemon, strawberry, coffee, chocolate, almond, berry, peach etc. (the choice is limitless, depending on the imagination of your local café bar owner.) To be clear this isn’t merely shaved ice flavoured with artificial syrups, they are made from fresh seasonal fruit and ingredients.



The most irresistible temptation for a summer breakfast is packed with tonnes of, ‘ruin your diet,’ calories but, ‘really who the hell cares about that’ taste. A coffee granita, for caffeine lovers, is the ultimate iced coffee. It must be consumed with a thick layer of fresh cream and a giant sweet bread briosche to dip into it as you mix the cream into this exquisite creation.
For those who aren’t a fan of coffee try strawberry with fresh cream, when you mix the two together, it is like eating strawberries and cream. Or if you have something against fresh cream and sweet bread try ordering lemon and strawberry swirled together for a refreshing summertime drink.


Secondly but by no means inferior to the granita is an ice cream filled sweet bread. Yes, my friends you heard it right, a mega serving of ice cream inside a bread roll for a hamburger with a difference.
Not for the faint-hearted, a brioche con gelato is a regular meal substitute. Don’t, for example, have it after a big continental breakfast or a typical several course Italian meal because you will end up feeling very ill.
It may seem like a strange thing to eat but believe me, you will be tempted by a filling of two or more of your favourite ice creams, which will be complemented by the texture of the extra soft pastry as you devour it.
Try it, and you’ll understand what I mean.



Decadenza Estiva

Decadenza Estiva blog

La Sicilia è piena di molte delizie culinare durante tutto l’anno, ma sembra che ancora di più vengano fuori per le vacanze estive, quando tutti sono pronti per divertirsi e dimenticono le loro diete. Ci sono i soliti dolci e i classici gelati, due particolari preferenze estive che semplicemente non devono essere dimenticate da ogni visitatore dell’isola.

La prima è l’umile granita, una bevanda ghiacciata offerte in una varietà di gusti, quali: limone, fragola, caffè, cioccolato, mandorle, more, pesca ecc (le scelte è senza limiti, depende dall’immaginazione del propretario del bar. Per essere chiaro questo non è sempice ghiaccio tritato aromatizzato con sciroppi artificiali, sono fatti con frutta fresca stagionale e ingredienti veri.



La più irresistibile tentazione per una colazione estiva è un pacchetto ‘rovina dieta’, ma in verità per quel sapore, chi se ne frega. Una granita al caffè, per gli amanti della caffeina è il migliore caffè freddo della tua vita. Deve essere assolutamente consumato con uno spesso strato di panna montata e uno gigante e dolce brioche da inzuppare in modo da mischiare la panna in questa squisito creazione.

Per quelli che non sono fan del caffè provatelo panna e fragola, quando miscelate i due insieme è come mangiare fragole e panna. O se avete qualcosa contro la panna o la briosche provate a ordinare granita fragola e limone insieme per una rinfrescante bevanda. Alcuni Siciliani ordiano acqua minerale con un cucchiao di granita o te freddo e granita o la birra e granita le combinazioni sono infinite.


Poi c’è la briosche riempito con gelato, che non è inferiore alla granita per niente. Si amici miei avete letto bene, una porzione gigantesca di gelato dentro un panino per un hamburger con una differenza.

Non è per i deboli di cuore, una briosche con gelato è una sostituto di un pasto. Per esempio non mangiatelo dopo un abbondanti colazione o dopo aver mangiato un pranzo con tante portate perchè finireti per sentirvi molto male.

Potrebbe sembrare una strana cosa da mangiare, ma credetevi sareti tentati di sicuro da due o più gusti di gelato Siciliano, che si sposano perfattamente con la consistenza della sofficissima pasta quando la divorate.

Provatela e capirete.

Marsala the taste of Sicily

Marsala blog

The city of Marsala is the home and namesake of one of Sicily’s most ancient and popular wines. The town’s unique location on the western coast and its dry environment is part of the reason behind the deep flavour of Marsala. The coastal city’s sea breeze and pleasant weather throughout the year assures the health of the vineyards and gives this wine its unique taste. A sip of Marsala is a taste of Sicily.

A little way off the coast from the city are the Aegadian Islands of Favignana, Levanzo Marettino, Formica, Maraone and Motzia an ancient Phoenician stronghold filled with nature reserves, museums and archaeological sites. It was the Phoenician’s who brought with them the grapes and wine making techniques from the Middle East which gave birth to viticulture in Italy.

Side by side with the history the environment of the surrounding area which contributes to the character of the local wines. The nearby salt flats at Trapani with their farms and characteristic windmills were the focus of a prolific salt industry during ancient times. Today the old farms are a part of a natural reserve which protects a unique landscape that plays host to annual migrating birds from Africa including heron and flamingo.


It is within this idealistic setting in 1796 that British businessman John Woodhouse established the first commercial winery in the area. The tradesman from Liverpool exported Marsala to England after tasting it and realising its unique flavour would easily be appreciated by an English market who were already hungrily consuming fortified wines like Port and Sherry.

In 1812 a competing firm was founded at Marsala by Benjamin Ingham, followed by a third company run by Calabrian, Vincenzo Florio in 1832. Eventually, the Florio family bought and merged the Woodhouse and Ingham holdings with their own production. Today the Florio cellars have become a part of the Saronno group and continue to manufacture Marsala together with other Sicilian varieties of wine such as Corvo and Duca di Salapurata.

The Florio family were one of the most wealthy families of 19th century Italy, their empire included businesses in the areas of banking, pharmaceuticals, art collection and car racing. Their luxurious parties from the beginning of last century became symbolic of excessive wealth and decadence.

The family was originally from the southern Italian region of Calabria and moved to Sicily after the earthquake of 1783, taking advantage of the stability under the reign of the Borbon king Ferdinand in the kingdom of the two Sicilies. Brothers Paolo and Ignazio opened a pharmacy in Palermo which sold spices and various remedies for common illnesses including malaria. After the success of their first business, the family branched out into winemaking at Marsala as well as exporting, sulfur mining, tuna fishing and canning.

For a century and a half, the Florio dynasty contributed to the wealth and development of Sicily. They were a symbol of the ‘bel Epoque’ of Sicilian history when the island first enjoyed the benefits of entrepreneurial wealth, refined taste and lifestyle. Today a visit to the Florio wineries gives you a taste of more than 180 years of Sicilian history which has produced the most distinguished fortified wines in all of Italy.


In the 1950’s Marsala found itself relegated to being considered a simple cooking wine as cheaper and less well made overseas varieties flooded the Italian market. In 1986 the Italian government introduced the D.O classification (denomination of origin) laws which protected the traditional producers and regulated the industry and Marsala slowly became a popular dessert and aperitif wine.

Marsala owes its unique flavour to Western Sicily’s warm, dry and windy climate. The three basic types oro (golden), ambra (amber) and rubino (ruby) are a result of a complex series of grape variety blending and a particular way of ageing the wine which lasts from one to six years.

In the process of making Marsala, Grillo, Catarratto and Damischino white grapes are mixed together to create golden and amber dry and semi-sweet types. Mosto cotto or grape must syrup is added to dry Marsala to give the amber variety a golden colour. Mosto cotto, vino cotto or saba is a thick syrup made by cooking the grape juice in the first step of winemaking. The grape seeds, skins and stems of the entire fruit are used to create a unique ingredient which is also used to add flavour to savoury dishes and desserts.

A mixture of Perricone, Calabrese, Nero d’avola and Nerello Mescalese red grape varieties are mixed to create the sweeter types. Sweet Marsala has a fruity profile while drier Marsala leaves subtle tobacco and liquorice notes, created by the oak barrels it is stored and mixed in an ageing technique known as the solera process.

Solera is a blending system which transfers the wine into different oak barrels over many years, blending various vintages together while perpetually adding flavour. It is used for ageing things like wine, beer, balsamic vinegar, brandy, sherry, madeira, lillet, port, mavrodafni, muscat, rum and whisky. The process is originally from the Iberian peninsula, hence the Spanish and Portuguese origins of its name.


Marsala is surprisingly versatile and can be used in many cocktail recipes or simply as an aperitif. Mostly used in traditional Italian dishes such as veal scaloppini and to make beautifully caramelised sauces to accompany many white meats and wild game dishes. It is also used in desserts like tiramisù, zabaglione or sabayon, a custard dessert often described as a French version of zabaglione.

Dry Marsala pairs well with blue cheese such as gorgonzola, roquefort, stilton or hard robust cheeses like pecorino and grana padano. It also enhances the aromas of medium mature cheeses like piacentinu Ennese and Fontana of Caciotta. It is excellent with smoked fish or tuna, toasted almonds, pistachios and couscous. It goes well with a range of Sicilian cuisine and ingredients which are usually difficult to pair with: such as asparagus, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, artichokes and chocolate.


Over the last few years smaller producers have added a new dimension to Marsala production by returning to the traditional methods of Marsala making. Marco De Bartoli started building his winery more than 40 years ago with the dream of reviving the original soul of this fortified wine. Today his children Giuseppina, Renato and Sebastiano continue his life’s work.

The De Bartoli siblings are continuing their father’s artisain approach to viticulture which includes the use of the traditional Grillo variety of grapes, in small low yield harvests, rigorously collected by hand with a focus on biological techniques, natural indigenous yeasts for fermentation, no artificial additives and a longer aging period as required by ancient wine making techniques.

The De Bartoli’s attention to small fundamental elements is used to obtain high quality and natural wines, which in turn reflect the beauty of Marsala and the landscape of Western Sicily.


Making your own Dolce Vita

The #dolcevitabloggers have chosen to explore the concept of the Dolce Vita in Italy. There is a fine line between loving and visiting the bel paese as a tourist and the reality of living here, in the search for your own personal sweet life. So cheers to Kelly from, Jasmine from and Kristie of for choosing such a fascinating topic this month. I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts.

For more on how to join in on the fun click here.



I have a problem with people who idealise Italy, there are countless bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers who fall into the trap of depicting life in Italy and in general as an unrealistic bowl of cherries. Let’s be honest the world is far from perfect, and when you come to Italy, it isn’t going to be like Eat, Pray and Love or Under the Tuscan sun. But Italy does give you the freedom to make your own path. There is always a way to find or create your own Dolce Vita.


Making your own Dolce Vita



I live in Sicily which has a bad reputation when it comes to employment, so if you are the competitive type, a move to Sicily is not going to give you a better career. One popular joke describes the typical islander work environment as one Sicilian doing all the work and five others looking on at him. It’s probably more exact to say one Sicilian being paid and the others pretending not to do anything but secretly working and getting paid ‘under the table’ as no one can afford to pay all the taxes.

There is something about the South, all over the world which inspires a laid-back attitude to life coupled with decadence, idleness and corruption. It could be the heat, the poverty or history …

Sicily has always been the most downtrodden, taxed, molested, dominated and trampled part of Italy. If you read anything about the history of the island, you will be surprised by an endless diatribe of conquests, violent wars, pestilence and persistent subterfuge to most major world powers from the middle ages to modern times. No wonder Sicilian’s are so hedonistic as in their past everything has literally been taken away from them.

Stemma della famiglia Salleo


Unemployment is a concern throughout the peninsula, many Italians are forced to invent their own jobs. Over the past decade, for example, there has been a succession of young Italian creatives who have set up online businesses to export their own creativity overseas. Unfortunately thanks to the current economic crisis Italy is experiencing a massive ‘brain drain’ as many brilliant Italian entrepreneurs and students are leaving to work abroad, as many industries are closing down in Italy and moving offshore, tax levels are on the hike, and the economy is going in the wrong direction.
My own experience in the Sicilian work environment is almost as long and convoluted as the Sicilian penal code. As a foreigner, you will be starting off with a distinct disadvantage, and I discovered as an ‘extracomunitaria’, or as someone born out of Europe, my academic qualifications and even drivers license are not recognised in Italy.
I cannot tell you how many dead ends I came across while trying to have my degree recognised so I could teach in Sicilian schools or at least continue my studies. Someone told me I’d have to redo my entire degree. One politician said he’d validate everything with his big magic official stamp and even promised me a job as a ‘mother tongue English specialist,’ I’m still waiting on the phone call!
I have long since given up on the academic side of my life. And as for my driver’s license is concerned I will continue to renew my ‘International’ one until I find the time to swallow my pride to sit the written and practical tests together with skintight-jeans-wearing, eye-shadow-smeared high school children.




Since coming to Sicily, I’ve become a master of odd jobs and doing-all-kinds-of-shite-to make-ends-meet (this title is so on my resume) from the secretary in my husband’s architectural office, translator, interpreter, to English tutor of unmotivated ‘Liceo linguistico’. These language-based high schools are a particular breed of young adults forced to study the likes of Shakespeare, D.H Lawrence and James Joyce in implausible Literature programs when they are unable to string a simple sentence together in English.

It is difficult enough to explain the significance of Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ monologue to a bored Anglo Saxon student, but you can imagine the hours of fun doing it all in Italian, to a student who is studying English only to make his parents happy. It’s a real barrel of monkeys with much screeching and gesticulating, mostly on my part.




Nowadays my English students have almost disappeared, my work boils down to tricking people into occasionally publishing my articles, working with the primary schools in individual after-school English courses, some online work and my own personal passion projects.

Most of my work in Sicily has been either underpaid or not paid at all. That’s not to say there aren’t work opportunities in Italy, there is a huge tourist industry, and in the major cities, foreigners will find work opportunities in I.T, fashion, language teaching and childcare areas. You’re not going to become a millionaire, but you will find a way of making a living to stay in one of the most fascinating countries on the planet, even if this may involve lowering your standards or getting a second job as a waitress or shop assistant to make ends meet.



In small-town Sicily, where things are usually much more slow-paced and the time in between work is getting longer, there is nothing to do other than adopt a Sicilian ‘dolce far niente’ approach. This attitude of pleasant idleness has become almost a torture for this workaholic expat who keeps slamming her head forcefully into a wall of culture shock, which I always forget to look out for.
Living in the moment is normal for Sicilians but I worry about my savings, career and future and so these are challenging times for this unwilling expat who is always having to adjust. Sicily is perfect for reflection, writing, history, food and wine and finding stories. Work is not essential as life tends to disrupt employment in Sicily.
My Dolce Vita is about finding a balance between my work and life in general. I love how Italians will always choose to savour the moment, yet for me, work is something I cannot do without. I try to do as Italians do with their love of life while always working on my passions.






Want to read past Dolce Vita Blogger Link-Ups? Check out the links below!

#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #7 June 2018 – Italian Hidden Gems

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #6 May 2018 – Five Italian Words

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #5 April 2018 – The Perfect Day in Italy

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #4 March 2018 – International Women’s Day

#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #3 February 2018 – A Love Letter to Italy

#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #2 January 2018 – Favourite Italian City

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #1 December 2017 – ‘The Italian Connection

The extravagant Tabacchere


Tabacchere blog title

One of the most sumptuous fruits of the Sicilian summer has to be the Tabacchere, a strange little squashed furry peach packed with enormous flavour.

I first saw these seemingly insignificant mini fruit at the fruit and vegetable stalls at the open air markets and took them as an inferior version of regular peaches.

I was seriously mistaken as the Tabacchere are baroque masterpieces of the Sicilian estival fruits. They taste unlike any other peach a concentration of delicate sweetness with a pungent aroma that is intoxicating.

Tabacchere peaches

A case of Tabacchere is a generous gift a real luxury and can cost up to three times the price of regular peaches. A house drenched in the perfume of these peaches is a sensual pleasure filled with the sweetness of summer sunshine, which lingers in the air and in the mouth.


Also known as saturn, snuffbox and tango doughnut peaches Tabacchere have been grown on the slopes of Mount Etna since the early 1800’s. The rich volcanic soil and the sunshine makes these peaches thrive. Since they do not keep for long and due to their odd size they are generally consumed locally during the short growing season.

These delicate little pieces of flavoursome decadence are characterised by a thin outer skin which easily slips off to reveal a light flesh with a strong scent of peach like a bouquet of roses, Its tiny Tabacchere pip makes it nearly entirely edible.

Tabacchere Peaches
Peach cobbler is always on the menu when they are in season, any recipe that will make the most of this surprising abundance, to share them with extended Sicilian family and friends.

Everyone should experience the heavenly Tabacchere.



Le stravaganti Tabacchere

Tabacchere blog title
Uno dai più prelibati frutti dell’estate siciliana è la Tabacchere, una strana piccola pesca schiacciata dall’intenso sapore.
Ho visto la prima volta questa, apparetemente mini frutti insignificanti al chiosco di frutta e vedura al mercato e credevo fossero un tipo inferiore delle pesce normali.
Mi ero veramente sbagliata, le Tabacchere sono un capolavoro barocco dei frutti estivi Siciliani. Il loro sapore è diverso dalle altre pesche, un concentrato di delicato dolcezza con un aroma pungente che è inebriante.

Tabacchere Peaches
Una cassa di Tabacchere un dono generoso, uno vero lusso, e può valere tre volte il prezzo delle pesche normali. Una casa inzuppata nel profumo di questi pesche è un piacere mischiato con la dolcezza del sole estivo, che rimane nell’aria e nella bocca.
Conosciuto anche come pesche Saturno, tango e ciambella.

Le Tabacchere sono state coltivate sulle pendenza del Mt Etna dai primi del 1800. Il ricco suolo vulcanico e il sole fanno prosperare queste pesche. Visto che non si mantengano per molto a causa delle loro piccolo taglia sono generalmente consumate durante il loro periodo di raccolta.

Sicilian Peaches
Questi delicate piccoli pezzi di gustosa decadenza, sono caraterizzati da un sottile pelle esterna che si tira facilmente per svelare una leggera polpa con un forte profumo di pesca come un bouquet di rose. Il suo piccolo seme la rende quasi totalmente commestibile.
Il ‘Peach cobbler’ torta Americano è sempre in menù quando sono di stagione e ogni ricetta che valorizza la loro soprendente richezza per condividerle con le famiglia e gli amici.
Tutti dovrebbero provare le delizia Tabacchere.

Pasti I Mennula

An iconic Sicilian sweet blog title

Many of Sicily’s sweets and desserts were created inside convent walls. The image of nun’s innovating and mixing new decadent inventive creations from the Frutta Martorana, marzipan which is moulded into tiny sculptures to the tantalising ‘Minni di Sant Agata’, tiny little white Saint Agata breasts, ricotta filled sweets complete with little red cherry nipples.

The convents were supplied with high quality local ingredients such as fresh ricotta cheese, almonds, pistachios and above all sugar. The sisters had the time to experiment and thanks to the excuse of religious celebrations and Saint days they were able to express their culinary expertise. It’s a truely beautiful cinemagraphic image to picture these women, subtly shaping Sicily’s sweet tooth.


One of the most well known Sicilian creations are the ‘Pasti I Mennula’ a true classic of Sicily’s confectionary from Messina province. Made from a simple short crust pastry, generally in a moon shape or ravioli form, covered by icing made from sugar, egg whites and lemon juice and finally decorated with colourful sprinkles or dark chocolate.

The magic comes from inside this super sweet bomb which is heaped with sugary goodness, potentially teeth rotting and diabetic inducing sugar levels. The Pasta di Mandorle is at the apex of Sicilian Baroque decadence, perhaps the nun’s were sick of their fasting and daily sacrifices and heaped in as much glucose as they possibly could.

The pastry is filled with crushed almonds which have been turned into a type of marmalade, cooked up together with syrupy white sugar in to a caramel, flavoured with cinamon, often paired with a mixture of candid orange, lemon and citron peel and small pieces of dark chocolate.


Predominately prepared for Easter, the Pasta di Mandorle were also used by young lovers when proposing marriage, the biscuits would be used as a gift for prospective in laws. The origins of the Paste are found deep in the Sicilian province of Messina, in the ancient village of Ficarra. The Ficarrese hold tightly and jealously onto the original secret recipe.

The town of Ficarra has a history which dates back to the Norman period, the name of the city was first mentioned in an official court document from1082 in the Sicily ruled by the French Count Roger the first.

Today this beautiful medieval town looks out at the Aeolian Islands from a strategical position high up on the Nebrodi mountains, in the same idealistic spot its been for centuries. Luckily this place and other towns dotted around the island still hold onto their traditional recipes with great pride. Small towns like Ficarra are treasured little pockets of an ancient Sicily which are sadly disappearing.


The Pasti I Mennula were the subject of Sicilian documentary filmmaker Calogero Ricciardello’s new project Sicilian Moments, dedicated to sharing snippets of traditional everyday life in Sicily.

Click on the link to see Calogero’s wonderfully personal video dedicated to the Pasti I Mennula and the women who make them.

If you want to hear more about Sicilian Moments read my interview about the project here.

Vedi qua il post anche in Italiano: Paste di Mandorle: un iconico dolce Siciliano

Paste di mandorle: un iconico dolce Siciliano

Blog post Paste di mandorle

Molti dei dolci e dessert Siciliani sono stati creati nelle mura dei conventi,mi piace immaginare una suora che innova e crea nuovi dolci partendo dalla frutta martorana, un marzapane che viene modellato in moltissime forme, un esempio sono le “minne di sant’agata”, letteralmente “seno di sant’agata” dolci a forma di semisfera ripieni di ricotta completati con delle ciliegie rosse a simboleggiare i capezzoli.

Le suore avevano accesso ad ingredienti di alta qualità come ricotta frescha, mandorle, pistacchi e in particolare lo zucchero. Senza dubbio loro avevano il tempo di sperimentare ed usavano le ricorrenze religiose come un modo di esprimire la loro abilità e competenza culinaria; è veramente una bellissima immagine cinematografica pensare a queste donne, che modellano le dolcezze della Sicilia da dentro un ordine religioso.


Una delle più conosciute creazioni Siciliane sono le ‘Paste di mennula’ regine della pasticcieria Siciliana.

Composte da una semplice pasta croccante, generalmente a forma di ravioli a mezzaluna, coperte da una glassa fatta da zucchero a velo, albume e succo si limone e decorate con zuccherini colorati o cioccolato fondente.

La loro magia viene dall’essere ‘super piene’ di zucchero, nonche’ potenzialmente letali per i denti e per l’aumento dei livelli di zucchero. Fu all’apice della decadenza Siciliana quando le suore stanche del loro digiuno e sacrificio giornaliero, decisero di ‘chiudere’ tutto il glucosio che potevano in un piccolo contenitore.

La pasta è riempita con mandorle tritate che sono lavorate come una marmallata, cotte con sciroppo si zucchero caramellato e insaporite con cannella, spesso arricchite con un mix di arance, limoni e cedro canditi e a volte piccoli pezzi di cioccolato fondente.

Maggioramente usate per Pasqua, le paste di mandorle erano anche usate dai giovani innamorati quando facevano la proposta di matrimonio, i biscotti venivano donati anche ai futuri suoceri.


Le origini delle paste risalgano alla provincia di Messina in un antico paese di nome Ficarra. I Ficarresi costudiscono fortemente e gelosamente l’originale ricetta segreta.

Ficarra ha un storia che risale al primo periodo Normanno menzionata ufficialmente in un documento di corte del 1082 sotto il dominio del Conte Ruggero I.

Oggi questo bellissimo paese medievale guarda le Isole Eolie dalla sua posizione strategica sui monti Nebrodi, nello stesso idealistico luogo in cui si trova da secoli.

Ecco un Sicilian Moment: Pasti i mennula

To see this post in english click here: Pasti i mennula


Per l’amore dei mercati Siciliani

Per l_amore dei mercati Siciliani title
Non è un segreto che io sia una fan dei mercati, io amo scrutare in ogni bancarella per vedere cosa posso trovare. Il mio blog è pieno di foto di legni Africani intagliati, gioielli fatti a mano, scoperte divertenti, casualità e sensazioni senza fine. Io adoro i colori e l’inaspettato. Un mercato Siciliano contiene di tutto: prodotti freschi, antichità, stoffe e oggettistica.
Ogni anno che trascorro vivendo in Sicilia è fatto di appuntamenti annuali con grandi mercati Siciliani e fiere (che sono le sorelle maggiori dei semplici mercati quotidiani di alimentari, che portano insieme molti fornitori da altre province ed anche il commercio di bestiame.) Una fiera primaverile prevede quello che vedrai nei negozi durante l’estate, mentre in autunno ti dà l’opportunità di trovare regali unici senza la fretta natalizia, spesso chi visita la Sicilia critica i mercati definendoli posti pieni di merce scadente, osservazione che purtroppo trova fondamento.

A causa della continua crisi economica Europea infatti, molte boutique e imprese di famiglia che vi vendevano bellissimi prodotti hanno chiuso, spostandosi oltreoceano per tagliare i costi, lasciando cosi’ il posto a importazioni scadenti che li hanno sostituiti. Sono spaventata all’idea che i miei amati mercati Siciliani stiano iniziando a scomparire.


Nel mio piccolo pezzo di Sicilia in Provincia di Messina molti abitanti hanno un appuntamento con la fiera di Capo d’Orlando il 21 e 22 di ottobre, giorni che corrispondono alla celebrazione della Madonna, protettrice della città. Inoltre non manco mai ai mercati in autunno e primavera a Sant’Agata di Militello, l’antica fiera del 14 e 15 novembre (e del 14 e 15 aprile) che si estende lungo la strada principale che costeggia il mare Tirreno.
I mercati di novembre sono di solito dove io faccio il mio shopping natalizio, ma per la prima volta l’anno scorso sono tornata a casa a mani vuote. C’era la solita folla senza fine comune di questa fiera stravagante, ma non della sostanza di questi storici mercati che risalgono al 1700.
Stabilita dalla famiglia Ventimiglia, una dinastia aristocratica Siciliana, che decise di crearla per raccogliere la ricchezza dell’agricoltura dell’area dei Nebrodi, la fiera di Sant’Agata era un punto focale per agricoltori e artigiani di tutti tipi. Il primo giorno è dedicato al bestiame, mentre il secondo offre ai visitatori tutto dal tessile, all’ oggettistica, attrezzi, prodotti locali, bellezza e artigianato.

Mercatini di Natale
Io ho camminato su e giù per le bancarelle l’anno scorso ma non ho trovato niente di qualità, tante cose scadenti di origine cinese, molti abiti e scarpe palesemente di seconda mano che venivano spacciati per nuovi, strani abiti taglia unica che in realtà non vestono a nessuno che pesa più di 40 kg e la stessa serie di sciarpe e decorazioni natalizie di ogni anno. Non ho visto oggetti in ceramica, sono diventati rari, c’era una sola bancarella di antiquari, (che aveva le stesse cose dell’anno passato), il proprietario tristemente mi disse che gli affari erano veramente pochi e che lui probabilmente non sarebbe tornato l’anno prossimo.
Sembra che il declino dei mercati in Sicilia si stia gradualmente insinuando in tutta l’isola. Per esempio molte riviste di viaggio soprendentemente ancora cantano le lodi della Vucciria di Palermo come maggiore mercato fiorente Siciliano, ma il quartiere una volta caotico, pieno di centinaia di negozi di cibo che fuoriuscivano dalle strade, è diventato niente di più di una piccola striscia di negozi che mantengono i mercati storici a malapena aperti per i turisti.

Sicilian antique gramophone
Gli Italiani credono nello slow food e nel viaggio, dove ti prendi il tempo di immergerti nel carattere di un posto, felicemente godendoti il momento. In un paese dove le persone e la cultura sono così colorati come la scenografia stessa è giustificabile cercare una più autentica connessione con la vita di ogni giorno.

I mercati alimentari sono pieni della vista, dei suoni e del sapore di un’ Italia che assapora il suo cibo. In un periodo di recessione economica gli Italiani tagliano su tutto eccetto per quello che c’e sulla tavola.

Grazie alla bontà dei prodotti la domanda dei Palermitani per il cibo buono persiste, è questo che mantiene gli altri mercati dei quartieri fiorenti.

I mercati de il Capo, Ballarò e Borgo Vecchio mantengano le tradizioni vive con le loro trattorie e i venditori di cibo di strada.

Tu puoi ancora vivere un’ esperienza autentica al mercato Siciliano di Ballarò,che si estende da Piazza Ballarò nel distretto Albergheria (vicino la chiesa di San Nicolò) lungo via Ballarò dopo Piazza Carmine verso Corso Tukory approssimativamente parallelo a Via Maqueda verso la stazione principale.

Mentre i marcati Capo sono nascosti dietro il Teatro Massimo e si estendono da Via Porta Carini seguendo Via Volturno vicino il vecchio muro della città verso Piazza Beati Paoli.

La Vucciria è a Piazza San Domenico, ma in maniera più ridotta se la paragoniamo al passato, esso ancora attraversa Via Maccheronai verso Piazza Caracciolo e Corso Vittorio Emanuele ramificandosi lungo Via Arenteria.

I mercati di Borgo Vecchio sono tra Piazza Sturzo e Piazza Ucciardone. I mercati di Palermo sono di solito aperti tutto il giorno dalle 9 alle 7 (sono chiusi domenica e sono aperti solo mezzo giorno il mercoledì.)

Scarf and jewelry at markets

Mentre a Catania i mercati principali sono in Piazza Carlo Alberto vicino Via Umberto e Corso Sicilia che è facilmente raggiungibile da Via Pacini seguendo Via Etnea vicino il parco Villa Bellini.

La pescheria (mercato del pesce) è situato seguendo Piazza Duomo vicino la Cattedrale e la Fontana dell’Amenano, fra Via Garibaldi e Via Pacini, estendendosi lungo Via Gemelli Zappalà e alcune delle strade vicine. I mercati di Catania sono chiusi le domeniche e i pomeriggi.

Tristamente i mercati intorno a me sembrano scomparire nell’insignificanza, così quando tu visiti la Sicilia sii sicuro di visitare un mercato di una grande città perchè è una parte preziosa della storia Siciliana.

Italia Ambulante é uno strumento di supporto alle tante piccole imprese individuali, come gli ambulanti, che esercitano la loro attività sulle piazze e nei mercati d’Italia. Per informazione sulle piccole mercati giornalieri in Italia vede questo sito.


To see this post in english click here: Disappearing Sicilian Markets

Disappearing Sicilian Markets

For the love of Sicilian Markets title
It’s no secret I’m a fan of open air markets, I love trawling through every stand exploring what I can find. My blog is filled with photo’s of African wood carvings, crafty jewellery and fun discoveries, endless market randomness and textures. I enjoy the colours and the unexpected. A Sicilian market contains everything from fresh produce, antiques, fabrics to bric-a-brac.
Every year in Sicily, is made up of annual appointments with big Sicilian markets and fiere (/fiè·re/), which are big brothers to the simple daily food markets who bring together many vendors from other provinces together with the trade of livestock. A spring fiera previews what you will see in the stores during the summer, while an autumn one often brings a chance to find unique gifts without the Christmas rush.
Often visitors to Sicily criticise markets as places filled with cheap Chinese rip offs, which sadly is a valid lament as over the years of the never ending economic crisis in Europe, many boutique operations and family businesses selling beautiful products have closed down, moving overseas to cut costs, leaving space for dreaded cheap imports to fill in the gaps. I’m afraid my beloved Sicilian markets are beginning to disappear.

Sicilian market love
In my little piece of Sicily in Messina province most locals have an appointment with the Fiera at Capo d’Orlando on the 21st and 22nd of October which is associated with the feast day celebration of the local Madonna, who is the city’s patron. Also I never miss out on the autumn and spring markets at Sant’Agata di Militello, the ancient Fiera over the 14th and 15th of November (and the 14th/15th of April) which stretches out along the main esplanade running parallel to the Tyrrhenian sea.
The November markets are usually where I do my Christmas shopping, but for the first time last year I actually came home empty handed. There were the usual endless stalls common of this extravagant fair, yet none of the substance of these historic markets which date back to the 1700’s.
Established by the Ventimiglia family, a well known Sicilian aristocratic dynasty, who gathered up the agricultural wealth of the Nebrodi area, the Sant Agata fiera was a focal point for farmers and artisans of all types. The first day is dedicated to livestock while the second offers visitors everything from textiles to haberdashery, farming tools, local produce, fashion and crafts.
Marching up and down the stalls last year I found nothing of quality, so much cheap Chinese junk, many obviously second hand clothes and shoes being passed off as new, strange one size fits all clothing which really won’t cover anyone who weighs more than 40 kilo’s and the same series of scarves and Christmas decorations as other years. I didn’t see the usual ceramics I go crazy over and there was only one antique stall which had the same things as last year, the owner sadly told me business is really slow and he probably won’t be back next year.

The decline of markets in Sicily has gradually been creeping forward all over the island. For example many travel magazines surprisingly still sing the praise of Palermo’s Vucciria as a thriving major Sicilian city market, but the once buzzing neighbourhood packed with hundreds of food stores spilling over out onto the streets has become nothing but a small strip of resilient store owners who keep the historic markets alive for the tourists.
Italians believe in slow food and travel, where you take the time to soak in the character of a place, happily making the most of the moment. In a country where the people and culture are as colourful as the scenery itself, it is justifiable to seek out a more authentic connection to everyday life.

Food markets are filled with the sights, sounds and tastes of an Italy which relishes its food. In times of economic downturn Italians will cut back on everything else except what is on the table.



Thank goodness the Palermitani’s demand for fine food persists, it is this which keeps the other daily food market neighbourhoods thriving. The il Capo, Ballero’ and Borgo Vecchio markets keep the traditions alive with their associated family run restaurants and street food vendors deep in the centre of Palermo.

You can still have an authentic Sicilian market experience at Ballaró which extends from Piazza Ballarò in the Albergheria district (near the church of San Nicolò) along Via Ballarò past Piazza Carmine toward Corso Tukory, roughly parallel to Via Maqueda toward the main train station.

While the Capo markets are tucked behind the Teatro Massimo opera theater and extend from Via Porta Carini off Via Volturno near the old city wall toward Piazza Beati Paoli. The Vucceria is at Piazza San Domenico, but in a much reduced manner as compared to its past history, it still winds along Via Maccheronai toward Piazza Caracciolo and Corso Vittorio Emanuele, branching off along Via Argenteria.

The Borgo Vecchio markets are in between Piazza Sturzo and Piazza Ucciardone. Palermo’s markets are usually open all day from 9 to 7pm (they are closed Sundays and open only half days on Wednesdays).


At Catania the main markets are in Piazza Carlo Alberto near Via Umberto and Corso Sicilia which is easily reached from Via Pacini off Via Etnea near the Villa Bellini park.
The Pescheria (fish markets) filled with the city’s most sought after seafood is located off Piazza Duomo near the cathedral and fountain dell’Amenano, between Via Garibaldi and Via Pacini, extending along Via Gemelli Zappalà and some of the nearby streets. Catania’s markets are closed Sundays and afternoons.

Sadly the markets around me seem to be fading into insignificance, so when you visit Sicily be sure to visit a major city’s food market as it is a precious piece of Sicilian history.

To discover the best local daily markets in Sicily simply ask around, once you arrive in Sicily the best information will be found through local knowledge. If you want a general idea about the different smaller markets to visit see the Italian Ambulente web page, which is a site set up by market stall owners to let tourists know about market days. The page is in Italian but it is easy to do a search of particular towns throughout Italy to see when the markets are usually on in most local squares.

Vedi qua il post anche in Italiano: Per l’amore dei mercati Siciliani

Here’s my personal list of Sicilian Food markets not to miss.

Sicily'a markets


Hidden Gems

Hidden Gems title

This month the #DolceVitaBloggers link up is sharing our personal guide to Italy’s hidden gems, special off the hidden track treasures which are often whisked by on thirsty bucket list group tours or pedantically planned summer trips.

Thanks again to Kelly from, Jasmine from and Kristie of for creating this great way of connecting Italophiles, to pool our collective knowledge. So get your pens and papers out to start planning your trip to Italy.

For more on how to join in on the fun click here.

The whole of Italy is filled with hidden treasures, tiny little towns away from the major cities where you can still eat the best meal of your life at a tiny Trattoria away from the crowds. Most visitors spend only a few days here and there without witnessing the authentic daily life of the peninsular.

Italy is made for slow travel so the best way to spend your trip here is to take your time, move out of the big touristy centres, try to eat where the locals eat, visit small food markets, so to the churches, religious and food festivals, as it is there where you will see Italians and Italy at their most relaxed.


Take the time to taste local dishes and wines, flavour your trip with free time to wander and explore, learn a few words of italian, at least enough to ask simple questions. Go to free summer concerts organised by the locals, go to the theatre, go into that interesting artisan studio, explore cute little ceramic stores, artist workshops and tiny wine bars, what you find inside will become wonderful memories.

Don’t limit yourself to visiting only in the summer, there are so many wonderful tastes and experiences even in autumn and winter, while spring in Italy is beautiful and generally much less crowded.

Italy’s biggest hidden jewel has to be the island of Sicily, not because I live here but for the rich historical landmarks left behind by the thirteen different foreign rulers of its past. From the Phoenicians to Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, French (Normans), Germans (Hohenstaufen/Swabain), Nordic Vikings , English (Angevin), Spanish (Aragonese/Borbons) and Austrians (Habsburgs).

Not only have these cultures left behind physical architectural landmarks from churches to temples, but also the traditions which give birth to colourful Festa and Sagre celebrations.

The nine provincial capitals of Sicily (Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Palermo, Ragusa, Syracuse and Trapani) each filled with many historical sites, museums and typical products to see and taste. Keep in mind every region and some times each town will have its own variations in wines, cheeses, breads, pasta dishes, sweets and abundant feasts.


An Italian Festa celebrates a towns patron Saint and is filled with processions, parades and market days. A saint day celebration is more than simply religion it is a piece of living history. A city’s patron has been around as long as the town’s been established and the celebrations are the fruit of careful planning and dedication.

Even a small villages patron Saint’s statue is laden with elaborate decorations, taken through every street where it meets and greets the people like an old family friend. The town’s marching band will accompany it with a personalised soundtrack, those who physically carry the Saint will cry out praises of ‘Viva Saint so & so.’

There will be monetary donations given to the Saint’s confraternities and the days celebrations will be accompanied by market stalls, booming fire crackers and night-time pyrotechnics and the local school children will get a holiday. There are Saint day’s all through the year and each has its own unique tradition and flare.


In Sicily the biggest celebrations are St Agata at Catania (February), St Rosalia at Palermo (July), St Lucia of Syracuse (November), St Giorgio at Ragusa (April) and the Madonna at Messina (August) which is also a national holiday throughout Italy.


Apart from the religious based feste, Italy chooses to celebrate its cuisine in endless food festivals or Sagre during the year. Each town offers a taste of local specialities, over a few days visitors can dip their fingers into the rich culinary stew which gently boils over throughout Italy. For some small change you can taste everything from freshly harvested strawberries in the spring, to new wine at November, gelato in the summer and roasted pork in the winter.

There is always something to taste or experience in the rich tapestry which is Italy. To give you an idea of the sheer amount of Feste and Sagre here is a list of those which happen annually in Sicily every June. These events are advertised locally so be sure to keep an eye out for flyers and posters around the place.

June in sicily

Here are some more useful posts you might like to read since SI&O is all about discovering Sicily’s hidden gems.

A tasteful introduction to Sicilian food

Easter Celebrations in Sicily

Yuletide Sicily


How to explore Sicilian towns

Dividing Sicily into bitesize pieces

A Sicilian wish list for the Summertime

What to do in Sicily

To read all the other posts about Italian hidden gems for June 2018 click here.

Past #DolceVitaBlogger Link-Ups:
​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #6 May 2018 – Five Italian Words
​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #5 April 2018 – The Perfect Day in Italy
​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #4 March 2018 – International Women’s Day
​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #3 February 2018 – A Love Letter to Italy
#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #2 January 2018 – Favourite Italian City
​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #1 December 2017 – ‘The Italian Connection

A place of elephants, lions and bears

Lions and bears post


My grandparent’s gardens are gone
like so many poetic laments about lost paradises
nothing of their cultivated land
where father, son, mother and daughter lived
the flowering trees are a memory
recalled by a dying generation
no more sustenance or song
only the shadows of a once fertile island

Ancient olive groves gradually enveloped by slithering vines
slowly strangled hazelnut trees blossoming in the spring
the shadows of disappearing golden gardens
soon everything will be erased by the choking weeds
abandoned in the flow of time
to become forests once again

They left behind youth, families and home
to follow dreams, leaving a past filled with memories
compelled by the constraints of poverty, desperation and ambition
the land left untended by their hands
overwhelmed by loss the oasis is being erased by wilderness.
with no one left to stop the decay

Our ancestors gardens will be like so many other lost empires
we are destined to forget the seeds they planted
like so many graveyards left to themselves
Trincaria will become savage again
a land of hunters and hunted

Once more an ancient home for the beasts
a place of elephants, lions and bears
we will discover the cyclops skulls left behind
and wonder if the myths are true.


         – for my Sicilian grandparents Giuseppe and Carmela Bongiovanni


Savage sicily


Today I thought I’d try something different and share a little of my creative writing.

Poetry is my first love, it is where my ideas come from, yet I have never found a place for it, apart from submissions to obscure literary magazines throughout the years.

I’m currently working on the content for a new creative writing blog which will be the home not only for my interest in poetry but also music, books and conversations. I’ll be sure to let you know the details as soon as it’s all finished and launched.

This is one poem I thought I’d include in my first book, but I’ve had to cut out. As for those who have been following my blog for a while would know, I’m still working on my book, a travel memoir which I’m redrafting and will be self publishing as soon as I raise the funds.

I’ve been thinking and remembering my dearly loved Sicilian grandparents this week, as they both passed away in this period, one nine years ago, the other last year. I thought I’d share a poem which was inspired by them and other Italian immigrants. Sadly their’s is a generation which is slowly fading away, yet I feel their spirit and energy is still very much a part of me.

This poem is inspired by the historical fact that Sicily was once physically a part of North Africa and up until ancient Roman times the island was filled with natural forests inhabited by mini elephants, lions, bears and many other fascinating wild animals which have since disappeared.

The Sicily of my Grandparents was the opposite to this, filled with fertile gardens, abundant fruits and a vibrant agricultural tradition which today has been mostly abandoned. Sadly much of Sicily is destined to return to its ancient abandoned state.

There are many references to mythology, the Sicilian poetic school of the middle ages and other elements which reflect the innate sadness and ancient history of Sicily. The cyclop’s skull image refers to the archeological discovery of mini elephant skulls, which were mistaken as the remains of these mythological creatures.

Let me know if you enjoy this kind of creativity here on Sicily Inside & Out …

Eating the Springtime

Eating the springtime blog title

One of the life lessons Italy has given me is the special taste of eating according to the seasons. There is something wonderfully simple and logical about living with the natural worlds shifting seasons, as if you are following a natural internal rhythm.

Today we are all spoilt by supermarkets who have everything we want on the shelves throughout the year. But eating fruits and vegetables which have been freshly grown and have gathered the sunshine of the summer or the warmth of spring, the autumn or fall and winter showers, each with its own unique seasonal flavour.

Those who are passionate about gardening can understand all of the work and toil behind the preparation of the soil, planting, grooming, pruning and harvesting everything according to the particular month of the year. It is with a tremendous sense of achievement that they enjoy the fruits of their creation, like crafting a masterpiece, looking after a pet or raising a child.

Typical products

Every year I spend in Sicily I have an appointment to eat the spring time, like meeting old friends I look forward to a succession of different foods and tastes. Beginning at the end of March with artichokes which for me symbolise the end of winter, then with the first weeks of sunshine in the flux of changing weather the wild asparagus sprout out in amongst the bushes of the countryside.

Then comes a blossoming free for all as the heat ushers in a barrage of ripening fruits as the sleeping vegetation starts to wake. The final wintertime citrus makes way for the mulberries, cherries, strawberries, loquats, apricots, plums and figs.


While the Spring is flowering the preparations for the summer begin with the planting of vegetable gardens which will yield ripened summer fare in a few months, like tomatoes, basil, eggplant (or aubergine), sweet and hot peppers, capsicums, beans and more.

Sagra blog title

With the Spring comes the Sagra /sà·gra/ (festival)  season, the beginning of a series of endless food festivals that each town in all of Italy uses to show off their best local and traditional products, like a series of beauty pageants or country fairs. A preparation of endless stands which will give you a taste of everything over a couple days for only a few euros. The sagra season in Sicily begins with granita and gelato at Acireale in spring and ends with chocolate at Modica in December and literally takes you all around the island. In May alone there are a series of Sagras which are dedicated to ingredients like: asparagus, cheese, loquats, wild fennel, oranges, ricotta and strawberries.

Springtime title 2

If you find yourself in Sicily in the spring here is a quick fresh food market vocabulary of what you might find on sale, in the garden or on the menu.

Primavera  /pri·ma·vè·ra/  (Spring)

aprile (April),  maggio (May), giugno (June)

Verdura (vegetable) : Asparagi (asparagus) , barba di frate (agretti, otherwise known as saltwort or friar’s beard), carciofi (artichokes), carote (carrots), cavolfiore (cauliflower, there are many types from a beautiful purple or violetta to a bright green or romano variety, as a self confessed cauliflower hater from childhood I suggest you try one of these Italian cauliflowers you will change your mind), cavolo verza (cabbage), puntarelle (chicory) , insalate primaverili (spring salads), luppolo (wild asparagus), cipollotti (spring onions), fave (broad beans), piselli (peas), zucchine (zucchini), melanzane (eggplant or aubergine), peperoni (capsicum), rucola (rucola salad), lattuga (lettuce), fagiolini (green beans) and cipolle (onions).


Frutta (fruit): Fragole (strawberries) , nespole (loquats), arance (oranges), mandaranci (a cross of mandarines and oranges), clementine (clementine oranges), pompelmi (grapefruit), cedri (citron), kiwi (kiwi fruit) , limoni (lemons), pere (pears), mele (apples), ciliegie (cherries), pesche (peaches), albicocche (apricots), ciliegie (cherries), amarene (armarena bitter cherries), meloni (melons which include several different varieties) and anguria (watermelon).

The imagery of Italian language

Italian word of the day title

The Italian language is so visual, it has an ability to take an image or object and use it as a metaphor for a something much greater than itself.
In English it would be akin to the literary term metonymy (from the Greek change of name) which is the term for one thing as applied to another thing with which it has become closely associated for example: the crown for a king or the turf for horse racing. Or in more specific cases the term synecdoche (Greek for taking together) which is taking a part of something and using it to signify the whole.

One example in Italian that comes to mind of metonymy is the concept of campanilismo (cam·pa·ni·lì·ṣmo) a medieval form of parochialism, associated with the historical bell towers which featured so prominently in the landscape of many ancient Italian cities. There was once a certain prestige if your town had a particularly tall or impressive bell tower and so campanilismo stemmed from the competitiveness or rivalry between one town to out do its neighbour. In Tuscany, Siena would try and build a taller tower than Lucca or Florence and San Gimignano is filled with 72 towers. These days there is no real competition but the word reflects the steadfast pride and attachment each Italian has for his own home town.

Blog title_ Campanilismo

It has been two months since the Italian  general election and Italy’s political parties are still battling to form a government. There have been many behind close door meetings and much political wheeling and dealing which makes me think of yet another apt and rather poetical word to summarise the current situation in Italy.

Poltronismo (pol–tro–nì–smo) is the obsession many politicians have with obtaining and maintaining important high status positions for as long as they can. This ugly concept comes from the word poltrone (pol·tró·ne) which is a sofa. Nobody wants to give up a comfortable seat right?!?

title Poltronismo

So any cushy or well paid job is compared to a big soft, comfortable lounge chair.

Incidentally a poltrone is also a lazy person, someone who refuses to get up off his arse and do something.

The Five Star Movement  which is the biggest single party in Italy, led by Luigi Di Maio and its possible alliance with the Lega Nord, led by Matteo Salvini is motivated by a little bit of poltronismo. No doubt they are doing their best to occupy the biggest seat available in Italy.

Italian word of the day: Tormentone


Italian word of the day tormentone (1)
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Tormentóne [tor-men-tó-ne] 

This word sounds like torment and is quite similar in meaning.

Often this expression is used to describe a new song which gets way too much air time.

You know, the one pop song you hear literally everywhere and really can’t get away from even if you try.

In Italian it often refers to a summer hit song, as in the phrase:

Il tormentone dell’ estate [Ill tor-men-tó-ne dell e-stà-te] : The summer hit.

Think the Macarena dance craze of the 80’s or Gangnam style of the 2000’s and you will get the true sense of this word!

It can also be translated as catchphrase.

A tormentone can be any type of fad, joke, phrase or element of popular culture in general, anything which tends to get an excessive amount of exposure before eventually going out of fashion.

Click on the like button below if you want more of these kinds of Italian language posts.