The Silvestri Craters

The Sivestri Craters, a series of volcanic craters that exist on Etna’s south side, were formed during an 1892 eruption. 1900 meters above sea level, they are accessable by car when you navigate to Rifugio Sapienza in Nicolosi. The craters are named for Professor Orazio Silvestri, a geologist and volcanologist who dedicated much of his life to studying Etna’s ways.

The Silvestri Craters are extinct, and you can walk their rims and explore them upclose.

A Pair of Fantastic Evenings

After a fantastic evening of Sicilian cuisine last night with the Sicily and Southern Italy Interest Circle (of NY, on Meetup.com) at 83 1/2 Ristorante on New York City’s Upper East Side, this evening, I was downtown on the Lower East Side at Cacio e Vino for a wine tasting dinner with pairing of Donnafugata wines. The wines were so varied from one another and splendidly paired with the food. This one pictured, the 2015 Anthilia, transported me to a sunny day in Marsala.

Save the Date! I’ll be back at Cacio e Vino on Sunday, December 10, for an afternoon feast, celebrating Santa Lucia. More details and registration information coming soon!

Night Vision

One of my most memorable evenings in Sicily has been just after it rained and I was on my own, exploring Ortigia. The historic center glistened, and the duomo was lit up, accentuating its monumental glory.

It’s Your Cue

It’s the 5th century B.C.E. Imagine you are an actor, ready to walk on to the stage. This is what you might see (minus the photographer) in Siracusa. Note: Theater was performed during the daylight hours so the audience could see the action on stage. The Greeks designed amphiteaters so that the actors’ voices would carry naturally.

During our 2018 Stirring Sicily tour, on Day 3, you could recite all of the Sophocles you’d like after our market tour and hands-on cooking class. Learn more about this and all of our 2018 tours at ExperienceSicily.com.

Hands-on Sicily

Visiting the vibrant markets of Sicily is a crash course in Sicilian cuisine, the natural world, and culture all at once. Here, I’m in Il Capo market in Palermo getting a lesson on spatola (or spatula aka silver scabbarfish or lepidopus caudatus) from the fish monger. Spatola is a beautiful silver, long fish found in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean that when cooked, has a meaty texture. You’ll see it in all of the fish markets in Sicily because it’s hearty and not expensive. Sicilians will fillet and bake it or use it in a stew.

On Day 3 of our Sept. 2018 Stirring Sicily food and wine tour featuring three hands-on cooking lessons, we’ll be touring Siracusa’s Mercato Antico with a local mamma who will pass on the wisdom of the market and its strange looking fish, then take us back to her home where we’ll cook-up what we purchased and enjoy it for a community lunch.

Get stirred by Sicily with this year, learn more about Stirring Sicily and all of our 2018 tours at ExperienceSicily.com.

Ragusa’s Duomo

The Duomo di San Giorgio in Ragusa was built in the 18th century in the late baroque Sicilian style, following the historic earthquake of 1693.

We’ll visit Ragusa, one of the UNESCO towns that is part of the Sicilian Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, on Day 2 of our Sept. 2018 Stirring Sicily food and wine tour.

Come cook in Sicily with us! More at https://experiencesicily.com/stirring-sicily-east/

Sicily’s Modican Chocolate

You may be aware that chocolate, or at least cocoa, came from the Aztecs, a great civilization that for centuries before the end of 15th century, dominated what is modern-day Mexico. When the Spanish colonized Latin America, they brought the cocoa bean and an ancient form of chocolate (called Xocoatl, a drink) back to Europe. Sicily at the time was under Spanish rule, and wealthy nobles in the town of Modica sought the luxurious beans, knowing that Aztec emperors enjoyed the exotic drink Xocoatl daily.

The creative Modican chefs combined their native sugar, which had been brought and cultivated heavily by the Arabs in the 9th and 10th centuries, with the cocoa beans. What they did, a method and recipe that still exists today, was, using a mortar and pestle, they ground the beans into a paste. They then heated the paste to 45 degrees centigrade, a temperature at which the cocoa doesn’t completely become a liquid. At this point, they mix by hand the warm paste together with sugar granuals, suspending (never melting) the sugar into the cocoa paste.

Once they’ve created a perfect balance of sugar to cocoa, the blend is poured into molds, which are shook to distribute the chocolate evenly to form a bar, which is then left to harden and cool. The result is a grainy, dark, bitter-sweet delicacy that hangs in your mouth, and in my case, gives me the perfect afternoon buzz (The reason why I eat it almost every day: It makes me very productive!). One glorious piece of Modican chocolate, like those pictured at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto in Modica, is a meal unto itself!

On Day 2 of our September 2018 Stirring Sicily tour, we’ll be in Modica, learning how to make this typical chocolate and other sweets during a hands-on cooking experience. Learn more at https://experiencesicily.com/stirring-sicily-east/.

Stirring Your Soul

I’ve taken many cooking classes in Sicily throughout my travels, and I always learn something new. But what I take home with me goes beyond the recipes that we have learned in our hands-on lessons and market tours–what I have absorbed is the sensibility of how a Sicilian cooks. First thought: What is in season? What’s at the market today? Second thought: How good is my olive oil? Third thought: What kind of pasta will I make? … All of which leads me to how I cook at home.

Tonight, for example, I made this dish, here, in the New York City area. I started with porcini mushrooms (in season) and chestnuts (also in season) and some fresh kale (not Sicilian, but local and in season); I always have a couple of different olive oils in my cupboard–one for sauteing and one for dressing; and after adding chicken sausage and cannellini beans for some protein (that’s the American in me), then I thought: pair this with short macaroni (Casarecce, a typical Sicilian pasta shape; This one made of whole wheat). Some sauteed red onion for sweetness and Trapani sea salt to taste… toss it all together and “Eccolo!” within 20 minutes I have a very healthful, gourmet meal. So, not exactly Sicilian, but with the concepts of how a Sicilian would cook if she lived in New York.

I tell you this because I invite you to come to Sicily with me in September for Stirring Sicily, a cooking in Sicily experience that also includes touring some of the island’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and of course, interaction with locals and exposure to the region’s fascinating culture. It will delight you in more ways than one.

Over the next few days, I’ll be telling your more. Day one is on September 13, when we meet at Catania’s airport before checking in to our family-run inn in the countryside of eastern Sicily.

I hope you’ll consider joining me… It will stir your soul in more ways than one. More at ExperienceSicily.com.

Making Your Sicily Dreams Come True

I love learning about Sicily’s 3000 years of human history, its various cuisines and folk art, its myths and saints, and of course, the warm hospitality of the locals. What I also love is discovering beautiful properties where we can host our clients or they can stay when they travel on their own. My colleague in Sicily, Evelina, and I have made it our business to sleep in the beds, eat in the restaurants, and swim in the pools (Like this one pictured at Mandranova, outside of Agrigento) of hotels, inns, resorts, and bed and breakfasts throughout the island, so we can reserve for you accommodations that match your dreams of travel in Sicily.

Sicily Sets the Stage

Today is an important day in Sicily, when all eyes are on the arcipelago during its election for the regional president. Analysts say that the results of Sicily’s elections today could be a measure of Italy’s political climate for its national elections slated for March 2018.