Seeking culinary delights in Sicily
The Romans referred to the rugged, craggy landscape of the island of Sicily as Trinacrium – a star with three points – named for the distinctive shape of this beautiful, sun-baked island. The symbol of Sicily is a three-legged woman, a nod to the three capes at far ends of the island. She is not just any woman. She is Medusa, a devastatingly beautiful figure from Greek mythology who had snakes for hair and could turn a man to stone with just her gaze. She is pictured with three stalks of wheat to symbolise the fertility of Sicily.
Some of the most iconic Italian dishes hail from the hills of Sicily. Imagine you have spent the morning exploring the volcanic foothills of Mount Etna, to the east of the island. You’ve been hiking through the scrub, the black lava formations, and collapsed volcanic cones. You drive through the tiny winding roads up to the hill town of Castiglione di Sicilia. You take a seat in an outdoor café, your legs in the sun but your head shaded by a large awning. You order an early afternoon snack of traditional Sicilian arancini – saffron-scented balls of risotto, coated in crunchy breadcrumbs, studded with green peas, and an oozy centre of meat sauce and local caciocavallo cheese. You’re surprised, because these arancini are unlike anything you’ve eaten at home. They’re enormous, shaped more like little pears, and served with a delicious local drink made with blood oranges and prosecco.
So, you settle in for the afternoon, watching Sicilian life passing by – nuns licking brightly coloured gelato from cones, dogs lying on the paving stones soaking up the sun, Mount Etna standing guard in the distance. As evening falls, you wander to a local trattoria and are greeted with an antipasti dish of olive oil-slicked caponata: fried aubergines mingled with pine nuts, raisins, and a touch of vinegar to cut the rich flavour.
Peeking at you from the blackboard in the corner is an irresistible evening special – cavatelli with broccoli – hollow pasta, shaped like the shells that pepper the sandy beaches, perfectly designed to cradle the chilli pesto, showered with moreish Parmigiano Reggiano, which rounds out the chilli hum on your tongue. You decline dessert in favour of the rest of your bottle of ruby red local Nero D’Avola, and settle down to write a postcard about your perfect day, bone-tired but tummy full. Where to start?