My Slice of Sicily
Last April, for my friend’s birthday, I was lucky enough to be invited to a traditional Italian villa, nestled away in the Sicilian hills. Just as a disclaimer, this trip was extremely spoiling, and I doubt I will ever be lucky enough to attend such an indulgent affair again, I just don’t want anyone to think this is the kind of lifestyle I lead on the daily!
We flew from glamorous London Gatwick to Catania airport and all 15 of us were transported, via coach, down the eastern coast to our Sicilian abode. The villa fitted seamlessly into the surrounding Noto countryside, and its Baroque architecture smouldered in the afternoon sun. The night began as all holidays do: getting a little too excited at the bar. The only difference was that our villa actually had its own, complete with smiling bartender, something that still amazes me today. The villa followed a Mediterranean style, with stucco walls, arches, red tile clay roofs, and an enclosed courtyard that all the rooms came off. The grounds had a naturally heated pool, manicured, plush hedges, and its own, slightly decrepit, vineyard.
Noto and Ortiga
Our first day started early and we headed into the town of Noto. Noto boasts a less touristy alternative to northeastern towns, such as Taormina, with accessible Greek ruins and secretive little beaches, all on its doorstep. I’d heard that it has the charm and history of Rome, mixed with an airy, seaside charm. I’ve never been to Rome, nor do I know exactly what airy charm entails, but all I can say is covering the town on foot was certainly a romantic experience. From Noto we then drifted to Ortigia, which has an incredible food market every Sunday, which our trip luckily coincided with, with plump tomatoes, glistening grapes, and the freshest fish you can imagine, ranging from sea bass to swordfish. Sicilian fishmongers are skilled beyond belief, and their constant shouting and gesticulating with their huge knives make the market an unforgettable experience.
The Wine Tasting
My highlight of the trip had to be our trip to Giasira estate, a wine farm built on 130 hectares in the Ritillini district and famed for its Moscato Bianco. We rocked up, not exactly knowing to expect and were greeted with our first wine of the day, alongside a pouch that hung around our neck to keep our wine glasses in as we walked around the grounds. As the day advanced we were lead through the actual vineyards and shown the traditional ways in which wine was made, and the significance of the soil and hang-time associated with the differing types of wine. The most humbling part of the day was our trip into the basement of the fermentation building where hundreds of barrels were kept in a cold cellar. The giant vats, which may have seemed bigger due to the wine, converts the sugar to alcohol which creates heat, which is why the vats are needed to artificially cool the chambers. Please correct me if I’m wrong as my memory of this day is kinda hazy...for some reason. We finished the day with lunch sat above the vineyards, and were served a selection of Italian antipasti, with homemade sundried tomatoes and olive oil on freshly made bread, before finishing with freshest kale-pesto rigatoni I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.
How You Can Visit Sicily From Home
Although times are crazy, and Sicily may seem further away than ever before, there are plenty of ways to transport yourself there without having to leave the comfort of your home.
- Sicily is a special place for food, most notably, in my opinion, for seafood, but a simpler way to enjoy their exploration of flavours is through the most honest representation of Sicilian cuisine: Pasta alla Norma. The dish is made from tomatoes, aubergines, garlic basil and, the staple of the dish, ricotta salata, salted ricotta.
- If you’re a fan of wine, there are three key red grapes to explore, Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese. The most common, and widely appreciated, is the Nero d’Avola, which can be found in most supermarkets. For White wines, Catarratto is the most popular grape, boasting soft, dry wine and widely available. If you’re looking for something a bit more interesting, or for a special occasion, look into ordering some Carricante, or Etna Bianco, which are dry and medium-bodied wines with a zippy acidity.
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