Rome was not built in a day and certainly Sicily cannot be seen in a 24 hours. Hire an expert guide to take you to all four corners, but don't miss out on the islands.
Do visit Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples for the annual Mandorlo in Fiore festival every February, but here is a traditional recipe inspired from the famous almonds of the zone. Blancmange is, of course, a French term although the recipe is originally of Arab origin. In Italian we will be making 'biancomangiare'.
200g shelled almonds, 250g sugar, 100g yeast, 40g plain grated chocolate, a few pine nuts and pistachios, lemon zest, lemon leaves, cinnamon.
Maccheroni alla norma is perhaps the most typical and representative of all pasta dishes from Sicily. This variation serves four people. It is important to source ingredients of the highest quality to achieve that unique flavor combination of basil, cheese and aubergine.
This recipe is about as classic as it gets for Pasta alla Norma which originates from Catania. It seems the name was used for the first time between the late 1800's and early 1900's by Nino Martoglio, a playwright from the Sicilian city. Martoglio called the dish a 'Norma' paragoning its goodness to the eponymous opera by Bellini. If you want to choose a wine to accompany the dish try a Cerasuolo di Vittoria docg. The image above is of a dish which uses similar ingredients and which we enjoyed at the fantastic balcony restaurant of Hotel Villa Ducale in Taormina. Compliments to Chefs Lino and Santina.
If you've ever wondered where they get the thousands of oranges from for the Carnival of Ivrea every February, then it's probably east Sicily from the provinces of Catania to Siracusa. It is only in this zone of east Sicily that the 'Arancia Rossa di Sicilia' takes on its classic form, promoted and protected by the 'Consorzio di Tutela Arancia Rossa di Sicilia IGP' - www.tutelaaranciarossa.it.
February also sees the 'Città dell'Arancia' event at Lentini - www.slowfoodlentini.it - in the province of Siracusa. It is a series of appointments to promote the wider territory through its famous fruit and included such events as 'The Image of the Orange', 'Orange and Schools' as well as dinners featuring the red orange as a central ingredient.
When I was very young my Italian grandfather would have a spreadable cheese he would refer to a pecorino sent to the US. It was white, slightly granularity, spreadable and very, very sharp. Delicious! He told my father it was from Sicily. When he died, the source of this cheese died with him. I have never found a cheese like it again in the U.S. or in Italy. Does anyone know what this cheese is? Esteban.
If you happen to be in Palermo do not miss out on the chance of immersing yourself in the color, smells and sounds of the local food markets. It's all about street food and for non Sicilians, even Italians, they are places where a truly unique fusion of culinary influences over many centuries can be experienced. To enjoy best the Palermo street food, leave your diet regime at home and allow yourself to be carried where your taste buds take you.
The atmosphere of Easter in Enna, central Sicily, is very special. The rites of Holy Week date from the Spanish domination of the 15th to 17th centuries when the various confraternities of artisans and artists were authorized to form religious organisations. They were given precise rules and privileges from the Spanish rulers to look after the sick, poor and unfortunate.
Today, 15 of the original 34 confraternites still exist and animate Holy Week in Enna. The members are no longer miners or farmers, but lawyers, doctors etc. and only, only men. Perhaps the most interesting aspect to learn about are the meanings of the various insignia, hoods and colors of each Confraternity. For once Wikipedia is as thorough as it gets, at least in Italian.
Four terrifying traditional folk events goings on in Sicily during the Easter time. Prizzi is the most well known, but we like the look of the event in Adrano best. View the video to get a feel for it. but we start in the province of Messina.
San Fratello, Messina
On Good Friday the men of the town dressed up in colourful costumes with tied-on tails, hide their faces whith red masks and stik out long leather tongues, blering on trumpets and jangling chains from the early morning, with the purpose of disturbing all religious activity. But when the Easter procession gets under way, they recognise their defeat and fall silent.
Of all the Easter celebrations across Sicily, the Archi di Pasqua in the town of San Biagio Platani, province of Agrigento, is one of the most suggestive and unusual. It all began in the 18th century when the town was populated by less than a thousand people.
Two confraternities were born named 'Madunnara' and 'Signurara' for the Easter period and each year they compete in a lively and passionate demonstration called the 'Archi di Pasqua' which fills the historical centre of San Biagio Platani.
The religious significance is obviously linked to the Easter celebrations, but the Archi are also rooted in the reality of daily life of the population three hundred years 300 year ago. In fact, the colorful presentation was aimed at forgetting the poverty of the time, at least once a year. Today, it is a religious, cultural and artistic spectacle.
A small fishing town a few kilometres from Trapani, San Vito Lo Capo displays obvious Arabic and Spanish influence. Its characteristic low white houses, shaded from the sun and wind and shrouded in bougainvillea, hibiscus, jasmine and orange and lemon trees, are captivating.
The town immediately calls to mind the far shores of the Mediterranean – North Africa – as if uprooted and transported here to Sicily. But looking out over the sea the scene is tropical - 2km of fine white sand to delight sea lovers with its emerald-green sea stretching far out and sparkling under the sun.