Posts for the 'Sicily' Category


Antica Focacceria San Francisco – Palermo, Sicily

Antica Focacceria San Francisco

Antica Focacceria San Francisco

Like any big city, there is much to see in Palermo, a place that’s sultry and sensuous, but sliced with an edginess. One moment you’re walking down a street filled with designer shops, the next, wandering through rubble built up after years of gun fighting. The architecture is fascinating given its influences which include that of the Arabs and the Spanish, and with military precision, I went from one tourist spot to another to try and take it all in. I visited many a church, as one is prone to do while in Italy, and on a couple of occasions, I found myself walking in on a wedding ceremony. From what I could gather, these are not off limits to the general public. What I found most fascinating about walking in on one was the people watching – the guests, all dressed to the nines, and fanning themselves simultaneously to provide some respite from the heat.

As ever, I tried to seek out some local food specialities by asking for some advice, but my first attempt was ill-fated. I made my inquiries with the people who ran the B&B that I stayed at. “Do you like spicy?”, they ask. (Hmmm, this was not a promising start.) “We know a delicious Chinese”, they continued. (Clearly not foodies). “No, thanks”, I replied, but they were pretty persistent, insisting that it was really yummy. But honestly, how good could Chinese food in Sicily possibly be?

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Quattro Gatti – Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

Mussels

The mussels at Quattro Gatti

I have since left Ragusa Ibla, but a little more on this tiny little town, which after only a couple of days had managed to charm its way into my heart. I managed to make a few friends during my stay, namely some of the older male residents, the ones who, if you read my previous blog post, you’ll recall seemed to ‘while away their time watching the world go by’. As I became more of a regular spectacle wandering the little streets of Ragusa Ibla, I would encounter the odd one who would try and talk to me. I barely speak a word of Italian, so as I watched them talk to me, following their hands as they made those gestures that Italians so love, I can only assume that their favourite pastime after sitting is to indulge in idle gossip.

What I found most amusing about these experiences was that my protestations that I do not speak Italian did nothing to curtail their desire to talk to me. In fact, it made them more determined to be understood. But because of my language failings, what I was unable to convey to any of them is that “it doesn’t matter how many times you repeat what you say, or even if you S-A-Y I-T S-L-O-W-L-Y, if I don’t understand it the first time, I probably won’t understand it the second time either.” But if I could actually say this to them, then it would be because I was able to speak Italian, in which case I would not be having this problem in the first place. As it was, I could only nod and smile.

(Continue reading her story…)


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Ristorante Duomo – Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

Ragusa Ibla

Ragusa Ibla

My next stop after Catania was Ragusa Ibla, about 2 hours drive south of Catania. My reason for coming here was food related for it is home to the only two star Michelin restaurant in Sicily (there are other one stars). Truth be told, I had also tried to do some research on other Sicilian restaurants through this one Italian food blog I found. As it was written in Italian, I needed the help of ‘Google Translator’. While ‘Google Translator’ translates words fine, it translates meanings less well, and after a little while spent trying to ‘translate’ the translation, I found myself giving up.

Anyway, Michelin pointed me to Ragusa Ibla, the old part of Ragusa, which is not to be mistaken for Ragusa itself, the new town. A Unesco World Heritage site, it is built upon a hill and extremely beautiful, with narrow ancient streets that makes the thought of driving a car through them seem impossible (although it is possible for there are in fact cars here). It also has to be said that Ragusa Ibla is tiny, tiny, tiny. If you can imagine a scene where the older generation of men from the town while away their days sitting in the main square watching the world go by, then you have pretty much captured the essence of this place. I must admit to a small bout of worry that there would not be enough to keep me busy for the two nights that I had planned to stay here. But after a while, I too cottoned on to the sheer pleasure of watching the world go by, especially with a cappuccino and a good book to hand.

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De Fiore – Catania, Sicily

Mount Etna

Mount Etna

If I had to use one word to describe Sicily, it would be ‘hot‘. No two words, ‘stinking hot‘. But what else could I possibly expect from this Mediterranean island during the height of summer? Temperatures have been hovering at between 35c and 40c, and at times it is almost unbearable.

And as I write this, I have come to realise that after living in London for a number of years, I must have picked up some element of Britishness. How else can I possibly explain an opening paragraph which is all about the weather? So putting that to one side, let me talk briefly about Catania, my first port of call in Sicily. It’s situated on the east side of the island, and is a rather pleasant town. It’s also a really good base from which to explore the sites of Mount Etna, the town of Syracuse which is steeped in history, and the quaint and picturesque (if a little touristy) town of Taormina.

(Continue reading her story…)


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