Latitudes and Longitudes and thinking on Sicily...
Instagram land is a funny place. Principally, I see these online arenas as a way to document and share my love of food (and eating and cooking and travel and pretty things)...a space to talk it all out with like minded people. I've always journaled, you see, and these spaces are just a continuation of this practice. It's my diary, for real. I also draw intentional inspiration from the pictures and recipes I see on blogs and instagram accounts from all over the globe. One lady particularly inspires, with her cups of tea, quiet book moments and cozy scarfs. Something about Ann Whittaker's work, seeing the world through her eyes, makes me feel pleasantly content and warm, despite the snow she's been tumbling through of late (which you can see on her blog Age Old Tree).
One of Ann's latest ventures is the most beautiful online magazine, Latitudes and Longitudes. "A field guide for the artful explorer", it's a space to read tales of travel, musings on the lessons you learn and experiences you gain when stepping out of your bubble and into new lands. It's a place to dream. And the breathtaking photographs will surely move you to "do". I've had the most glorious time losing myself in the pages of this website, devouring cottage meals in Ireland, escaping to Lake Como and spending weekends in upstate New York. I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute, and am thrilled to be a regular contributor at the site.
Of all my travel tales, what did I write about first? Sicily, of course.
Here are my first two posts on this gorgeous land I long to re-visit. Surely it's no shock to hear I am planning a month-long jaunt in Sicily for my thirtieth birthday in 18months time. Working via Skype during this spaghetti con le sarde-filled visit will hopefully enable this dream to become a reality. I am quite intent on making it happen...and I shall resume my gelato job with true diligence.
Learning to live in Sicily
The days were simple in structure. We’d wake and walk, shop and eat, maybe drive a little and look, meet and greet the locals. And then we’d eat some more and do it all again the next day. Our honeymoon driving across Sicily was not one of grand adventure, rather a lesson in simplicity. We found beauty in the every day, the little mundane tasks that make up our days. And because of this lesson we are richer, our days are sweeter, decorated with capers and baci, we celebrate the joy of living. Thank you, Sicily.
In Palermo we learnt how to hustle. To survive this city you must awaken your morning senses with strong espresso from a corner Bar Pasticceria, before holding on tight to your steering wheel/faith and negotiating the grungy streets with sure intention (that is, the intention of staying alive). Make your way to Balloro market to marvel at fresh seafood and pots of organ meat, soon to be slopped into snacking rolls. Battle a few Nonnas out on their daily shop for vendor attention, and order a slab of ricotta arrabiata, a bag of fresh, warmed-by-the-sun figs and a serve of panelle (fried chickpea fritters). That’s breakfast, and it’s a revelation.
Spend “A Day Cooking with The Duchess” and enjoy a guided tour of Capo market before creating and eating traditional Sicilian recipes in the 18th century Palazzo, home to The Duke and Duchess of Palma. Their elegant yet warm home is a fabulous spot to stay. And please do cook with The Duchess. Nicoletta’s food is soul-enriching, her delicious swordfish involtini with potato caper salad continue to nourish my family back home in Australia.
But there’s more to Palermo than market mayhem and roudy espresso dates. Wandering the quieter streets you’re likely to stumble across an historic corner or place of worship, a spot to sit and breath and ponder. Find cool respite in The Teatre Massimo and appreciate the acoustics of this grand Opera House, before emerging ravenous for a midday plate at Ristorante Amato on nearby Via Favara. Pasta con le sarde is a regional and resplendent choice.
Idle your way home for a nap then rise to The Ambasciatori Hotel’s rooftop bar for a Campari. See the sunset across Palermo, this enigmatic city where fresh and fried food live side by side (more harmoniously than its’ tenants), and know that even after one day you’ve fallen for its’ brusk beauty.
Celebrate your affection with fresh sea urchin and walnut-crusted swordfish steaks at Kursaal Kahlesa, washed down with a bottle of Nero d’Avola that tastes all the more fabulous because you’re here, in Sicily, living and breathing and loving with ricotta-filled intensity and citrus-scented certainty. Just as the Sicilians do.
and post number two...
Our gelato job
Would you scold me if I told you I ate gelato for lunch with gleeful regularity while in Sicily? Every day a new flavour combination: pistachio and bitter dark chocolate, lemon and creamy yoghurt, cinnamon and Marsala. These decisions sat casually atop our Honeymoon “to-do” list, and we took to our gelato job with delicious diligence.
We relied on our mood to dictate a preference for fruity or creamy. Not a day went by without a visit to the local gelateria. We dove into cones topped with scoops of watermelon pink in Palermo and in Ortigia, cups of speckled cinnamon or smooth mandorla (almond). Catania gave us brioche buns filled with gelato, the ultimate greedy breakfast. For a different iced delight, there was the famous Colicchia Francesco in Trapani, and their supremely refreshing coffee and pistachio granita.
The wine gelato from Gelato DiVini in Ragusa is a dream. Passito, Moscato and Rose, oh my! I will never forget the flavour of those soft, sweet scoops of fermented grape gelato, devoured not quite fast enough under the Sicilian sun.
Yes, gelato-dressed hands are appropriate attire in Italy, a reminder of your attempt to salvage every last drop of luscious craftmanship. But chill, it’s ok. When you leave Sicily you can purchase an ice-cream maker and apply the same diligence with which you sampled gelato to recreate your holiday indulgence. It won’t be the same, no, it will lack the authentic, almond-kissed flavour of Sicily. And you won’t be sitting on the Church steps as you eat, watching the young play Soccer and the old gossip. But it will be gelato. You’ll just have to return to Sicily for the rest…