#11 / Another day in Sicily

#11 / Another day in Sicily - Marco Moreo Milano

There’s been a change of program on our imaginary trip around Italy!Before leaving for Sardinia (next stop, the splendid city of Cagliari), I’ve decided to spend another day in Sicily.

The entire island is an open air museum, with Greek temples (Selinunte, Segesta, Agrigento), Roman mosaics (Piazza Armerina: here you’ll find the Villa del Casale, with perhaps the most exquisite floors anywhere), churches, cloisters and monasteries (including the Duomo di Monreale; a decidedly unique mix of Roman, Islamic, and Byzantine architecture), as well as buildings from the Baroque period (Scicli, Modica, Noto, Ragusa...).

Sicily actually deserves to be explored over several weeks. Great idea: I’ll add another leg to this journey ;)

Sicily actually deserves to be explored over several weeks. Great idea: I’ll add another leg to this journey ;)

I’ll opt for Palermo, where I am joined by Andrea, the voice and soul of our customer care: kind, considerate and helpful, always bending over backwards to fulfill any kind of request; well, provided the request is reasonable, of course.

Andrea tells me it was the Arabs who, after conquering the island in AD 831, chose Palermo as their capital, as opposed to Syracuse, which had been the seat of power until then.

He talks to me about it as we stand right in front of the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti [Saint John the Hermit], the most Arab-style church in the city (and perhaps the whole of Italy), with its comical series of red cupolas and a bell tower that looks more like a minaret... Original don’t you think?

As well as architecture, agriculture and fishing, the Arabs also influenced Sicilian cuisine; couscous, the bitter-sweet combination found in many recipes (especially vegetable caponata), prickly pears, pistachios, pastries...

Speaking of cake, how about cassata: a perfect balance between Latin culture (its main ingredient is Ricotta and the Romans were masters in the art of cheesemaking) and Arab influence (candied fruits, almond paste). Indeed, oranges, the quintessential Sicilian fruit, were handed down to us by the Arabs. It is always interesting when cultures know how best to blend with one another to create excellent results.

So, wouldn’t it be a great idea to try out this excellent tradition by sinking our spoons into cassata as we walk around the center? Let’s head for the Norman Palace, the oldest royal residence in Europe, which now houses the regional government and bears witness to another change of rulers... ;)

An (imaginary) hug from an (imaginary) Sicily.