Week 21 (22–28 May 2023)

First week in Sicily with I and B. Road trip from Palermo in the northwest, to Noto in the southeast, to the Etna in the northeast and back to Palermo. A good overview, albeit quick! I'd love to go back and spend more time in the Etna national park and in the Val di Noto region.

Some memories and thoughts, ordered by valli of Sicily and roughly chronologically:

Val di Mazara


  • cornetto with pistachio cream! First one at U Cafè Sicilianu (good)
  • Zisa castle was so underwhelming that it became a joke for the rest of the week
  • on the corner of via Vittorio Emanuele and via Maqueda a man sings: ya me ya me ya peya peya, ya me ya me ya peya peya pouli pouli pouli poula pouli pouli pouli poulaaaaaaya peya peya pouli pouli pouli poula
  • the nearby gelato at Cappadonia is one of the best in Italy according to Gambero Rosso, the Michelin guide of gelato
  • at least 8000 types of pasta on offer even in the smallest supermarkets
  • it's arancina not arancino, explains our food tour guide in front of Ke Palle. Although someone from Catania and someone from Palermo could spend hours arguing about it. Rationale: the Palermitan recipe (saffron rice, no tomatoes), not the Catanian (no saffron, ragu), is the original because there were no tomatoes before the Colombian exchange. So: arancina is feminine
  • spleen sandwich (pani ca meusa) married (with cheese) or single (without cheese) at Nni Franco U Vastiddaru. Surprisingly good, went for a second one at Il Chioschetto the next day for breakfast
  • other street food: panelle crocchè 1€ beer sfincione 1€ wine cassata, plus the spring onion wrapped in bacon thing. Here's a good guide if you're visiting
  • buzz cut at a local barber, the guy next to me in a tight t-shirt is getting his shoulder-length, blonde-dyed hair curled while speaking loudly on the phone
  • great caffè and cornetto at Bar Vabres
  • Palermo botanical garden: super nice! Really big ficus. They say it's the biggest in Europe (there was a bigger one on a square downtown until someone crashed their car into it and now it's smaller)
  • last panelle e crocchè at local favorite Chiluzzo
  • driving rules (speed limits, number of lanes, places where it's allowed to park) are more like suggestions
  • Italo Classic Spotify playlist in the car!
  • autostrada stops have great coffee

Val di Noto

Noto, Marzamemi, Siracusa

  • the guy who's supposed to open the house we rented tells us to meet him in 7 minutes (and arrives 15 minutes after that)
  • biting into raw lemons from the garden, discovering the nespolo
  • at the SiPiù supermarket I find the amaro Amara that I'd read about, plus about 5 other types of craft Sicilian amari. The Campari is on the lower shelf
  • the black olive tapenade I get turns out to be vino cotto
  • Nero d'Avola!
  • first granita in Marzamemi at the bar caffè Al Ciclope 2 (because granita is an East Sicily thing), difference between a granita and a cremolata
  • swallows nesting in Marzamemi backstreets, cacti growing on walls and roofs
  • camera della morte of the ancient tuna fishing place
  • long walk among prickly pears and coneheaded thyme to the Spaggia di Calamosche in the Vendicari nature reserve (sandy beaches are overrated but good for sandcastles)
  • white wine in Noto, smells like apricot
  • granita+caffè at Cafè Sicilia in front of the Baroque cathedral
  • Amara spritz on the roof terrace and barbecue at the house, salsiccia eggplant zucchini, vino cotto sauce improvised by C. I tried to climb on the roof
  • swordfish alla Siracusa style at Kantunera in Siracusa. Basically a tomato sauce with capers and raisins. Also super nice sardines beccafico as a starter. Here's a nice read about Siracusa food
  • ice cream at Levante after lunch
  • B's adventures at the nearby Neapolis archeological site (otherwise wouldn't recommend unless you're really into archaeology) (although there's a nice ficus tree)

Val Demone

Etna, Taormina, Sperlinga

  • the sheer enormity of "the mountain", as locals call Mount Etna. 3300+ meters with a snowy top, except where snow melts from the almost constant volcanic smokes
  • the winding roads, surprisingly good ones too. Still blasting Italo Classics and all singing along by this point
  • the richness and diversity of volcanic soil! At our Airbnb our host gave us some avocadoes and grapefruit from the garden. Also had some of the first cherries and last mandarins of the season
  • hiking around Monte Nero (from Piano Provenzana) on lava from the 2002 eruption (some burnt trees, some buried houses). All black volcanic rock with patches of Etna Milk Vetch (spikey moss thing) and the odd bunch of blooming Snow-In-Summer (small white flowers). Views of the mountain (in the background of our Polaroid pictures). Throwing rocks in craters to see how deep they go, "my friend get down it's dangerous" from a mountain guide when I climbed on a big rock
  • Very generous wine tasting (almost a full glass of 4 wines) at the Gambino Vini vineyard. Etna Rosso (mainly nero mascalese, and another nero), Etna Bianco (local white grapes)
  • Max and Valerie, the two small hyperactive cuddly dogs at our Airbnb
  • oldest chestnut tree in Europe, between 3600 and 4000 years old. Crazy
  • "rustic with taste" appetizer that we see on all restaurant menus (still not sure what it is) -learning to play rummikub with Etna Bianco and taralli in the winter garden
  • Google Maps itinerary arriving into Taormina that looked like a tangled up spaghetto
  • great cannolo at Roberto, il mago del cannolo
  • still in Taormina, the quiet Villa Comunale gardens after the busyness and luxury watch brands of the main street
  • the scenic drive from Taormina to Sperlinga, through the valley between Mount Etna and the Nebrodi mountains (lasted 1 full Italo Classics playthough)
  • last dinner with I and B at Al Pilèr in Nicosia, menu where 5€ pizze cohabit with 65€ glasses of wine, highlights and regrets of the trip. Some regrets: fast pace, skipping Catania. Some highlights: the food, and things that had little to do with places (barbecue night, Italo Classics, inside jokes)




Nothing either! (Not counting a bunch of blog posts about the places we were visiting.)