Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Celebrating 10 Years of our Sicilian House

Beach Life in Giardini Naxos
This year we are celebrating ten wonderful years since we bought our Sicilian home.

We first visited Sicily in 2005 after I saw an article in a UK fashion magazine about alternative Valentines Day weekends away which featured Taormina.

With my love of all things Italian and my husbands love of gangster movies it seemed like the perfect place for us to visit. After a lot of research I booked our flights to Catania and the charming Hotel Villa Sirina which is nestled between Taormina and Giardini Naxos. As soon as we first glimpsed the peak of a smoking Mount Etna through the airplane window and our feet touched the tarmac at the airport we had already fallen in love with the island.

Our host and hotel manager Salvatore had arranged for a car to pick us up and on arrival at Villa Sirina he immediately made us feel welcome. Once we had settled in he telephoned his friend to come and drive us up the mountain in his vintage Fiat 105 to see Taormina. It was absolutely stunningly beautiful and took our breath away with its beauty. The following morning after an evening of fine Sicilian wine we over slept and missed breakfast, however, as we attempted to leave the hotel Salvatore ran after us to tell us off in a fatherly manner that we had not had our breakfast and he escorted us to a table that he had laid especially just for the two of us on the terrace. Thereafter his friend came to take us back up to Taormina to explore some more, such is the hospitality of the Sicilian people. We stayed at Villa Sirina on three more occasions before buying our Sicilian home. We remain friends with Salvatore and I think he had an enormous impact helping us fall in love with Sicily even more than we already had. It was our first and not our last experience of being adopted by a Sicilian family. 

On one of our trips we were celebrating our wedding anniversary and after a fabulous (as always) meal we decided to follow in the footsteps of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and go for after dinner drinks at one of Taormina's most famous bars in Piazza Aprile IX. 

The impeccably dressed waiter came over to us to take our order and in the best Italian I could muster at the time I ordered our drinks and a strawberry ice cream. The waiter gave me an odd look and then went off with his silver tray and returned with our drinks. As he placed my glass of wine in front of me he whispered "Your Italian is S***!!!" I was totally flabbergasted. To this day he still cannot believe he actually said this to me as he had never behaved in such a manner to any other customer like this before. My husband burst into hysterical laughter and it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. After that day Gianfranco became known as 'Our Sicilian Big Brother' and if it was not for him we would not have our beautiful Sicilian house. It was destiny that called that evening.

My husband and I had been thinking about buying a holiday home and I had always dreamt of having a Mediterranean kitchen. So we thought to ourselves "Why Not Sicily?".

Therefore on one of our trips in 2007 we mentioned this to our Sicilian big brother thinking maybe a few years down the line we would do this. He said "Leave it with me". Two weeks later he called to say that he had found us a beautiful house and one month later we found ourselves flying back out to Catania to view our future Sicilian home in the seaside town of Giardini Naxos.
Our Street

We fell in love with the house at first sight. It needed a bit of updating ie, a new kitchen and bathroom and a lick of paint all round but we knew straight away it was the one. It was a five minute walk to the beach and seafront, it had a balcony that spread all around from front to back meaning that every room had its own exit. The roof terrace was huge with sea and mountain views and such a spectacular vista of Mount Etna, so much so that if she erupted we would probably be able to make toast. I could envisage having soirees up there with our new Sicilian friends and guests. The next day we headed off to the medieval town of Randazzo with our Sicilian big brother and our neighbour who had built the house to negotiate the sale with the owner.

The following month we found ourselves back in Randazzo in a solicitors office signing the papers to receive the keys to our new Sicilian home. This was actually like a civil wedding ceremony, "Do you accept to buy this house from Mr *****?" reply "Yes we do" ... "and do you Mr ***** agree to sell this house to Mr & Mrs *******?" "Yes I do" with our big brother acting as a translator in between.

We spent the next year flying to and from Sicily experiencing many adventures choosing a new bathroom, kitchen, furniture and paint etc etc, I chose Mount Etna as a theme for our living room with shades of orange and red. For our bedroom I chose inspiration from the Norman rule of Sicily complete with two little Sicilian puppets keeping guard above our bed, even though my husband had visions of the them coming alive at night wielding their little swords. For our guest room it had to be a Godfather themed room complete with a vintage poster from the movie hung above the bed and my own black and white photos taken in the locations where the movie was filmed close by. Finally I had the Mediterranean kitchen I had always dreamed of with traditional hand painted Sicilian majolica tiles in hues of Sicilian blues and yellows. It is such a joy to cook with a view of the Ionian Sea.

And so we started to learn to live life the Sicilian way dividing our time between London and Sicily.

We probably spend most of our time on our roof terrace, it is like having an outside living room. My favourite time of the day is watching the sunset behind Mount Etna with a crisp cold glass of Sicilian white wine with some chill out anthems playing on our stereo. Mind you I could literally sit and watch Etna all day it is like having a living painting in front of you.

Over the space of ten years I have accumulated a extensive collection of books about Sicily, including cookery books, fiction and non fiction, creating my own Sicilian library, in fact one friend staying at our house messaged me to say he could not believe that so many books had been written about Sicily. He also asked why I had cat food in my kitchen cupboard, but more about that another time.

In December 2013 Mount Etna erupted in impressive style whilst we were back in London for Winter. We watched on social media as small lava rocks that had been liquid molten hardened and it fell like rain on the north eastern towns and coastline of Sicily. In Giardini Naxos the locals walked around town with umbrellas up whilst our town and beach turned black. I was told that our roof terrace now resembled an ash tray. Luckily I was flying out the following week. On arriving home our Sicilian big brother had swept the terrace creating piles of lava resembling mini Mount Etna's and together with him, our Sicilian nephew and my best friend we filled fifty four black bin bags.

Roof Terrace with a View
Over the past ten years through our Sicilian big brother we have made so many wonderful friends, he is responsible for introducing me to my dear friend Valentina with whom I have had many hilarious adventures in her car (Don't ask).

His family are our family and through him we gained two Sicilian nieces, a Sicilian nephew, a nonno and a nonna (grandparents).

He introduced us to the most amazing English lady called Norma who lives just down the road from us who then introduced us to the lovely group of ex-pat ladies who live in Giardini Naxos and Taormina, most of whom married Sicilians and loved Sicily so much they decided to stay. Our little group all look after each other and enjoy weekly coffee mornings and nights out and we swap English newspapers, magazines and books. When I am home alone I am actually never alone as I am always surrounded by amazing friends, Sicilian families and protective neighbours.

Due to all these amazing people we never have a lack of oranges, lemons or home made wine in our house.

We spent the first few years going on many trips discovering, exploring, and learning everything we needed to know about the island. We even unintentionally ended up having an impromptu renewal of our wedding vows in the Cathedral of Taormina.

Then in 2011 along came our dog Daisy.

Daisy was eight weeks old when she was found alone in a flat in Camden Town in London. Social Services found her and gave her to a local dog charity 'All Dogs Matter' who then found a foster home for her in Primrose Hill where I was working at the time. I saw her with her new foster mum the day she was rescued and immediately knew that if my husband saw her he would fall in love and would want to adopt her. He did !!!!!!!! I showed him her adoption profile on the All Dogs Matter website, thereafter a date was arranged to meet her and it was love at first sight for both man and dog. We vowed that we would never leave her alone and therefore we now partake in what is known as 'The Puppy Road Trip' twice a year driving from London to Sicily whilst I fly in and out alone or with friends in between.

The 'Puppy Road Trip' consists of driving to Folkestone and the Eurotunnel to catch Le Shuttle to Calais. We spend one night in a dog friendly hotel in the beautiful town of Dijon in Burgundy then drive the next day through the Alps and the Mont Blanc tunnel to Genoa in northern Italy to take a 20 hour ferry to Palermo. On the GNV ferry we book a dog friendly cabin and on the top deck there is an area for doggy exercise, toilet business and for making new four legged friends who are also heading for Sicily. Time actually does go quickly and it is like being on a cruise ship with lots of amenities. One of the best feelings in the world is when you see the headland of Palermo in the distance and you know that you are nearly home.

Daisy loves her Sicilian home and Sicilian life and has explored off road Mount Etna in a defender jeep and on foot with a geologist, she enjoys wine tasting trips, has helped with olive picking, visited the workshop of a maestro Sicilian puppet maker, been on the set on the TV series Inspector Montalbano and is quite the celebrity in Giardini Naxos and Taormina, in fact we have made a ton more friends through Daisy. The five minute walk down to the seafront now turns into an hour as everyone stops us to say hello to Daisy and when I am home alone the first question asked is always "Where is your dog?"
Chill Out Time for Daisy

We have also met a lot of English speaking tourists in restaurants as they always want to know "What is an English dog doing in Sicily?" On one occasion some American tourists who were part of an escorted excursion on Etna seemed more amazed to see an English dog up there than seeing the volcano itself. She is a great networker our Daisy.

In Summer 2013 a friend came out to stay with us, it was his first trip to Sicily and he did not know what to expect. Of course he fell in love with everything and to this day to anyone he meets he says "Have you ever been to Sicily? You should its wonderful!". He suggested to me that with my extensive knowledge of the island, my local contacts and my work experience in the events industry that I should do something to promote Sicily as a destination to English speaking tourists maybe something like a Blog, one a bit different than the usual day to day life blogs in Sicily or ones written by travel agents with top tens on repeat.

Therefore the concept of White Almond Sicily was born.

I chose the name due to the abundance of almond trees on the island and I started with blogging about places we had visited, travel tips and trip advice, food and culture and living life the 'Sicilian Way' using my own personal experiences writing in a fun and visual way using my own photos.

Through my Blog I have received many lovely messages and emails from followers and other Sicily enthusiasts from all over the world and it is a complete pleasure to be able to help them with their trips to Sicily and hear about their love for the island. I also receive fascinating emails from first and second generation Sicilians telling me about their families and genealogy.

I have made some amazing Sicilian friends through my Blog who work in the tourism industry that I consider friends for life (as is always the Sicilian way), they dedicate their lives to tourism on the island creating fabulous experiences and it is always a pleasure to recommend their fantastic services. From Etna guides to boat trips, horse riding, cooking classes, wedding planners and owners of beautiful hotels, venues and accommodations plus much much more. I am a strong believer of keeping it local.

One can never have enough Oranges
We have been invited on many exciting adventures and experiences and visited some  beautiful places through my blog and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all (you know who you are !!!) I am now blessed with an extensive database of  some of the best local contacts in Sicily to share with my followers and it is still growing.

And it is just not in Sicily ... In London too. We have our own 'Little Sicily' community where I have made lovely Sicilian friends that live in London. Earlier this year whilst having afternoon tea at the Dorchester Hotel I was so happy when one of the barmen told me that he grew up in Giardini Naxos in a house just five minutes down the road from ours and it turned out we had many mutual friends. Last November at The World Travel Market in London in the Regione Siciliana area I was astounded when I saw a lot of familiar faces from Taormina and it was also nice to meet some new ones there as well.

It is impossible to put into one post all of the adventures and experiences we have enjoyed over the past ten years hence why I started to write and share in my Blog. Therefore I invite you to browse my extensive archive.

We often get asked if we ever regret buying our Sicilian home and we always reply "Not in a million years". We are blessed to have a house in the sun on one of the most beautiful and cultured islands in the world surrounded by a lot of love and a volcano who keeps a watchful eye on us.

And so as we are getting ready for our next 'Puppy Road Trip' keep posted and follow us on our journey to Sicily where new adventures and experiences await and where we will raise a glass of Sicilian red to many more fun years in Sicily with good friends, good times and of course great food.

Next Blog post ... "Things I have learned Living the Sicilian Way"

This Post is dedicated to our Sicilian Big Brother
We love you lots xxx

Photo Gallery  

Waiting to board Le Shuttle at Eurotunnel

France this Way

Dijon Mustard Shopping

Cathedral of Dijon

On the Road ... Dijon to Genoa

Mont Blanc

Hello Italy at Mont Blanc

Breakfast in Genoa

Genoa ... Waiting to board our GNV ferry 

Daisy in our Dog Friendly GNV Cabin

Relaxing on Board

Almost Home

The Palermo/Catania Highway

Home Sweet Home

Chilling Out

Cacti Life

Outside Room with a View

Etna Eruption 2013

Good Night Etna

Roof Terrace Life

Beach Life
Research Trip to Caltagirone

With our Sicilian Big Brother

Daisy Love <3

Best time of the Day

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Love Sarah and Daisy x

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Eastern Sicily ... The Legacy of Invading Powers

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento 
Located in the middle of the Mediterranean, Sicily has a mixture of ancient history which creates a unique and timeless atmosphere.

Sicily formed a significant portion of Ancient Greece and was strategically vital to the Roman Empire, thereafter the island was invaded in succession by countless vestiges of invading powers.

Each conquest left its mark creating an island full of rich history, culture, architecture and wonderful cuisine making it unlike any other place in the world.

Foreign influences on the island have affected everything, from the food, place names, urban town plans, fishing techniques, crops and produce, architecture and even the water works.

The Sicilian dialect is a language of its own created from these foreign invasions, it is a romance language with influences from each invading power.

So who exactly were these invading powers and where can you visit whilst staying in Eastern Sicily.

The Greeks

The first Greek colony was founded at Giardini Naxos in 734 BC which displaced the existing island inhabitants the Sicels.

Founded in 733 BC by Corinthian settlers, the south eastern city of Syracuse became one of the earliest Greek colonies on the island. It quickly attained wealth and power, important buildings were commissioned, works of art created and sub-colonies were founded. The Greeks of Syracuse then extended their territory through warfare becoming the strongest city in the Mediterranean. The ancient city was up to three times the size of modern day Syracuse and was divided into five zones including the Neapolis (the archaeological park) and Ortigia (the original settlement).

The Greeks introduced olive trees and grapevines to the island.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... Syracuse, The once mighty Greek colony and rival to Athens quietly exists today as a thriving modern city endowed with vestiges of its former glory which make up some of the most important sites in Sicily. Visit the extensive archaeological park and the island of Ortigia.

Archaeological Site of Syracuse
The Carthaginians 

Carthage invaded the island repeatedly and many Punic War battles were fought on Sicily.

The Sicilian Wars or Greco-Punic Wars were a series of conflicts fought between Ancient Carthage and the Greek states led by Syracuse. The wars were fought over control of Sicily and the Western Mediterranean between 600-265 BC.

Aligned with Syracuse, Greek Akragas (modern day Agrigento, Southern Sicily) took part in defeating the Carthaginians at Himera in 480 BC. Agrigento boasted a population of around 200,000 who constructed temples to their gods. The town was besieged by the Carthaginians in 406 BC which was then taken by the Romans in 261 BC.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... Agrigento, the famed Valley of the Temples is home to ruined Greek temples that stand against a backdrop of the sea and is easy to reach whilst staying in eastern Sicily. The scene of many conflicts with Carthage here you can see the Temple of Hera which has evidence of patches of red which indicate fire damage from the siege of 406 BC.

Temple of Hera, Agrigento 
The Romans

After years of warfare, Rome finally took Sicily after the fall of Syracuse in 212 BC.

Sicily was the first province acquired by the Roman Republic at the conclusion of the First Punic War with Carthage. Under their rule the island was the main source of grain for the city of Rome. The Romans began deforestation to export the timber and make way for wheat plantations. They also introduced aqueducts and water powered mills.

The Roman Empire grew in Sicily and the island became known as the crossroads of the Mediterranean due to its strategic position on the ancient trading routes. Over time Sicily's importance to Rome waned but Syracuse did become an important Christian centre and remained one right up until the 7th Century.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... Taormina, a colony of Syracuse the town has endured a typical Sicilian history falling first to the Romans. The ancient Greek theatre of Taormina is carved out of the hillside, the theatre seen today was refurbished by the Romans in the 1st Century AD. They sacrificed some of the seats and part of the stage to make a circular arena to accommodate gladiator games.
The Greek/Roman Theatre of Taormina 
The Byzantines

In 535 AD Sicily became part of Justinian's Eastern Roman Empire.

As the Roman Empire was falling apart a Germanic tribe know as the Vandals took Sicily in 468 AD but held it for only eight years. A Gothic war took place between the Ostrogoths and the Eastern Roman Empire known then as the Byzantine Empire. Sicily was the first part of Italy to be taken by the Byzantines and it was used as a base to conquer the rest of Italy. The Byzantine Emperor Constan II decided to move the capital Constantinople to Syracuse in 663 AD.

The Byzantines introduced beautiful works of art in the form of mosaics that adorn many buildings.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... In Taormina, away from Corso Umberto you can see Byzantine tombs on the upper part of Via Pirandello. There are about 50 tombs built into a thick wall in two rows. This is where the Byzantine necropolis (cemetery) was situated during Arabic invasion of Taormina. Also in the middle gate to Piazza Aprile IX you can see a Byzantine mosaic artwork which is so typical of this kind of art throughout the island.

Byzantine Mosaic, Taormina
The Arabs

The Arab conquest of the island began in 827 AD and was complete in 902 AD with the fall of Taormina.

The Arabs first invaded the island in 652 AD and seized control of the entire island from the Byzantine Empire in a prolonged series of conflicts from 827 to 902. An Arab-Byzantine culture developed producing a multilingual state. The Arabs were conquered by Christian Norman mercenaries in King Roger I. The last Arab city on the island was Noto which was conquered in 1091.

The Arabs built spectacular buildings on the island and the tiny winding streets of Palermo's old neighbourhoods such as La Kalsa and many of its street plans come from Arab settlements. Arabic place names remain in abundance with the most popular starting with the prefixes Calta, Gibil and Sala. The Arabs brought citrus fruits, sugar cane, date palm, pistachios, cotton and mulberries with them and without them we would not have the pleasure of lemon granita for breakfast. Sicily's fishing methods were adapted from Arabic methods and they also introduced land irrigation.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... High above Taormina you will see the Saracen Castle built by the Arabs. The castle sits on the site of Taormina's Ancient Greek acropolis and it is a pleasant scenic walk up from the centre of the town.

The Saracen Castle of Taormina
The Normans

After 30 years of crusades, Count Roger de Hautville took Sicily in 1091.

In 1066 AD the Normans were busy invading England but what is not so well known is that they were also doing the same thing in sunny Sicily. This was accomplished through a long and bloody warfare and the reign of the Norman King Roger was a long succession of battles as he conquered the whole island. Norman rule only lasted for 100 years but it left its mark on the island and the monuments that remain are among some of the most beautiful in the world. At the end of their reign the Normans left the island endowed with splendid buildings and an exotic culture living alongside the Arabs. Across Sicily you will find many buildings that are of Arabic Norman construction.

The system of single owner wheat farms was put into rule under the Normans and by the 1880's farmers had to compete for minuscule plots of land, resulting in mass poverty and eventually mass immigration.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... Just outside of Taormina you will find the Arabic/Norman Castello di Calatabiano which is perched upon a hilltop and is accessed by a cable car. Under the Norman rule of King Roger he elevated the town of Calatabiano to a feudal barony in 1135 and the town was cited in The Infamous Book of Roger which was written in Arabic by the geographer Al-Idrisi in 1154.
The Arabic/Norman Castle of Caltabiano 
The Spaniards

Peter of Aragon was crowned King of Sicily in 1282 beginning 440 years of Spanish invasion.

Not much is known about Spanish rule in Sicily as the island was ruled directly by the Kings of Spain via governors and viceroys. In the ensuing centuries, authority on the island was to become concentrated among a small number of local barons. The 16th century was the golden age for Sicily's wheat exports. Inflation, rapid growth and international markets brought economic and social changes. Internal colonization and the foundation of new settlements by feudal aristocrats in Sicily was notable from 1590 to 1650.

What Spanish rule can be most notable for is the rebuilding of towns after the devastating earthquake of 1693 which destroyed almost all of Eastern Sicily. Major reconstruction resulted in cities and villages being designed in a Baroque style mostly including vistas of the surrounding countryside which was then at the height of popularity.

The Spanish introduced tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate and the cactus Fico d'India (prickly pear).

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... the Cities of Catania, Syracuse, Noto, Ragusa, Modica and Scicli all boast the most spectacular examples of Spanish Baroque architecture and a visit to Modica is a must to savour the chocolate which is still made today in the traditional way brought to Sicily by the Spanish.

Duomo of Catania
The Bourbons

Sicily was given to the House of Savoy in the 1713 Peace of Utrecht treaty and swapped for Sardinia seven years later, thereby coming under the Habsburg rule.

Sicily joined the Napoleonic Wars and subsequently the British, under Lord William Bentinck, established a military and diplomatic presence on the island to protect it against a French invasion. After the wars were won, Sicily and Naples formally merged as the Two Sicilies under the Bourbons. Major revolutionary movements occurred in 1820 and 1848 against the Bourbon government with Sicily seeking independence, the second of which resulted in a short period of independence for Sicily. However, in 1849 the Bourbons retook the control of the island and dominated it until 1860.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... The Bourbons enjoyed the Baroque architecture that the Spanish left behind, however some of these beautiful buildings they converted in prisons. One of the largest can be found in Sicily's city of ceramics in Caltagirone a most beautiful town to visit, the ex-Bourbon prison is now home to the cities civic museum.

The Bourbon Prison of Caltagirone
The Italians

General Garibaldi and his Red Shirts invaded Sicily at Marsala in 1860 starting the campaign that ended with the Unification of Italy.

The Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi captured Sicily in 1860. The conquest started at Marsala in the west and native Sicilians joined him in the capture of the south Italian peninsula. Garibaldi's march was completed with the Siege of Gaeta, where the final Bourbons were expelled and Garibaldi announced his dictatorship in the name of Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Sicily became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia after a referendum where more than 75% of Sicily voted in favour of the annexation on 21st October 1860, however not everyone on the island was allowed to vote. As a result of the Kingdom of Italy's proclamation Sicily became part of Italy on 17th March 1861.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... Across Sicily you will find plaques, statues and structures commemorating General Garibaldi. One of the most impressive structures in Catania is a monumental gate created in 1768 dedicated to King Ferdinand IV, the arch is now named after Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Catania, Via Garibaldi 
The Allied Forces

On the 10th July 1943 Allied Forces under Generals Montgomery and Patton landed at Gela and Pachino taking Sicily in 38 days.

The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky was a major campaign of World War II in which the Allies took the island of Sicily from the Axis powers. It began with a large amphibious and airborne operation followed by a six week land campaign. The purpose of the operation was to remove the air and sea potential of the Axis powers from the island and by doing this it would give the Allies access to the Mediterranean Sea for their own ships. These routes had been closed to the Allied ships since the early years of the war.

I am proud to say that my grandfather served in Sicily during Word War II and it is to him that I dedicate this Blog post.

Where to visit in Eastern Sicily ... Combatants who died during Operation Husky are buried at various cemeteries across the island. An English cemetery can be found just outside of Syracuse. You will also find many memorials commemorating World War II particularly in the south east tip of Sicily where the Allied forces landed from sea.

Punta Secca, English/Amercian Memorial

Please Note ***

My suggestions where to visit
are just a few out the countless places to visit in Sicily
to experience the vestiges of invading powers

Browse my Blog archive for more historical Travel Tips
or please feel free to Email me for more suggestions. 

All Photos are my own

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Love Sarah x

Sunday, 25 February 2018

14 Ways to use Sicilian Oranges

Last month whilst flying into Catania airport on a clear and sunny January day I could see all the beautiful orange groves that cover the plains of Catania and foothills of Mount Etna. This time of year is a wonderful time to visit Sicily as all the groves are heaving with orange trees bearing their abundance of juicy colourful fruits. 

There are around 67,000 hectares of orange groves in Sicily of which 70 per cent grow blood oranges during the growing season, which is January to May.

The groves in Sicily have a unique microclimate provided by Mount Etna. Warm days, cool nights and fertile volcanic soil allow Sicilians to produce what many say are the best oranges in the world.

As in the words of Oscar Wilde on his stay in Sicily “The Lemon groves and the Orange gardens were entirely perfect”.

Oranges have been cultivated in Sicily since ancient times, and cultivation has been documented since the time of Moorish rule. Whilst the Arabs are credited with originally planting the bitter orange trees in Sicily, the Genovese and Portuguese crusaders introduced sweeter varieties in the 15th century.

The delicious Sicilian blood oranges grow in the volcanic soil surrounding Mount Etna and  the variation in climate that exists there assists with the production of the anthocyanin pigments that gives the oranges that wonderful intense ruby red colour and makes them a powerful antioxidant. So they are super healthy. 

The Sicilian blood orange comes in three varieties, Tarocco, Moro and Sanguinello.

The Tarocco variety is seedless and has a yellow-orangey colour with reddish pigments. Its moderately juicy flesh makes it an ideal orange to eat but it also produces an excellent tasting sweet juice. The Moro variety matures earlier than the other types and is slightly egg shaped with an intense winey coloured flesh.The Sanguinello variety, the oldest of the three types, has an extremely juicy flesh and virtually no seeds and so is ideal for juicing. 

Having a home in Sicily and particularly living near Mount Etna we always have an ‘abundance of oranges’ and we are completely surrounded by orange trees everywhere we go. 

I can remember on our first trip to Sicily sitting on the terrace of La Botte restaurant in Taormina enjoying an evening meal when a rogue orange fell out of the tree we were sitting under and hit my husband on the head, maybe it was a sign that we were destined to return.

Orange blossom is called Fiori di Arancio which has a wonderful delicate scent. On Mount Etna the native Sicilian black bee (Nero d'Ape) feeds on the blossom and hence in Sicily we can enjoy delicious orange blossom honey. 

In The Godfather trilogy oranges pop up with great frequency in the three movies. The director Francis Ford Coppola states that this started out as an accident but once he realised that he had used oranges so frequently in the first movie he started to purposely use them in subsequent movies. Fans of the trilogy suggest that they indicate death or the threat of violence for the character interacting with the orange. There are up to twenty scenes where oranges are featured so now you have a good excuse to watch the whole trilogy to see how many you can spot.

As with lemons, friends will often arrive at our home with bags full of oranges and we always put them to good use.

Therefore here are 14 ways I use our gorgeous Sicilian oranges;

Eat Them ... Oranges are highly beneficial for your body as they offer lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Oranges are chock-full of Vitamin C which helps to lower the risk of disease. They are also rich in Vitamin A which protect your eyes for good vision. They provide potassium, a mineral responsible for healthy heart function and they are full of soluble fibre which is especially beneficial for lowering cholesterol. They are easy to carry around since their thick skin protect them from bruising.

Juice Them ... A recent study found that our ability to absorb the nutrients from oranges is actually better in liquid form. Make the most of the delicious goodness from the fruit and squeeze your own oranges. Nothing is better than a tall glass of fresh orange juice early in the morning especially whilst sitting in the Sicilian sun. 

Orange and Fennel Salad ... On a hot Sicilian day sometimes you need a fresh delicious salad. This traditional Sicilian salad of orange and fennel is served all over the island. Cut off the tops of the fennel bulbs and slice thinly into rings and place into a bowl. Cut away the skin and pith from the oranges and slice into circles then add to the fennel. Make a salad dressing by mixing orange juice from half an orange and half a lemon with an equal amount of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle over the orange and fennel then serve. Perfecto.

Marmalade ... What could be more comforting than homemade marmalade spread onto a freshly made slice of Sicilian bread? Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. The sweetness of Sicilian oranges lends a fantastic flavour to this traditional breakfast treat. Homemade marmalade is pure joy and it can also be used as a filling for crostata

Orange Pomander ... Orange pomanders fill our Sicilian house with a wonderful scent and they look pretty too. Use a tooth pick to create holes in the skin of the oranges creating your own design and then press cloves into the holes. You can hang them, arrange them in a bowl or why not give them away as gifts to the friends that gave you the oranges in the first place (maybe this is why I am gifted so many bags of oranges). 

Sicilian Orange Cake ... One of my favourite recipes by UK celebrity chef Rick Stein, who is a big fan of all things Sicilian, is his Sicilian orange cake which uses 85ml of fresh orange juice with extra to make a zingy icing. Using Sicilian blood oranges give the cake a wonderfully natural pink hue that never fails to impress my Sicilian friends.

Candied Orange Peel ... By mixing 600g of sugar with 300ml of water, bring it to the boil, adding sliced orange peel and simmering for up to 3 hours or until the peel has absorbed all the syrup, you can create a delicious sweet treat. For even extra temptation dip the candied slices in melted chocolate. 

Orange Zest ... Zest is prepared by scraping or grating the skin of the orange, the zest can then be used to add flavour to recipes such as cakes and biscuits or even to a salad.

Herbal Tea ... In winter months there is no better way to warm up than with a hot cup of tea. Traditionally orange peels are used in tea to help with stomach cramps and as an appetite stimulant, add cloves for a delicious additional spicy taste. 

Orange Ice Cream ... By whipping up the juice and zest of three large Sicilian oranges, 175g of icing sugar and 584ml of double cream then freezing, you can make a delicately flavoured smooth ice cream. A perfect accompaniment to your Sicilian orange cake. 

Preserve Brown Sugar ... In Sicily we drink a lot of coffee preferably with brown sugar rather than white, however in the warm heat the brown sugar can stick together. A neighbour once told me to put a piece of orange peel in the sugar bowl to prevent the sugar forming clumps and I can declare that it does work. 

Garnish a Cocktail ... Who doesn't enjoy a refreshing cocktail in the Sicilian sunshine? Garnish an Aperol Spritz, summer's most fashionable sexy cocktail, with an orange slice. Sicilians absolutely love Aperol which is an aperitif made from bitter oranges or why not try the brand new Solerno liqueur which is jam packed with blood oranges from the sun drenched slopes of Mount Etna. 

Wedding Inspiration ... If you are lucky enough to be getting married in Sicily this year then why not use oranges as your inspiration and theme. Pin escort cards into the fruit as a table plan or why not cut the top off and scoop out the segments to use as decorative lanterns with tea lights inside (perfect for Sicilian home inspiration too). 

Mosquito Repellent ... Mosquitoes hate the smell of lemon and orange peels. Rubbing citrus peels on your skin or grating peels around your porch, patio, or campsite can help repel mosquitoes the natural way. 

If you enjoyed this post then you will love from my archive
"14 Ways to Use Sicilian Lemons"

And so back to the Godfather .....

How many scenes featuring oranges did you get right?

Photo Credit: Pinterest

When in Sicily why not book a Godfather Tour
and visit the filming locations
where these celebrity oranges were featured 


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Love Sarah and Daisy x