Showing posts from February, 2015

an abundance of Almonds .....

The almond was brought to Sicily by the ancient Greeks, who knew how to make a type of marzipan with ground almonds and honey. 
The Arabs introduced sugar cane to Sicily and it was this inspired combination that started the great tradition of Sicilian marzipan.
A sharp tongue in Sicilian dialect is 'Pizzuta' which also refers to the famous sweet almonds grown around Sicily. The name derives from the shape of the shell that curves round and ends with a point. The hard shell protects the nut from the Sicilian sun and allows it to be stored longer.
The nuts melt in the mouth like ready-made marzipan, soft, rich and full of sweet oil.
The large flat shape and consistent size which Sicilians are very particular about make them suitable for sugared almonds, white for weddings, green for engagements, red for a degree, silver for a 25th wedding anniversary, golden for a 50th anniversary, pink and blue for births.

As shared in my previous post, ‘Agrigento …. The Almond Blossom Festival’, th…

Agrigento ... The Valley of The Temples

“The South of Italy and Sicily were a gift from the gods to the Greeks.
Salvatore Furnari, Historian

The legendary Valley of The Temples is one of the most popular destinations in Sicily and when we first visited Sicily we were eager to visit. So we booked a private driver to take us.

Our driver Vincenzo from Franco Tours collected us in a sparklingly clean black Mercedes and we began our adventure to Agrigento. The drive down takes approximately 2 hours 40minutes from Taormina.
Vincenzo kept us entertained throughout the journey pointing out places of interest all the way.
The drive is scenic passing by the hilltop towns of Enna and Caltanissetta.
On final approach to Agrigento the temples came into view on a hillside set on a rugged landscape high above us looking out towards the Mediterranean Sea towards North Africa amidst the almond trees.

On arrival Vincenzo purchased our entrance tickets and arranged for a registered local guide to escort us around the archaeological site.

The Almond Blossom Festival of Agrigento

The Climate’s delicate, the air most sweet. Fertile the isle, the temple much surpassing the common praise it bears. William Shakespeare, Winter’s Tale Act 111, Scene 1
The Almond Blossom Festival of Agrigento (Festa del Fiore del Mandorlo) is probably one of the most famous events in Sicily's calendar and it is when Agrigento literally goes Nuts !!!!!!!
The famous festival is always held in late February or early March, months with which thanks to Sicily’s mild temperatures, the spring awakening begins.
The countryside is filled with delicate white almond blossoms and the famous Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) in Agrigento offers a wonderful panorama for the festival.
The almond blossoms are celebrated as the first sign of spring; once the delicate pinkish white almond blossoms appear, spring will not be too far behind, well at least in Sicily.
The festival originally started in a small town in the province of Agrigento in 1934 when a local Count decided to celebrate the star…

an abundance of Oranges .....

“The Lemon groves and the Orangegardens were entirely perfect.” Oscar Wilde, on his stay in Sicily

There are around 67,000 hectares of orange groves in Sicily, 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.
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.
Having a home in Sicily and particularly living near Mount Etna we always have an ‘abundance of oranges’ and 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 restaura…

Catania ... the Festival of Saint Agata

This coming week in the City of Catania we celebrate Feste di Sant’Agata ……

Saint Agata was a young noblewoman who was born in 230AD to a secretly Christian family in Catania whilst Sicily was under Roman rule.
The roman governor of the city at the time Quintianus fell in love with Agata and ordered her to renounce her Christian faith. After being rejected by her, he entrusted a courtesan called Aphrodisias to befriend Agata in the hope that the prostitute who was addicted to orgies and other sinful activities could corrupt Agata’s spirit. 

However, Agata stood firm on her beliefs, Quintianus then had her arrested.

It is said that Agata argued her defense passionately. 
After several days of forced fasting and starvation Quintianus began to torture her. She was flogged and her breasts were cut off. 
However, it is said that her breasts grew back miraculously at night thanks to the intervention of Saint Peter. Her last torture was a bed of hot coals.

Some say that whilst Agata’s body was m…