So here I am in Catania, gazing at the imposing volcano which resembles the closed eye of a giant monster. After days of wandering through the region, I came to understand that the most beautiful part of Catania is not the city itself, but the surrounding areas. The incredible water clarity and black beaches, the fortresses and castles that spring from the water, the great restaurants suspended on stilts grounded deep within the lava. Then, in the eastern part of Sicily, a few minutes away from the city, I stop in front of three huge cliffs rising steeply from the sea: Scogli dei Ciclopi. It is noon and time has come for us to have lunch, to restore our much-needed energy.
We have been visiting since morning. I am thirsty and need a cool place to hide from the sun. However, in front of Scogli dei Ciclopi, I forget everything. The landscape catches your eye, keeping you still. Legend has it that these rocks were thrown by the Cyclops Polyphemus in an attempt to destroy Odysseus’s ship, the hero of the Trojan wars. Minutes on end I enjoy the beauty of the landscape, attracted by the magic of legends and the mysteries of Sicilian caves. Finally, hunger wakes me up to reality. No more dreaming, let us proceed to one of the numerous fish restaurants in the area.
Just taste. You will see why I tell you now that no one cooks better than Sicilians
The restaurants spread along the shore with a displaying menu consisting of fresh seafood. Glass display cabinets containing specially arranged trays invite you to choose from a large variety of fish, shellfish, sea urchins, crabs or squid. And soon enough the delicious food and the noise of waves will induce a dependence from which you will find it hard to detach. Hard for me was also to swallow the sea urchins that I ordered for the first time in my life. And the last time, as far as I am concerned. No matter how popular they are with local and tourist alike, it is an acquired that I have not manage to get used to. On the other hand, the grilled calamari and fish were delicious. A feast which did not end without a dessert.
Somehow, I think in Sicily, not to order dessert is an insult to their way of being. Diet or not, you’ll taste some of the assortments of sweets homemade, prepared with great pride by the chefs. Do not be surprised if much of the sweets contain pistachios. Sicily is one of the few places in Europe where pistachios grow freely, therefore, chefs have chosen to fully enjoy the taste of it.
Finally, the much-expected coffee followed by a muffin with ice cream. Traditionally, the waiter brings the ice cream within the muffins, a dish extremely popular here. In fact, for most of the Sicilians, the muffin with ice cream represents breakfast, or by case, even an important part of lunch.
At this point, we are so full that even walking seems too much. So we go straight to the hotel, for a much-welcomed rest.
What I tried and liked – a list of the most popular dishes of the area, so you know what to order:
- Arancini – Balls of fried patties stuffed with rice, meat, vegetables and spices
- Likëngë – pork sausages seasoned with salt, pepper and fennel seeds
- Busiate with Pesto Trapanese – pasta with tomato sauce, basil, peanuts and garlic
- Trapani Couscous – rice or couscous with scallops, shrimp, and calamari
- Pasta with sardines and Pecorino Siciliano – hard cheese from sheep’s milk
- Panelle (panella di ceci) – fried pastry from cornmeal
- Caponata – eggplant stew
- Cannoli – pastry filled with sweet cheese – ricotta or mascarpone, chocolate, and vanilla cream