My Foodie & Photography Tour of Sicily - Part 1
I couldn’t resist! I was unsure how my husband and young kids, who were then 3 and 5, would cope without me. An overseas holiday on my own? Wasn’t I irreplaceable? But the temptation was too great. 6 nights and 7 days away in Sicily, with a small group of 15 amazing people who came from all over Australia and a couple from USA. The big draw cards for me were 1) the tour leader - Carmel Ruggeri - such a powerhouse of enthusiasm, expertise and humour and 2) the photography guru - Gina Milicia - celebrity photographer and author of many books on ‘how to nail the shot’ and 3) of course being in Italy eating lots of delicious Italian food surrounded by cinematic surrounds at every turn! Thankfully I have a super supportive husband who thinks anything is possible and wonderful friends who encouraged me to go have a great time, and promised to look in on my young children and their fairly undomesticated father. My inner wanderer was let loose! I was beyond excited!
The view from my room at Hotel Al Gabbiano in Scoglitti - my home from home for the week - with relaxing views out over the Mediterranean and perfect for listening to the waves meeting the shore whilst enjoying a much needed siesta between feasts : )
Day 1 - Catania to Scoglitti
The tour group met for the first time at Catania airport at midday and the array of tempting pastries and panini that were on display in the two arrivals cafes was something to behold! My senses were already excited! Once the group had gathered we were swiftly whisked away to Scoglitti, Ragusa. Scoglitti is a small fishing village near the town of Vittoria on the south coast of Sicily overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The population varies from about 4000 in winter to around 70,000 in summer. We were there early June, a lovely time where things are warming up but not too hectic!
Arriving at our beachfront hotel, Hotel Al Gabbiano, we wandered down to the beach cafe to breathe in the fresh salt water air and were welcomed with the quintessential aperitif of Summer, Aperol Spritz. A refreshing blend of Aperol, Prosecco and soda with a slice of orange. Then began the first of many feasts, a banquet spread of all things Sicilian including: arancini, panini, fennel & orange salad & lots more. Followed by a cooking demonstration where some of us including me, couldn’t help but get stuck in, making cassateddi, similar to a ricotta filled donut. We were off to a fine start :)
To allow time for lunch to digest and make space for the seafood degustation that was awaiting us at dinner, a walk through town was a great idea. Here is where the group split into two. The Foodies and the Photographers. Of course the Photographers were Foodies too but when Gina Milicia is your teacher, learning about food can wait. I must admit I was more than a little star-struck and that's not usually my style! Our little gang learnt an amazing amount from Gina over the tour and our heads exploded daily with the knowledge that was pouring in. But when it was time to eat, the groups united again. Dinner at one of Scoglitti’s finest seafood restaurants, Il Conte Nero, was a spectacular degustation of over 18 dishes that began with fresh raw seafood plates, followed by fried seafood plates and then braised seafood plates! Although gelati was an option to follow after all that, unsurprisingly no-one could fit it in!
Day 2 - Modica
The next morning after a quick visit to the hotel breakfast buffet with views out over the Mediterranean, we boarded our coach and made our way to Modica - a uniquely picturesque Baroque town in the valley of the Hyblaean Mountains and is part of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Italy. As the Foodies went off to visit Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily, we Photographers found a small street cafe from which to formulate our plan. Here I experienced my first Cafe Granita with the obligatory brioche bun - a very Sicilian breakfast! So heavenly and so naughty all at once. The coffee is like a large espresso slushy with thick whipped vanilla cream on top! Then as if that’s not enough, you have this huge brioche bun to tear apart and dip in. Amazing : ) As we got into our groove of photographing the locals in a side alley, the Foodies returned with samples of the unique chocolate of Modica (quite gritty) and some of the best cannoli to be found with crushed pistachios - just so we didn’t miss out! So sweet! After finishing up our shoot with the old Sicilian men reproducing the Reservoir Dogs walk, we met up again for lunch at a little trattoria for a traditional spread of Sicilian anitpasta, sciatia and pasta al norma (eggplant & tomato). Trying not to overdo it wasn’t easy, we had a fancy dinner to save ourselves for. After the relaxing bus ride home and a little siesta it was time to venture out to one of Sicily’s oldest and largest wineries, Feudi del Pisciotto, built in the 1700s and located in Niscemi. The Foodies toured the winery and sampled the range whilst we the Photographers scouted the grounds for the next location to shoot and further our training under our sensei Gina. Reconvening in the dining room to share our experiences over fine wine and matching exquisite dishes. The winery produces DOCG Cerasuolo varietal. A grape indigenous to the region of Vittoria, Regusa, the only DOCG of Sicily.
Part 2 up next!