My Foodie & Photography Tour of Sicily - Part 2
Day 3 - Agrigento
The next morning we journeyed to Sant Angelo Muxaro with a population of only 1000 people. This is rural Sicily, with rugged and hilly terrain. Before we got to town we met Angelo the Shepherd boy on the way as he was herding his sheep around his country side full of wild fennel. With eyes as blue as the sky, he valiantly jumped off his trusty white horse and grabbed one of the sheep to throw over his shoulders for our photographic pleasure. Of course this was all Gina’s idea but darling Angelo was happy to oblige. Then he surprised us all by singing a beautiful yet haunting traditional song passed down through many generations. Blew. Us. Away! As Angelo returned to his wandering sheep we made our way into town and met his mother Olga at her shop where she makes fresh ricotta from the morning milk collected from the sheep. Fresh smooth warm ricotta melts in the mouth and was an amazing foodie experience to try. Washed down with a glass of local vino if you pleased. Wandering around the rest of the small town we met the local baker who also provides the town with an additional wood oven service. Any morning, the locals can bring a tray of vegetables or meat to slow cook in the bakery’s wood fire oven and collect ready for lunch time. Such a fabulous idea. After photographing a few of the local old men waiting to return home for lunch we departed for our luncheon destination… Masseria Agnello.
Masseria Agnello A new purpose built 5 star boutique hotel with glorious gardens and a superb view from high above looking over the valleys below and out to the Mediterranean in the distance. The weather was perfect for grazing outdoors and relaxing under the shade of the olive trees. Taking our time to rest and enjoy the ambiance of the venue, wandering around the property with a glass of prosecco and taking in the beauty of Sicily. Recharged, it was time to continue on to our last destination for the day, the archaeological area of Agrigento, for a sunset viewing of the Valley of the Temples. Our guide Marco was a very entertaining and enthusiastic archaeologist who educated us about the history of Agrigento and the selected excavated areas that reveal the late Hellenistic and Roman town and burial practices of its early Christian inhabitants. Towards the end we detoured into the outdoor cafe to sample some of the local wines and refreshing prickly pear granita a specialty of Sicily, fico d’india are found all over Sicily’s arid land. One of our local guides began to sing a serenade that left us guessing just who he was in fact singing it to! All good fun and wearily we returned to the bus to return to Scoglitti for the evening. Free to roam, we the Photographers went in search of the iconic Italian pizza and found a great local haunt out of the way down a few back streets. With our new knowledge of local Sicilian wines we new exactly what to order : )
Day 4 - Acate & Ragusa Ibla
An early start to the morning in time to shop for local bargains at the Vittoria Markets. Tastings of olives, cheeses, salumi and fresh biscuits qualified as breakfast that day. One of Carmel’s many Sicilian cousins doubled as an extra bodyguard whilst we were at the markets so we could shop freely without concern for the pickpockets that are notorious there. I happily picked up a few souvenir aprons and tea-towels for my Sicilian friends back home, then scrambled to catch up to the Photographers who were already directing the local vendors into superb environmental portraits. As the sun rose higher in the sky it was time to depart for Valle dell’Acate Winery for a wine tasting and light lunch set amongst the wine barrels. Our host Giovanni Carbone was a generous and charismatic man - I think most people I’ve met who work with wine are. He carefully explained the subtle nuances of each wine presented to us and then left us to ponder our favourites over Scacce, cheeses, olives, cold meats and fresh breads. Careful not to overindulge we headed back for a siesta before the main event of the evening - dining at the Michelin Star restaurant, il Duomo with Chef, Ciccio Sultano. Along the winding way through the countryside there were fields upon fields of tomato farms and olive trees mainly. We came head on with another shepherd herding his sheep along the road and waited patiently and curiously as they passed. The bus journeys were relaxing, like watching a movie roll past the window. That is, when not doubled over in fits of laughter from the antics of some or should I say most of my fellow travellers. Funny bunch. Great group!
Rested we arrived at the cobblestone town of Ragusa Ibla (the lower/old town) where the San Giorgio Festa had just begun. What timing! Families everywhere were out taking a stroll “the passeggiata”, the streets were alight, decorated magnificently and live music filled the air. The Foodies split to enjoy a historical walking tour before dinner and we Photographers didn’t know where to look first. Eventually we chose a wonderful bend in the thoroughfare that had a bar on its corner and a laneway running down the side. Out front of the bar, the old men had taken their seated positions and were having passionate discussions - perfect! When the super sharp dressed Carabinieri (police) allowed us to position them in the laneway for a series of individual portraits we were blown away by our good fortune. The Foodies came back to round us up for dinner and that was a wrap. Time to kick back and enjoy the decadent and delectable Michelin Star dinner at il Duomo… what can I say. Buonissimo! The food arrived at a sensuous pace and kept on coming in glorious gastronomic waves of passion. Hard to call it food really, more like fine art. Even though the portions were quite petite they were wildly complex and constantly arriving at our table in a never ending stream of saporous surprises. The restaurant itself was once an old domed apartment transformed into a dining room with 40 seats and a divine bourgeois interior intimately distributed across various rooms. Fortunately for the other guests that night we were all contained into a room all of our own!
Part 3 (Final) up next!