My Foodie & Photography Tour of Sicily - Part 3 (Final)
Day 5 - Scoglitti
With the morning to sleep in a little after our late night out wining and dining, we were eagerly awaiting what for some, including me, would be the highlight of the trip - a big call indeed as it's all been so amazing - but a Sunday family feast at Carmel’s family holiday home would be hard to beat!
We arrived to big smiles, a warm welcome from all the Ruggeri family and Aperol Spritzs all round with tomato and mozzarella bruschettas as we gathered in the front courtyard to enjoy the sunshine, laugh and wonder as to what was to come next. Soon we were gathered around the kitchen table as Carmel’s aunty, Zia Maria and cousin Carmel demonstrated making fresh pasta and the Sunday sugo. Our aprons on and our hands in the flour, we too pitched in and helped prepare the lunch we were all to enjoy. With the pasta drying on the clean bed sheets on top of the bed in the next room, we made the Scacce next - folded pizza - some filled with sugo and others with eggplant and ricotta. Out the back, past where our long lunch table awaited us under the vines set up with carafes of wine and plates of olives and bread, we watched as Zia Maria lit the wood fire oven and put the capsicums in to roast. Lunch began with tasty cocktail sausages, woodfired scacce and followed on by our homemade traditional sicilian pasta cavatelli with ragu and a side of roasted capsican. Numero Uno. Nothing beats pasta made that day and an Italian Sunday lunch. Back in the kitchen, little doughnuts were being prepared to follow the lunch.
Some would be rolled in cinnamon sugar and some filled with sweetened ricotta. Then served with coffee and a choice of either Averna or Limoncello liqueur as a digestive. Before leaving, I took a stroll around the garden to admire the bountiful fruiting trees - quince, fig, apricot, plum and lemon. We had enjoyed many apricots and plums fresh from their trees after lunch - nothing compares, just exquisite. Plump and juicy, a huge flavour explosion and fresh. No dinner required that night. I think most of us regrouped at our ‘local’ gelateria, Carmel’s cousins bar Dolc’idea, for ‘one for the road’ before retiring - well it was just one for me at least.
Day 6 - Scoglitti Farm
Our last full day together. We were exhausted but delighted with everything and didn’t want it to end. We climbed aboard our bus and traveled not too far down the road to grab a coffee and wander the main streets of Vittoria. A few more photo opportunities presented themselves or rather were created with a bit of encouragement and Gina’s best Sicilian language skills. By this stage Gina was trying to get us to set up our own shots and approach people. Even without language, a smile and a few international gestures can go a long way. I was so happy I found two gentle guys that agreed to be my models. They even gave me a gift of a book about the building I photographed them in that I’ll probably never be able to read. Although I would like to learn Italian one day, so it's not completely unlikely…. Then Gina was holding up the traffic to get ‘the shot’ of a Fiat 500 that was doing circles around the block with a cute little boy looking out the back window. She has a thing for Fiat 500s and this was going to be a magic shot. It was. Regrouped we followed Carmel down to the edge of town where the old jail had been converted into a tourist information destination with a couple of small original cells that remained to view. The rest of the building was dedicated to changing displays and a wine tasting area. Before long we were lingering over a small selection of local cheeses, olives and wine samples. Experts that we were.
Onto our next destination, Scoglitti tomato farm. After passing so many tomato farms on the bus we were finally pulling into one. The air was full of tomatoes. I was in heaven. We walked through a “serre” tomato hot house where fields of cherry tomatoes dangled in bright red bunches against the lush green foliage reaching for the trusses in the roof. We just had to try a tomato or two straight off the vine, they couldn’t have been more sweet! Or warm. Outside it was heating up too though our traditional local barbeque lunch at the farm was well protected from the elements. Comfortably we settled in to enjoy a relaxed feast starting with a selection of salamis and cheeses. As the table was being laden with food the entertainment began, a mischievous political Italian singer with his guitar, sang and danced with joyful abandon. Apparently his messages were valid but if said in polite conversation would be considered troublesome, only in song can he hope to evoke change. Such is the power of art.
After a short siesta we departed for Scicli in the late afternoon. Scicli sits in a gorge just a few kilometres from the beaches of Samieri and Donnalucata and is overlooked by a towering rocky mass on which the Church of San Matteo sits. It is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Foodies revolted on a walking tour and split up to either shop or hit the bar for a cool drink. The Photographers thought the bar sounded a good idea too but it was our last day with Gina and we just couldn’t do it. So in search of the illusive next amazing photo we ventured like pack horses up the steps up the hill carrying our photography bags and tripods and extra lighting equipment past the doors of houses built into the side of the hill as we went. Twists and turns and wrong turns we came across some inspiration. We found an older couple out front of their home on the path that met up with the intersecting road. The old lady was seated under the shade of a tree peeling some vegetables for dinner and he was fussing over the pots around their ‘garden’ trying to look a bit busy. Eventually he gave up and took a seat with his pots. He was elegantly dressed and would’ve made a good portrait subject but Gina needed to use all her Sicilian charms as he certainly didn’t give off any welcoming vibe. Just as she was about to make her approach she noticed something else that turned her head, a Vespa! Parked in front of a garage, just behind on the other side of the road in beautiful vintage condition. And then as if by magic, it’s vintage owner appeared and loved the attention his bike and by association himself received. A few well chosen Sicilian words and we had our willing portrait subject and his Vespa. After moving everyone into a better position to take in the view over Scicli in the background, an amazing portrait was created. Definitely one of my favourites. We all lit and shot it our own way with what we had learned and noticed that the other older gentleman had wandered up to take a look. It turned out to be his brother. Guess who now wanted his photo taken? So with our second willing subject we positioned him standing in the road near his house with the sun setting behind him over Scicli. Also stunning. I love them both. Returning back down the hill on such a high from our successful final photos we celebrated our farewell dinner with our group and the Ruggeri Family until late. No-one wanted that night to end for it meant that tomorrow we would have to say our goodbyes.
Day 7 - Scoglitti to Catania
Well all good things must come to an end. In fact all things must pass, even bad things but that’s another story. It was hard to leave my Sicilian Gang and a very odd feeling to be solo again, in charge of making my own decisions and finding my own path out of Catania. Great friendships were made. So much so that a very high percentage of that tour group are going again after a year off - a Reunion Tour. Carmel has put together a special itinerary just for them so they will enjoy a whole new experience. She is amazing. I was tempted too but I also have plans for a new kitchen - my oven has completely given up on me now, just the gas top and BBQ to work with, good job Summers coming. I am extremely grateful for the Sicilian experience I had and the wonderful people I shared it with. And all the really cool photography ‘aha’ moments I learned from Gina Milicia.
If you want to improve your photography listen to Gina’s podcast “So You Want To Be A Photographer” and join her Facebook group here
So what are your favourite Sicilian cookbooks or recipes?