Take your eyes off the volcano for a moment. There's a colourful culinary tradition to explore on its seething slopes, says the food writer and author Carla Capalbo With my eyes closed I would know I was near Mount Etna.
When the season is right, the delicious scent of la zagara - the blossom from thousands of citrus trees growing around its base - hits you as you step off the plane in Catania.
In winter and spring, the east coast breezes are delicately fragrant, in chromatic contrast to the area's lava-black streets and buildings. There is such fertility in the volcanic soil that orange trees and wisteria grow wild along the autostrada to Taormina.
Sunday, 28 November 2010
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
After decades of Mafia rule in Sicily, locals are fighting back - and they are asking tourists
to help them, by staying in B&Bs, eating in restaurants and shopping in delis that refuse to pay protection money. Stephanie Rafanelli reports
It was Sunday lunchtime in Palermo's Piazza San Francesco and the air was thick with
charcoal smoke and chatter.
A vendor poked an octopus as it roasted on the open grill, releasing
a whiff of warm olive oil and lemon that mingled with the city's
characteristic scent of brine and dust.
A girl carried a tray of sweet cannoli high above her head, navigating stalls of sardine rolls
and anchovies frizzling in floury pans.
The crowd went about its usual business - church bells chimed and a christening party
spilt out of Basilica San Francesco D'Assisi, bobbing the newly baptized bundle as they strolled.
But this was no ordinary Sunday market. It was the "Free Sicily" organic food fair, part of a
growing and increasingly visible movement run by young Palermitans rebelling against
the mafia, or Cosa Nostra, and the stranglehold organised crime has on the Sicilian people.
"Whatever you do, DON'T mention the M-A-F-I-A," my northern Italian uncle warned
me before my last visit to Sicily - a dusty road trip in a clapped-out Cinquecento in 1993
just after the arrest of the boss of bosses Salvatore Totò Riina.