“Kennst du das Land wo die Zitronen blün?”. Do you know the land where the lemons grow was the question Mignon asked Wilhelm Meister in one of the books of the famous Goethe trilogy. The beginning of this short poem is a true hymn to Sicily. This region is a land full of beauty and enchanting atmosphere. You can find that atmosphere in the enchanting village of Marzamemi.
Welcome to Sicily
But Sicily is not just the land of lemons, is the land of fish, bottarga, almonds, pistachio nuts, chocolate, granita, figs and prickly pears, Pachino tomatoes, ricotta cheese, and exquisite perfumes and flavors that can stuck in the mind and remain forever.
I’ve spent one week in the southeast part of the region that I love to consider the Italian California. I’ve reached it thanks to a very low-cost flight (some 100 euros RT from Turin) landing in Catania.
Rent a Car when in South Italy
The first thing I suggest you is to book a car, since it is impossible to use public transportation there. One of the cheapest rent-a-car is Sicily by car. For one week you can rent a car for 150 euros in September and, traveling every day, you might spend another 50 euros for the gas (our was a diesel). And believe me, I traveled quite a lot.
What I suggest you do is to equally divide your time between art and nature. Without forgetting to spend some time tasting the very best of Sicilian delicacies.
Here what I suggest you to do:
Have a walk in the center of Catania and get lost among the baroque palaces.
Visit the sites of Scicli, Ragusa Ibla, Noto, Modica, and Ispica, some of which declared a Unesco World Heritage.
In the same area, you can find the Vendicari Natural Park which is free, and a lot of beaches. One of my favorites is the San Lorenzo beach near Marzamemi, where the sand is fine and the sea is blue.
Some villages to visit
In this area you can find a village called Pachino, famous for a particular kind of tomatoes that is grown on the sand near the sea, thus enriched with a particular salty flavor. Many shops sell handmade dried Pachino tomatoes that you can prepare with olive oil and serve as appetizers. It is really common to see bowls of Pachino tomatoes with bread or crostini, crunchy bread, for you to taste before buying. Don’t be shy and try this simple but tasteful preparation.
Try to eat the famous pasta con la bottarga. In this area, bottarga is the tuna egg that gets washed, salted, pressed, and dried according to an ancient and long method. The result is a piece of egg that is then grated on pasta enriched with olive oil and pistachio pesto.
Something you can find in bars, bakeries, or little booths is pane cunzato, acconciato or condito in Italian, a loaf of bread filled with oil, anchovies, caciocavallo cheese, or tomatoes. It is a sort of bruschetta, where the topping is inside. Simple and delicious.
Do not forget to taste granita, a semi-frozen dessert made with water, sugar, and various ingredients like almonds, toasted almonds, pistaches, or, when in season, mulberry. You can also try the version enriched with panna, which is whipped cream. It is a nice way to enjoy your morning coffee, to complete a meal, or to have an afternoon snack.