A holiday in Sicily, and above all in Eastern Sicily, is always a magical experience. The beauty of the Sicilian landscape, Sicily’s sunshine and sea, the island’s magnificent Baroque cities and archaeological treasures all await you, but any trip to Sicily is also a chance to experience the delights of Sicilian food, especially Sicilian cakes and desserts: an extraordinary cornucopia of culinary pleasures!
It all begins the minute you land at Catania’s Fontana Rossa airport. Make your very first stop Caffé Parisi, just outside the airport, where you will find the most beautiful “Frutta Martorana” imaginable. Martorana fruits, or marzipan fruits, are traditional Sicilian sweets or candies made of almond paste, the ancient Sicilian name for which was “Pasta Reale” (royal paste). These beautiful traditional sweets are made with Sicilian almond flour and hand-painted with natural food dyes. True works of art, they were originally made by the Benedictine nuns of the Martorana convent in Palermo, which is why, even today, they are still known, island-wide, as Frutta Martorana.
Tasting Sicilian cakes and desserts is a bit like travelling back in time. In fact, all of the sweets, cakes and Sicilian puddings that I mention here are part of a very ancient tradition: they have been made (and eaten!) for centuries and, above all, form part of a rich cultural heritage that has been influenced by periods of Norman, Arab and Spanish dominion. But any journey through Sicily’s culinary history should be leisurely, a pleasure to be savoured one step at a time. So, our next stop is Ortigia.
An early-morning stroll through the streets of Ortigia is a joy everyone should experience at least once in their lives. First thing in the morning, Ortigia is at her very best: the silence of the slowly waking city, the morning light and the majesty of her aristocratic palaces and churches are an unforgettable combination, and the very best way to start your day here is with a cappuccino and a freshly made fried ricotta raviola (ask for “raviola di ricotta”), the typical Syracusan delicacy made with sweetened sheep’s ricotta. In our opinion, the very best raviolas are to be found at Ortiga’s Caffè Marciante, in Via Landolina. Sit outside to eat (the café only has two outside tables!), and enjoy the view of Piazza del Duomo: a glorious backdrop for your morning coffee.
On your way back from Ortigia to Tenuta Cammarana, stop to explore Noto and admire the city’s world-famous beauties. In front of Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata, take a seat at Caffe Sicilia and enjoy a “granita di frutta” or a “cassatina”. These desserts offer a true taste of the authentic Sicily… the world of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Noto is only a few miles from Tenuta Cammarana, but every town and village you pass through on your way will welcome you with its friendly cafés and a selection of traditional sweets, cakes and Sicilian desserts that change with the passing of the seasons and are often associated with particular feast days, both pagan and religious. The use of local produce, the extraordinary quality of the local products, and recipes handed down from generation to generation are just some of the secret ingredients that make the cakes and desserts of Sicily so unique.
I will stop here for today – otherwise there’s a risk you’ll overindulge on Sicily’s feast of sweet delights! But keep an eye out for future posts when I will talk about some of the traditional local desserts and cakes typical of the area between Noto and Tenuta Cammarana.
(Until next time…!)