Sunday, April 5, 2020

We enjoy Sicilian food and freebies

Gigantic cauliflowers are in season at the markets in Palermo.
The vendors cut off the stalks for customers. In the region around
Mt. Etna, the cauliflowers are purple.

In the months leading up to our trip to Sicily, my husband and I watch a lot of YouTube videos to get some ideas of things to do when we are there. Most videos that we watch focus on food, specifically street food. There seems to be no such thing as an inedible body part when it comes to food here. Spleen, lung, and even calf penis are served up on rolls at the street markets and can be seen in butcher cases. Personally, I wouldn't touch the stuff; I'm much happier perusing the seafood stands, although some of the offerings there are pretty gross too.

We take our panelle and panini to go in Palermo.

We're splitting a sfincione (pizza bread) for lunch today in Palermo.

Street food in Palermo isn't confined to the open air markets. Food trucks dot the city, and the cuisine can be found in restaurants too. My favorites: panelle (chickpea fritters), arancini (fried rice balls), and any pastry stuffed with ricotta. Since our return to France I have mastered arancini and will soon give panelle a try. Since I'm not a great pastry chef, I suppose ricotta pastries will be just a sweet memory until my next trip to Italy.

This aranchini (fried rice ball) is oozing with fresh mozzarella.

Just after arriving in Palermo we have our first lunch at the Mercado del Capo.
Our selection includes an artichoke, a mushroom, and a slice of eggplant.

Another memorable food discovery is the many ways to enjoy pistachios. The little nuts abound here, and in addition to just munching on them, they can be served up on pasta or pizza, or crushed into cream. Despite usually preferring my coffee unsweetened, our server at our neighborhood caffè insists that I try an espresso with a dollop of sweet pistachio cream. Amazing!

On our last night in Palermo, I have a pizza topped with pistachio pesto.

On our last night in Palermo, Ken has his own pizza, but I can't remember
what it's topped with. I do remember that both pizzas were delicious.

And then there's the gelato. Ken likes his stuffed into a brioche roll. I prefer a small cup. On our evening walks, I tuck a small spoon in my pocket so I won't have to use a plastic one. One particular gelato server gets a real kick out of this. We stop in on one of our last days in Palermo and order an apero spritz instead of our usual ice cream. He asks if I would prefer mine served in a glass or plastic cup. (I wish I had brought my own glass ... it would have given him a story to tell his friends for years.)

This cannolo, garnished with pistachios and a candied orange slice,
is made by nuns at I Segreti del choiostro (the secrets of the cloister) in Palermo.

Martorana fruit (marzipan) is another specialty at I Segreti del choiostro in Palermo.

During our month as Palermitani, our daily routine starts with a walk and a visit to a caffè for a coffee and sweet. In the afternoon we scope out lunch, usually some sort of panini (sandwich). We quickly realize that in Italy, a coperto (cover charge) of a euro or two per person is often charged if you dine in, so we take our food to go most of the time. While in Palermo, we cook dinner in our apartment. However, during our week in Catania we treat ourselves to dinner out and find a couple of great restaurants nearby that we eat at more than once.

This lovely surprise at Trattoria Da Peppino caps off a terrific meal.

One restaurant that we pick because it is close to our apartment is Trattoria Da Peppino, a very traditional place that we fall in love with. First of all, the owner indulges our propensity to eat before 8 p.m.. After enjoying a very good meal including dessert, the waiter surprises us with a tray of cookies, candies, and digestifs of our choice. Of course, we return the next evening.

We walk 6 km to the outer reaches of Palermo to visit Casina Cinese,
the summer residence of Ferdinand I and his wife Maria Carolina
during their exile in Sicily. The "little Chinese palace" is the city's
oldest example of eclectic architecture.

I pride myself on finding free places to visit when we're lucky enough to spend an extended time in a city, as we did in Palermo. I'll describe them in the captions that follow.

A mural at Casina Cinese is one of the delightful details found inside this
18th-century mansion in Palermo.

Upon arrival at City Hall, we are greeted by a guide who gives us a free tour
of the the Palazzo Pretorio, the seat of Palermo's government. 

The clock at Palazzo Pretorio (Palermo's City Hall) came from Paris in 1864
and was recently restored.

Completed in 1902, Villino Florio all'Olivuzza in Palermo is an Art Nouveau
mansion that offers free tours. The wooden ceiling over the staircase is
just one of the house's fine architectural details.

Our tour guide at Villino Florio in Palermo escorts us to the mansion's rooftop
terrace where she invites us to take all the time we want to enjoy the view.

The No Mafia Memorial is a museum in Palermo dedicated to showing visitors,
mostly through photographs, Sicily's complex relationship with this criminal element.

The Siracusa area is the only place in Europe in which the papyrus plant
naturally grows, We spot the plant while on a tour of Ortigia and Syracuse.

I hope you've enjoyed this series on our trip to Sicily. I am writing this post at a time when travel is impossible. We may need to stay at home during this time of COVID-19, but it doesn't stop us from dreaming of our next adventure.