The Sicily List: Part II

As promised, following my Sicily List: Part I, here’s Part II: Mount Etna and Ortigia. While we spent most of the time around Noto and Ragusa, Marco had his heart set on visiting Mount Etna’s wine region.

Sicily Buccellati pastryEtna - Tenuta delle Terre Nere

We made a break there for the day (a two hour drive up the east coast) to meet the folk at the winery Tenuta delle Terre Nere. I highly recommend visiting at least one winery in this area (Girolamo Russo, Alice Bonaccorsi and Frank Cornelissen would be other great wineries to see) to get some more understanding of this absolutely fascinating wine region, which sits on the slopes of an active volcano (this Food & Wine article, I thought, really describes it well, all the insanity, the intensity, the passion of the people who make wine here).

The town of Piedimonte, which is, as its name suggests, at the foot of the mountain, is a picturesque spot and don’t leave without loading up the car with some pistachio-laden sweets at the local pastry shop. Even just the drive up there was beautiful.

Ortigia MarketOrtigia market

Along the way we passed Siracusa, which I had been wanting to visit to see Ortigia and its charmer of a market. A good market always helps sort things out when you’re in a food funk, which we had been in up until now. It’s a relatively small but absolutely lovely market with the freshest fish and local produce like Etna’s pistachios and Noto’s almonds, Paterno’s prickly pears and citrus from Catania. Mostarda in its round blocks, sometimes embossed, were sold in many forms here – quince, prickly pear and grape must.

The fish was beautiful – baby bream no bigger than the palm of my hand, huge, silvery spatola fish and tonnetti, or bonito. Hunks of tuna and swordfish. Small shimmery red mullet. All of it sung about by the fishermen, yelling from stall to stall about their goods. This is where I began to see the food I was hoping Sicily would show me. And of course it’s a photographer’s paradise.

OrtigiaOrtigia Fish MarketOrtigia Fish MarketOrtigia Market

We passed by the famous cheese man, Andrea Borderi – you couldn’t miss him, a crowd was gathering around him as he charmed everyone who stopped by with his smile and his witty banter. “Is that your sister?” He asked a young girl of her mother. An oldie but a goodie. They were hooked.

He looked at me. “How are you?” he asked, “Good,” I replied. “See if this makes you feel even better,” he said, handing me a generous slice of panino that he had been preparing with a bit of this and that. It did indeed.

Another man was preparing a plate of Borderi’s artisan smoked mozzarella, he squeezed lemon juice over it and scattered chopped parsley over it and handed it out. Exquisite. You might also want to try the tricotta, that’s right, it’s not just twice-cooked, it’s thrice-cooked.

Ortigia "Tricotta"Ortigia CapperiOrtigia Market street foodOrtigia bookshop

Strolling the market at Ortigia was well worth a day trip just for that and I have this feeling that we should have stayed a lot longer in this area to get the most of it. Or we’ll just have to come back.

Ortigia Piazza Duomo

The short list of our favourites in Etna and Ortigia:

The pretty town of Piedimonte at the foot of Mount Etna — and the views as you drive up to Passopisciaro

A glass of Nerello Mascalese, which is native to Etna and is sometimes described as the “pinot noir of Sicily”

A stroll around Siracusa’s old town, Ortigia, to the elegant white Piazza Duomo — go through picturesque Via Cavour to get there and treat yourself to a granita at Gran Caffe del Duomo

Cheese, panini and smiles at Caseficio Borderi in the Ortigia market

The prettiest platter of salumi ever (shared between two with a glass of wine each made for an excellent lunch) at Fratelli Burgio (next door to Borderi) at the Ortigia market

Market goodies to take home like pistachios from Etna and fresh carob pods, to be broken open and chewed on as a rustic, chocolately natural sweet. And what to do with that massive bag of pistachios that I brought home? Sicilian pistachio pasticcini (bite sized cookies) are so easy to make — they’re gluten free and you can whip them up and bake them all in 20 minutes (if you don’t make the same mistake I did) — my recipe is here on Food52.

For some more Sicily inspiration, take a look at these other bloggers’ posts too:

Prepare yourself for severe holiday lust (and for wanting to visit Sicily in the hot summer months) with Valeria’s highly photogenic and envy-inducing post on her Tour of Sicily.

While we didn’t stay long enough in town to eat (other than lunch at the market), I did like the look of Heidi’s suggestions for Ortigia Eats.

For absolutely dreamy Sicilian cooking and food writing, look no further than Fabrizia Lanza’s inspiring Case Vecchie — Rachel (describes What is it Like (plus a recipe for lemon glazed taralli). Oh and don’t miss her recent Kitchen Sink Tales with orange recipes inspired by Sicilian citrus groves.

See Part I of the Sicily List here!



  1. Carmen Pricone says:

    Lovely post Emiko. This will have to be my next visit to Italy. My husbands family are from Sicily and I have never been. Will have to make it a family holiday. X

  2. Lovely photos. Your post makes me long for a return visit.

  3. Lori Chisholm says:

    Three girlfriends are renting a sea-view apartment in Ortigia for 10 days in April. Can’t wait to get back there to spend some quality time at the market and to enjoy another cooking class with Fiora. Your gorgeous photos, Emiko, are just making the anticipation that much better. Thanks for the winery suggestions. Congratulations on the blog win!

  4. S. says:

    your next stop should be malta…only a short trip away from sicily…

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Oh I have been to Malta (Valletta and Gozo) and absolutely loved it! My now husband and I took our very first holiday there together so it is very close to my heart! But I think a return visit is needed 😉

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