I spent this morning tying up loose ends for my trip to Sicily tomorrow. I am going there with a small group of travelers on a 9-day tour of the island with Maine Public Radio. I have never been to Italy and it will be my first solo overseas adventure. The grind of international travel no longer appeals to my husband. After lots of incredible trips to places like the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar, Peru, Japan, Norway and Africa he has decided he would rather stay home, take care of our elderly pup, and try to take in a few bird walks with the local Audubon group. I have tried to encourage him to change his mind but to no avail. And actually, I won’t be alone once I arrive in Palermo where I will meet up with the rest of the tour group. But it will be a long day as I need to catch a bus from Bangor to Boston Logan Airport and then catch an overnight flight to Rome before making the connecting flight to Siciy. I will leave home around noon and arrive at the hotel in Palermo around 7:30 PM the following day.
Many people think of Sicily as the home of the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Crime Syndicate in Italy. And, of course, they would be correct. But there is so much more to Sicily. In fact, the mafia is a relative newcomer to this island that has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Germans, Spanish, and even British have ruled it for a time. In fact, Sicily only became a part of Italy in 1861. It is now one of five autonomous regions that make up modern Italy. With the infuence of so many different ethnic groups I imagine there is a cacophany of architectural styles, cultural influences, cuisines and traditions. A bit of a melting pot as it were. It should be interesting to see whether they actually blend together or maintain unique identities and/or cliques.
One of the things I am most looking forward to is tasting the variety of iconic Sicilian food that comes from having an island with such a rich gene pool. In addition to the expected culinary treats that immediatly come to mind, like pizza, pasta, and cannoli, it should not be surprising that seafood plays an important role in Sicilian cuisine. Capers, tomatoes, olives and aubergines (aka eggplant) are all grown on the island. In Sicily, pesto is made with almonds and tomatoes. For deserts there is granite, a sort of shaved ice made most often with lemon or mulberry fruits and creamy gelato and pistachios grown on the island. Not to mention great wines and the Italian liqueuer lemoncello. If I am not careful I may come back with a few extra pounds but with no regrets.
I am sorry that my husband will not be along for the wonderful ride, but I am looking forward to experiencing this unique island region of Italy. The rich history, beautiful beaches, varity of cultures, delicious foods and even an active volcano, Mt. Etna, should all contribute to an unforgetable first visit to southern Europe.