Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!
If you were here you would have spent the morning walking through teeming stalls of the Ballerò, Palermo’s loud and lively street market. Fish are delivered straight from the boat and every type of vegetable grown under the Sicilian sun is artfully displayed creating a panorama of brilliant color. Delicacies of the season abound with their praises extolled, screeched or sung at full volume by proud and fiercely competitive vendors. Eels squirm in plastic bins; butchered animals hang from hooks and the squeamish among us avert their eyes and focus on mountains of ruby red tomatoes and deep purple eggplant that proliferate on each aisle.
This is a typical day on a Viking Life culinary adventure where we experience first-hand the cuisine of a region from its historic beginnings. This week we taste the past, present and future of Sicily, the mysterious and strategic island that has been host to a long line of invaders. The island was inhabited well before the arrival of the Phoenicians around 1200 BC and successively imprinted by the ruling Greeks, Romans, Tunisian Berbers, Normans, German Swabians, Angevin French, Aragonese, Spanish and Italians. Each left a mark on the flavors and aromas of modern Sicilian cuisine.
Exiting the market with a refreshing cup of peach gelato in hand, you’d leave behind the ancient narrow, noisy, congested streets of Palermo and head for the hills with our group of ten culinary adventurers. Next stop is the winery of Francesco and Manfredi Guccione who practice biodynamic cultivation on their historic family property. As soon as you arrive, you feel an almost religious atmosphere. Each vine, stone, plant and insect seem to have an important role in the cultivation and vinification of the grapes. After tasting their delicate wines, we wind our way through the hills to Francesco’s 17th century farmhouse where he has prepared lunch – fresh figs, meatballs, frittata, pasta “norma” with tomatoes and eggplant, salumi, local cheeses and of course, his wines. Francesco tells us he was cooking till 1:00 this morning and was on the phone with his grandmother who coached him on the finer points of the old family recipes. It is a picture perfect day for a rustic Sicilian luncheon in a setting we thought only existed in our dreams or in movies.
We reluctantly bid “arrividerci” to Francesco as we are reminded by Elaine Trigiani, our leader and culinary educator, that we have “miles to go before we sleep.” And we do. The van is quiet as heads nod and drop into wine-infused afternoon naps. We roll through hill towns and villages making our way back to our hotel perched dramatically in the middle of a hillside vineyard near Menfi. Back at the hotel, we relax for a couple of hours then gather for our next epicurean adventure – a cooking class with noted chef Angelo Pumillia. Our day ends in the spacious kitchen of La Foresteria, our hotel, with a class on “noble cuisine” followed by dinner on the vineyard terrace under the light of the Sicilian moon with a balmy Mediterranean breeze blowing through the vineyards. We'll wake tomorrow morning to the sounds of workers harvesting grapes and the sun's rays dancing on the sea below us. And we'll head off again -- to eat, drink, learn and celebrate the bounty of this magical island.
This is Viking Range. This is the Viking Life. And this is what we do.
For more information on Viking Life trips visit: www.thevikinglife.com
To see more photographs from our day in Sicily visit: http://on.fb.me/pLsN9q