After our last night in Siracusa, we sadly bid farewell to the magical island of Ortigia and headed north along the coast, with Mt. Etna looming in front of us, back to the ferry that brought is over. But first, we can’t possibly pass by the city of Catania without introducing everyone to their market!
This daily market is one of the largest in Italy and is a cacophony of sounds, sights and smells, filling up multiple city blocks. The first, and maybe the most impressive section we enter is the seafood, with huge swordfish, swimming eels, squid, cuttlefish, sea urchin, and just about any fish you can imagine! Shouting vendors, splashing water, the red awnings – all add to the experience. Our travelers begin branching off down the different pathways to explore, while we gather ingredients for tonight’s dinner. We have a list, but it’s easy to get distracted by all the market’s offerings (pancetta-wrapped spring onions?? Definitely!)!
We meet up with the group and lead them to an unassuming storefront surrounded by scaffolding and into a “tavola calda” – literally translated to “Hot table.” If our group didn’t fully trust us by now, this meal has made them all believers! The Mama and her son begin inundating us with plates of baked pasta, filled breads and flaky savory pastries, and the reason for our visit – arancini. Fried rice balls the size of a large fist, filled with a beef ragu, or spinach, or some with cheese and peas. With everyone sufficiently stuffed, we load up the vans and ferry back to Calabria, arriving in the early evening to our beautiful hotel in Soverato, overlooking the Ionian Sea.
This is always one of our favorite evenings of the trip, where everyone joins us in the kitchen and pitches in to help prep with all of our delicious market ingredients. Music is playing, wine is flowing, and our travelers are slicing salame and cheese, dicing strawberries, cleaning mussels and snails, and some are helping by just supervising all of the activity! We have the dining room at the hotel all to ourselves to enjoy the antipasti of meats, cheeses & olives, the shrimp, snails, onion frittata, and those spring onions. The primi of pasta with mussels and clams was then followed by our favorite insalate di arancia and whole fish baked & served by Chef Dave. Dessert was a pastry covered with lemon whipped cream and strawberries, and then some travelers shared the special liqueurs they’ve collected along the way including a chocolate pepperoncino that had people licking the glass! It was a special evening for everyone!