The Wine Trails of Sicily Through Culture and the Arts of Pleasure part II



trinacria bella how sicily was born


 The Wine Trails of Sicily Through Culture and the Arts of Pleasure  part II



ERICE DOC logoMarsala banner wine 2013ALCAMO DOC logologo_strada_del_vino_val_di_mazara





  Proceeding west from Palermo, you’ll reach the Alcamo D.O.C. trail, which includes Erice D.O.C. as well as the world-renowned Marsala (Lands of the West and Val di Mazara). Meals enjoyed along the Sicilian west coast, whether procured in one of the area’s award winning slow food establishments, a local trattoria, or, better yet. a welcoming Sicilian home, will undoubtedly allow you the opportunity to experience the famous “Nocellara del Belice” and “Biancolillaextra virgin olive oils.



 Read more about Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Produce >>





A bit tangential to this road, but not too far out of the way, beyond the town of Castellammare Del Golfo, and after enjoying some fabulous hot cassatelle di ricotta, a local specialty (one is never enough), you arrive at San Vito Lo Capo, voted the world’s most beautiful beach of 2012, by users of Each year, San Vito Lo Capo celebrates the Couscous Fest, the international festival of this ancient dish that also represents an important appointment for the cultural integration, involving chefs and musicians from all parts of the euro-Mediterranean area and beyond in it’s festive celebration of historical foods and local wines. The next edition of the event is to be held in San Vito Lo Capo between the 24th and 29th of September 2013




Cuscus di pesce San Vito photo by Valeria Casale 400pxCassatelle di Castellammare by VRC copy 2Sicilian white Grillo by VRC  copy Castellammare del Golfo TP by Vanvakys copy









 SicilyWine Vineyard _2 small copy 2The area of Trapani is the most extensive contiguous vineyard territory in Italy, and truly an area to savor mile by mile, from the beautiful medieval city of Erice (do not forget to taste the their special and authentic marzipan), to the salt marshes (first developed by the Phoenicians) of



Trapani, the Museum of Salt, and the antique windmills and SatiroDanzante1wild bird population of the area. Mothia Island (with its famous “Young Auriga”,or best know as  the“Mozia Charioteer,” the only remaining clothed Greek statue, attributed to the famous sculptor, Fidia) faces Trapani from its position in the Stagnone LagoonMarsala, with its eponymous wine, picturesque lungomare (coastline promenade) and unique specimen, the “Punic Ship” (la Nave Punica) of Museum Baglio Anselmi, is a “must”.




Stagnone birds in Marsala copy 3

If have additional time to spend in the area, we highly suggest a visit to the Aegadian Islands, a small archipelago where fishing and the cultivation of wines and grains take center stage.



Mazara by night vanvakys copy

Moving toward the southwest direction toward the peaceful coastal city of Mazara del Vallo, one arrives at the home of Europe’s largest fishing fleet as well as the Dancing Satyr of Mazara, a Roman sculpture fished out of the Mediterranean Sea and recently exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of New York.



Last but not least, in the same area, the unique modern city of Gibellina Nuova, conceived in 1968 after the terrible earthquake that struck the Belice Valley on the night of January 15, 1968 and affected 10 townships. 


Gibellina Nuova: from natural disaster to the “Dream in Progress” and a ruthless fate Sen. Corrao & Judy Rozner May 2009_3Senator Ludovico Corrao, then-Mayor of Gibellina, at the wanted to keep the tight knit community together and set out to build a new town 20 km away at Salinella on a plane in the Belice Valley. The plan for Gibellina Nuova was complete with freeway and railway access. Prestigious city planners, architects and top international artists were called in to contribute to the “Dream in Progress”. They created a town with wide streets, single two-story dwellings surrounded by gardens, piazzas, public gardens, and buildings of postmodern architecture. Modern sculptures, adorn every piazza and road junction, were gifted by artists. Their generous contributions filled a Modern Art Museum befitting a metropolis. Unfortunately, the so-called “living museum” has been nearly abandoned by the authorities for lack of proper funding. The willingness of local employees to keep it running and available to the international community of artists, art scholars and historians who travel thousands of miles around the world to visit is testament to just how precious it is Alberto Burri’s Cretto: the largest sculpture in the world. 


Case Di Stefano 1Gibellina Museum 4 copy 3 Museo delle Arti Mediterranee. A. Pomodoro The Ctretto Burri May 09_11








Prominent artist Alberto Burri traveled to Gibellina, Sicily from his native Umbria at the invitation of Ludovico Corrao, and this visit culminated in a most incredible sculpture. Burri, who worked as a medic during WWII and was eventually captured and held in USA, became an artist during his imprisonment. His signature methods of incorporating non-traditional materials such as wood and plastics in his sculptures and paintings, as well as his “cracked” style, laid the foundation for what was to become his most well-known creation: The Cretto of Old Gibellina spreads over 29 acres and covers the ruins of the abandoned city with a smooth white concrete, turning an area of devastation into a new and unique work of topographic land art, believed to be the largest sculpture in the world. (Thank you to Dr. Judy Rozner for her expert contribution on Alberto Burri’s Cretto).

stock-photo-copyright-symbol-as-a-wax-seal-80699464The Wine Trails of Sicily Through Culture and the Arts of Pleasure

by Salvatore Cottone New York, July 2013

CottoneTranslation and editing by www.OnpointTranslation 

Continue reading READ PART III>>> 




Ruggero II incoronated MonrealecopyThe Normans, or men from the north, arrived in Sicily at about the year 1060. They came armed for battle, and determined to conquer a new kingdom. Rough and uncultured, the Normans found themselves facing a much more evolved and culturally diverse population.

 Frederik II, also known as “Stupor Mundi”, (“Wonder of the World”) of the Hohenstaufen family, and a direct descendant of Federico Barbarossa (Redbeard), settled in Palermo, effectively making that city the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. A man of science, and a lover of poetry (he founded the Sicilian School of Poetry 1230-1260 as one of his first attempts at unifying the “vulgar Italian” languages), Federico II was tolerant, and open to diverse cultural and religious experiences. Indeed, it was he, who, for the first time during the Middle Ages, founded a strongly centralized, secular state. 


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The culturally eclectic sovereign loved to surround himself with both Western and Arabic academics, poets, and Jewish counselors, and, most of all, beautiful women, in keeping with Sheikh and Emirate tradition that ruled over various cities within the Sicilian kingdoms.

This  was a period of great prosperity and peace for Sicily and its inhabitants.

It is said that Federico’s culinary curiosity and experimentation led to the discovery of “agro-dolce”, or, “sweet and sour“, as it is called in English.


 vino bianco Alcamo editedThe agro-dolce usually consists of a sauce made with vinegar, sugar and onions, which is often used as a condiment to fried fish, and for which Frederik II was a glutton. He loved “Bianco d’Alcamo”wine.

This same sauce, with the addition of fried eggplant, capers and olives (the tomato arrived from America during the XVI century) was used to compliment capon and other poultry. The poor, however, who could rarely afford meat, were left only with the vegetable portion, and so caponata was born.

Ann Stutch, musician, world traveler, and lover of Sicily, offers some insight into the early days of caponata:

“Eggplant was first cultivated in India as long as 4,000 years ago, but was unknown in other parts of the world. The Arabs knew eggplant, and when they conquered Sicily in 831 A.D., they introduced many vegetables  to the island, where it flourished and finally became indigenous. Caponata originated as seagoing fare. It was known as the mariner’s breakfast, since it keeps well because the vinegar acts as a preservative. It then became known as “inn food“. The word, caponata, derives from the Latin word caupo, which means tavern or inn. The sweet and sour taste of the dish comes directly from the Arabs, as does the use of raisins. When the Arabs conquered Sicily, they saw an island covered with vineyards that had produced wine for millennia. They were Muslim and could not drink alcohol. So they picked the grapes, dried them in the sun and used them for cooking. Thus we have raisins.”


Caponata.Siciliana  copy small


It was around this time (900-1200 A.D.) when Sicilians began producing large quantities of white wine, particularly in the region between Palermo and Trapani. White wine was drunk cool and in its pure form. An optimal refreshment during the summer heat, white wine became the preferred beverage for travelers on horseback, who journeyed long distances at a time and rested overnight at caravansaries, or Arab-style inns that could accommodate caravans in their large courtyards.


FREDERIK II and how to eat Ricotta

ricotta cheese big copyAccording to Mr. Wright, one of the earliest mentions or depictions of ricotta is related to Sicily:“Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily, writes that during the reign of the Sicilian king Frederick II, in the early 13th century, the king and his hunting party came across the hut of a dairy farmer making ricotta and, being ravenous, asked for some. Frederick  pulled out his bread loaf, poured the hot ricotta and whey on top and advised his retinue that : “cu’ non mancia ccu’ so’ cucchiaru lassa tutto ‘o zammataru” (those who don’t eat with his own spoon will leave all their ricotta behind).

Cannoli Palermitani by VRC copy”The first depiction of the making of ricotta is an illustration in the medical treatise known as the “Tacuinum sanitatis” (medieval health handbook), the Latin translation of the Arab physician Ibn Butlan’s eleventh century “Taqwim al-sihha.”From sweetened ricotta put over cuccia (a wheat berry pudding eaten on St. Lucy’s Day)or piped into cannoli, to ricotta salata grated over pasta (an aged, salted form of ricotta where the curds pressed in wicker baskets to drain and solidify), ricotta is omnipresent in Sicilian cuisine today. As far as how the Normans might have been served ricotta,looking at what Sicily produced, it might have been as simple as ricotta mixed with the island’s incomparable honey and sprinkled with almonds and pistachios.