Sicily is famous for its food, fresh and brimming with exquisite tastes, whether it be fruit, vegetables, meats, seafood or home-made pasta. The smallest village has at least a weekly market, while the bigger cities can have more than one market open 6 days a week, and most of these markets have been held at the same market stalls, often by the same families, for generations. Whenever possible during our three week stay in Sicily, we shopped at the local market and cooked our dinners with the freshest foods available. The concept of farm-to-table may be trendy in 21st century U.S., but it’s been a way of life in Sicily for centuries.
Catania, on the east coast of Sicily, is famous for its seafood. Thus it’s no surprise that its largest market, La Pescheria, revolves around seafood. A few steps from the city’s duomo (cathedral), La Pescheria is open six days a week and is crowded from early morning until mid-afternoon. While the focus is on seafood, the hundreds of stalls offer an extensive range of fruits and vegetables and meats from the local favorite, rabbit, to pork, beef and chicken — and all the by products one can imagine coming from them.
Ortigia, Siricusa Market
Ortigia, a small island now part of modern Siricusa, was one of the early Greek colonies dating to the 5th c. B.C. Daily markets have been held in roughly the same location for hundreds of years. The Ortigia market had the usual offerings of fish, meats, fruits, vegetables, dried products and general goods, but the following displays caught my eye:
Sicily’s city neighborhoods abound with small markets, from the one-room mini-mart to roadside fruit and vegetable stands. One can find them in the least expected places. The Giudecca, or old Jewish Quarter in Ortigia, originated most likely during the Roman era of Siricusa although Jews had been present during the Greeks’ earlier reign. The community was large, comprising by some accounts almost a third of the large Siricusa population. The ruins of an ancient mikveh, or ritual bath, is thought to be one of if not the oldest mikveh in Europe. We wandered the ancient streets, admiring the stone houses, many now renovated into trendy apartments or boutique hotels, but many small colorful spots caught my eye:
Palermo was our last stop in Sicily, and while, for once, we didn’t stay in an apartment with a kitchen, we still shopped at the famous Ballaro Market in the historic section of the city. After all, we had to feed our daily addiction to Sicilian oranges! While there were certainly a number of seafood stalls, the Ballaro didn’t come close to having the scope of seafood stalls and offerings of La Pescheria in Catania, but there were certainly a number of luscious fruits and vegetables to drool over.
So goodbye to Sicily’s markets, and on to Tuscany’s allures. It will be interesting to see if the street markets there can offer such a colorful and variable selection as Sicily’s!