Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vineyards, Mountains and Seascapes

Part 2 of my Adventures in Sicily will focus on the dramatically beautiful scenery of this Mediterranean island. Imagine mountains, mountains everywhere, dominated by the largest volcano in Europe – Mt. Etna. In between were hillsides dotted with sheep and spring wildflowers, rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, farms, endless vineyards, and groves of olive, almond, lemon and blood orange trees. (Photo at right shows an almond tree branch.) In the Trapani region, I got to see a combination manmade/Godmade wonder – the salt flats.

I’ll start with the seaside village of Cefalu and move southward. Notice the village’s rocky coast and gorgeous color of the water. At right, Cefalu’s lovely beach, with waterfront houses in the background.

Moving south, we go to Erice, the mountaintop village mentioned in the previous blog. A winding road led us to the Erice.

By the way, if you visit Sicily, aim for spring or autumn. Summer temps easily hover over a hundred degrees (sometimes nearing 120). Not pleasant conditions for exploring!

In Segesta, I took pics of the flora and fauna around the famous Temple of Segesta. The cactus seen here grows in abundance throughout Sicily, sometimes on the roofs of farm buildings!

Vineyards aplenty! In spring they look rather naked, having not yet emerged from winter hibernation. By fall these fields will be thick with leafy vines and heavy with grapes. Sicily’s fertile soil makes it one of the foremost areas for growing wine grapes.
Sheep! Gotta love ‘em! We had to stop our tour van as a shepherd lead his flock across a country road.

I’ll conclude with this view of the Ionian Sea, taken from the Greek Theater in Taormina. More about the Greek Theater and Taormina in my final Sicily post, along with Mt. Etna, the salt flats and the Valley of Temples.

Today’s recipe:
This traditional and delectable Sicilian dessert consists of a crispy pastry shell filled with sweetened ricotta cheese. The ends are often dipped in crushed pistachios or shaved chocolate. In Sicily, the shells are usually displayed empty on bakery shelves, then filled upon request. The Palermo bakery in the photo at right was an exception.
You can make your own shells, but it’s a lot easier to buy them at an Italian bakery and use the following recipe to fill them.
Cannoli Filling

2 pounds of drained ricotta cheese
1 ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients together until well blended and smooth. Fill a piping bag with the filling. Pipe each shell full with the filling. For extra flavor, dip each end of the cannoli into crushed pistachio nuts or shaved semi-sweet chocolate. Dust with powdered sugar.


  1. Would love to go there. My maternal grandparents were from
    Catania and Palermo. Sounds like a wonderful trip.

  2. My sister in law makes pizelles to wrap her cannoli filling in.
    Those photos look fantastic!

  3. Linda, I love cannolis too! Kathleen, I hope you get a chance to go. It truly makes you realize how differently people live in other parts of the world. Amy, the pizelle idea is fantastic -- I bet they are delicious! My mother used to make cream puffs with cannoli filling -- they were great.