Sicilian Cooking Class
Alessia Listro is a native Sicilian who will welcome you into her home and show you the ropes around an authentic Sicilian kitchen. Our day started with a personal tour of a spectacular, open-air food market in Ortigia -- the same one Alessia ran through herself as a child. She knew everyone -- whether we were in the cheese shop, standing by the vegetable stand, tasting fresh octopus, or just walking through the street -- every local stopped to say “Ciao.” We instantly felt like family touring the streets with her, and when we walked into the cheese shop the staff quickly whipped together a tasty snack, and we used our eating time to strategize the lunch plan.
Alessia was a pro at reading her crowd; she did not menu dictate, but rather gave us the freedom to shout out our Sicilain cravings and dream dishes. She helped guide our menu creation by highlighting which ingredients were in season, and we used that as a springboard to plan. Summertime was about zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and eggplant. We sketched out a menu, finished purchasing our ingredients, and set off to the kitchen -- as in her personal kitchen -- as in a real Italian kitchen!
Her apartment was an easy 10 minute walk from downtown and we immediately got to work. We learned how to make cavatelli, tomato sauce from scratch, and how to carefully stuff zucchini flowers. After a couple hours, we sat down to a feast that included eggplant alla norma pasta with ricotta salata and fresh tomato sauce, stuffed zucchini flowers, and grilled swordfish. This was hands-down my favorite cooking class -- I learned useful techniques, but also really enjoyed the authentic experience from beginning to end.
Mt. Etna Jeep Tour
Touring the base of Mt. Etna felt as if I was walking through a movie set taking place in pre-historic times. It almost seemed possible that a dinosaur could pop out from around the corner. Cue the scene from Jurassic Park where the family somehow escapes the T-Rex in that (comparatively speaking) tiny, tiny Jeep Wrangler. Well, I was in a Jeep Wrangler.
We booked a half day (4-5 hours) excursion tour through Go-Etna Excursions. The day began with a drive along the base of the volcano. We stopped to explore areas that lava had recently passed through (eeekk), and it took the phrase "playing with fire" to a whole new level. Our guide knew his geological history, and frequently allowed us to hop out for a quick hike. Imagine a sea of black and grey charcoal, dotted with the green of new trees fighting to push through the soil -- Mother Earth always finds a way to rebuild in the most beautiful fashion.
I found a half day tour to be the volcano sweet spot, but they do offer a longer 8 hour tour as well. I would recommend it for couples, families (with older kids), adventure seekers, and anyone that loves...geology. Heads up: it is not suitable for infants/toddlers, or mommas-to-be. The jeep ride can get pretty bumpy.
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