Sicily food holidays

The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world – it’s all that lovely olive oil. But who are we kidding, even if the experts said it was appallingly bad for us, when it tastes this good we’d still be wolfing it down. And on the island of Sicily, with its unique culture born from centuries of conquest by the Romans, the Greeks and the Arabs among others, you will taste some of the most decadent Mediterranean cuisine of all.
Italians have a proverb: ‘A tavola non si invecchia’ meaning ‘At the table one does not age’. Meals are meant to be shared, and only when they are do the full flavours come out. In Sicily there is always the temptation to simply follow your nose and that will probably get you so far, but when you join others on a guided small group tour, you’ll be led to the very finest producers, restaurants, markets and street food stalls well beyond the tourist trail, with the added pleasure of discovering traditional and modern Sicilian delicacies alongside likeminded foodie travellers.

Arancini con i piedi

A term often affectionately bandied around by Sicilians is arancini con i piedi. Loosely translated as ‘rice balls with feet’, it describes people whose waistbands demonstrate an enthusiastic appetite. You might not fit the description (though you may well do by the end of your trip) but you’ll certainly want a healthy appetite for a food tour of Sicily. You will sample the wares at food shops run by the same families for generations; learn how ricotta is handmade when you visit a cheese farm; dip bread into bowls of organic olive oil and sniff the heavenly aromas of regional produce in lively markets. You might take a hands-on cookery class with a local chef, then sip aperitivos in a beautiful piazza before searching out a restaurant for dinner.

A typical week-long tour will take a circular route around the island, pausing in renowned culinary destinations including Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa, Catania and Taormina. You’ll be supporting traditional enterprises and family run local businesses, all the while learning more about the intoxicating fusion of cultures and ingredients that, over the centuries, has created Sicily’s delicious and diverse cuisine. In between meals and along the way, you’ll discover the heritage, wild landscapes and unique atmosphere of Sicily, too – every town has some historic architecture to admire and a tasty foodie spectacle to tuck into.
You may enjoy a gourmet tasting session at the Villa del Romana, a historic Roman hunting lodge famed for its well preserved mosaics and frescoes; sip wine made from grapes grown on the fertile volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, or dive into a plate of the freshest seafood, straight from the boat, in a picturesque fishing village. Raw red prawns are a speciality here (the best are said to be those brought ashore on the west coast), dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Stuffed sardines, swordfish rolls, calamari – tummy rumbling yet? And for dessert, perhaps a granita, like a sorbet but with a rougher texture thanks to the shaved ice, or a slab of Modica’s finest chocolate, grainy and aromatic with a recipe said to descend from the Aztecs.
Andrew Appleyard from our supplier Exodus shares his personal foodie favourite:
“I’ve never had a bad meal in Mazara del Vallo in southwest Sicily. The seafood is superb and there is almost a Moroccan flavour to the food with sultanas and spices in various dishes.”

Our top Cooking & food Holiday

Sicily food holiday in Italy

Sicily food holiday in Italy

Be overwhelmed at how varied and diverse Sicily’s cuisine

From £1449 to £1719 8 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2019: 7 Apr, 21 Apr, 5 May, 12 May, 2 Jun, 16 Jun, 1 Sep, 8 Sep, 22 Sep, 6 Oct, 13 Oct, 3 Nov
2020: 12 Apr, 19 Apr, 10 May, 24 May, 14 Jun, 21 Jun, 19 Jul, 6 Sep, 13 Sep, 20 Sep, 4 Oct, 18 Oct, 8 Nov
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Hello. If you'd like to chat about Cooking & food or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

Sicilian cuisine must-taste highlights

Palermo, the Sicilian capital, regularly shows up on lists of the world’s best cities for street food, and the rest of the country is hardly shy. The foodie ethos in Palermo and beyond is as it has been for centuries – make it high in calories, low on cost – and delightfully unpretentious. Mouthwatering and occasionally pretty eccentric traditional snacks are whipped up from scratch using just a grill and a couple of battered copper pans by skilled cooks that may not speak much to you, in Sicilian, let alone English, but are happy to let their food do the talking.

Arancini

A staple of Sicilian street food, the humble Arancini is a sublime pick-me-up at any time of day. Deceptively simple to make, they are stuffed rice balls, coated with breadcrumbs and then deep fried. Fillings can range from basic ragu, to the more refined, such as shrimp with spinach. Arancini are very moreish, hence the nickname arancini con i piedi.

Babbaluci

Snails probably entered the Sicilian diet during the Arab period between the 9th and 11th centuries. Tiny snails are typically sautéed in olive oil with celery, parsley and garlic, and prized from their shells using a toothpick. You’re most likely to see them on the menu in Palermo during the summer, around the Feast of Saint Rosalie.

Caponata

Not a million miles from ratatouille, caponata is an eggplant dish that’s typically prepared with pine nuts, raisins, vinegar and capers, and served cold as a salad or side. It’s a real recipe from the ‘Old Country’ and delicious spread over crusty bread.

Panelle

Another dish with likely Arab origins, panelle are savoury fried fritters made from chickpeas, and are a very popular Palermo street food. You can eat them on their own, but they are usually served up between two slices of bread.

Pani ca Meusa

Simply, bread with veal spleen. That’s pretty much it, and the bread is there merely to help with digestion. If you’re lucky, you may also get a bit of trachea and lung in your sandwich. Many Sicilians choose to have pani ca meusa for breakfast, which must make early morning meetings interesting.

Sfincione

The classic Sicilian streetfood, sfincione is similar to pizza, but more oily, and with a thicker, spongy base. The other key difference is that sfincione is usually served and sliced in rectangles. You will find it all over the place, but always make sure to swipe a handful of paper napkins too so you can wipe the oil from your chin.

Stigghiola

For those with an adventurous palate, stigghiola is the intestines of sheep or goat, skewered and grilled. It may not sound particularly appetizing, but in Sicily it’s a big favourite. You will see carts selling it all over the place, blanketed in clouds of smoke as their grills work overtime.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Tomas Anton Escobar] [Top box: Herbert Frank] [Sea food: Brian Adamson] [Caponata: franzconde]
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