Looking in from the outside, my life and work may appear glamorous. I have lived in Italy for 11 years and counting. What started out as a dream of retiring to Italy changed into creating a new life in Rome years before retirement. I left a financially comfortable life behind. A life which was full of stuff. Time spent in Italy has changed me into a person who happily lives with less things. Life is lighter.
I try to live my life by this quote “collect moments, not things.” – anonymous. Moments are irreplaceable and unique. They will never be repeated again. I am forever grateful for the photo above of Dad, me and Mom in Noto, Sicily during an epic family trip. I remember it like it was yesterday.
So it’s no surprise that my favorite part of work happens when I collect moments. Moments from research trips that bring me to both familiar and new places to discover new experiences for Casa Mia clients, family and friends. Road trips rekindle my dreams and nourish my soul. Memories from these trips carry me through the seemingly endless hours working on the administrative part of our Italy based venture. The topic of our Italy based venture deserves its own blog series.
Sicily is a place where I reconnect with mother earth touching soil in vineyards, walking amongst gardens and drowning in sea air. Sicily is where I reconnect with friends that I have made over a decade. She is also an island with layers to un-peel. With every visit, I meet new people and ideas are sparked. My recent research trip to Sicily lasted 14 days too little.
Here are 10 of my favorite moments from my latest adventure in Sicily, in no particular order.
- Driving around the island with co-pilots Linda and Carolyn
- Falling in love with Catania, her famous fish market, street food, people and her pulse. We attended the Festa di San’Agata which is an incredibly moving celebration of San’Agata, the patron saint of Catania. The festival occurs from February 3 through the 5th and the Saint reappears on August 17 annually. The city teems with strong emotions which heighten over three days dedicated to the Saint who is referred to as “Santuzza” by locals.
- Visiting the Vendicari nature reserve in the winter. Positioned in the southeast of Sicily, the Reserve is home to a number of lagoons, dunes, rocky shorelines, and unspoiled sandy beaches reachable only by foot. Migrating birds stop here on their trip to and from Africa. In the fall, flamingos, herons and cormorants are seen and in the winter mallards and pintails set up camp.
- A 6-hour roundtrip road trip from Scicli to Agrigento to visit Gueli, a natural wine maker. Visiting Gueli was a personal mission shared by my co-pilot Linda. I tasted Gueli’s signature Nero d’Avola wines a few years ago and was struck by their freshness, minerality and balance. Should you decide to visit Gueli, I recommend staying nearby in Agrigento rather than taking the very long and scenic route that we did.
- Visiting 3 cheesemakers in the provinces of Siracusa, Enna and Ragusa and tasting the result. We tasted our weight in sheep’s milk and cow’s milk cheese in three Sicilian provinces meeting the animals and people responsible for transforming milk into the end product. I can’t wait for friends and clients to experience this.
- Spending a day with friends at their home in the province of Siracusa where we learned how to make stuffed pizza, and tomasini which are pictured below. What started out as a bbq Sunday lunch turned into dinner. This is true Sicilian hospitality.
- Walking through the new vineyards of Vini Scirto
- Cooking lessons in Catania and around Mount Etna
- Being a guest of Chef Mario at Piazza Dei Mestieri for lunch. Mario’s students welcomed us with a speech before preparing and serving us pasta, a side dish and dessert. The foundation owes much of its success to Mario who shares his joy of cooking with his students and his immense support for each individual student.
- Seeing Piazza Armerina for the first time. Pictures do no justice to the stunning Piazza and the Villa Romana del Casale which belonged to a powerful Roman family and dates back to the 4th century AD. The elaborate villa was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Gina Tringali – food lover, certified sommelier, coffee connoisseur, and passionate home cook – is a successful freelance food and travel writer and blogger based between Rome and Southern Italy. She is committed to discovering and sharing with fellow food enthusiasts Italy’s best culinary and wine experiences.