Just across the bridge from the city of Siracusa lies Sicily’s little southern gem: the island of Ortigia. The architecture in Piazza del Duomo, the charming narrow streets, the city’s rich Greek history, and hidden artwork are not to be missed. If visiting on the weekend and hungry for dining options, you may wonder what’s open on Sunday in Ortigia…
If you’re not in church or at mamma’s house for lunch, what is there to do on a Sunday morning in Sicily? If you are in Ortigia, we have the answer right here: check out the farmers market. After many trips to the outdoor food market in Ortigia, we discovered that the best treasures were actually sold on Sundays in the “farmers market”. This is not the larger typical street market, open on most week days with produce/fish stands, wooden crates filled with candied fruit, nuts and sun-dried tomatoes, or the caseificio with men stuffing deli sandwiches to the size of your head. We’re talking about the Mercato del Contadino, a farmers market located inside the Antico Mercato building on Via Trento just across from the Temple of Apollo in Ortigia. This special market is open only on Sundays from 8AM-2PM throughout most of the year, with a short break during summertime.
In this market, you can buy specialty ingredients directly from the producers. Many of the vendors sell organic products although this is not designated as an organic market. You will find millers and bakeries who produce bread, dry pastas, and stone-milled flour made from ancient Sicilian grains. There are stands with local honey, fresh cheeses like primo sale with pistachio, soft warm ricotta, or hand-stretched provola. One cheese maker even brings exquisite mini cannoli shells that will be filled with sweet ricotta cream just before you eat them. Even variations of a folded and baked “pizza” called scaccia are brought in from the province of Ragusa every week. We loved the savory pork and cabbage pastry called cucca that comes from Modica!
These produce vendors are not selling tomatoes, peppers and eggplants all year round, or greenhouse-grown strawberries in winter; everything you find in this market is fresh, seasonal, and local from southeastern Sicily. We might sound like a broken record, but eating with the seasons is very important here in Italy. “Farm-to-Table” is not a trend, but a lifestyle. If we buy and eat products that are in season we can help support our local farmers and allow these small food-producing businesses to stick around. Even better, by buying directly from the farmers, they are receiving the full cost without having to make cuts for all of the middle-men involved and you have a chance to chat directly with them which always leads to something interesting.
Be sure to keep the Sunday farmers market on your list of to-do’s next time you visit Ortigia. Depending on the season, we recommend finishing off your perfect little Sunday stroll by either leisurely snacking your way through the market, cooking lunch for yourself (if your accommodations have a kitchen), or by packing a few things for a picnic on the edge of the island or even a day-trip out to the Vendicari Nature Reserve. Casa Mia also offers Cooking Lesson experiences in Ortigia if you prefer to source ingredients in the market and have an expert lead you through a cooking lesson in the afternoon.
Now how about that? We’ve found you a quick solution for the age-old problem many travelers are faced with; “What’s open on Sunday in Ortigia?”.
The Cheeky Chef, Linda Sarris was raised in a big Greek-American family with a Chef grandfather, a fisherman Dad and a kitchen full of women who loved to cook. After a career in book publishing and a secret night-school culinary degree, she ran away to Sicily with a scholarship to work for a farm-to-table cooking school. She has worked as a fishmonger at Eataly, consulted for a restaurant in Romania, cooked for a Tuscan winery and underground supper clubs in New York. With a home base in Brooklyn, Linda works as a private chef and often travels to Italy for freelance jobs like her new project SNACK, a chef’s guide to Sicilian food/wine.