Walking Sicily…A PANACEA SWEETER THAN WINE, by BB Webb
Just as my mother played Duke Ellington and Hoagy Carmichael tunes well into her seventies, to shower her ether waves with sweet memories from her past, I find myself this week dressed in my stiff, touristy ‘map of Sicily’ apron preparing robust dishes reminiscent of my recent walking tour adventure in beautiful Sicily. With garlic, eggplant (aubergine), fresh onions, tomatoes, capers, green olives and ricotta cheese, I find myself not ready for re-entry into my workaday world. Fortunately my role as venue owner allows me to share with my savvy chef for a continued recreation of some of the delightful cuisine that had me at ‘buon gior·no’!
Our tour was conceived by friend Susan Evans, a fellow Georgian and owner of Italian villa, Fondo Le Teglie, (a Carl House sister destination), hands down the most perfect and well-appointed vacation getaway I’ve yet to visit and, I hold my standards high…it’s my business to do so! (www.ilgustodelpaese.com). It’s no wonder that Susan not only assembled a bright, adventuresome and entirely fun group of professionals, (an even dozen), but as importantly, recruited two of the finest walking tour guides to hit the Mediterranean way. As an all-inclusive excursion, I found all needs met a moment before they were realized!
Awaking early to a sumptuous breakfast, regional confections, meats, cheeses and fresh café au lait, off we’d fly on our custom-fitted bus to our first walking adventure. Within our week we traversed up volcanoes, dipped toes in three oceans, hiked mountainsides picking fresh blackberries, prickly pears, walked past hectares of olive groves and sampled ripe grapes basking in the sun to soon be plucked for aromatic Sicilian wine. We delighted in the clanging of cowbells, braying of sheep herds and swift slithering lizards. We walked the cobblestoned streets of small towns, inside gilded churches and stood like toy soldiers amidst grandiose ruins.
Every afternoon and evening we were met with a perfectly set luncheon and later dinner table to enjoy whatever local cuisine was planned along with wines one more delectable than the next and once, a homemade Grappa that I still savor, made sweet with fresh home harvested honey. Someone coined the onslaught of first course anti-pastas as the ‘Normandy invasion of foods’….fresh, healthy, expertly prepared, prawns, swordfish, arugula, a multitude of vegetables, pastas, breads and small confections to end the meals.
Aside from the plethora of fresh foods, wine and breathtaking scenery, my more monumental takeaway was the camaraderie amongst this diverse group of newly introduced, extraordinary individuals living throughout the US. With each trek the coupling of conversations would shift and turn, each of us visiting with one another as though perfectly planned. At the end of the week I felt a deepened connection, respect and admiration for each person, for their unique ‘story’, knowledge, challenges and view of the world. In my microcosm of small business ownership, I felt heartened, healed in a sense by the warmth, closeness and diversity of experience we brought to one another.
Together, on this geographic ‘football’ island at the bottom of the Italian ‘boot,’ me the fortunate goalie to be a part of this extraordinary walking tour win, truly a panacea sweeter than wine!