Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Andiamo, Stella!

This past weekend, Brie and I went on a wonderful and relaxing weekend to Sicily.  It was so nice to once again be by the ocean and everything there was absolutely beautiful.  Although the scenery and sightseeing was incredible, one of the highlights of the trip was the food – there was an abundant amount and it was delicious.

The first night we were there, we went to a typical Sicilian restaurant and were presented with plate after plate of antipasti, premi pasti and so on – each one as good if not better than the others.  From egg plant to bruschetta and ouvo de pesce, then the best meatball (sorry mom) possibly that I have ever had in my life smothered in a marinara that made me want to pick up the plate and slurp the remainder down. 
One of the specialties in Sicily is canolli, so to top off a wonderful meal, we went to a local bakery where they squeeze the creamy ricotta cheese filling into each shell individually then press the ends in chocolate chips…ahhh…it doesn’t get much better than that!

The next morning, after sleeping off a slight food coma, we decided we could use to burn some calories, so went for a walk around.  We were staying in a place called Siracusa on the island center of the city called Ortigia.  The island is rather small, so we did a quick loop around the whole thing.

The clear blue water was breath-taking and the people were just as interesting.  I got the feeling that they don’t get quite as many tourists in Ortigia as in Florence.  Being two blond Americanas, we stood our quite a bit, eliciting many stares and the random, “Ciao, bella.”  There was one point where we walked under two old ladies conversing across the street from their balconies.  One called down to us and yelled, “bella!” and blew a kiss, followed by a toothless smile.

After our tour of the island, we had a guided market tour.  There were so many exotic fruits, vegetables and fish that we learned about.  One fish seller was chopping through fillets with one of the biggest cleavers I have ever seen.  He was going so fast, I was surprised he still possessed all ten digits.  As we were watching, he proceeded to effortlessly behead a giant swordfish and mount the giant head and sword on the table for us all to see – well, I’m ready for lunch now.

The next activity was a ride out to the country to visit a ranch for lunch.  The traditional three-course, two hour meal ensued.  It was not quite as good as the dinner the night before, but still very impressive.
We had the afternoon at the ranch and when they asked if anyone wanted to ride horses, I was the first to raise my hand.  We went to the stables and met our guide, who didn’t speak a word of English.  He said something about how to sit, hold the reigns and stop – things that would probably be useful if we knew what he was saying, oh well.

Now, I am by no means and experienced rider, so I thought this would be nice and easy down a path, but we ended up going up the side of a mountain; literally off-roading with horses.  There were trees snapping in my face and my horse kept slipping on rocks and I had no idea what I was doing. 
Every once in a while my horse (her name was Stella) would see a tasty bush and decide she needed a snack.  I had no idea how to get her going again – it’s not like she knows English.  The only Italian I know is “Andiamo!” which means, “Let’s go!”  I continually was saying “Andiamo, Stella!” in the sternest voice I could followed by a slight kick in the side.  I didn’t want to kick too hard, because let’s remember that I am at the mercy of this horse – I didn’t want to upset it. 

Most of the ride went smoothly aside from the occasional stop, until the very end when we got back onto the paved road.  Something about seeing that pavement (probably knowing that it was almost done and could get me off its back) made Stella really excited and she started galloping.  I had never experienced this, but it is a lot rougher than it looks in the movies.  I was holding on for dear life.  Finally, I yanked back on the reigns and she slowed back down to a trot.  It was then that I turned around and realized that the horse behind me was empty – riderless.  The girl had been thrown off in the commotion and was running to catch up.  It was an eventful end to an afternoon at the ranch.

That night there was another meal where I ate entirely too much – yet still managed to have room for one more canolli before leaving Sicily the next day.  It was a great trip to the Italian island and wonderful to experience some other parts of Italy.  Next time I go horseback riding, maybe I’ll make sure the guide speaks English so I know what to do.