A walk to the Reserve

WWF Reserve, Saline di Trapani

To reach the Salina reserve from where my mother lives, taking the most direct route, took me about an hour, including a few stops to capture images, to cover the nearly 5 km journey on foot. I left early so as to cover as much distance as I could before the temperature rose, which it did well into the 30s celcius by the time I got there. I must have been out to punish myself for some reason.

Salt pans or, more accurately, evaporation ponds and irrigation channel

The purpose of my outing was to capture some images of the now disused evaporation ponds that form the reserve, to visit the WWF centre and, hopefully, to see some bird life including Greater Flamingos. I was out of luck with the flamingos that will arrive later in the summer but also with the WWF centre which was closed. On reflection I have never seen the place open but I have seen reports from those who have visited.

WWF information board

  1. The roadside edge of the salt ponds have tall reeds that obscure the view. There are a couple of breaks in the reeds, including a simple wooden “hide” at one corner of a pond, so I was able to get good views of a few birds.

WWF sitting area and “hide”

I am not usually lucky enough to get close to birds in the wild but they were kind to me and allowed me to get some reasonable shots of Little Terns, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and egrets. In addition to the bird pics I bagged a few of the salt pans and the old windmills that were used in the past to pump water from the pans. I could hear reed warblers of some kind but didn’t see these elusive birds.

Avocet (image to be replaced from camera later this month)

On the way back I saw a kestrel, a few moorhens and a family of mallard. A couple of years ago I saw Spoonbills, Shelduck, Greater Flamingos and some shorebirds.

Overall it was a productive outing, though really hot on the way back. I was disappointed that the WWF centre was closed but perhaps on a future visit I will have a chance to talk to the staff about the habitat.

Salt production is still a significant industry in Trapani using modern methods of production. In addition to the ponds near the reserve there is large production areas at between Trapani and Marsala.

How to get there

I do not recommend walking unless you are very keen to get exercise.

By car, take the SP21 road from Trapani to Marsala. It passes the WWF centre where there is on-road parking on the side road outside the centre (not on the main highway).

Google Map view

There are no buses on this route.

Arancina Siciliana

Ragu arancina with kebab

The famous Sicilian rice balls, known as arancini in view of their size, shape and colour that remind one of oranges, have to be on the list of the “must try” treats to experience when visiting the island.

The rice balls made with a filling, coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried. The most common fillings are ragù, mozzarella, or ham and mozzarella.

The best in my opinion are the arancini made with ragu filling (minced beef, tomato and herbs – similar to a bolognese sauce).

It is common to find arancini, regarded as snacks or street food, in bakeries, supermarkets and in cafes.

In some parts of Sicily the arancini are formed into a conical shape. In both cases, round or conical, there are similar looking products served in Brazil where they are known as “coxinha” as a result of their taking the approximate shape of a chicken thigh (that’s another story for when I return to Brazil), ball-shaped but with different ingredients.

It is believed that arancini have been around in Sicily since the days of the muslim occupation of the island ie 1000 years or more.

As with many traditional foods the arancina is considered a meal in itself. Like the cornish pastie, or sandwich, arancini were made to be carried and eaten on the move. The original take-aways.

Walking photo tour of Trapani

The images and text in this post provide a summary of the walking tour that I conducted last month. Greater detail may appear in specific subject articles at a later date.

In view of the really hot weather that Trapani had been “enjoying” the walking tour started at 08:30 so as to complete it before the heat of the sun got too uncomfortable.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II

The tour began at the statue of King Vittorio Emanuele II which sits in the square of the same name. We spent a few minutes taking photos of the statue (composition, rule of thirds, golden ratio) before crossing via Fardella, now closed to traffic, to the fountain of Triton.

Triton fountain

The fountain features two large horses in the middle of the water feature that is centred on a bronze figure of Triton (a Greek god of the sea, son of Poseidon).

Here we spent 15 minutes taking creative shots (selective depth of field, aperture control) from various points of view of the fountain before crossing via Spalti to the gardens of Villa Margherita.

A shaded boundary inside the Villa Margherita gardens

Although referred to as a “villa” the Villa Margherita is a public garden that was established in honour of Queen Margherita. It is bounded by broad tree-lined paths with colourful flowers in the central areas.

Bougainvillea, palms and exotic trees in flower in Villa Margherita

There are statues of a variety of famous people dotted around the gardens and a nice water feature at the top end. We spent 30 minutes here (histograms, manual controls).

Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Moving on, we then walked to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, named after the site of a major battle in the Venetian area that ended the Austro-Hungarian empire and contributed to the end of WWI. Around the square are a number of government buildings including the Post Office (under renovation but still operating).

Post Office interior with art deco decoration

The inside of the post office is well worth looking at. It has an art deco style in good condition (contrast, available light). The outside of the building has been partly covered for the last two years but the process of renovating this 90 year-old building seems inordinately slow, though to be fair the work has to be done to last many more years.

Just beyond the Piazza is the start of via Garibaldi.

Via Garibaldi

Via Garibaldi, named after Giuseppe Garibaldi who was instrumental in the unification of Italy and subsequent creation of the Kingdom of Italy, is part of the old town of Trapani. It is closed to traffic other than delivery vehicles. Along the road are a number of historic buildings and churches though the narrowness of via Garibaldi means it is not entirely photogenic.

Bar Il Salotto, via Garibaldi

At the end of via Garibaldi, more specifically at the bar Il Salotto, we took a short rest to have a cooling and healthy pomegranate juice while discussing progress so far and what was to come.

Fish Market Square

Around the corner from the bar is the old fish market square, now used for cultural events.

The square is bounded on two sides by a colonnade atop the sea wall with the sea behind. It features a bronze statue of Venus/Aphrodite near the road.

We left the square, taking the narrow path of via Mura di Tramontana West, along the top if the sea wall. From here we had views of part of the old town fortification towards the Bastione Conca and the beach below it.

Bastione Conca, Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

After visiting the Bastion we took the steps down from via Mura di Tramontana and along the road before entering viale delle Sirene (Avenue of the Sirens) and back onto the Mura di Tramontana.

Beach view, Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

View of Torre di Ligny from Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

Yellow-legged Gull

Torre de Ligny

We left Torre de Ligny, heading back towards town on Corso Vittorio Emanuele (the Rua Grande, built in the 13th century) passing the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (St Lawrence) towards the famous astronomical clock tower on via Torrearsa.

Porta Oscura

Porta Oscura, the dark gate, is one of the four historic entrances to the old town. Above and adjacent to the gate is the clock tower.

Torre del Orologio

The astronomical clock, built in 1596, is one of the oldest of its kind and still functions.

We were now on via Torrearsa.

Via Torrearsa

At one end of via Torrearsa is the fish market square that we had passed earlier, and were now returning to, while at the other end is the port. This makes the road, with its shops, bars, restaurants and points of interest, a busy place for tourists especially those on cruise liners that frequent Trapani.

Fontana de Saturno

While walking along via Torrearsa we stopped at the Saturn Fountain that was built to commemorate the opening of the aqueduct built in 1342.

We then made our way back to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to conclude the walking photo tour.

Apart from learning a little bit about Trapani, participants on the tour receive practical instruction on camera usage including:

Starting: Camera basics – body, lens and sensors

Seeing: Composition and objective

Capture: How to use the camera’s shooting modes

Control: Making the most of aperture, shutter speed and ISO

Lighting: Daylight and artificial light

Histograms: what they tell you

Tourist disadvantage?

There are many people of my age who are averse to using technology to simplify their lives. I was, at one point in my Marketing days, of the opinion that the more you could put into mobile phone functionality the better.

While I am still of that opinion sometimes the engines of commerce seem to work in favour of the wrong folk.

Currently in Italy, and with my iPhone using a UK sim card with an EU roaming package, I decided to buy a ferry ticket from Trapani to visit the nearby island of Favignana for a day. I did a Google search that took me to DirectFerries, a UK based agent. I could find no other agents, so presumably the UK sim decided I should use someone that it liked. I think it’s nice that AI should be able to select its own friends.

I selected the points of departure and terminus and the travel date. I then chose the available travel times, and paid by debit card with an extra insurance charge in case I needed to amend or cancel the trip (having had such a need on most bookings made this year!). Easy.

Then the email confirmation arrived. Unfortunately, it indicated that my point of departure was Marsala and not Trapani as requested. That’s a bit like booking a flight from Edinburgh and being told it departs from Glasgow.

I hopped onto the agent’s site only to get a “system down, try later” message. Maybe the site was down for maintenance. Try again later. Nothing.

Try the call centre. No answer. Try again. No answer. Try email. Try online and call centre next day. No answer. Monday – try email, call centre and online – this time to cancel. Nada!

I found their Facebook page. Not good. Full of complaints about poor service etc. Some comments quite angry …. including mine. The following is not mine but is similar.

The response that I, and many others, received was similar (simple cut and paste reply), or asked that a personal message should be sent (obviously to keep the ensuing rage offline).

Despite me paying for insurance the agent refused to make a refund (ignoring the fact that the email confirmation stating that full refunds were possible) even having the arrogance to state that they deduct an admin fee on refunds but anything less than £100 it isn’t worth THEIR effort to make a refund!

Blatant profiteering, exceptionally poor customer service, and an unbelievably arrogant approach to commerce.

Needless to say I have told the company that I shall take legal action for the cost of the tickets plus legal fees. They didn’t seem phased but merely sent another cut and paste response. My legal claim is in process and based on the evidence submitted I expect to win. Soon.

Based in my experience and that of those other unfortunate clients I recommend avoiding Direct Ferries. Book direct with the ferry operator (who were sympathetic but unable to assist).

The Direct Ferries FB page is full of apologetic fob-offs. They make reference to their terms and conditions (to avoid liability for refunds) yet these terms are not visible at the time of booking and conflict with what they say, and charge for, elsewhere.

THIS IS A COMPANY TO BE AVOIDED

Post script

I decided to get a local sim-card for my phone. A much better deal than the EE roaming plan that seemed to use data even when the phone was switched off. I recommend the TIM one-month tourist plan. Really good deal even if staying for only a week. It also picks up local booking sites more easily than the UK sim did. Bear in mind that a one-month plan has a fixed data content. If that is exceeded than you need to buy a new sim and, even though the TIM app lets you top up, any top up will not work. I discovered this the hard way and am still trying to get a refund from TIM.

Pps (21NOV19)

Now nearly the end of November and still have not received the refund from TIM. Whike they possibly have the best package for tourists I shall never use them again as they have, seemingly deliberately, tried to avoid making the refund. Despite assurances that they had done so at the beginning of this week there is no sign of it reaching my account.

A Taste of Trapanese History

Entrance to the Pepoli Museum (facing out towards the gardens of the Santuary of the Madonna of Trapani)

In my teens, while visiting relatives in Rome, I was given a choice of spending a day visiting the Vatican etc or going to the beach. I chose beach! I guess, as a younger man, I always preferred sun and sand to old relics though I now like art galleries and museums more than beaches. Or as my daughters might say “You like old relics because you are one!”

In spite of having spent many weeks or months in Sicily over the past 10 years I had never visited a museum on the island. Last week, while returning from a photo project, I passed through the gardens adjacent to the Agostino Pepoli Regional Museum, took a few pictures and decided that I should return.

Considering the history of the region I am surprised that there aren’t more museums in Trapani. I suppose it’s because the majority of tourists come here for the sun, sea and sand as I would have done years ago.

The Pepoli museum covers a wide range of aspects of Trapani’s history and I was happy to see a group of young school children with their teachers apparently conducting a history lesson there.

View from the gate of the museum, separating from the Sanctuary gardens, towards the entrance to the museum.

The entrance to the Museum is behind the Santuary of the Madonna of Trapani, one of the principal churches in the town, and is reached by passing through the gardens that seem to attract a daily quota of both pensioners that enjoy the coolness and tranquility of the setting and young children, whose laughter as they play under the watchful eye of their mothers in the shade of the trees, echos off the front of the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary viewed from within the gardens

A gate separates the museum from the gardens, with a pair of white stone column heads positioned as if to welcome visitors. A wide path leads between an area littered with ancient masonry and a large anchor on one side, and a bust of Sr Agostino Pepoli on the other.

One of a pair of white stone column heads outside the museum gate

Once inside the shaded entrance of the Museum one can see the cloisters that borders the museum garden.

Cloisters with garden

I paid €6.00 to enter the museum and was given a brochure in English. I believe they offer French and German versions too (in addition to Italian, of course).

Brochure and entrance ticket

Museum staff are on hand as one enters the building and throughout the museum in various rooms to ensure you follow the appropriate flow of the exhibition areas. Anyone with questions or seeking clarification on any aspect can of course approach the staff who are happy to provide the benefit of their knowledge.

One of the first exhibition areas in the museum is that of religious artefacts

Ceramic tiles depicting the town of Trapani

Garden with the bell tower of the Sanctuary above and behind the museum walls

A number of stone decorations on loose display under the cloisters

View of the cloisters and shaded part of the garden

What to see

Paintings of historical figures linked to Trapani

Paintings and sculptures of religious subjects

Example of clothes and jewellery of the Baroque era

Painted wall and floor tiles

Roman and Greek pottery, metal and glassware dating back over 2,500 years

Fascinating finely detailed carvings and dioramas of historic scenes eg views of life, of nativity, and horrific images of the Massacre of the Innocents.

How to get there

via Conte Agostino Pepoli, 180

By bus, taxi or car, but there is only street parking

Open:

weekdays 9 am – 1 pm and 3 pm – 7.30 pm Sundays and holidays from 9 am to 12.30 pm

SUMMER TIME (JULY AND AUGUST):

weekdays: Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5.30pm

Sunday and public holidays: from 9.00 to 12.30

This is a great place to see so much history in one place. A visit to this museum is highly recommended.

Favignana

Favignana port with the tuna cannery on the far side and the Norman fortress of Santa Caterina

Located at the toe of Italy Sicily is an island that has smaller islands under its administrative responsibility. The nearest of these, the Aegadian Islands (Italian: Isole Egadi; Sicilian: Isuli Egadi), are a group of three small mountainous islands and two smaller rocky outcrops in the Mediterranean Sea off the northwest coast of Sicily near the cities of Trapani and Marsala.

The five Egadi islands

Favignana, the largest island, is 16 kilometres (10 miles) southwest of Trapani while Levanzo lies 13 kilometres west and Marettimo lies farthest away at 24 kilometres west of Trapani. The two minor islands, Formica and Maraone, lie between Levanzo and Sicily. The administration of the archipelago falls under the comune of Favignana in the Province of Trapani.

Liberty Lines ticket office at Trapani port

To reach the three larger islands you have to take a ferry from Trapani port. I made the mistake of booking online through an agency (for some reason I couldn’t access the ferry company’s site) and was obliged to re-buy a ticket at the port. More on this in a separate post – it’s another example of what can go wrong with online reservations that seem to be a regular feature for me this year.

The hydrofoil takes 30 minutes to Levanzo and another 10 minutes to Favignana. Not listening carefully to the announcements I got off at Levanzo but, realising my error, reboarded.

Fishing boats at Favignana marina

Once docked at Favignana, I walked up the slight rise along the edge of the marina that was littered with small wooden fishing boats.

Aside from tourism, Favignana’s principle industry is tuna fishing. There is a cannery where visitors can see the process of preparation, cooking and canning of products that are exported.

At the top I followed the road to the right towards and round the landmark Palazzo Florio where I took a couple of photos, and then along via Florio to Piazza Europa.

Palazzo Florio

Piazza Florio is triangular in shape with the Municipality building facing in from the wider end, a statue of Ignazio Florio in the centre, and a variety of ice-cream parlours bordering the square. Ignazio Florio was an entrepreneur and politician who owned the Egadi islands and established tuna fisheries on Favignana and Formica.

Statue of Ignazio Florio in front of the Municipality building in Piazza Europa

To be honest, I found the lack of restaurant options a bit frustrating. For anyone actually staying on the island for more than a couple of days I imagine this could prove irritating.

From there I walked along via Vitorio Emanuele to Piazza Matrice. Facing the piazza is the church of the Immaculate Conception (Chiesa Madre Maria SS Immacolata), a nice church that is ornately decorated in white and cream tones inside.

Inside the Maria Santissima church

I had lunch at Tunafish City, a casual food bar whose speciality was a tuna sandwich. Fresh tuna, grilled and served on a bun with tomato. I had a glass of prosecco to acompany the food.

Tuna sandwich at Tunafish City

I walked around, exploring a few lanes (always good fun in the hope of finding unexpected stuff) before taking a route back to the marina where I found the tourist “train”. The driver was waiting for the incoming ferry so after about 20 minutes we were on our way.

The route took us into the countryside where the driver gave a running commentary about the island, the views and the indigenous plants.

Derelict garden outside Favignana town

On return to the marina I walked back to Bar del Corso, in a corner of piazza Europa, for coffee and a pistachio cassatina that looked nicer than it tasted. The coffee was good though.

Bar del Corso which serves a variety of ice creams as well as pastries and snacks

Pistachio Cassatina

This was less than a half-day excursion. I had taken the 11:30 ferry to Favignana and the 16:45 ferry back to Trapani.

At one stage during my visit I thought about catching an earlier ferry back but had decided instead to take the train tour. So, on balance a half-day was enough for me.

Anyone wishing to visit the cannery or Santa Caterina fort would need a whole day.

How to get there

Hydrofoil ferry from Trapani to Favgnana. Round trip fare is about €20 per person.

Tickets are available on the day from Trapani port though in summer its best to book in advance.

Erice to Erice – the cable car

Funivia – upper station

There are days when the queue to embark the cable car to upper Erice is so full of tourists that you feel like giving up the idea of travelling on it. But the cable car system is on a loop, each car carrying up to 8 passengers, so the queues move quickly.

Although referred to as Funivia Trapani-Erice the lower station is located in the Casa Santa neighbourhood of Erice – or Lower Erice as I refer to it. (I wrote a three-part article about Erice some time ago: first part here)

It costs €9 for the round trip to the top and back. Journey time each way is about 10 minutes. The cable car station at the top is on via delle Pinete across the road from the car park.

Trapani Gate

Up the hill, on the opposite side of the road, is Porta Trapani (Trapani Gate) one of the two arched entrances to the medieval town.

Madre Chiesa

From here you can explore the sights of old Erice, including the Norman castle, the cathedral, numerous churches and chapels, the gardens and the Spanish quarter.

Small chapel near the Cathedral

One of many lanes to explore

How to get there

Taxi, bus (need to check but bus number 23 may take you all the way) or by car.

If you are on a cruise then the cruise line can arrange transport and Funivia tickets (package cost is, I believe, €40). The advantage of arranging this on the cruise boat is that it won’t leave without you!

If you enjoy walking it takes about 45 minutes at a reasonably brisk pace:

To reach the Funivia station from the port of Trapani one heads inland on via Mazzini, past Trapani railway station,

Gardens on the platform, Trapani railway station

turn right onto via Fardella which later becomes corso Mattarella and later still, crossing into Erice, becomes via Manzoni.

Via Fardella, Trapani

Near the end of via Manzoni turn left onto via Cosenza at Cafe delle Rose, where I usually stop for a coffee or glass of wine, or to pop into Ciuri-Ciuri on the other corner for excellent ice cream and cakes. Alternatively, carry on for a couple more street, turning onto via Capua. If taking via Capua, the Funivia station is about three block on the right hand side. If taking via Cosenza, continue along the road for a couple of blocks then turn right onto via Avellino and the Funivia is dead ahead.

A day trip to Dundee (part 2)

As mentioned in my last post, I went to Dundee for a day trip at the end of last month which took about 90 minutes by train from Edinburgh. It was a cold grey day with a light rainfall starting as we crossed the road from the station. We first visited the newly built V&A Museum on the Riverside Esplanade, where we had lunch, before moving on to visit to the SS Discovery, now known as (Royal Research Ship) RRS Discovery, an exploration ship built about 115 years ago to undertake research in Antarctica.

Discovery Point, in which the history of the Discovery is exhibited, is located in an octagonal building on the Riverside Esplanade, across the road from Dundee railway station, with the ship itself moored between the museum entrance and the V&A Dundee.

After paying the entrance fee, which entitles visitors to unlimited return visits for a year, one follows the history of the Discovery via a series of multi-media exhibits that include films, pictures, models and relics that illustrate aspects of the construction of the boat, its crew and the research voyage.

The exhibition is well organised and informative.

Life-size diorama of the ship’s construction

Once through the final display area, one exits the building to board the Discovery, crossing via a gangplank.

Helm of the Discovery

Full-size diorama of the biologist, Thomas Vere Hodgson, “fishing” for marine specimens through the Antarctic ice

Tour guide providing information about living conditions in the dining area if the Discovery

The route takes one around the main deck of the ship, onto the upper deck, and through various sections below deck, including the coal store, food store, galley and sleeping quarters. In the dining space, bounded by senior staff quarters, was a long table surrounded by comfortable wood and leather chairs. The guide, who was in this area, explained that many of these furnishings were upgraded after the first World War since the vessel was partially stripped for action during the war.

On returning to the building we entered the souvenir area. Plenty on offer in respect of mementoes relating to the ship, the town, and Scotland. Across the lobby is a cafe (Cafe at the Point) that serves refreshments.

The visit was educational and informative – well worth visiting.

How to get there

Train from Edinburgh to Dundee. Exit the station and cross the road. The Discovery and the V&A are immediately visible from the station.

A day trip to Dundee (part 1)

Literally the only thing I knew about Dundee, till now, was that the city had given its name to a marmalade and a cake. In fact someone mentioned that the city was founded on jute, jam and journalism (the latter referring, I believe, to the Beano and Dandy comics!).

It took about 90 minutes to reach Dundee by train from Edinburgh. It was a cold grey day with a mist hiding the horizon. Exiting the station we crossed the road and entered the newly built V&A Museum on the Riverside Esplanade, next to SS Discovery, an exploration ship built about 115 years ago. The museum opened just less than six months ago (SEP18).

 

Water feature near the entrance to the V&A

The receptionist indicated that there were just two exhibitions on, both free admission: the Scottish Design Galleries covering elements and examples of Scottish design through the ages, and Rules of Play which featured work and interactive displays by a local artist.

Spacious cafe area on the ground floor

Downstairs, ahead of the reception area, was a cafe that seemed to provide self-service snacks, drinks and light lunches. We decided that it woukd be better to see the exhibitions first and then have lunch.

Across from the cafe was an area selling books, writing and drawing materials and souvenirs of the V&A visit.

We took a lift up to the second level where we found a restaurant – Tatha Bar and Kitchen – where we booked a table for 12:45 before heading off to see the exhibits, starting at the Design Exhibition.

Inside the Design exhibition

The Design exhibition was interesting as it provided examples of everything from traditional tartan designs to modern dresses, architecture and electronics. Some designs were modern but some dated back hundreds of years, thus highlighting the important contribution of Scottish designers in the world.

The Rules of Play featured the artist Gabriella Marcela creating her own unique wooden structures using KAPLA planks. Visitors were encouraged to construct towers or bridges or whatever they wanted, with one man building a tall tower than ither visitors secretly hoped would collapse!

Colourful structures produced by Gabriella Marcela

At 12:40 we arrived at the entrance to the restaurant where a menu stand provided us with an idea of what food choices were available. Our table was ready so we were soon seated and able to order. It proved to be a good idea to make reservations as the restaurant was full.

I ordered an americano coffee while, to eat, I decided on the Arbroath Smokie Royale featuring a small smoked smoked fillet of haddocka speciality of the town of Arbroath (though actually in the fishing village of Auchmithie, a few miles outside Arbroath) served on a tatti (potato) scone topped by a couple of poached eggs with hollandaise sauce and spinach.

I then had a traditional fruit scone with strawberry jam to fininsh.

Arbroath Smokie Royale

Nicely cooked poached eggs sitting on the Arbroath Smokie

Traditional fruit scone with strawberry jam

After lunch, before leaving the V&A, we had a look at the open plan shop area in which one can buy souvenirs, books, art materials etc. One of the featured momentos was a print of the original design sketch of the V&A building, designed by Japanese architects Kengo Kuma & Associates.

View of the shop space on the ground floor 

 

The V&A Dundee is a new, airy and interesting building. It has almost 8,500 m2 of space with a mixed yet simple decoration comprising black floors, plain white wall and oak panels. There are stairs and glass lifts that provide nice views all round.

Worth visiting

Part 2 to follow – visit to the SS Discovery museum.

Caponata di Marsala

We had a nice light veggie lunch at “Natura a Tavola” in Marsala the other day. The restaurant is located on via Garibaldi near the Chiesa Madre and a short walk from Garibaldi Gate.

The place, not only a bar/restaurant, sat in a plastic tent on the pedestrian road while the building next to the tent houses both the kitchen and a shop selling wines, spirits and a multitude of local deli foods. The tent provided protection from both any rain that may present itself but also the cold wind that comes off the sea without respite in the winter. In warmer seasons the plastic sheeting is removed to leave only the large parasols.

Natura a Tavola serves a variety of foods typical of the ancient port town. I ordered the Caponata, the subject of this post, that is said to have originated hundreds of years ago, to the time of the saracen occupation, though the recipe now includes tomatoes that were introduced to Europe only in the late 16th century, and not used much in cooking till the 18th century!

The exact recipe for this dish is no doubt a secret cherished by the family-owned restaurant but I have listed below the key ingredients that I could identify.

We also had a tuna salad – a bowl full of rocket, tomato, mozzarella, olives and canned tuna. Very good.

Ratatouille is very similar to caponata but, in comparison, is a much younger concoction. There are other similar dishes from various parts of the Med, no doubt based on an original recipe carried by boat in the hands of a cook of that era!

The caponata was accompanied by a basket of bread – sliced italian bread that had been placed on a grill to give it a light toasty texture. Nicely done and helped soak up the sauce.

A glass of wine would have been nice but as I was driving I had to abstain, drinking water instead. I did however finish off the meal with a small glass of almond liqueur!

Caponata Ingredients

  • Olives – green (but the original recipe uses black olives)
  • Capers
  • Pine nuts
  • Almonds
  • Peppers (capsicum)
  • Celery
  • Tomato
  • Aubergines
  • Sultanas
  • Basil / oregano
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper

I am not a person that follows recipes to the letter – the ingredients are what count rather than the exact quantity. Sometimes what one has in stock dictates the end result. I am not sure if the restaurant cooked the ingredients with wine but I would normally pour in a touch of red wine to provide a bit of extra flavour to the caponata. Marsala wine would add a hint of sweetness particularly if green olives are in the pot.

More posts on food and drink from the region coming soon.

Posted via my iPhone