Summer has finally arrived and our trip around Siciliy on the Gusti-Bus could not miss Sicilian granita, a refreshing dessert typical of Eastern Sicily.
The history of Sicilian granita is, in fact, particularly linked to the area of Catania and Messina, where the highest peaks of the island are. But why is the history of granita linked to that of the mountains? It is soon said! During the winter workers called “nivaroli” went on expedition to the Etna, the Peloritani or the Nebrodi mountains to collect fresh snow and take it to the city or flat areas.
The snow was then kept in the “neviere”, holes in the ground covered with ash or straw built in cooler areas, so that it could be kept for the whole summer. Over the years, the snow holes became larger and took different shapes, more and more suitable to protect the snow from the heat. The need to collect snow was closely related to the summer heat: the nobles, in fact, had the habit to refresh themselves during the hot days with snow sprinkled with lemon juice or flavored with syrups.
In the 19th century, this tradition took hold further, with the help of some typical Sicilian ingredients such as almonds, mulberries or coffee. In the area of Syracuse, in fact, the almond-variant is the protagonist (in Modica even toasted almonds are used), in Messina the one with prickly pear, while in the villages near the Etna with pistachio; a small exception that takes us to the other side of Sicily is the black mulberry granita, a summer favorite in Trapani and San Vito. The addition of fresh ingredients and the evolution of the original technique led granita to detach itself from the Roman “grattachecca”, born in the early twentieth century. Another distinction must be made from sorbet or ice cream, although granita itself is their ancestor.
Carrier of a centuries-old tradition, deeply linked to the territory and the typical crafts of Eastern Sicily, granita is the best cure against the Sicilian summer heat, which Sicilians and tourists can not help but love.