Gusti-Bus

This month our GustiBus cannot fail to focus on one of the most traditional Sicilian Christmas sweets, the buccellato! We will talk about its origins and ingredients starting to taste the goodness of the Sicilian sweets of the Christmas holidays.

The Buccellato is known throughout Italy with more or less similar names, and the same can be said of the ingredients that are used. But as for most Sicilian sweets, also in this case the Arab influence was crucial for the Sicilian variant.

It is believed that the origins of buccellato in Sicily can be traced back to the arrival in the region of the Lucca community, in the Middle Ages: it is called “buccellato”, in fact, after a typical dessert of the Lucca area filled with raisins, in turn deriving from a dessert from the Roman era, which was prepared precisely during the holiday season.

In addition to raisins, with the Arabs the recipe for buccellato (or “cuciddato”) was enriched with the typical ingredients of Sicilian sweets, such as oranges, almonds, cinnamon and dried figs, giving a spicy touch to the taste of the dessert, strong and enveloping, perfect for Christmas. Its appearance has also been enriched with decorations, sugars and candied fruit up to the current version which has the shape of a donut, placed as a centerpiece during family lunches and dinners.

The variety of shapes and ingredients of buccellato change among different areas within Sicily: being a traditionally homemade dessert, the recipe for its aromatic filling can also vary from family to family, making it even more connected to the context of family conviviality that the Holidays represent.

For those who travel in Sicily for the first time during the holidays, a visit to a bakery or pastry chef to taste one of the countless versions of the buccellato is almost a must to fully understand our region, sweet but spicy, apparently rough on the outside but soft inside!

Bus tales, Travel notes

Sicily is a land full of curiosities, which even Sicilians themselves often don’t know and, just as often, correspond to Italian or even international records.

These anecdotes concern some of the naturalistic characteristics typical of the area, while others concern its history and culture, thanks to the different dominations that took place over the years.

Everyone knows the Sicilian natural beauties, but perhaps not everyone knows that:

  • Sicily has the primacy for protected natural areas, with its five natural parks, six marine protected areas and seventy-two nature reserves;
  • one of the most destructive event of the twentieth century is the Messina earthquake of 1908;
  • Sicily includes a variety of climates that contain almost all the climates of Europe and northern Africa.

Regarding monuments and artistic beauties, there are lots of surprises:

  • Sicily is the Italian region with the highest concentration of artistic and cultural heritage;
  • the oldest written document in Europe, a letter from Adelasia degli Aleramici dating back to 1109, is kept in the State Archives of Palermo;
  • the first jazz record in the world was recorded by Nick La Rocca, son of Sicilian emigrants;
  • the fresco “Il Trionfo della Morte” (The Triumph of Death) kept in Palazzo Abatellis inspired Pablo Picasso for the realization of Guernica;
  • the feast of Sant’Agata di Catania is one of the most important religious events in the world;
  • the Sicilian flag is the most long-lived in the world;
  • according to some testimonies, both ice cream and spaghetti have Sicilian origins!

Between nature, monuments and…food, of course, Sicily is a land waiting to be discovered, full of surprises for those who live there and for those who want to visit it as a tourist.

Gusti-Bus

Today our GustiBus makes a particularly…sweet stop, considering that one of the typical Sicilian autumn festivities is coming: the “Pupi di Zucchero” (Sugar Puppets)!

The “Pupi di Zucchero” or “Pupaccena” are the typical sweets of the Festa dei Morti (the Day of the Dead) on November 2nd, and according to tradition they are given to children “by their deceased loved ones”. As for most of the typical Sicilian sweets, the origin of the Pupi di Zucchero lies in the legend, or rather two: a first theory traces these sugar sweets back to the idea of an Arab nobleman, who commissioned to his cook the creation of sugar-only sweets, due to the lack of other raw materials; a second theory instead goes back to the French nobility, with stories that came to Sicily through the sailors.

The French inspiration can actually be found in the classic and colorful figure of the defender of France, depicted standing or on horseback, but one thing is certain: the tradition of puppets as gifts for the Day of the Dead certainly originated in Palermo.

For the preparation of the Pupaccena it is necessary to start from the molds, originally prepared by the masters of plaster, who made the “negatives” of the front and back with this material. Inside these molds almond oil is smeared and then a boiling mixture of sugar, glucose, almond essence, water and lemon is poured and left to cool. Once the two molds are filled, they are tied together with a lace and left to dry in the oven until solidification.

The decorative part is obviously the one most closely linked to tradition, with the use of colors typical of Sicilian art, which recall the decorations of Sicilian carts: yellow, red, green and blue are the absolute protagonists that stand out on the white of the hollow statuettes, further enriched with sugar balls or colored paper.

Together with the other traditional desserts of the Day of the Dead – such as Frutta Martorana (marzipan sweets), sweet taralli or tetù – the Pupi di Zucchero still stand out on the Sicilian tables for this occasion, a joy for the eyes (and palate) of adults and children, but especially for those who travel to Palermo and are amazed by this particular tradition.

News

Remote working and south working are two terms that are now particularly well-known to everyone, which have become protagonists of the everyday vocabulary given the complicated period. Lately these two phenomena have been associated by the media to Cianciana, a municipality near Agrigento, which has aroused the curiosity of journalists for the percentage of professionals who have chosen to work remotely from sunny and welcoming Sicily.

The Cianciana “phenomenon” is the result of a strategy aimed at reducing the progressive depopulation of the town, through a significant lowering of the prices of the buildings to renovate and an improvement of the internet network (optical fiber and free internet points), in order to make the location attractive for those who, by choice or necessity, work from home.

To date, Cianciana is the city of international remote workers, counting 17 different nationalities among workers who arrived from abroad only for vacation and then stayed to work from there. The particularity of this phenomenon has aroused, as already mentioned, the interest of the media, landing also on TG1 (an Italian newscast):

The dynamic nature of some types of profession and the increase in remote work following the health emergency have provided a big boost, underlining how the web can break down borders and shorten distances.

In addition to welcoming professionals from all over the world, Cianciana is also an important connection center for workers to and from Agrigento: the city is in fact one of the stops on our interregional routes.

The climate, the friendly people and the tranquility of Sicily do the rest, making this region, and the South in general, one of the most favorite areas for those who can work remotely.

News

Also this year comes back Le Vie dei Tesori, the Festival of the Cultural Heritage in Sicily, which enlivens the autumn by opening the doors of monuments, villas, churches and secret places for a feast of art and culture throughout Sicily.

Now at its fourteenth edition, Le Vie dei Tesori started on September 12th, opening the “treasures” of Bagheria, Sambuca di Sicilia, Trapani, Marsala, Mazara del Vallo, Messina and Caltanissetta, and then from October 2nd (until November 8th) the one of Palermo and of the other locations participating to the initiative this year. This year are also applied the same rules, with the possibility of purchasing entrance coupons online or in the appropriate stations, to be used immediately or during all weekends of the event.

Born in Palermo, Le Vie dei Tesori has immediately been a success thanks to the variety of places tha can be visited – very often hidden or little known – with guided tours every weekend and, in some specific cases, even during the week. Furthermore, given the particularly favorable weather in October, the festival represents an important moment for tourism in Sicily, given the opportunity to admire places that are difficult to open during the rest of the year or that are not easy to find in a travel guide. This year, among other things, Le Vie dei Tesori was even mentioned in the television channel of the French newspaper Le Figaro, which described the festival as the possibility of transforming Sicily into a real open-air museum , a “rebirth of the beauty” in this very particular year.

Thanks to this initiative, the inhabitants of Palermo were able to discover wonders that were previously hidden, such as the Hebrew miqveh in the streets of the city center, or the sumptuousness of La Stanza delle Meraviglie (the chamber of Wonders). In the same way, the other Sicilian cities participating in the festival were able to open their doors to places full of charm and curiosity, thus focusing the attention on the typical beauties of the place, often known only by the inhabitants of the neighboring areas.

Between trips out of towns, tastings, weekends among the most fascinating historic centers of Sicily, Le Vie dei Tesori helps to make the arrival of autumn less gray and gloomy, enticing Sicilians and lovers of Sicily to discover and rediscover it, uncovering its stories, traditions, colors and flavors.

News

The Baroque towns of South-Eastern Sicily, already reunited in the “GAL Terra Barocca”, will soon be united in a new single destination, at the conclusion of the “Enjoy Barocco – Sicilian Experience” project, which has now reached its final drafts.

The municipalities of Ragusa, Modica, Scicli, Ispica and Santa Croce Camerina, in fact, have joined this innovative tourist development masterplan, after joining the Local Action Group aimed at creating a bottom-up development strategy, focused on on the baroque architecture typical of the area, considered a World Heritage Site by Unesco. 

The new “Enjoy Barocco” tourist “maxi-destination” will aim to give further solidity to the realities of the five municipalities mentioned above, increasing their visibility and international feedback, transforming the area into a single and well-structured tourist center, encouraging in this way trips to Sicily.

This particular and unique area of Sicily had already been at the center of a great news with the inauguration this summer of a specific itinerary through the streets of the Baroque, dedicated to lovers of architecture, culture and more: the same territories, in fact, are also closely linked to the world of the literature, being the locations of the books and fiction of the Commissario Montalbano’ saga (Inspector Montalbano) by Andrea Camilleri.

The five municipalities of “Enjoy Barocco – Sicilian Experience” will also focus on other aspects that unite the area, which naturally cannot be overlooked: in fact, we are talking about the coasts holding blue flags, such as Ispica, Pozzallo and Marina di Ragusa, and of places with a deep and interesting food and wine culture, given the very large presence of vineyards, almond groves and excellent products typical of the area.

After Agrigento and its great numbers on tourism this summer, Sicily is increasing and structuring its offer based on the beauties and possibilities of the South-Eastern area, which are certainly not missing.

News

Summer is now over but, as predicted, many people have chosen to postpone their vacation period between September and October, because of the delay of most vacations during the summer season. As we had the opportunity to say at the beginning of June, in Italy and in Europe the entry rules for tourists and visitors in light of the safety regulations are constantly evolving, and there are some news for the autumn, useful to know for those who are planning a trip during these months.

In Italy the situation remains almost unchanged, citizens can move freely within the Italian territory except for Sardinia, which will require a mandatory registration until October 7th with a specific procedure for both tourists and Sardinians returning from other locations: in addition to registration, which can also take place in advance, an update on the state of health is also requested to be presented a couple of days before arrival.

The same thing is requested by Belgium, which is instead implementing a “traffic light” strategy in constant evolution, with the application of different protocols based on the origin place, if considered more or less at epidemiological risk: from the 2nd of September some Italian regions have been classified as “orange” requiring them to present the negative swab certification before entering the country.

France and Denmark, on the other hand, have loosen the restrictive measures undertaken during the summer period, now allowing citizens from the European Union to circulate freely with the exception of visitors from the United Kingdom, for which home isolation is still required, considering also the reintroduction in Great Britain of the quarantine for 14 days.

Going into the details of the situation in Sicily and, specifically, of the Palermo Airport, according to the ordinance n ° 34 of the 10th of September 2020, all passengers arriving from Greece, Spain, Malta, France and Croatia will have to undergo the rhinopharyngeal swab, within the special area set up in the airport structure itself (unless a swab was carried out within 72 hours before at a certified health facility), and register at special platforms in order to monitor any health updates. In addition, in a perspective of ensuring increased safety, a Gesap-Asp agreement was signed for swabs and serological tests on a voluntary basis for all the people that work at the airport.

In this autumn still “hot”, both for the climate and for the health emergency, a small positive note for our trips is introduced by Ryanair, which starting from the end of October will increase its Palermo-Memmingen routes and will offer its passengers discounted tariffs to increase travel to Europe.

News

“Mondi Imperfetti” (imperfect worlds) is the theme of the eleventh edition of “Una Marina di Libri“, now a historic annual appointment with independent publishers that for this year has been postponed to September, abandoning the classic early summer weekend due to the sanitary emergency. From 24 to 27 September, therefore, the new edition of the festival will be held at the Botanical Garden, with a theme particularly suitable, if not prophetic, for the period we are experiencing.

Imperfection as a pretext for enrichment, the beauty of differences and the possibilities for improvement that they offer are the fulcrum of the interventions and presentations that will be proposed to visitors, with great insight into dystopia, bringing up historical authors such as Orwell, Asimov and Bradbury and on linguistics, semiotics and communication, seen as an important tool for cultural evolution.

A big space will also be left to Sicilian authors, with the participation of Stefania Auci – author of the publishing success “I leoni di Sicilia” (The Lions of Sicily), a novel about the origins of the Florio dynasty – and the commemoration of Andrea Camilleri by the Sellerio publishing house.

For the first time, a space will be dedicated to books about music, with the section “Marina Rolls”, as well as the world of school and innovation, key topics of this season especially due to the link that has united the two aspects during the lockdown period.

Although the health emergency has put a strain on the organization of this new edition, the partnership with the University of Palermo and with other cities has made it possible to set up one of the most loved events of the city, held for four years at the Botanical Garden, a suggestive place particularly suitable for hosting the plastic-free structures of the participating publishers stands. Precisely following the safety rules, this year the number of visitors will be regulated in such a way as to allow a carefree fruition of the festival: the web will make it even easier to look at presentations and initiatives, as it already happend with “Smartina: a remote Marina di Libri”, a cycle of thematic seminars organized in June through the Microsoft Teams platform.

Although in a slightly different and “resized” form compared to other years, Una Marina di Libri offers independent literature to the inhabitants of Palermo again, inspiring them with always new inputs and offering them a way of coping with culture and initiative to an “imperfect period”.

Travel notes

Among the most important Sicilian turistic attractions in this particular Summer 2020, Agrigento definitely stands out, as we have already had the opportunity to talk about the initiatives promoted by the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples). In addition to the archaeological park, however, the city itself has registered a positive trend, which at the end of the season demonstrates the tourist importance of the area.

As the mayor himself Lillo Firetto said, the large quantities in terms of presences and incomes deriving from the tourism sector proclaims Agrigento as a destination not anymore for “hit and run” holydays, but a real tourist center whose attractions have allowed a solid season, despite the Covid emergency.

The secret of the success of the ancient Akragas is in the mixture of culture, art, nature and pristine sea, reachable from Palermo Airport in just over 170 km. In addition to the Valle Dei Templi (Valley of the Temples), one of the most important archaeological site, Agrigento has other wonders dating back to past dominations, such as the Hypogea, dating back to 480 BC, which reveal the wonders that the city hides under its feet. These underground tunnels, dug into the calcarenite (typical stone of the buildings in the area), were initially conceived to guard the water reserves, but were later used to store food, different kind of resources and, in a much more modern era, as air-raid shelters.

Going back up on the ground, the historic center of Agrigento reveals to its visitors suggestive and typically Sicilian glimpses, where the sings of the past dominations are clearly visible. A visit to the Cathedral of San Gerlando, a majestic example of architectural mixes, and the birthplace of Pirandello, which has now become a museum entirely dedicated to the writer, cannot be missed during a tour of the city.

Between one visit and another, Agrigento also allows suggestive breaks by the sea thanks to the places nearby. The most popular is the Scala dei Turchi (currently closed to visitors), but in the immediate vicinity it is possible to enjoy the crystal clear waters of Realmonte or the unspoiled nature of the Torre Salsa Reserve, which alternates sea with typical flora and fauna of the dune environment of the area (distinctive of the reserve, the sand dunes of aeolic origin allow the growth and survival of some very specific species).

The summer in Agrigento is not over yet! Thanks to the hot climate, the city’s summer initiatives will last at least until the end of the month, with special openings, evening events and much more.

Gusti-Bus

One of the most popular dishes among Sicilian families and spearhead of the menus of the region’s typical restaurants, the pasta with sardines is a true symbol of Sicilian cuisine. Today our journey on the Gusti-Bus stops here, meeting some of the ingredients that we have already mentioned in the previous appointments of our gastronomic tour which, as we have already had the opportunity to say, represent the foundations of the Sicilian cuisine.

It is funny to think, and actually it is so, that pasta with sardines is one of the first experiments of “mari e monti” (literally sea and mountains, meaning the combination of sea and mountain related food) dishes in Italy: the recipe in fact is made of a tasty sauce based on sardines, fennel, raisins and pine nuts, a tasty mix with an affordable price, making it ideal to be to protagonist of most of Sicilian meals.

Also in this case, as in many other traditional recipes, the history of pasta with sardines is anything but simple, and indeed it is shrouded in mystery: the most accredited theories date this dish back to the 800, exactly between Byzantine and Arab domination in Sicily. At that time the Eufemio da Messina’s cook, during the advance of the Saracen in Sicily, found himself having to feed the troops with what the territory offered, and so he created a condiment based on sardines (abundant in Sicily), saffron, imported from the Arabs and pine nuts which, known for their detoxifying power, were present in many dishes of the time.

Over the years, the tradition of this particular sauce for pasta has continued from generation to generation, with many variations based on the area of ​​Sicily to which it belongs: if a “white” version without tomato is widespread in Palermo, in Agrigento it is instead used the tomato paste, for an even more decisive taste. Another greedy variant includes toasted breadcrumbs, or it is particularly known, especially for the funny name, “pasta with sardines at sea”, that is pasta with the same ingredients but without sardines (which are at sea, in fact) and therefore based on tomato, raisins, pine nuts and breadcrumbs. The presence of sardines is in fact very linked to seasonality: the most abundant and quality fishing takes place between March and September and, therefore, you have a month to try this tasty Sicilian specialty!

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