Buongiorno from Umbria!
Many of our friends and readers have reached out to us for inspiration right now since we will be at home for a while. And, well, since I have some time on my hands, I thought I’d reply and share updates on life here in Italy, along with sharing with you some of my favorite classic Italian recipes. Since we are at home with these lockdowns, we may as well make the best of it and take this opportunity to reconnect with our families over healthy food you’ve prepared on your own, right in your own kitchen.
I first learned to cook from my mom and grandma, and I love sharing my cooking for my family and friends, and now with you! I will post easy, quick recipes with few ingredients, and, of course, suggest which wine to pair my dish with. I know that, for many, it will not be easy to stay in quarantine. But I want to be helpful and inspire those in my second home to stick it out as we have done here in Italy, and hopefully, these recipes will make that a little bit easier!
Recipe below! Make sure to check out our social media for more updates.
Recommended pairing: Pinot Grigio or another white wine, like Misluli Umbria Bianco 2016 from the Ninni winery in Umbria. You want a wine that will cleanse your palette, and that has some acidity to help cut the creaminess, creating a perfect balance.
- 250 gr Voiello or similar, or gluten-free spaghetti
- 1 cup (100 gr) diced bacon pancetta
- 3 eggs
- kosher salt and fresh black pepper
- 2/3 grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 2/3 grated Pecorino Roman
- 2 garlic gloves
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil
- Mix eggs with cheese (leave some cheese for the end) and whisk together with salt
- Grate some fresh black pepper into the egg mixture
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the EVOO with garlic, and then add pancetta (or bacon) cook until it is slightly crisp – about 5/7 minutes
- In the meantime, add the pasta to the salted water and cook about 10 minutes until al dente
- Keep aside a cup of boiling pasta water to add to the spaghetti in the pan later (it makes the sauce creamy)
- Drain pasta and add to the pan
- Mix with the pancetta
- Add the egg mixture, the water you set aside, mix, and remove from heat
- Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmesan, Pecorino, and fresh grated black pepper
With abundant natural beauty, famed ancient history, and noteedly diverse culture, the spectacular island of Sicily has enticed travelers to explore it’s many treasures since ancient times. Sicily’s rich history can be seen in; the Arab-Norman jewels in Palermo, the Doric temples in the Valley of the Temples, and the ancient Greek architecture of Syracuse. Baroque beauty abounds in the Noto Valley, and extensive religious art is abundant, as you discover Sicily.
Sicily’s history can also be found in the unique food it offers. A result of many different conquerors, the cuisine is perhaps the most culturally-infused of all of Italy. Here you can find classics, such as pistachios and almonds, citrus and swordfish, along with more exotic spices and ingredients, like saffron and sugar, baccalà and couscous.
Then, of course, there are the landscapes; first and foremost the formidable Mount Etna on Sicily’s east coast. One of Europe’s highest active volcanoes, Etna still erupts from time to time and can dictate life in the area. Then there are the stunning coastline nature reserves including the Zingaro Nature Reserve west of Palermo, or the Vendicari Nature Reserve in Sicily’s southwestern corner. Citrus groves, olive orchards, vineyards, and salt pans, wherever you are, you’re sure to have a stunning backdrop.
What to Know Before You Discover Sicily:
Discovering Sicily in comfort means you need to know its location and how to dress with the season.
Where is Sicily
One of 20 regions of Italy, Sicily is an island just off the mainland. It’s the ball to Italy’s boot, located in the extreme southwest of Italy.
Italy’s largest island, Sicily’s most important cities are coastal ports, grown powerful by the bustling sea trade since the ancient Greeks. Though there is a small airport in Trapani and another in the Val di Noto, most flights to Sicily fly into Palermo or Catania, two of Sicily’s largest cities.
The Weather in Sicily
It’s southernmost point, Sicily is hotter than the rest of Italy. In January average highs in Catania can easily reach 60°F, while August sees an average max of 90°F. Though skiers will be hoping for snow on Etna, it’s not impossible to see sunbathers in December, with sea temperatures reaching 59°F. In August, most cities in Sicily empty as residents go north on vacation or head to the beach to stay cool. If you’re not going in the summer, be sure to bring a cover-up as morning and evening can cool down.
Best Places to Discover in Sicily
The island of Sicily truly has it all; bustling port cities, small hill towns, coastal resorts and complete wilderness. There’s a lot to see on just this one Mediterranean island, but here’s where to start:
Palermo and Monreale
Palermo is an Arab-Norman jewel of a city with strong character, and a world of history, and culture to discover.
Long gone are Palermo’s days as a violent city. Today, it is a favorite for Italian hipsters, ground zero for the start of many a Sicily vacation, and was named the Italian Capital of Culture in 2018.
After Phoenicians founded a colony there in the 8th century, Palermo has since been ruled by Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, the Holy Roman emperors, Aragonese, Bourbons, and Austrians…to name a few. This important port city has always been strategic in the Mediterranean, leading to an intriguing mix of cultures, tastes, and ideas. Go see the beautiful Piazza Pretoria and its “shameful” fountain, the Palermo Cathedral and the Teatro Massimo. Palazzo dei Normanni is a must-see, if only for the Palatine chapel inside, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the Zisa Palace, the Capuchin catacombs, and the trifecta of gorgeous churches around Piazza Bellini.
Finally, head up the hill to tour the Cathedral of Monreale, a masterpiece of Arab, Norman, and Byzantine art.
An important trading city since the 13th-century, Trapani’s port still bustles with ferry traffic to and from the nearby Egadi Islands. Tour the kilometers of salt flats along the coast in a pungent nod to the city’s salt harvesting history. The biggest draw is, without a doubt, the ancient salt pans of Trapani and Paceco. Visitors can tour these kilometers of salt flats along the coast, not only to see a glimpse of the area’s long history (many of the same techniques from 1000 AD are still used today) but also to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Today the salt pans are part of a nature reserve, still allowing a small amount of production, as well as the return of native flora, and fauna.
Located in the hinterland of Sicily, Piazza Armerina is an off-the-beaten-path gem. The town itself has an 18th-century Duomo, and nearby you’ll find the Aidone Archeology Museum. But the real draw is the Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and archeological treasure worth an entire day.
Agrigento is home to the Valley of the Temples, one of the most famed archeological sites in all Italy. Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC, it quickly became one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean. This is still seen today in the massive collection of Doric temples that lie intact in the area’s fields, along with excavations of Hellenistic ruins, and early Christian sites. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, for its great row of Doric temples, considered to be “among the most extraordinary representations of Doric architecture in the world.” A “testament of Greek civilization” and an example of an “important interchange of human values,” the area once considered the “most beautiful city inhabited by man,” according to the Greek poet Pindar, is now one of the most beautiful archeological sites to be visited by man.
Taormina has been a resort town since the time of the ancient Greeks. With a spectacular location on the side of a mountain along Sicily’s east coast, it’s easy to see why Taormina has a long history of delighting the rich and famous. The town is breathtaking! Perhaps most famous for its Teatro Antico, an ancient Greco-Roman theater still in use today, most visitors are attracted by Isola Bella. Attached to the mountain coast by a small strip of sand, Isola Bella is a tiny nature reserve set in a natural cove. Once the home of Englishwoman Florence Trevelyan, it can now be enjoyed by all. Then, visit the nearby Giardini Naxos, the first Greek colony in Sicily, before taking time to relax somewhere and soak in the wonderful view – this won’t be hard to find.
Syracuse and Ortygia
One of the oldest settlements in Sicily, Syracuse was founded in 734 BC by the Corinthians, who landed on the island of Ortygia (Ortigia). Once the largest city in the ancient world, a visit to Syracuse means stepping back in time through the ruins of the original city in the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, one of Sicily’s greatest archaeological sites. Here you’ll find Greek ruins, like the Teatro, along with beautiful Baroque buildings framing sun-kissed piazzas. The most beautiful corner is surely it’s minuscule island of Ortygia. Just 1 square kilometer, it’s difficult not to fall in love with the island’s breathtaking views, characteristic streets, and Mediterranean atmosphere.
Located in southeastern Sicily in the eponymous Val di Noto, Noto is the epicenter of Baroque architecture in Sicily. The entire town is filled with grand central roads, elegant Baroque palazzi, and beautiful historic town squares. Gorgeous, no matter when you visit, the golden hour is favorite for the delicious hue that reflects off it’s red-gold buildings.
After the original town of Noto was destroyed in a 1693 earthquake the entire town was rebuilt a bit higher on the hill in the 18th-century. Traces of the same style can be found in Modica, and Ragusa, both located in Val di Noto and both worth a visit, thanks to a local architect who worked on all three.
Catania has long had a reputation as a gritty, chaotic city. Though this might still be true, the city still has atmosphere and attitude. It’s one of the few cities in Sicily that feels like a city, with nightlife and energy to match. Catania is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Noto, thanks to its Baroque architecture. Visit the Piazza del Duomo, the Roman Amphitheater, and the famous Pescheria fish market, for a taste of authentic Italy. As you tour the city, you’re sure to see Mount Etna sitting in the distance, patiently watching over it all.
The best way to discover Sicily is by car – let us handle the stress of transit for you, with completely private transfer service as well as expert guides on our Discover Sicily Trip.
Traveling is good for your health. It can take you away from the stressors of everyday life, give your brain a chance to reset and even improve brain health thanks to stimulating new experiences. Travel can boost your mood and give you much needed social time. Unfortunately, it can also mean long travel days, jet lag that snags sleep and a slip in our usual healthy diet.
Want to gain the benefits of travel without sacrificing your health? You can still do it!
Here’s how to stay healthy while traveling:
Wash your hands
The simplest and most effective way to stay healthy while at home or abroad is to wash your hands often and thoroughly. Our biggest problem seems to be the latter; Most people don’t adequately wash their hands, according to the World Health Organization. Be sure to use clean, running water, plenty of soap, and wash for at least 20 seconds on the palm, back, and between the fingers of each hand. After, air dry or dry with a clean towel. While traveling, be sure to always wash your hands before eating, and if that’s not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Be sure to rub sanitizer on the palm, back, and between the fingers of each hand.
Try to keep your normal sleep schedule
Traveling can be physically demanding. You upset your routine by carrying luggage, walking all day, and maybe even crossing time zones – it can be harsh on your body! One of the most important things you can do while traveling is to make sure you get plenty of sleep. If you don’t normally go to sleep in the wee hours of the night, don’t do it while traveling either. With early morning wake-up times, odd hours, and jet lag, it can be hard, but there are some workarounds. Fight jet lag with a brisk walk in the sun – daylight is one of the best ways to reset your body clock – and if that fails, simply listen to your body. Perhaps the time change means you just need that post-lunch siesta. That’s part of vacation too!
Move your body
Working out while traveling is an excellent way to stay in shape, stick to your routine, and combat jet lag. It’s also far more difficult to plan and motivate. Though many hotels throughout the world have gyms and there are plenty of exercises and online workout videos you can follow in your room, it’s hard to justify time out of a busy travel day to work out. If you’re able to do it – good for you! If not, consider that in most destinations in the world, like Italy, you’ll be exploring all day. This means walking the streets, strolling in parks, and standing for hours while touring museums and churches and theaters. One good thing about exploring a new city is that you’re sure to keep moving! You can also schedule exercise into your trip with a hike, walking tour, or bike tour to get moving while sightseeing.
Indulge – but only once a day
Most people want to indulge and experience the local food while traveling – it is vacation after all! You can absolutely, have fun and enjoy some of the local fare, but you can avoid indigestion, constipation, diarrhea and other stomach issues by sticking as closely as possible to your regular diet.
Try getting healthy snacks at a local market or grocery store to keep hunger and temptation at bay, and then consider indulging in that big plate of pasta or that three-scoop gelato just once a day, rather than at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “One treat a day feels special and pleasurable,” says registered dietician Keri Glassman, “overdoing it, on the other hand, isn’t as enjoyable and leads to low energy and poor sleep.”
As always, if you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions, be sure to prepare beforehand. Study up on your destination’s local foods and consider getting a translated card explaining any allergies if you’re worried about language issues.
Hydrate, enjoy wine, and skip the hard stuff
A changed routine and constant motion can make it difficult to drink enough water, but keeping hydrated will help combat dehydration, hunger, stomach issues, and even jet lag.
For this reason, make sure to drink lots of water, and consider limiting your alcohol consumption to reduce dehydration and travel fatigue. While in Italy you are sure to want to try some of the many wonderful local wines the country has to offer, so consider sticking to wine and beer and skipping hard liquor. A glass of wine is an essential part of the local culture and a popular and fun activity for visitors, so enjoy that vineyard tour and wine tasting, but make sure to stay hydrated as well!
Check stress at the door
Vacation or travel is a great time to slow down. Stop to appreciate your surroundings, try spending some time away from technology, and look to connect back with your analog nature. Read the local newspaper or a book, and focus on your travel partners and the new experiences you’re enjoying. Leave the stress of work at home.
That said, we know that a lot of the stress of travel comes from the travel itself. Prepare yourself ahead of time for a seamless trip, try to let go of the travel hiccups you can’t control, and find what you need in order to travel without stress. Or, go for a completely stress-free trip by hiring a travel company and letting them take care of everything for you! At Ciao Andiamo, we love crafting Italy adventures through local eyes, and we can arrange hotels, excursions, and transfers, personalized for you. Contact us to see how we can make your dream trip to Italy come to life!
Bring a smart first-aid kit
Much of the basic medicine available throughout the world is the same, but why not cut the stress and bring your own basic first aid kit for any minor aches or illnesses? A first-aid kit can have all the usual – bandages, sunscreen, an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin, a thermometer and cold relief medication – as well as medicines for harsher eventualities, including diarrhea, constipation or motion sickness. Like we said, all of these are things that you can find in nearly any pharmacy in the world, but it’s so much more convenient to have them on hand right when you need it. Check out the CDC’s Pack Smart Checklist to help you prepare the best medicine travel kit for your trip.
Consider travel insurance
Finally, cover yourself against any possibilities or eventualities with good travel insurance. Most travel insurance should include emergency medical assistance, medicines and hospital costs, surgery and dental treatments, and urgent medical treatment for accidents, but make sure to choose one that also has emergency evacuation, legal coverage, and repatriation in case of serious illness or accident. The odds that you’ll have an accident or fall severely ill on a trip are low, but why not buy some peace of mind for your next trip with good medical coverage abroad? Details matter, so pay close attention to the specific policies if you choose to book!