Saturday, October 3 – Classical Concert Day
In anticipation of our trip to Palermo for a concert at the Teatro Massimo, the largest opera house in Italy, we spent a leisurely morning in town. After a light breakfast, we went out for a long walk to try to get an exercise routine going. Eventually, we walked to explore some streets always on the lookout for interesting shopping experiences and eating establishments for future meals. Cities in Italy are especially difficult to navigate because of one-ways, confusing (or non-existent signage), hard to find street names, and route numbers that don’t always match what’s on the map. It’s always an adventure so we allowed plenty of time for a trip that should be about an hour. We explored the area around the theatre and wove our way through old alleyways and crowded streets, stopping for gelato and later some arancini (Sicilian rice balls) and coffee before heading back to the theatre. There were loads of people enjoying a beautiful weekend afternoon with family and friends – lots of young people in groups. The concert was amazing – full symphony orchestra, 70+ member chorus, and incredible acoustics.
Sunday, October 4 – Sunday Ride in the Countryside
We spent a leisurely morning after our Palermo adventure with a morning stroll in town followed by a beautiful ride through Western Sicily wine country. Our destination, about an hour away, was Agriturismo Tarantola, a lodging establishment in the middle of nowhere with a restaurant that’s open to the public. All the food and wine are local, most of it produced by the owners who prepare, cook, and serve the food. There’s no menu for a price fixed meal with multiple courses. We sat outside with a lovely view of vineyards. We tried some of their white wine. Our first course included incredible eggplant caponata (the best we’ve had) and roasted, marinated peppers. The next course include mini vegetable fritters, polenta-like squares made with chick pea flour, stuffed sun dried tomatoes, and bruschetta. Out came the pasta course – ravioli with a light sauce of ricotta and mint and a curly pasta with a mild pesto. Both were excellent. Next came a simple salad of butter lettuce and tomatoes followed by the meat course of perfectly grilled lamb chops and homemade sausage. I don’t usually like lamb, but these chops were delicious. Then came a plate of fruit – fresh persimmons (caci in Italian) and wine grapes. Finally there was espresso and little half-moon shaped pastries filled with slightly sweetened ricotta and shaved dark chocolate filling (better than cannoli). Because the pace was leisurely and the portions generous but not overwhelming, we were comfortably full instead of stuffed. As much as we loved our day/evening in Palermo, exploring dirt roads on the way to a fabulous meal in a vineyard was equally enjoyable. This was Tuscany without the crowds.