I had not really intended on going anywhere for the weekend, but Dario had other plans. After a short discussion on possible destinations, we decided on Sicily. It was time to find the best arancini in Italy, and Catania was the place to do it!
First view of My Mountain (Etna) from the ferry in the morning. Isn't she BEAUTIFUL?
We took an overnight ferry from Naples, and were met at the port by my friend, Mandie. We spent some time checking out the area near her house and had a nice Italian breakfast (pastry and coffee). We managed to avoid hitting any "geep," a local variety of sheep-like creatures, rumored to be a hybrid of goats and sheep. Alas, we did not get close enough to the legendary beasts to snap a photo!
After that, we stopped at Mario's Ironworks to check on a Valentine's Day present Mandie had ordered for her hubby. Eventually, we made it to Mandie's place where we met her sweet and very waggy doggy. We immediately settled down for a bit of video gaming.
After our group geek-out, Dario and I caught a cab into Catania to seek out the best arancini in Italy.
Piazza Duomo, where the elephant lives.
We started at the famous (at least locally) "Elephant Square" and swung by the hostel I'd stayed at in 2007 with Saviour, Joseph, and Fred, the original Etna climbing crew.* The elephant is carved out of lava stone and is the symbol of Catania. I was hoping to find the restaurant next door open and serving paella ("pie-EL-uh" in Italian ;) antipasto. Sadly, it was not on the menu for the evening. However, we did discover that they have a cave under the restaurant with a river running through it. SO COOL!
But it was ok — more room for arancini! On the recommendation of my friend, Grazia, we went to Savia, a local pasticceria (pastry shop). Arancini, or fried rice balls, are a local Sicilian specialty, and Savia is rumored to make the best in the region. On a cold night — and it was brrrrrr! cold! — hot arancini were a real treat!
*Illegal camping trip on the side of an active volcano. Awesome!
Mmm… hot arancino!
Ok, it may not look like much sitting there on the napkin, but it was mightily satisfying! Oh, and did you notice the nifty soda cans? I think soda cans must reflect the population which they serve. Italian cans are slim and stylish, while American cans are utilitarian and squat. Coincidence?
Interior of an arancino. The stretchy bits are melted cheese, not drool, I promise!
Dario demonstrates the satisfied grin commonly found on the faces of Savia customers.
Grazia was right. Savia makes fantastic arancini, so delicious and filling! I could have stayed all night, eating one arancino after another until I'd have to be wrapped up in butcher paper and rolled home. Mmm… Savia… arancini…
As hard as it was to believe, when we walked back down the street toward the elephant, we stopped in for more food. This time, however, it was dessert, and Dario had a pistacchio cannolo.
The lighting was not very conducive to wee point and shoot cameras,
but it was VERY conducive to drinking tea and enjoying pastries!
It started to rain very heavily at that point, so we stayed inside for a while and waited for Mandie and her pal, Chelsey, to come rescue us. However, since they were not that familiar with Catania, we went down and waited near the elephant. I had failed to bring an umbrella, so we were a tad moist when they arrived. I did, however, remember to wear my awesome boots from Vienna (boots are standard Italian winter footwear), so my toes were nice and toasty!
Obligatory and familiar, We Were There Picture. :D
Lighting up St. Agatha.
We had just missed the festival of St. Agatha, but there were still remnants of the celebration. I'm not quite sure why you would ever *celebrate* martyrdom, as it tends to be quite gruesome and horrifying, but I guess that's not really the point. (Note: if you are squeamish or sensitive — or have any shred of empathy whatsoever — don't read about St. Agatha's martyrdom. Bllleeeeeuuuuhhh! *shudder*) I suppose you're celebrating the sacrifice and devotion of the person while they were alive. At least, I hope so!
Stuffed with arancini and cannoli, we went back to Mandie's place to recharge for our outing the next day: more eating and… ETNA!
Trying to figure out how to get to the arancini?
Chances are you'll need to check out some ferry routes to get there.
Well, unless you're a really strong swimmer, that is.