As part of every OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) trip, they include what is known as “A Day in the Life,” where the group experiences everyday life with the locals. On this trip, it was a visit to a dairy farm in the village of Castelluccio. The family that owns the farm has about 100 acres of land, with views of olive trees that stretch for miles. I absolutely fell in love with the countryside of Sicily.
Their land is rich with beautiful fruit orchards overflowing with incredibly sweet persimmons and luscious prickly pears. The sun was high and warm as we wandered through the orchards, with the family patriarch plucking pears off the trees and doling out big slices for us to eat out of hand, his two trusty dogs trailing us.
|Prickly Pears for the taking|
When I thought the day couldn’t get any better, we went to their cheesemaking hut where we helped his son make fresh ricotta (okay, mostly he made it while we watched), which was still warm when we ate it at lunch. Nirvana!
When we returned to the house, the lovely matriarch of the family invited us to make bread with her. She uses an ancient kneading machine, the kind that has been used in rural villages for decades. We all took a turn at this and believe me, it was not easy. After the dough has been kneaded and has risen, it’s formed and then baked in a wood-fired stove where she’s also added some olive tree branches for flavor.
While the bread was baking, we walked through the olive groves to a spot under the trees where we enjoyed salumi, caciocavallo cheese, and champagne (to celebrate the anniversary of a couple on the trip). It was like a Food and Wine Magazine spread.
For lunch back at the house, they grilled fat pork sausages and tender chicken legs that had been rubbed with lemon, oregano, and olive oil, all washed down with homemade wine in mismatched glasses. Everything we ate had been grown or made on the farm. Whatever they don’t use for themselves, they use to barter with neighbors. This is life in a small, rural Italian village. Hard to believe we were not far from the bustling hill town of Ragusa, that is home to a Michelin starred restaurant. Talk about two extremes. And I loved both equally.
Ciao for now!