I should probably be writing this in Italian but I wanted to save you all from having to use Google Translate to read this post. Heidi had an opportunity to attend a language school of her choice through school and what better place to immerse yourself in a language than on an island. For one week we studied the finer points of the Italian language over five sessions a day including a private session first thing in the morning. When I say finer points I really mean the pre-elementary skills all 3 year olds need to speak the Italian language. We now know how to conjugate verbs, speak in the present tense and a little in the past tense. We may need our notes to speak correctly and the conversation may end after we know where you're from, what you did today and how old you are but we've got this. Heidi described the experience best. "The class solidified a lot but we still need practice." Choosing Sicily for language camp was perfect. We truly had a blast in class each day. Our instructors were awesome and the program had great teaching methods in place to keep us engaged and challenged.
After five hours of class each day our brains were fried like a arancini (local delicacy). With our afternoons free we made our way to the beaches surrounding Taormina for some sun and relaxation. There was no shortage of sun for our week here. With Italy experiencing a huge heat wave and temps reaching 40 degrees celsius, the cold Ionian Sea was a welcome relief from the heat.
Cold showers and the coldest white wine we could find helped with the evening cool down before dinner. When we had chatted with our Roman friends about our trip to Sicily they all had the same suggestion. EAT!!! No problem. Eating is our newest hobby. You hear a lot of hype surrounding Sicily and wonder what it's all about. Could it really be that good? We've had some fantastic meals eating regionally throughout Italy, it's hard to think it can get much better. But Sicily always seems to come up when good food is mentioned. The hype is there for a reason and we quickly tasted why.
Taormina is only one small town along the island's coast but offered an incredible amount of food choices to explore. We ate out just about every night and every meal was new and different. I can't imagine how many pants sizes you'd go up if you had the option of exploring the food in multiple towns on this island. Of course. The food was absolutely mind-blowing. We're talking both hands to the head with every meal. The flavors that are produced on Sicily are simple, unique, and made with love. I think the love portion the deciding factor in what makes the food here so special. Sicilians take great pride in their food and love to share it with others. They want to talk about how plates are made, how it tasted, and where the ingredients came from. The influences from Africa, Greece, Turkey and the Middle East are all tasted here. We probably ate six or seven different types of sea creatures. Each fish, mussel, octopus, squid, and oyster was prepared in a traditional Sicilian style and overwhelmingly fresh. The pasta? Forget about it. Pasta alla Norma, Lemon and pistachio taglierini, shrimp ravioli with red cream sauce were just some of our favorites. Hungry yet?
To put it simply, the food was amazing and lives up to every bit of hype it receives. The food itself could stand alone and bring people from all over the world to experience it. But when you put this food with this place you get the feeling that it's the simple things in life that make you appreciate it. There is a pace of life in Sicily that requires you to slow down and enjoy where you are and what your eating. Whether we're sitting on a tiny balcony above the town piazza or sitting on the street with views of the sea, many times we noted that this place, this food made us very happy.
Another local specialty I thought I could do without and learned quickly I could not live without, was a Granita. An icy drink made with fresh, seasonal fruit or coffee. Add a warm brioche and there isn't a better way to start a hot morning on Sicily. Luckily we left before I started drinking two a day.
The week prior to language camp Heidi had heard that Eddie Vedder was going to be playing a pair of solo gigs in tiny Taormina while we were there. Having been told the show was sold out, we checked to make sure and found that tickets were still available. Our stars were again lining up for another great adventure in Italy. The venue for these shows? The 3rd century B.C., Ancient theatre of Taormina. What an amazing place to see music! The Greek style theatre is perched at the top of town with views down to the sea and surrounding towns.
This was the last show of the European tour for Vedder and he was very humbled by the venue and people attending. He spoke a few time about his love for Italy and what a great time he was having in Taormina. Eddie was seen paddle boarding during the day before the shows and even wondering around town in his free time. The show was fantastic. The setlist was a great mix of solo tunes, Pearl Jam tunes, covers of Nick Cave, Neil Young, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Pete Townshend, Fugazi, and even a little Willie Nelson for Heidi. We both agreed that Vedder's show was one the best we've seen in a while. To experience a big name act in such a small venue was quite personal and we felt like Eddie was only playing for the two us. One for the books.