Trapani: Discovering Sicily

Friday, December 23, 2016

Back in august Ryan Air was having a promotion as Italy had been winning lots of medals in the Olympics which meant that certain flights were only 8 euros. My flatmate and I were curious to see what kind of flights were available and we spontaneously booked a return flight to Trapani in Sicily for only 16 euros! Both Kasia and I had been to Sicily once before many years ago, but never to Trapani so it was the perfect opportunity to explore a little bit and when the end of November rolled around we packed our bags and made our way down to the sunny south.

We didn't really have many activities planned, especially as Trapani is quite a small town and we were in need of a relaxing holiday after months of studying and working. When we arrived non abbiamo capito una hacca (literally: we didn't understand a h, aka we didn't understand anything) of what the bus driver and his friend were saying because they were talking to each other in  the local dialect. When we were dropped off we checked into our hotel where they kindly upgraded us to a suite (score) and then we made our way to dinner as our tummies were starting to rumble.

We searched around for a while but everywhere was so expensive - we were expecting Sicily to be really cheap but it was around the same price, if not more expensive than Florence. We finally settled on somewhere called 210 Grammi (via Giardini) which was recommended to us by the lady in the hotel. The food was really good but again not as cheap as we were hoping for. Kasia had one of the local specialities which was hand made gnocchi with pesto alla Trapanese* and french fries (sounds weird but trust us) whereas I had a linguine dish with pistachio cream & salmon. Stuffed & satisfied we made our way back to the hotel to turn in early as we were exhausted and wanted to fuel ourselves up for the day ahead of us which started with a walk to the seafront.

* Pesto alla Trapanese means pesto from Trapani. When Trapani was one of the central ports in the Mediterranean, the people from Genoa often had Trapani as one of their ports of call. They brought with them the famous pesto alla Genovese (the classic pesto that we all know and simply call "pesto", made from a base of basil) which the Trapanese people then adapted using their local products: tomatoes, almonds and garlic.

It was literally so beautiful and the weather glorious - 21 degrees! At the end of November! As people who normally live in Poland and England we were so happy to soak up some sunshine as we were really lacking it, even in Florence. Trapani is still an important fishing point and the economy heavily depends on the sea, which is stunningly blue, even in winter. Fishing and the canning of food are the main local industries and other important exports are coral, salt, marble and Marsala wine, a fortified wine which is often used for cooking as well as sipping on similar to Sherry or Madeira.

Because of all of the fishing it is a staple in their diet and one of the typical dishes is their famous seafood cous cous with fish broth which we just had to try. After we had enjoyed the sunshine for a couple of hours we ventured into the city to try to find a restaurant for lunch which proved a little bit difficult as everything seemed to be closed in the afternoon for a couple of hours, although it was low season as well as a Sunday so we probably should have expected it. After a while we found Maree (via Serisso 15/17) which had an array of fresh fried fish as well as the famous cous cous di pesce (fish cous cous).

The famous cous cous which you then pour a fish broth over
We obviously got the cous cous as well as some polpettine which are fried fish balls. I'm not a massive fan of sea food but Kasia said that the cous cous was very tasty, and I really liked the polpettine.

Some of the other two things that we had to try in Sicily were of course cannoli siciliani and granita siciliana. A cannolo is a type of pastry which is a tube-shaped shell of fried pastry dough (yum) which are then filled with a sweet creamy ricotta and sugar filling which normally have some little chocolate chips in them. They are a staple in Sicilian cuisine but can be found all over Italy and are very popular in Italian-American cuisine too. Granita on the other hand is a dessert made from sugar, water and flavourings which is half-frozen. Again it's also originally from Sicily but is available all over Italy and in Florence Gelateria la Carabè has great authentic Sicilian granita.

The calorie bomb cannolo was really good although it's quite sweet so we shared that large one between the two of us, and then we ventured off to Colicchia (via delle Arti) to find some authentic granita. I got a limone (lemon) as it was such a warm day and Kasia went for pistacchio (pistachio) and nocciola (hazelnut). We both really liked all of them but in the hotter weather I love tangy tastes like lemon and the people who worked at Colicchia were honestly so so friendly.

Sicily actually had some of the most amazing desserts for all us who have a sweet tooth. Along with the cannoli and the granita we tasted some of the yummiest cookies and pastries in the hotel at breakfast among which our favourites were cassadedi. They are little pastries with sweetened ricotta inside of them (do you see a trend!?) which have been lightly fried and oh my are they good. They also had these amazing little pasticcini di mandorle (almond cookies), both of which you could also find at the place where we got our granita so definitely go if you are in Trapani, and then take a walk around the city to soak up the atmosphere, as well as burn off some calories!

Look at these little cutie pies

Dinner time soon came and we returned to one of the places that we had tried to go to on the first night. It is called Pizzeria di Calvino (via Nunzio Nasi) which has been open since 1946 and is apparently the best pizza in Trapani, serving them Trapanesi style. We didn't necessarily want to go there for the pizza though - we wanted to go there for the building's history. It is said that it was a brothel in 1943, when the Allies took power of Sicily during the Second World War and it is not hard to see how! The restaurant is divided into lots of different little rooms... if only the walls could speak.

Their authentic pizzas are very different to any other types in Italy and to be honest I'm not the biggest fan, I much prefer them Neapolitan style like at Gusta Pizza in Florence or in Naples itself but that's not to say that these weren't good, just different! Most people order larger pizzas to share and they come pre-cut into bite-size squares after there was a supposed "incident" involving knives. It's better to be safe than sorry I guess and it makes the pizzas much easier to eat! I went for one with peperoni (red peppers) and Kasia went for a pizza misto Calvino which has anchovies, tomatoes, parsely, oregano and mozzarella (pizza Trapanesi) on one side and anchovies, tomatoes, pecorino cheese, parsely, oregano and oil (pizza Rianata) on the other both of which are local flavours.

After our pizza we spotted a wine bar called Adragna Vini (Corso Vittorio Emanuele 52, the main street) where you could get glasses of wine straight from the barrels for around 2 a glass so obviously we had to stop for a couple of glasses on our way back where we met some Trapanese people. It was so nice to get to know some of the locals and talk to them about their city and the man who worked at the bar was lovely.

Sicily is famous for its Mafia so I just had to ask if it was the same in Trapani, which was met by some laughter followed by affirmations that there wasn't a big presence in Trapani in the sense that the shops didn't have to pay pizzo, a kind of tax paid to the mafia in order for them to be protected. Obviously the mafia exists there, like everywhere in Italy and actually all over the world, but it wasn't the same as in Naples.

Before Kasia and I got here we had this idea of Sicily as being a poor place where everything was super cheap, a little run down and where we could see all of the nonni (grandparents) playing cards together. As we got closer and closer and saw all of these expensive cars which we soon realised couldn't all be mafia cars, we understood that the reality was much different, although we did of course see the nonni.

The idea that I had was much more true of Naples which I went to a couple of weeks later and will be doing a blog post on soon - it's so different to the north of Italy!

Getting to Trapani is rather easy as there is an airport there which usually doesn't have flights which are too expensive. We flew from Pisa with the Ryan Air promotion, however travel within Italy by plane is often affordable as long as you book in advance so if you go, enjoy! And bring more money than you think you will need because it isn't extremely cheap.

Alexandra x

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  1. Wow, a 16 Euro flight?! One of the many reasons why I love Europe! In the states domestic flights are generally $300+ so that is just unbelievable! I also love all the historical details that you include. I've been to Catania & Taormina, but I can't wait to explore Trapani! xKelly

    1. Aww thank you! Yeah we are definitely lucky that we can find such cheap flights sometimes (although they usually aren't €16! Hahah) xx

  2. Such beautiful photos! Especially the ones of the city streets, they are like sunshine! I've been in such a photography rut for the last couple of months, you've inspired me to pick up my camera again :) xx


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  3. The tickets' price sounds absolutely insane:) Wish there was something so affordable from New Zealand, but it never is:))


    1. Wow thanks so much for commenting! That's true but your blog is incredible and it looks like you've been to so many places. Are you Russian? I'm going to St Petersburg this summer for two days so please let me know if you have any tips! xx

  4. Awww, I'd like to go there - it's getting so cold in Switzerland!
    21° in November that's amazing! I love looking at pictures of the sea, it's gorgeous. ;)
    Happy Holidays!

    Laura |

    1. I know - in Florence it was super cold too! And now i'm moving to Paris so it definitely won't be 21 degrees there either hahaha. Thanks for your comment! Happy holidays xx

  5. I love the look of your blog! These are some awesome pictures, I especially like the one with the cats looking out!

    1. Thank you so much! The cats are so cute aren't they? There were so many of them that I just had to take a few (too many) snaps :) x