8.12.13

All good things must come to an end.

It took me over five hours, two buses & more than €20 to get from Syracuse, to my next temporary abode.  Situated in the countryside of Sciacca, a small town, on the west coast of Sicily, two Sicilian brothers, Fabio & Alessandro & the latter's Polish girlfriend, Aga, live on a small family owned olive grove.

Each year, the olives are hand picked by the guys, with the help of a team of volunteers.  The majority of the olives are pressed into organic virgin olive oil, which they sell & some they save, to preserve to eat at home.


None of this is unusual in Italy, where most families living in the country have their own olive trees & make their own oil, usually just for family consumption.  However, the difference in Sciacca is, they've decided to do something a little special with their oil.

Having turned the ground floor of their three storey home into a laboratory, Alessandro has taken to using their own oil to make organic cosmetics.  Soap, body scrubs, lip balms, skin oil.  All natural, homemade, organic & deliciously scented with lemon & grapefruit, among other fruits.

Professionally packaged, they sell the products in some of the hotels & gift stores in town, but mainly online through their website saponi&saponi & abroad in Germany & Poland.  I was fortunate enough to get to test out all the products & I was really impressed, especially with the body scrub.


I spent three weeks with the guys in Sciacca & I can honestly say, it was one of the most enjoyable, fun packed time I'd had on my travels.  The guys at Sciacca were kind, caring, warmhearted, funny & generous people, who made me feel a part of their family.

Within the first weekend, we had indulged in w├╝rstel & sauerkraut at a German night, in aid of Oktoberfest, been sailing on a yacht during the regatta, been witness to the talents of the local salsa dancers & had a night in playing Hotel, the Italian version of Monopoly, whilst devouring pomegranate mojitos made by Mara, my German roommate.


The first week saw the consumption of a fair few more cocktails, which at €4 a glass, I couldn't really deny myself.  Then, after a day trip to Palermo & the purchase of a rather oversized & overpriced Italian grammar book, I began to finally do some real studying, with the, much appreciated, help of Aga, who, after two years in Sicily is now enviably fluent in Italian.

The second week saw more volunteers arrive & all of us go out to the fields to pick the olives.  After an unexpected storm, early on in the summer, the crop had been greatly affected & many of the trees were quite bare.  After two days under the Sicilian sun, all the olives were picked & we took them to the small local factory to be pressed.  I really enjoyed watching the whole process, from picking, to pressing, to the final product, of fresh olive oil.  The smell of freshly pressed olives is so unusually strong & the colour is a really dense green.  Nothing like it is in the supermarket.  If you would like to see the process for yourself, I have posted the photos here, on my food blog, Mangiamo!


On my last weekend in Sciacca, the guys held a BBQ, in order to celebrate the end of the harvest.  There were freshly caught mackerel, grilled on the BBQ & an abundance of dolce, which included a ginormous carrot cake, handmade by myself, with the help of my New Zealand friend Kate.  Turns out Italians quite like a moist carrot cake, especially when it's made with nearly a litre of freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil.

In my last week in Sciacca, I gave up any attempt at dieting & decided to indulge in the local gelato.  It's hard to deny that sugary delight.  The weather in Sicily was still hot & sunny, despite it being October.  We spent our afternoons battling the slugs in the organic vegetable garden, picking the surviving aubergines & bright red peppers.  I spent two days decorating the laboratory's office, painting it a beautiful shade of sea green.  I felt quite proud of myself once it was finished & the guys seemed to be happy with it too, as they awarded me with half a kilo of chocolate!  Nothing puts a smile on my face more than chocolate!


On my last night in Sciacca, we held an 'International Night' at the house.  Made up of three Sicilians, one Polka, one New Zealander, one Brit, two Italians & one Taiwanese, each of us made something typical of our nationality for the evening.  Aga made pierogi, polish dumplings, the Italians made a tuscan soup & the Taiwanese formed small parcels out of leaves from the palms in the garden, to steam rice.  I made chocolate muffins…I would like to defend myself, by saying that I was asked to make them.  Otherwise I would have chosen something more traditionally British, like my buttermilk scones.  Alessandro made pomegranate mojitos, using fruit picked from the garden, which I may have lost count of how many I indulged in & to be honest, the night soon became a blur, especially when we ended it with shisha.


The next day, we had a brunch made up of the previous evenings leftovers, said our goodbyes & then, with my new friend Kate, hopped on a bus for Rome.  Still wearing a T-shirt, with the sun beaming its heat, I was not looking forward to the cold & rain of the mainland. 

I had only really planned to stay in Sicily for a period of a month & by this time, I had been on the island for three!  I knew my time there was done, but, it was still sad to say goodbye.  As the bus rolled out of Sciacca, I looked out of the window & held back tears, I would miss this place & its inhabitants.

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