Acireale Markets and Villa Romana del Casale

Acireale Markets

After breakfast we headed to Acireale, a coastal town just north of Catania with lovely baroque architecture, few tourists and more importantly a lively morning market.  Our mission to find an internet connection and the food markets.

After dumping the car as soon as it seemed reasonable to do so, we walked down the main street, Corso Umberto. In pretty much every town throughout Sicily, even without a map it is pretty obvious which street will lead you to the main piazza, they have one of two names, Corso Umberto or Vittorio Emanuele.

Finding an internet place was a little more difficult, but we found one with exactly one computer. Don needed to send a document for work and therefore needed a Wi Fi connection to send it from his own computer. The guy working in the place was pleasant but very flustered. I’m not sure which disturbed him more, his lack of English or my poor Italian. In the end he typed in the password himself on Don’s computer and everything worked just fine.

The markets were located just as described by our hostess Cinzia in her write-up, Welcome to House of Camelia – “in the narrow streets just in front of the church of San Sebastiano”. In these narrow streets we found several small butcher shops, a bakery, vegetable and fruit shops and fish shops or stalls – not really big enough to be called a shop. Not quite the variety of the markets the day before in Riposto, but still plenty of very fresh fish.

We decided on a chunk of tuna that a guy chopped off for us from a table in front of his shop and two medium squid. While buying the vegetables we needed, we noticed a baccalà (salt cod) shop. We went to check out the salt cod other preserved fish products – salted anchovies and stocco (stick fish- a fish that is just dried and not salted like cod). The guy in the shop was eager to help us but difficult to understand.

He wanted to make sure that we understood that we would have to soak the fish for two days before cooking it. Yes, we had the time and bought a piece. He let us taste the salted anchovies that were layered in a 5 gallon bucket. Way too salty for me even after he rinsed it off for us, but Don liked them and we bought un etto (100 grams). On the way back to the car we stopped by the bakery and the wine shop to complete our market shopping.

Villa Romana del Casale

The weather was still gray after lunch so we decided a trip inland might produce a little sunshine. Besides, I had read great things about the mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale outside Piazza Armerina. We did find some sunshine but the road was not quite as direct as I had thought and so it took us nearly two hours to get there.

Then, having hardly seen a tour bus in the last week, we found a line of them blocking the entrance to the parking lot. Then, more tour bus tourists all in line to buy their individual tickets – I thought that was one of the reasons people took tours, to avoid the lines. We then find out that the site is undergoing major renovations and only a small portion of the mosaics are open for viewing.

Yes it was crowed, but yes they are amazing and you can understand why so many people come to this site. This Roman villa was constructed around the 4th century and thought to be a hunting lodge. From the grandeur, style and subject matter of the mosaics that were open for viewing – heroic male figures, savage animals and women in bikinis – a hunting lodge sounds like a very plausible assumption. In the 12th century the area was covered by a landslide and wasn’t seriously worked on until the 1950s, thus preserving these fabulous mosaics from the elements and vandalism.


Back at home, this time it only took an hour and half, it was still cloudy and I was very thankful to have had a little sunshine. For dinner we grilled the tuna and made a red pepper agrodolce (sweet and sour) sauce to go with it.  We stuffed the squid with bread crumbs mixed with egg, salted anchovy and pine nuts and cooked them in a tomato, white wine and caper sauce. (Click here for recipe.)

It was only when we started to eat dinner that I realized my mistake of serving two vinegar tomato dishes together. Individually they were good, but together way too much acidity. We ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and both sauces had mellowed and improved, even the tuna was better the next day.  

The wine, another Etna Rosso, Lavico by Vajasindi, had all the same flavors of the previous Etna Rosso – rich fruit, spice and minerally but not as tannic or nearly as complex. Good, but not the champion wine of the night before.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Sicily page.

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