Springtime in Sicily

Let me offer you a piece of advice.

Should you ever find yourself, on a particularly dark winter day, opening your inbox to find an email inviting you to spend a week in Sicily in early spring, here’s a few things you shouldn’t do. Don’t stop to think about your schedule, or how any number of things might come up in your life between now and then to prevent you from going. Don’t start looking at your travel options yet, which on first glance always appear to be more convoluted and/or expensive than they will actually turn out to be. Don’t start wondering if your family will ever speak to you again when you announce you’re abandoning them to their frigid northern fates while you jet off for a romp in the Mediterranean sun. Don’t hesitate even for a minute, just hit the reply button and type the biggest ‘YES!’ your sense of propriety and font options will allow, and hit send.

There’s plenty of time for worrying about the rest later, and no matter what that rest might be, I promise it’ll pale in comparison to everything Sicily has in store for you when you get there.

Like almond trees in bloom, and fragrant, purple bushes of wild rosemary.

And citrus trees, their branches buckling under the weight of more blood oranges, mandarins, lemons and citrons than you could consume in a lifetime.

And Palermo, a city you’ve always wanted to visit, which turns out to be full of chaotic energy and surprising elegance…

…and awe-inspiring baroque, moorish and modern façades that transport you, as you walk down a single city block, through centuries of the island’s tumultuous history…

…and vivid, bustling street markets teem with edible treasures the likes of which you’ve never before seen, from the tiniest artichokes…

…to the biggest cauliflower (called, confusingly, broccolo, and the size of a basketball)…

…and whose streets offer some of finest edible temptations on offer anywhere in the world: gelato in brioche (flavored with pistacchi di Bronte, the Lamborghinis of the pistachio world)…

arancine (risotto balls stuffed with ragù and fried, and when they’re as big as this one—the size of a grapefruit!—offer an entire meal in a convenient package), and the famous seven-layer chocolate and hazelnut cake called setteveli

…pane con panelle, thin, crunchy chickpea-flour fritters stuffed into a soft sesame roll…

…and sfincione, Sicily’s soft, spongy answer to pizza.

And then there’s some of the most varied and beautiful landscapes you’ve ever seen, emerald green from spring rains and dotted with craggy, snow-covered peaks.

At times you could almost be forgiven for thinking you’d taken a wrong turn, and ended up in the Scottish Highlands, or the Swiss Alps.

But then you round another corner, and there’s no mistaking where you are.

And best of all, there’s the whole reason you came to Sicily in the first place: to spend one of the most magical weeks of your life in the company of this magnificent woman and these extraordinary, hilarious, dazzlingly talented people, learning, laughing, cooking, and above all EATING.

I’ll tell you all about it next time.

p.s. My time in Palermo was frustratingly short, but the suggestions I was armed with thanks to these brilliant ladies (who have, I was happy to discover, impeccable taste) helped me make the most of every second. Next time I go I’ll definitely be following more of their advice.