A market in Ortigia, Sicily

What do you think of when you think of Sicilian food?  Fish, seafood?  Fresh vegetables and fruit cooked with love and respect, ripened by the hot Mediterranean sunshine?    Add some spices and the chorus of stallholders hawking their wares, and you might just find yourself in Ortigia, an island just (and I mean “just”) off the Sicilian mainland.

Lunchtime finds you in the midst of a crowd of cruise tours,  grandmothers, and locals who lunch.   The sea crashes against the sea wall, as you meander through the stalls with produce and ingredients.   They give way to the cooks, freshly shucked oysters with free wine to wash them down, crispy fried squid in a cone, bruschetta, panini, then to the restaurants with the stylish folk quaffing wine and pasta in the sunshine.

Bruschetta loaded with mozzarella, olives and tomatoes
deep fried squid in a paper cone
Cone of Squid? Grazie, we’ll take due

freshly shucked oysters that come with free wine
with free wine!!!

As we are drawn to the cook and eat on the spot cuisine, the oysters and squid won us over.   We snagged a seat on a couple of sturdy boxes and dug in.   

feel the vitamins, oranges and pumpkins
feel those vitamins

The access to simple, unprocessed produce is an amazing gift, and you get the sense that the beautiful produce is nourishing and nurturing you.  As we were on the road long-term, this became much more of an issue, ensuring we did our best to keep well.    We had a long way to go and needed the right fuel.  This lunchtime, we knew we had found it.

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Is it too late to have a gap year in your late 50s? To take back some time from our day to day working life to travel - unplanned, unescorted, unfettered? To take that leap? It was a defining year - liberating, challenging, humbling, scary. It was many things, but it wasn't a holiday.

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