The markets in every town we’ve stayed in Sicily have been fantastic. They’re full of interesting sights, lots of bustle and fresh local produce. We’ve stayed predominantly in apartments which it turns out is usually a cheaper accommodation option than guesthouses or even hostels and also allows us to save money on food by cooking for ourselves most of the time. In turn this means that we can more fully immerse ourselves in the markets by shopping there too.
Markets tend not to be in a large building or an open square but arranged through streets. They consist of a mixture of stalls, shops, and stalls spilling into the street as extensions of shops.
Vegetable stall in Mercato il Capo, Palermo
In the winter months, both globe artichokes and cauliflowers are abundant. Confusingly the Italian name for these green cauliflowers is ‘broccoli’!
There are many different kinds of tomatoes available in the Sicilian markets – ‘normal’ round ones, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes (both round and plum shaped), and these ribbed beef tomatoes
One of the main crops in Sicily is citrus fruits and winter is the main season. The markets were full of different varieties (clockwise from top left): knobbly citrons are used for making candied peel; we like that the oranges are sold with leaves attached (you can also see prickly pear fruits in this photo); lemons; blood oranges
The Fish Market in Catania – bustling in the morning, just a few drifting carrier bags and gulls picking up scraps in the afternoon
Swordfish was one of the most common (and easily recognised) fish that we saw in Sicily. We were surprised by how big the individual fish are
Salt cod (baccala in Italian) is a Sicilian specialty. These fillets are drying in the sun but we saw it for sale completely dry, with a salty crust and stiff as a board, or pre-soaked for shoppers who hadn’t planned so far ahead
We enjoyed watching the butchers preparing the meat. They also make delicious sausages and parcels of meat or chicken stuffed with, for example, pistachios or ham and cheese before being neatly tied with string or assembled onto skewers
We spotted this roast suckling pig on top of a butcher’s counter in Palermo
While shopping we learnt that we needed to listen for scooters zipping through the market (just like in Vietnam)
Delicatessens sell a range of cheese as well as cured and cooked meats. We found a good trick was to ask for our parmesan cheese to be ‘macchinato’ – the shopkeeper would then weigh the block before putting it through a pulverising machine behind the counter. Much fresher than the dry parmesan dust from the supermarket and better than we could manage at home as none of our rental apartments was stocked with a grater
I love this stall as it’s packed with so many Sicilian specialties – sundried tomatoes, dried herbs and chilli flakes, olives and salted capers, preserved fish (salt cod, smoked herrings and anchovies both salted and jarred in olive oil)
The owner of this olive stall in Siracusa thrust a spoon containing two olives towards us and said in his incredibly gravelly voice “Eat this. It’s good.” He was right
Walnuts are also locally grown. This stall was in Catania
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a country which has influenced the whole world’s coffee culture, freshly roasted and ground coffee is easy to come by
There were a few non-food shops here and there in the markets such as this knife sharpener hard at work in the Vucciria Market in Palermo
Great photo’s and write-up… with such a variety of fresh meats, fish, vegetables and fruits in the markest it makes you feel like renting an apartment just to enjoy cooking with such lovely ingredients! Prices seem very reasonable too (if my Euro conversions are correct). Beautiful island, a real treasure best experienced by immersion in the culture and daily lives of the people.
mum & dad xx
Thanks :). It really is nice to be able to buy and cook with such enticing products. And yes not so expensive – probably because much of it is locally grown and/or coming direct from the farmer – we’ve often seen guys parked on the street with a van full of just one product (usually oranges) and so no middlemen to take a cut (or boxes or other packaging to fork out for). And it is a beautiful island, I’m going to miss it when we move on. xx
wow! What a pleasure to shop and cook there…
Yes, we were glad to have a kitchen in our apartments :)