Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Vizzini: Sagra della Ricotta

The hour drive to Vizzini went by like a flash for there was much to look forward to. It was the first time we had been on a longish car trip since the arrival of spring and with bambino at this tender age of almost two he was much happier doing so than ever before. It would be the first time visiting this allegedly beautiful town. And, the main reason for the trip, it was the first time we would be experiencing Sicilian ricotta cheese making celebrated in the form of Vizzini's annual sagra della ricotta.

We had made an early start but quickly discovered that we were not alone and the sagra was well under way. Guided by the smoke and the smell, it didn't take us long to find what we came for: the ricotta cheese hub presented as a live performance (a detail captured in the photo up top). Gathered in this temporary installation were at least 20 men, young and old, working together in a ricotta cheese assembly line composed of dozens of the traditional copper kettles, each with its own fire for cooking the sheep milk and water mixture to make the cheese. Bundles of branches had been collected for the event to keep the fires going, and additional bundles would be brought over as the supply got low. Clearly this was a well-planned event. And although there was already a line for collecting a bowl of the freshly cooked cheese, we were told it wouldn't be ready for another 30 minutes, but decided to join the others and line up too, perfectly happy to watch the cheese making spectacle.

And before we knew it, we, too, were gathered around a communal table partaking in the delicacy. The cheese was warm, soupy, surprisingly salty and mildly wonderful, best eaten with the fresh little roll that it came with. It somehow seemed the perfect thing to eat at 10:30 in the morning while the local marching band played its tunes to the delight of our bambino (who was not in the least bit interested in tasting the cheese). Others, not so keen on eating cheese at this hour, brought their own storage containers and we could only imagine what wonderful things they would be cooking up in the privacy of their own homes, presumably located somewhere nearby. 

We finished off our bowls in time to follow the marching band on its path through the town, which was indeed beautiful. Along the way we admired the architecture (just love the details on the building below) and views of verdant hills peeking through the alleyways, and I spotted the handmade basket that I was determined would be coming home with me (and I later made sure it did!). 

Our final goal for the trip was to visit palazzo Trao-Ventimiglia, which houses two historical museums: the bottom floor is dedicated to the town's agricultural and craft traditions, and the top floor, with its frescoed ceilings and fantastic rooftop views,  to the work of Vizzini's most famous son, the writer Giovanni Verga. 

There is more to see in Vizzini--like its churches, an abandoned section of the town that was formerly a tannery, beautiful countryside, etc.,--but we had filled our morning and were set on being back home by 1 for nap time. And this time it wasn't only bambino who needed some sleep!


  1. It's a thrill to have found your blog! I am a Sicilian-American with (brand new) dual citizenship, so this blog is really a treat for me...

  2. Glad you made it. Vizzini was in our neck of the woods (just over from Mineo). Have you read Cavalleria Rusticana? (or however it is spelled?). I think I may have to ban your site once I leave Italy, or I'll cry with every post! haha.

  3. Oh! Sounds fun! I almost went to this sagra, but at the last minute decided to go to the beach instead. Your descriptions make me wonder if I made the right choice! I really enjoy your blog, thanks!

  4. Sounds like a wonderful day!

    I lost your link for a while, but am glad to have found you again!

  5. Janis, thanks for stopping by and congrats on your Italian citizenship!

    SofR, I have not read that one (or anything by Verga for that matter although have been meaing to for some time). thanks for the idea.

    Emily - Great to 'meet' another neighbor

    Saretta, thanks for finding me again! I still keep track of you up in Molfetta. I actually have a good friend here who is originally from there and she is enjoying your blog too now.

  6. great post - ricotta is a similar cheese to the cretan mizithra, which is also a very important cheese linked closely to the culinary traditions of the island
    i would have loved to see this festival myself

  7. Ricotta, my favorite! Sad to hear we missed this... I can't wait to eat the real thing, soon enough we will be back in Sicilia!

  8. Congratulations on a fine Blog and some great pictures - been a pleasure browsing and I am looking forward to your posts once you return.

  9. Enjoyed reading of your experiences at this Sicilian Cheese Festival!


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