I have been in love with Sicily for many years now and have ventured to different parts of this beautiful island in different seasons. However, travelling with Andrew has been a new experience - it has been an opportunity to uncover and explore obscure and mysterious elements that I am still reading about now. These travels have awakened even more vehemently my passion for Sicily and its culture, its unique character and the vibrancy of its peoples' way of life.
I am particularly in love with Guttuso’s ability to depict the Vucciria Market, which I had been to before I’d ever seen the painting. When I returned to the market I realised that the painting had captured an essence which is timeless - the clocks had stood still when it came to the Vucciria, hence the proverb e balati ra Vucciria 'un s'asciucanu mai ( the ground at the Vucciria never dries).
In Sicily the food culture is built on residues of layers and layers of cultures with ingredients grown locally and this creates an incredible range of original dishes. Da Vittorio is a paradigm of what Sicilian food should be - when I’m there it’s like being in my own house when I was a child. There’s a sense of familiarity through which a kaleidoscope of food is created in a loving and homely environment.
Travelling around Sicily with Giorgio was an eye-opening (and mouth-watering!) experience. I have my expertise, he has his, but in the course of making these programmes I felt that we each learned a huge amount about the connections between what we both love. I think of these TV shows as a kind of crazy Ven diagram of Sicilian cultural history and cuisine, which makes sense of the place – if it can ever be made sense of – in a way that one or other of us on our own could never have managed.
Favourite memories? Well, thinking art, it would have to be the sculptures of Serpotta in a tiny church in Palermo; the incredible ancient bronze statue of a dancing drunk satyr, dredged from the seabed after thousands of years; and the mosaic of bikini-clad Sicilian Romans unearthed in an ancient villa complex ... too many to list.
And thinking food? Well, anything Giorgio cooked, really: the simple meal of beans and vegetables once eaten by Sicilian bandits; caponata, a feast of vegetables in the most delicious sweet-sour combination; but above all I think it would have to be the fisherman’s feast, pasta with sardines. Cost pennies to make, but wow!! Simple, strong, totally unbeatable. Anyway, I just hope that the fun and the insights we felt we both had come across to everyone watching. Salute!