In Italy the 25th April it’s a public holiday that celebrates the anniversary of the resistance, commemorates the end of the Italian civil war and the end of the nazi occupation of the country. I am currently on an interiors photography working trip in my native county in Sicily. After some research around responsible tourism and new travel experiences for my photojournalist experiments, dad suggests to go and try an alternative and creative tour that will set the Italian travelling experience aside from many others.
‘Le Mamme del Borgo’ is a foodie-focused experiment that started in Tricase, Puglia and it is inspired by an old tradition that sees the women of the village cooking for the passing pilgrims on St Joseph’s day.
It takes a quick call to the number published on their facebook’s page cucinamutticiana to book me, my old man and mum. On this beautiful symbolic day, we leave the coast of famous Taormina taking a wonderful scenic country ride along the hills overlooking the Alcantara valley; along which you can spot its fast cold blue waters rushing down the mountains trough volcanic pillow rocks to reach the sea nearby Taormina.
After stopping by a time capsule preserved old franciscan convent and community centre, we leave the car in the main square where we are welcomed by a deep firewood and fried potatoes fritters smoky smell together with the outstanding view over the valley. Wrapped in our coats we walk down the only populated bar of this 900 people medieval town, where we are approached by the locals who direct us to the visitors welcome area. After a brief introduction, Lorenzo offers to shepherd us trough the history filled small streets of the Antico borgo. We visit the remains of the old medieval castle, whose carved stones are now part of the main church. We walk the cobbled streets where most houses have open doors and water bottles on the floor whose serve, as Lorenzo explains, to keep out the many street cats; believed to be the descendants of the witches’ cats once inhabiting the town.
After the town’s tour, we arrive at the first communal table shared with a well-wined couple who welcome us to join while we wait for Carmelo. He shortly arrives explaining his background in experimental raw food kitchen and how did they go trough the first and second year of this magical adventure. After the explanation and the wine bottle; promptly served, he comes back with the appetisers: a selection of local cheese, olives, fried cheese and fritters made with wild fennel and spring greens.
While I and dad taste the most authentic local wine and mum start digging on the cheeses, we are joined by a french group with whom I start practising my dubious Aquitaine language skills. By the time we make new friends, it’s time to move on to visit the highest borough of the town reached trough a steep staircase, for my mum’s happiness, that help us make space in our bellies for the first course. We come back down to an opening yard in between small streets where a bigger communal table is promptly left by a group of bikers from my own town who are running ahead towards the bbq area. Before meeting the local collector with his own small museum full of ancient worldwide relics, we are served with two fantastic pasta plates. One is a pork meat ragu and the other is a very strong wild fennel and anchovies mouth watering local delicacy that stimulates my taste for red wine. At this point, Nino, the local wine aficionado, is following us with the hope we can not manage to finish the third half bottle of the local ambrosia.
We finally reach the bbq area where we meet again all the food and wine pilgrims we met along the journey.
At this point we have Nino on one side pointing at the wine, I try to keep at close reach and the bikers on the other side waiting for us to leave any of the fantastic lemon leaves wrapped meatballs unattended.
But dad and I, while acting genuinely friendly with the sharks, are guarding our polpette and wine until we manage to clear the way for dessert. By now, Nino understands that he is better to stick with his wine, as Gaetano is not allowing him to fall off his feet and the bikers start descending towards their wheeled horses for a long ride home. After lunch, he greets our hosts, exchange contacts and strolls down the hill to hunt for a desperately needed espresso to fuel our journey back to base.
The ‘Mamme del borgo‘ is a magical experience into the life, traditions and stories of this Medieval town with its territory, its people, its artefacts and, last but not the least, its delicious home made food. I would highly recommend it to anybody regardless of age and interest as it is a real traveller experience you will not forget.
The experience costs 25€ pp and includes a starter, a first pasta course, a second barbeque main course, a dessert, water and virtually unlimited local wine. You can book directly on the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/cucinamutticiana/, by phone at the +39 333 9113 780. Moe info: http://www.lemammedelborgo.com/