One of my favourite Sicilians is a man in his 80s named Franco Valone, who lives on a farm near the town of Alcamo. One Easter he brought me to the ricotta cheese maker in the hills beyond his house, then on to the butcher where Franco’s name was inscribed on a tag on half a lamb hanging in the cool room. Later he took me to the fish shop that he described as a jewellery shop and then to the growers of the artichokes that I helped him prepare for the barbeque.
Licked with herbs, garlic and olive oil together with the wild asparagus his wife, Enza, picked around their house, this was only the start of the feasting that lasted for days on end in Alcamo. Along with these endless dishes, Franco imparted a philosophical gem that has stayed with me: “never underestimate the power of giving.”
Next day I head southwest to the Mediterranean coastline for some sun at Verdura Resort, near the seaside town of Sciacca. Also in the Forte portfolio, this thoughtfully built hotel sits on 230 hectares of coastline. My large sea view room (they all have sea views and some have private pools) is grouped with others in smaller, separate buildings each named, after plants with fruit-bearing orange trees outside.