I try, from time to time, to spend a good word on producers, chefs, winemakers, which I have tried and particularly liked. I don’t know if this does these people any good, but if even one person follows my suggestions and tries these products out, I’d be happy. For once I’d like to spend a word on something that I haven’t yet tried, it would have been impossible to since it will start operating next year, but which I’ve been following in its evolution with great interest in the past few months: Love Sicily, the tourist service run by fellow bloggers Katia and Ronald.
You might know Katia and Ronald from their Via Ritiro n.7 blog, and, if you’ve taken part to one of the last IMBB events will almost certainly have come across the incredibly useful Is My Blog Burning Website Ronald put together to keep track of the various food and wine blogging events. . Some months ago Katia and Ronald started putting together an Internet based travel service, called Love Sicily . As the name says, the region their service specializes in is Sicily, while Love comes from Katia’s last name, Amore.
Ronald, from Cyprus, and Katia, from Sicily, met while doing their PhDs in the UK and, as these things sometimes go (I heard this story before ;-)), fell in love with each other and married in Sicily in 2003. Being both of “Mediterranean conviction”, they started soon thinking about moving back to somewhere a little less rainy and with a slightly more easy going lifestyle. Work for academic-trained young people can be hard to find in the sunnier parts of Europe and so they had to look for a way to match job and the home-base of their dreams. Tourism seemed the best solution. I would like Katia and Ronald whatever they did. Over the past few months we’ve had a chance to know each other a little, if only virtually, and I discovered two charming persons. But that’s not what made me write this little entry. What really makes Love Sicily special to my eyes is something quite different.
Italy is a gorgeous country, but full of problems and contradictions. Tourists have visited our land in masses for years although the services offered were not always up to scratch. With more competition, and an ongoing situation of economic crisis in Europe, things have started to look somewhat bleak for tourism in Italy. The Italian media have been discussing on how and why of this, with opinions ranging from optimism to panic, but it is quite easy to see that looks alone are not enough to bring tourists back. Other countries might offer less sightseeing chances but treat their visitors with more care. Many in Italy call for the institutions to help change this situation. I think instead that change can only come from below, from those who are directly involved in the tourist business. People like Katia and Ronald, and their Love Sicily service, are a great example of how single individuals, especially outside the better known destinations like Toscana or Venice, can move into this direction, and hopefully show the way to others.
The region Love Sicily specialised in, around Modica and Noto, is full of incredible baroque beauties, is history ridden and itself a reason to visit. Katia and Ronald have put together some of the best local hotels, artisans and producers, not only according to them but also to the impartial opinion of a few friends who often spend their holidays in the region, and assembled an impressive offer. Special art tours of the baroque beauties are clearly one of the focuses as is a mosaic course kept by master Ignazio Cerruto. But this is a food blog, so where are the nibbles? Modica, Ragusa and Noto are all cities with long and incredible food traditions, like the rest of Sicily, but in their own special way. Therefore it would be impossible to avoid offering the chance to sample all this to the enquiring food loving tourists. Katia and Ronald have managed to put together the entire not to be missed local food experiences in one cooking course. Beside the cooking course, with local chef Salvatore Guarino, those attending will manage see how cioccolato Modicano is made, at Bonajuto’s, have a taste of the local wines, cheeses, sweets and, my favourites, aranicni, finishing with a lunch at Il Duomo, one of the most interesting emerging restaurants in Italy, thanks to the talent of chef Ciccio Sultano.
And should you be fussy, you can even pick and match what you like best: food, art, and nature. What could you want more?
I soon hope to head southwards to have a closer look at what Katia and Ronald are doing, but in the meantime: In bocca al lupo!