Sep 19, 2018

I'm baaack!

Yes, I'm back. As some of you may have noticed, I have resumed regular posting. Something that hadn't happened in a while. A long while.

To celebrate the resuscitation of Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino, I'm happy to kick off a brand new post series (I love series, just like I love lists). I have yet to decide what to call it. For now, let's just say that the post you're reading replaces and outmaneuvers all previously published (and broken) apologetic "sorry-for-not-being-consistent-in-updating" posts.

Instagram profile, Eleonora Baldwin - Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Media is so visual these days. I feel I have dedicated way more time to my Instagram than I have to updating this blog. I owe my readers an apology. Especially those who have remained loyal and that have stayed on board. I'm obliged to explain what happened in these last few years. I need to account for my blog's disappearance from your feeds.

I'm doing this in pure Lola fashion––steadfast readers will remember Lola was my blog signature and nickname––spelling out the reasons for the "slump" in list form. For old time's sake.

Now that I'm back I hope you will resume your regular visits to my virtual kitchen, stop by for a chat, and uncork that good bottle of wine I have been saving for you. I will soon be remodeling the space, but the welcome will be the same warm, friendly one of when we left off a few years ago. You'll come back to the usual weekly family stories, recipes, lists and tips. In the meantime, please accept my apologies for having been away. Here's why:

River Tiber, all water under the bridge - Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

1. I lost my office job one month before Christmas.

This threw me into a dark hole of despair. A single parent, no longer in my employable prime, jobless, no outlook in the forseeable future. The situation was un disastro. Yet, I picked myself up and left nothing behind of the dreadful year that was 2014. Several affirmations, and sleepless nights later, I managed to enter 2015 on a high. In hindsight, losing the job was the best thing to ever happen to me, because it left space for what the future had in store for me.

Co-founders of Casa Mia Italy Food & Wine Tours

2. I became an entrepreneur.

In April 2015 I partnered in the launch of Casa Mia Italy Food and Wine, a cultural association that offers food, wine and cooking adventures in Rome, Florence, Sicily, Naples & Amalfi. Emilia-Romagna and Puglia may be new areas in development, but you did not hear it from me. In the months building up to, and following the launch, I quickly learned that running a business is no easy task. Obviously, I shifted most of my focus onto the newly inaugurated business, which made it impossible to maintain my old blogging habits.

3. I wrote and starred in a TV show.

In June 2015 I showed up to a meeting with Gambero Rosso, Italy’s number one food network, with a 1-page pitch for a show on cheese. At the end of the meeting my writing partner drew me back down to planet Earth, "We start filming next week." I don’t know exactly how it happened but on November 12th the pilot aired, followed by 9 other episodes of Season 1. Which were then followed by Season 2 and now Season 3. I've been busy researching new topics and writing new shows, plus co-running the culinary travel business, updating the blog regularly became virtually impossible.

4. I cheated on my blog.

As the partner responsible for the social media and blogging end of the business, I began crunching multiple food and travel blog entries for the Casa Mia Italy Food & Wine blog, as well as for The American in Italian Magazine, a collaboration that first started in 2010. You loyal readers know this because most of the posts published on this blog in 2016 and 2017 were blurbs linking back to the magazine. Again, I apologize for that.

Peter Baldwin, my father. Jan.11, 1931 - Nov.19, 2017

5. My Dad flew away.

It was October 23rd when at 5 am I received the telephone call I have been dreading my entire adult life. It was my Dad’s wife, Terry, telling me to get on a plane and get over to California asap. "Your Dad's in the hospital. Hurry." I left that same morning from Fiumicino airport with a handbag containing only €45, my passport, a pack of tissues and lip balm. I spent the last days of my father’s life holding his hand, whispering things left unsaid, reassuring him of all my love, and watching him fade away. I flew back to Rome on November 3rd, knowing that was going to be the last time I'd see him. He closed his eyes and flew away November 19th, 2017. I wrote a farewell post dedicated to him and not much else since.

6. I traveled.

My siblings and I came together in California at the end of August for the interment of my father's ashes and to celebrate his life. It took each of us varying amounts of time to process, mourn, accept and resume regular breathing after his passing. I packed 2 small carry-ons, one for me, and the other for my 12-year old son. We boarded a direct flight from Rome and 13 hours later the cabin poured what was left of our limp bodies on the tarmac at LAX International. I will describe the adventures that followed in a special dedicated post; one that will be part of another new "travel" series. You know how much I like those.

Sep 10, 2018

Top 10 favorite Venice restaurants I can be spotted at

Ah, Venice...

Don't you sigh every time you think of Venezia? I do.

I've been going to Venice ever since I was a toddler, eating seafood risotto straight our of my mother's plate, and then snatching the secret recipe for salsa universale at Harry's Bar at age 6. Venice has since become a regular appointment for me.

Every time I go back, I sigh. The sensual, languid and shimmering water element, the distant wail of the acqua alta high tide horn, the strange yet beloved stench of the marshy canal water, the overwhelming sensation of first biting into moeche soft shell crabs... The senses are all gratified in  Venice.

I recently had clients flee Venice, chased away from the crowds, the excessive prices, the outrageous cruise liners defacing the delicate ecosystem of the lagoon. I get it.
That's why Venice should not be visited in August. The best time to visit Venice is in the off season, that is between January and April/May. This may translate into experiencing acqua alta (a tide phenomenon that peaks whenever the astronomical tides are reinforced by winds) and thick blankets of fog envelop the canals, adding to the city’s innate romantic and mysterious charm. I highly recommend avoiding booking your Venice trio during film festival days, Carnevale, Christmas and July/August.

When I go, a big part of my time in Venice is spent seated at restaurants. I like to discover new ones, and rely on steadfast classics. I know I will in some cases spend a little over my budget, but I can also enjoy a gargantuan meal without breaking the bank. Let's break this cliché: not everything in Venice is outrageously expensive. I don't like spending a fortune on a passable meal, I want to be wowed by a phenomenal one, and am ready to pay for it. So I can alternate paying a bigger check with extending aperitivo with cicchetti (tapas-like snacks) and ombre (small glasses of wine) standing at the counter of a bacaro.

Here are the top 10 favorite Venice restaurants you'll find me at, off season,

Antiche Carampane in Venice

Antiche Carampane

Occupying the bottom level of what used to be a brothel, this sensational restaurant is one of the city’s best. This is not a place you can chance upon. As a matter of fact, you'll most probably get lost getting there. But that's the charm of Venice, where even the locals get lost in their own city. Depending on season, I order gnocchi with granseola (European spider crab) and any fresh fish in the daily specials menu. If you're lucky enough to find them available, please have the "drunken" reef mullets gently poached in red wine.

Meatballs at Ca' d'Oro Alla Vedova in Venice

Ca' d'Oro - Alla Vedova

This classic bacaro-restaurant is in the Cannareggio sestiere, one of the six quarters of the city. Much loved by Venetians for its vintage setting, tiled floors, bent wood chairs and brass pans on the walls, and for the Venetian classics on the menu. I come not to sit at the tables in back, but rather to stand at the front of the house, sipping on my ombra and munching on the house fried meatballs. 

Osteria Oliva Nera in Venice

Oliva Nera

Isabella is a friend. She and her late husband Dino––one of the kindest people I knew––kept me warm and fed during one particularly nasty acqua alta incident back in 2005, during filming Casanova. Our friendship was sealed over a plate of fried stuffed zucchini blossoms and dessert.

Osteria Ai Assassini in Venice

Osteria Ai Assassini

This is an informal eatery, rustic and off the tourist radar––despite being in the San Marco quarter––not far from the traps and high rolling venues. Their "poker di baccalà" is a game-changer. The owner speaks very little English, but he's completely fluent in French. 

Algiubagiò in Venice

Algiubagiò

With tables set on a deck with views of the vast open lagoon, the islands and the snowy peaks of the Dolomites in the far background, at Algiubagiò I like to linger with my coffee after scarfing the lobster with ginger, served with lentils and jerusalem artichoke velouté.

Trattoria - bacaro Da Fiore in Venice

Trattoria Da Fiore

Note: This trattoria is not to be confused with the overly expensive "Fiore" restaurant located one alley over. I come here for a relaxing dinner, or for classic cicchetti appetizers in the front room bacaro, the likes of steamed artichoke heels, fied anchovies and mini-meatballs.  The sit-down menu features Venetian classics, like sarde in saor (pickled sardines), baccalà mantecato (creamed cod) and moeche (very narrow seasonal window). But they also serve lesser known local dishes like bigoli which are thick homemade noodles, normally dressed with a simple sauce of onions and anchovies, and my favorite: linguine al nero di seppia (black cuttlefish ink). Close the meal with the house sgroppino.

Al Gatto Nero in Burano - Venice

Al Gatto Nero

Located on the island of Burano, this family-run ristorante offers top-notch seafood and elegant service in the home-like dining room or at canal-side tables outside. Signor Ruggero, who took the kitchen over in 1965, still cooks with his wife Lucia with the same passion and emotion of when they were in their 20s. Order the best fried calamari of your life, the house risotto, and continue with the trio of crustaceans au gratin. You can thank me later.

Anice Stellato in Venice

Anice Stellato

This is a local's favorite, so be sure to make a reservation. Small and family-run, this place is where I come for sublime modern seafood cuisine. Think tagliatelle with scampi and zucchini blossoms; spaghetti with moeche and cherry tomatoes. Mains depend also on the catch of the day and may feature baked skate with ground hazelnuts and almonds or the classic assorted fish fry with vegetables thrown in the batter. Leave room for dessert, especially if the pistachio flan with coffee gelato on the side.

Trattoria Dai Tosi Piccoli in Venice

Trattoria Dai Tosi (Piccoli)

As soon as the first ray of sun pierces through the clouds, the folks at Dai Tosi Piccoli (not to be mistaken with the nearby namesake, if in doubt, ask around for directions to Dai Tosi Piccoli) put out tables in the laundry-festooned street. Located in a residential area of Venice, this place is great for pizza, simple plates of pasta and vegetable sides.

Vini da Gigio in Venice

Vini da Gigio

Dining in the refined trattoria run by siblings Paolo and Laura, is like walking into dinner at their home, with the added bonus of super professional service and a stellar wine list. Menu musts are the rigatoni with duck ragù and ravioli filled with arugula. The seafood mains are good, but the meat dishes steal the show. The red peppercorn steak, and sautéed lamb fillet with a light, crusty coating are both in my little red book. Book a table for late lunch or for the 9:00PM sitting in the evening, to avoid the rush.

What are your favorite restaurants in Venice?

Sep 3, 2018

The cheese I tasted in Campania

Remember how I wrote about the cheese I ate in Abruzzo? Today, we're traveling to a part of Campania where I filmed several episodes of my show.

ABCheese camera crew


When I talk about the Campania region, I often get puzzled looks.  Campania is the Italian region of which Naples is the capitol and that boasts beautiful places like the Positano, the Amalfi Coast, Cilento, Mt Vesuvius, the Sorento Peninsula, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum.

"nodino" mozzarella di bufala

Not to mention the mozzarella...

But not all Campania cheese is made from the milk of water buffalos. In the Season 2 episode of my show ABCheese filmed in the northern Caserta area of Campania, I tasted unique cheeses. Among which mozzarella too, of course, but other incredible ones too.

Conciato Romano made by Agriturismo Le Campestre

Some I keep coming back to, like Conciato Romano, whose name only refers to its ancient Roman past (it's a sheep's milk cheese whose recipe is 2,000 years old!). This firecracker of a cheese is made in only one farm in Castel di Sasso, and acclaimed chefs source it there for their recipes.

Famiglia Lombardi Castel di Sasso Le Campestre Conciato Romano

The Lombardi family that produces the cheese is friendly and always happy to talk about their unique product. They have become dear friends, and I keep going back to visit every chance I get.

Fabula aged in wine made by Caseificio Il Casolare

Other cheeses explored in the episode were totally new to me, like the delectable Fabula made with bufala milk and aged like a bloomy rind French brie, or soaked in red wine. The cheesemaker Giuseppe Iaconelli works with Caseificio Il Casolare to make his fantastic experimcnets with buffalo milk.

Gerarchico cheese made by Caseificio La Teresina

Gerarchico cheese made by Caseificio La Teresina

Another was Gerarchico, a cacicavallo that ages 100 days in an air-tight barrel full of hay. The youngest member of the family, Angelo, is the mastermind behind this incredible product. He "invented" Gerarchico when he was just 16 years old! His family's creamery is called Caseificio La Teresina, named after his mother, who taught him the trade.

Both these cheeses are highly innovative products, yet they're made in true artisan fashion, in small, family-owned creameries.

At the end of the episode, I tasted all of the cheeses of this part of Campania, worked into the pizza toppings of Maestro Franco Pepe at his restaurant Pepe in Grani.

Pranco Pepe pizza Pepe in Grani Caiazzo

Want to hear the sound of the beautiful Italian language, and watch me taste all of these amazing cheeses from the Campania region?

Sit back and enjoy. Buon appetito!



My prime-time TV show ABCheese is broadcast by SKY Italia on Gambero Rosso Channel.

Aug 27, 2018

Where to eat while island hopping in Italy - Sicily

I need a vacation. When I dream of stealing away from daily life the picture I paint in my head is always of an island.

Island hopping in Italy - Sicily

Depending on my mood or the weather outside the window, the imaginary vacation island changes. I stroll at sunset on sandy stretches, or I snorkel in rocky Mediterranean coves, I sip cocktails in lush gardens or harvest grapes from volcanic moonscapes... the fantasies are all there, populating my wanderlust-infected daydreams.

But my reverie is not all make-believe, the settings draw inspiration from the many (way more than you'd think) islands of Italy. The Bel Paese is a small territory compared to other European countries. Yet, the number of islands––beyond the major Sicilian and Sardinian regions––is staggering.

sea cave, Mediterranean Sea, Italy

The Italian peninsula boasts in fact an unbelievable number of regional archipelagos, islands, islets, rocks, stacks and faraglioni (the English translation of this term is 'rauks') whose total area is beyond 50,000 square kilometers, and an insular heritage of over 800 islands, only 80 of which are actually inhabited. And that's not counting the islands in Italy's lakes and rivers!

Italian volcanic islands, sicily

Clear turquoise waters, sandy beaches or rocky coves, volcanoes, vineyards, jaw-dropping landscapes, delicious seafood and local specialties. The choices off the Italian mainland are rich and varied. I have to stop dreaming and buy myself a ticket!

I mapped out my favorite Italian maritime islands divided by region, listing dining recommendations to boot. The first post of the Island Hopping in Italy series focuses on the islands of Sicily. We’ll be island-hopping across three archipelagos and two standalone islands, touching down on some of the Mediterranean’s most stunning isole for variety and biodiversity.

Island hopping in Sicily

You think Sicily is one island only?

In actual fact, Sicily (Italy's largest region) also boasts a group of archipelagos and smaller islands that make up about 1.11% of the entire regional surface.
The Sicilian archipelagos are the Aeolian Islands, the Aegadian Islands and the Pelagie Islands. The two stand-alone islands are Pantelleria and Ustica. Read on for a brief description of each island's highlights, and dining recommendations for each. Enjoy!

Island hopping in Sicily, Aeolian Islands

ISOLE EOLIE - AEOLIAN ISLANDS

Aeolian Islands map, Sicily
Seven spectacular islands make up the Aeolian Archipelago (locally called Isole Eolie) off the north-east coast of Sicily, above Messina and Milazzo. The volcanic origin of this cluster of islands makes for some fascinating features, from dramatic cliffs to vineyards, to thermal springs. Several parts of the tiny Aeolian islands, coves and outcroppings can only be explored by boat. I prefer rocky coves to the very few, often crowded sandy beaches. Consider renting a boat or signing up on small-group boat tours of the islands for the best swimming in your life. The Aeolian Islands are: Stromboli, Panarea, Salina, Vulcano, Lipari, Filicudi and Alicudi.

STROMBOLI, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Stromboli

This active volcanic island is usually visited as a day-trip, but day-trippers that don't stay the night miss the best part: the incredible experience of witnessing the dramatic, active sciara del fuoco eruptions. A steep slope, formed of lava, lapilli (rock fragments ejected from the volcano) and incandescent debris, descends to the sea from the crater at 750 meters above sea level. The spectacle is best experienced at nighttime, and from the sea, watching the bursts of lava that plunge into the sea, causing an impressive show.

Il Canneto, Stromboli - Aeolian Islands, Sicily

There are informal eateries on Stromboli, my favorite is family-owned trattoria Il Canneto a consistently a Stromboli must for over 40 years. The kitchen prepares only a dozen dishes, all focused on the island's native products and local Aeolian tradition, which rotate according to the catch of the day. I available, I always order the frittura di cicirella (small local fish fry); the tuna with onion cipollata; the delightful swordfish rolls, or the amazing macaroni pasta rolled in eggplant strips. Nice homemade desserts, so leave room.


PANAREA Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Panarea

Panarea is tiny, exclusive, and expensive, yet ridiculously stunning. Celebrities (and wannabes) who wear sarongs and walk around town barefoot flock to the island for the active nightlife, but volcanic Panarea is also a perfect destination for scuba divers, who can explore offshore shipwrecks and secret grottoes when the socialites are still sleeping.

Hycesia, Panarea - Aeolian Islands, Sicily

A good place to enjoy a fine meal on Panarea is Hycesia, hidden in the alleys of Panarea. The kitchen offers ingredient-based cuisine and dishes of great balance. The menu often varies according to market availability and the chef's inspiration. In any case, try the paccheri pasta with cream of zucchini and clams; the shrimp crudo, or the tuna belly with mint-scented eggplant. The wine list is impressive with an interesting focus on French labels. I prefer to sit at the tables set in the inner courtyard garden.


SALINA Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Salina

The second-largest island of the Isole Eolie is also the greenest and possibly the most beautiful, boasting a natural reserve. For the largest part cloaked in olive groves and grape vineyards, this is my favorite of the archipelago.

Signum, Salina - Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Where to eat on Salina? For an exclusive escape, be sure to reserve a table at Signum, where chef Martina Caruso earned the family business a Michelin Star. For an informal lunch head to Porto Bello, which serves typical Aeolian dishes with creative flair.

Porto Bello, Salina - Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Located in Santa Marina di Salina, the restaurant boasts 360° views from the four terraces overlooking the sea. The menu changes often according to season, when available, go for the sweet-and-sour fish dumplings; crudo of red prawns served with yogurt sauce; grouper à la Porto Bello and the delicious rare tuna steaks with capers. The wine cellar includes mainly regional labels.


VULCANO Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Vulcano

This tiny island gave the world the word "volcano," and thanks to the presence of several craters, is geologically fascinating. This is the perfect day trip from Salina or Lipari, packing sandwiches and fruit on your rented dinghy.

Il Cappero, Therasia Resort Vulcano, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

For a proper lunch on the island, I suggest heading to Therasia Resort and dining at the restaurant, Il Cappero. Indulge in one of the several tasting menus, which also include a vegetarian and a gluten free option, and which obviously change according to season. Musts include u pani cunzatu (bread seasoned with salted ricotta from Vulcano, grape tomato, Nocellara del Belice olives, capers from Salina and fresh anchovies), tortello al capuliato (crushed sundried tomato, venus clams, basil and parmigiano), The spada nella roccia, or "sword in the stone" made with swordfish, prawns, pistachios from Bronte and ragusano cheese fondue. Stellar wine list. This is a place for true gourmands.

LIPARI Aeolian Islands, Sicily
© Andrea Grano

Lipari

The largest island of the archipelago is the most popular with summer tourists. The town has its charms, but it's also home to quite a few souvenir stands and loud touristy restaurants. On the plus side, Lipari is the easiest place to score budget lodging, particularly if you're island hopping and haven't planned long in advance.

Filippino, Lipari, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

For a fine meal, avoid the crowds and sneak to Filippino, that has been serving local specialties for over a century in the panoramic Piazza del Municipio, by the castle that houses the Aeolian Museum. The menu focuses on the catch of the day and on the island's local produce. Try the swordfish rolls with sweet and sour figs, or a twist on the traditional risotto with cuttlefish ink, but above all don't miss the maccaruna 'i casa alla Filippino, the house specialty pasta.


FILICUDI Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Filicudi

Tiny Filicudi has only a couple of small villages, with a handful of guest houses and only a few restaurants. This is the place where writers come to work on their novels, a place to unplug and become one with nature and the sea.

Villa La Rosa, Filicudi, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

The best place for lunch on Filicudi is Villa La Rosa. At the core of the cuisine are local ingredients rendering simple and clean flavors, homemade baked preparations and courteous welcome complete the offer. I always recommend the lasagna with tuna and wild fennel; stewed flying squid with potatoes, but also treats like fried eggplant patties or the stuffed tomatoes. Their pizzas are equally delicious.


ALICUDI Aeolian Islands, Sicily

Alicudi

An extinct volcano rising from the sea, with about 100 full-time residents, Alicudi is the most remote of the Aeolian islands.


Coffee bar, info-point and restaurant L'Airone is a meeting place for islanders and regular tourists, thanks to its fish cuisine served on the charming terrace with a view of the sea. The menu revolves around the catch of the day, think pan fried shrimp, served with seasonal veggies. Dessert can be authentic Sicilian granita with a fragrant brioche. Prices are very affordable.


Aegadian Islands, Sicily


ISOLE EGADI - AEGADIAN ISLANDS

Aegadian Islands map, Sicily
Three volcanic fragments of land called the Aegadian Islands (or Isole Egadi) are located off the northwestern coast of Sicily. A few minutes by hydrofoil from Trapani is this turquoise paradise where the sea and the sky merge in an infinite blue palette. On the Egadi Islands the pace of life is slow, shopping is done at makeshift stands where farmers with baskets full of tomatoes and eggplant sit streetside, along dry-stone walls; fresh fish is purchased directly from the small fishing boats that dock in the marina, and for some respite from the dry summer heat locals resort to tall glasses of mulberry granita. The islands of Marettimo, Favignana and Levanzo are three gems.


MARETTIMO - Aegadian Islands, Sicily

Marettimo

Looking at it from a distance, Marettimo looks like a small mountain chain rising from the water. Apparently bare and parched seen from the sea, the island conceals a green heart, with paths that climb up 700 meters altitude and offer breathtaking views over steep white cliffs and the Mediterranean which opens to the West. The colors of Marettimo are blue of the sea, yellow of the tufa stone and the blinding white of the few scattered houses. Just a handful of beautiful beaches with crystal blue sea, but the real attraction of the almost deserted and completely pedestrian island are the grottoes.

At sunset I like to grab aperitivo with the locals in the piazza, seated at the informal tables Da Enzo: the chilled white wine comes paired with small plates of raw fish, bottarga, local pesto and raw prawns topped with orange juice and extra virgin olive oil, served on an orange wedge.


FAVIGNANA, Aegadian Islands, Sicily
©Erika Chaubert Studer

Favignana

The largest of the Egadi, Favignana an elegant and picturesque island. In the historic center, small tufa buildings and alleys conter the 19th century Villa Florio, symbol of the powerful noble family that dominated this rich and lush island. The coasts are full of coves and inlets with steep cliffs. Cala Azzurra, one of the most beautiful beaches of all the Sicilian islands.

A great place to have lunch on Favignana is Ristorante Bar Cavallo. Simple and basic, with outdoor seating, friendly service and dishes made with phenomenal fresh fish. I absolutely recommend ordering the mussel soup with croutons; the busiate pasta with sardines and fennel pollen; the tuna parmigiana and the grilled tuna belly. Close the gargantuan meal with the pistachio coffee and a Sicilian cassatella, a small fried pastry filled with ricotta and chocolate.



Levanzo

Island hoppers tired of the crowds should head to lovely Levanzo. Inland the island has just one tiny, peaceful village called Calla Dogana, on the coast are tranquil beaches, dramatic cliffs, and amazing hikes in nature. History-geeks should hit the Grotta del Genovese, a small cave holding Paleolithic graffiti dating back to 9,680 BC. Yes, you read correctly. The grotto is reachable by boat only.

Trattoria Arcobaleno, Levanzo - Aegadian Islands, Sicily

My favorite place to eat on Levanzo is Trattoria Arcobaleno. I like to linger at the table on the restaurant's terrace overlooking the sea, enjoying local specialties like homemade pasta with clams; fresh amberjack or prawns fished out of the sea minutes before the meal; and the house special, the spiedino di spada, grilled swordfish skewers.



ISOLE PELAGIE - PELAGIE ISLANDS

Pelagie Islands map, Sicily
Lampedusa, Isola dei Conigli, Linosa and uninhabited Lampione form the southernmost Sicilian archipelago of Italy, the Pelagie Islands, from the Greek πέλαγος, pélagos meaning "open sea." 
Geographically African, the Sicilian Pelagie Islands are located between Malta and Tunisia. Lesser known and "wilder" than the Aeolian and Aegadian islands, the main island of the Pelagie is Lampedusa with its famous "satellite", Isola dei Conigli; then there's Linosa, an extinct volcano now home to a small village with colorful houses and paradise cove Cala Pozzolana. Lampione is the smallest, only 200 meters long and 180 meters wide, is an uninhabited natural paradise, only reachable by boat.


LAMPEDUSA Pelagie Islands, Sicily

Lampedusa

With its beautiful Spiaggia dei Conigli, singled out as the most beautiful beach in the world, Lampedusa is the ideal destination for a relaxing beach holiday. Natural paradise and habitat of Caretta caretta Loggerhead sea turtle species, Lampedusa is the perfect destination to admire Italy's southernmost sunsets.

Trattoria Terranova da Bernardo, Lampedusa, Pelagie Islands

Fine seafood and delicious local products can be enjoyed at the tables of Trattoria Terranova da Bernardo. The food offer and warm welcome surely make up for the lack of seafront views. Owners Gianni, Bernardo and Fiorenza serve and prepare a vast array of appetizers (dried and stuffed tomatoes, grilled anchovies, eggplant parmigiana, boiled octopus, cuttlefish with tomato and peas, to-die-for caponata, homemade tuna in oil, mini seafood meatballs with tomato sauce). Main dishes are equally tantalizing, pasta with tuna and fennel pollen, or with grouper ragù, spaghetti with tomato pesto and almonds with shrimp, to mention a few. But above all stuffed squid and a super seafood couscous.


LINOSA, Pelagie Islands, Sicily

Linosa

Small and volcanic Linosa is located 50 km north of Lampedusa, smack in the center of the Mediterranean. The island is lush, with about a hundred residents year-round, who inhabit small, colorful houses, amid stretches of prickly pear cacti dotting the dark volcanic coasts. Ideal for divers and snorkeling lovers who can admire multi-color fish wandering through the underwater lava rocks.
Rocky coves for swimming and kayaking can be reached only on foot or by bike, as in summer it's forbidden to access Linosa by car.


At lunch, sit at the colorful terrace of Ristorante Errera, only a few steps from the sea, the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. The sensory overload culminates with the flavors of the island. The appetizer extravaganza opens with marinated tuna, swordfish carpaccio, seafood salad, mussels au gratin, mackerel patties, shrimp cocktail, sarde a beccafico, caponata and many other delicious local specialties. Pasta starters can include lentil soup, pasta with swordfish, eggplant and fresh mint, linguine with reef mullet and fennel. The wine list includes interesting Sicilian labels.


Island hopping in Italy - Sicily

Pantelleria map, SicilySTANDALONE ISLANDS

In the Tyrrhenian Sea and in the Sicilian channel, the islands of Ustica and Pantelleria don't belong to an archipelago, rather form two distinct municipalities in the provinces of Palermo and Trapani.
PANTELLERIA, Sicily

Pantelleria

White-domed dammusi lava stone houses, Malvasia vineyards and African atmosphere make Pantelleria one of the most fascinating islands in the world. A favorite celebrity destination, Pantelleria boasts black lava coastlines, cobalt blue sea and picturesque villages with Arabic names, like Khamma and Mueggen. Among the natural attractions don't miss Specchio di Venere (Venus's mirror), a natural lake that is located inside the crater of a volcano; or the Arco dell'Elefante, a rock that resembles the trunk of an elephant; crystalline Balata dei Turchi and the sweet island's fortified wine, passito.

La Nicchia, Pantelleria, Sicily

To get your fill of capers and insalata Pantesca, head to La Nicchia, a remodeled gorgeous lava stone house with its own wine cellar and garden seating, under the fruit trees, Edison bulbs strung between branches. The menu offers island specialties like spaghetti with prawns, amberjack fish with breadcrumbs, or the delicious veal meatloaf. Leave room for dessert, specifically, granita made with passito wine, and bacio pantesco, the island's own crispy fritters stuffed with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips.

USTICA, Sicily

Ustica

Ustica map, Sicily
Small and isolated, Ustica is a Sicilian island that is not part of any archipelago. The black and fertile volcanic island has been visited and inhabited over the centuries by Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians and Saracens. Today, Ustica is one of the most important naturalistic areas of Italy, thanks to its Marine Reserve, the first and most important in Italy, which every summer attracts hundreds of diving enthusiasts who come for the rich sea depths and grottoes. The town center is enchanting, a maze of narrow alleys and steps that climb up the cliff, dominated by the Torre di Santa Maria, that houses the local Archaeological Museum, with prehistoric village remains and Hellenistic-Roman era tombs. Fishing is one of the most developed activities on the island; performed with small boats and traditional methods, providing local rock-habitat fish that's perfect for soups or grilled entrées. The island's small, red shrimp with turquoise eggs, excellent raw with a light marinade are the island's pride, are fished with traditional lobster traps called "nasse."

Il Faraglione, Ustica, Sicily
@M.Coco/Riccio blu
Where to enjoy a meal of such marine abundance? At ristorante Il Faraglione, whose various level terraces overlook the small fisherman's wharf. The menu is graced by fresh fish, obviously, and locally farmed products, namely Slow Food Presidia lentils, which are served in all manner of surf and turf recipes.

Diving & snorkelling resources in Ustica

Blue Diving Ustica
Orca Diving
La Perla Nera

How to get to the Sicily's minor islands

Siremar
Usticalines
Flights daily connect Palermo with Pantelleria.

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