After postponing our honeymoon for almost a year to make sure we made the most of it, my husband and I booked an epic month off to explore Sicily and its surrounding Islands. I couldn’t resist keeping an eye out for any lovely local makers and producers.
We were lucky enough to have a friend living on Vulcano, one of the tiny islands north of Sicily. Able to take a short ferry hop from there across to neighbouring Lipari, we discovered an array of incredible local ceramists making traditional hand-painted tableware and tiles. My particular favourite (although I would have had to sell a small house to pay for all the things I really wanted) was a tiny shop called U Segretu. The seductive combination of glaze colours and beautiful handmade patterns could have kept me browsing for hours. Eventually, I was gently pulled away with a comforting ‘One day…’ The local craftspeople prefer you not to take pictures, so you can find all their delicious pieces in glorious technicolour on their website.
The famous winding medieval streets of the Ortigia in Siracusa are lined with quirky shops and artisan boutiques. One inspiring shop Cool de Sac purveyed a collection of local handmade crafts, with an open-plan workshop space to the rear. The shop area itself was cleverly displayed with lovely pieces of old furniture and well chosen props – being a massive fan of brown paper I particularly loved her hairband display made of corrugated cardboard . Apart from selling beautiful things, it was brilliant to imagine the owner taking classes there, or working away on her own things in the quieter shop hours.
At first glance, Fish House Art looked like a market selling fresh fish. The closer you looked, the more amazing it got. Stacked in crates and sorted into types like at the fishmongers, were hundreds of gleaming Mediterranean fish – except they’re all ceramic. Having been lucky enough to have fresh, line caught, local fish courtesy of our friend on Vulcano, it was great to be able to spot the ones we’d got to know – the likeness really was impressive. You can find their beautiful array of species (and even buy one of your own, should the mood take you) in the Catalogo Pesci del Mediterraneo of FishLab.
You simply cannot go to Sicily without trying some of the local specialities. The accommodating owner of Olive was happy to let us sample our way around her brilliant store and let us know a little about where each thing came from. From olive oil and pesto to chocolate and Limoncello – it really was a showcase of all the finest local makers. Travelling on foot, it was probably lucky we had to limit ourselves to what we could carry; it would have been easy to stock a large kitchen with speciality oils, biscotti, marinated olives…the list goes on. Should you ever find yourself wandering through, I can recommend popping in. (Via Cavour 27, 96100 Siracusa, Ortigia)
With our limited capacity, we eventually settled on a brilliant terracotta mask of the god Pan for a friend and a handmade tile for my mum. I also couldn’t resist adding to her increasingly ridiculous collection of awful holiday magnets. Having previously found her a snowboarding marmot, the steaks were high… It took a lot of searching, but I feel like we outdid ourselves somewhat. The indisputable winner was a slightly insane-looking donkey sitting in a horseshoe playing a ukulele, with the statutory ‘Sicilia’ banner emblazoned across the bottom. What a ukelele-playing donkey has to do with Sicily, I am yet to discover.