Last month we went on a five-day skiing trip to Val di Fassa in the Northern Italian region of Trentino. The last few years we shifted from skiing in Austria to skiing in Italy, and that's mostly because we became real enthusiasts about all things Italian, but also because we find Italian slopes to be really well maintained, often wide and sunny, and then, there is this atmosphere of wildness, roughness and the sense of freedom that you get surrounded by bare rocky peaks of the Dolomites.
A friend of mine told me once that Erice is the most beautiful town she has ever been to. I enjoyed its cobbled streets and stone houses, the amazing views of San Vito lo Capo on one side, and Trapani with Egadi islands on the other side, but especially, the scent of baked sweets coming from Pasticceria Maria Grammatico. Sicily is already very well known for its delicious sweets that include the cannoli, genovesi, gelato and granitas, chocolate, cassatas, brioches, cornetos etc., but at this pastry shop you can find the frutta martorana, that is, unbeliavably realistic marzipan fruits, typical of this region.
I fell head over heels with Sicily, its peculiarity, its warm and curious people, its unique cuisine and architecture influenced by centuries of foreign rule. I fell for Umbria's hearty dishes, green hills, lake landscape and almost frozen in time hilltop towns, I fell for Matera's cave dwellings and humble history, I fell for the modern city of Milano and bare mountain peaks of the Dolomites. And this summer, as if returning back to Sicily wasn't enough, I was completely spellbound by the Western Sicilian island of Marettimo.
Mazara del Vallo was known to me mostly as a place where delicious Sicilian red prawns come from (gambero rosso di Mazara). Reading about Mazara, I found out that it is home to the largest fishing fleet in Italy, that it was governed by the Arabs in 9. and 10. century, and today's old center called kasbah still retains Arabic urbanistic influences. Mazara is about half an hour drive from Marsala, and makes for a perfect daytrip.