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Sunday
Apr162006

Sicily: Campagna, Cannoli and Uninvited Company

 235938001_aa22c02da1.jpg

 Sicilian Cannoli

 

The first time I went to Italy, my mother made an unusual request. "So far I haven't placed any restrictions on you," she said to me over the phone, her voice sounding unusually tense, "but since you're going to Italy, I have to ask for one thing. Please don't go further south than Rome."

I was standing in a telephone booth somewhere in southern France, a week or so into my first backpacking trip around Europe, when she dropped this unexpected news on me.

"But why?" I protested, "why don't you want me to go to southern Italy?"

She sighed. "Because I've heard it can be dangerous, particularly to a seventeen-year-old American girl traveling alone."

I laughed out loud. "Dangerous, like what, the mafia?"

"No, not the mafia," she replied, "it's just that, well, the men there have a certain reputation. That's all I'm going to say - please don't go."

I argued feebly for a moment before giving in. It really wouldn't be that much of a burden to comply - after all, most of what I really wanted to see in Italy was in the north: Florence, Venice, the Lakes, the Riviera. But I still thought the request was nonsense; after all, I had just spent a year as an exchange student in Spain - which, I assumed, had just as many hot-blooded Mediterranean men as Italy - and had lived to tell the tale. How different could Italy be?

As I was about to discover, very. From the instant I set foot on Italian soil, I seemed to be emitting a man magnet. I'd never been one to attract an undue amount of attention from the opposite sex, and on this trip in particular I assumed the grimy backpacker look would send any potential hasslers running the other way, but I couldn't have been more mistaken. Young, old, suave, disheveled, English-speaking and not, they swarmed to me, stopping me on street corners, sidling up to me in museums, stalking me in supermarkets, softly murmuring "Ciao bella" and "Da dove vieni?". Despite the fact that I was on my feet all day, resting anywhere became a dicey prospect, as the instant I sat down some man would inevitably materialize out of nowhere (even in the middle of deserted countryside), plant himself uncomfortably close, and attempt to strike up a conversation. It didn't matter if we could barely communicate - understanding each other was obviously not crucial to their plans. In fact I didn't know what was crucial to their plans, but I usually nipped these encounters in the bud before I could find out. Venice, I recall, was particularly bad - I spent my entire three days there being hounded by one persistent man after another, who would follow me around pleading with me that all they wanted was to share a coffee and practice their English (and lest you think that all I had to do was pretend not to speak English, I tried... it still didn't work). At first I went to great pains to politely make up excuses for why I couldn't further our relationship (e.g. mysterious friends who were expecting me, a husband waiting back at the hotel, an imminent train to catch), but I soon realized nothing worked. By the time I crossed into Switzerland one month later, I had been hassled by more men than I dared to count - and I hadn't even made it as far south as Rome. Who knew what would have been in store for me down south?

But I had fallen in love with Italy, despite the annoyances, and more than anything I wanted to see the south, particularly Sicily. That's why three years later, when there was no one but me calling the shots, I flew into Rome, and took the first train south I could find. I traveled first to Naples, detoured for a couple of days to glamorous Capri, and then pushed southward, watching how the lush rolling hills gave way to rocky, arid landscapes, open-sided rock quarries and a punishing, relentless sun. The people who boarded the overnight train began to look poorer, more weatherbeaten, like the villages they came from, an impression that seemed to intensify the deeper down the boot we went. By the time we arrived in Sicily I had the feeling we had crossed over into another country altogether - the land, the language, even the people were different.

And this impression held as I traveled around Sicily, though in surprising ways. Although I had braced myself for the world-famous machismo, I couldn't seem to find it anywhere. Every man I met was polite and reserved; walking around - even stopping to consult my map, the surest lure I knew in the north - I failed to attract even an untoward glance. Black-clad grandmothers would occasionally turn and eye me suspiciously, but no one dared to initiate a conversation; unless of course, there was business to be done, in which case there was plenty of arm-waving and pats on the back. Mostly, though, I found myself wandering the streets of gritty, edgy cities full of young unemployed Sicilian males and not even garnering a whistle, much less bench companions. It was unexpectedly, wonderfully liberating.

Then one day at the end of my Sicilian travels, I visited the cliff-top town of Taormina on Sicily's east coast. Settled on a hill of the Monte Tauro (just north of Mount Etna), Taormina dominates two grand, sweeping bays and a breathtaking view over almost one hundred miles of Mediterranean sea. It was very different to most of the Sicily I had seen so far - it was clean and well kept; there were tourists, boutiques, lush greenery and fountains gracing a lovely clifftop promenade above the sea. The back streets of the town's small center were chock-full of interesting little shops, and it was while meandering these that I stopped to admire a window display of pastries. I was particularly fixated on the tower of cannolis with their pistachio-flecked innards spilling out of golden shells - I hadn't, after all, yet managed to try this most iconic of Sicilian delicacies - when I heard a voice at my shoulder.

"Ciao, bella," it said, "do you speak English?" I whirled around and found a little man, at least a foot shorter than me, probably in his late-fifties, balding, plump, and sporting a business shirt and sneakers. He was grinning a little too widely for my taste. I shook my head. "Français? Deutsch? Español?"

Damn, I thought, he had all the bases covered. I sighed heavily. "English."

His eyes lit up. "Oh good, English is best for me! I am Vittorio." He bowed stiffly and reached out for my hand, starting to raise it to his lips. I snatched it away and took a step backward. Instantly I felt the old evasive maneuvers coming back.

"I'm terribly sorry, but I'm really in a hurry," I said.

"Oh, but I thought we could speak a bit. You see I would like to practice my English..."

I didn't even give him a chance to finish his thought before turning around and half-running down the street, calling, "sorry, I really have to go," over my shoulder. I didn't slow down until I was nearly on the other side of town. I guess Sicily has them too, I thought, shaking my head in despair, I knew it was too good to be true. I felt the uncomfortable realization that I would constantly have to be on my guard now. My heart slightly heavier, I resumed my window shopping, looking at leather purses and postcards and Taormina t-shirts.

A short while later I had stepped inside a pottery shop and was admiring a lavishly painted espresso set when I heard the dreaded voice at my shoulder. "Hello again."

I didn't have to turn around this time to see who it was. "You are admiring the Sicilian ceramics, no? They are very beautiful." Vittorio picked up a cup from the set I had been looking at. "Maybe I can buy you a little souvenir of Taormina? Something to take home?"

I shook my head vehemently. The last thing I wanted was be indebted to this strange, annoying man. "No, I wouldn't have space for it anyway," I said, slowly starting to back towards the door of the shop. He put the cup down and followed me.

"Well, then, maybe something you don't have to take with you? Come, I will invite you to lunch."

Again I shook my head. "I'm sorry, I've already eaten," I lied.

"Well then coffee," he said calmly, the smile never leaving his lips. "Come on, no obligation, just a little bit of coffee and a little bit of conversation."

My heart was racing - I honestly couldn't imagine a worse way to spend my afternoon than having to make small talk with this man half my height and three times my age. I started looking helplessly around at people passing us on the street, but no one seemed to take notice.

"I'm sorry, but I really can't do that. I have to catch my train in twenty minutes. I can't be late," I said finally, seeing my only way out. His smile faded, but I barely saw it as I was already halfway down the street.

I took great pains to avoid him for the rest of the afternoon. I tried some delicious Sicilian gelato, had an alfresco picnic under one of the town's sparkling public fountains, and admired the many gorgeous views of the impossibly blue sea, but never without looking over my shoulder first. Though Taormina was in many ways much less Sicilian than elsewhere on the island, I had to admit this was one of the most stunningly beautiful places I had ever visited, and I was sorry I had left it until the end. I was also sorry that I'd had my streak of hassle-free travel broken here, but I didn't dwell on that too much - after all, there was still cannoli to be eaten. By the end of the afternoon I realized I'd waited long enough to do exactly that, and navigated the town's narrow back streets to the pastry shop where I'd seen that mouthwatering window display earlier in the day. Luckily they were still open, Vittorio was nowhere to be seen, and the friendly woman behind the counter was happy to wrap up two cannolis for me in a sheet of greaseproof paper.

Clutching my little pastry parcel to my chest, I stepped back out into the bright sunshine to find a place to enjoy it.

"Oh hello!" a dreadedly familiar voice called out. My heart sank - Vittorio was running down the street toward me. "Oh, I'm glad you haven't left yet," he gushed. I rolled my eyes and cast a glance to my cannolis, quickly beginning to wilt in the late afternoon heat. "I have to catch my train now, but I would like to give you my address so that maybe we can meet someday if you ever make it to Milano."

My eyes widened as I looked at the address on the scrap of paper he was handing me. "What - Milano?" I sputtered. "You're from Milano?"

"Why yes, I'm just down here in Sicily for my holidays." He looked slightly confused as to why this should matter. "But I have been here a week and tomorrow I have to go back to work," he said sadly, and suddenly I noticed the large suitcase he was carrying. Before I could even respond, he was bowing in his awkward way, reaching out to kiss my hand, hauling up his suitcase and hurrying off in the direction of the train station.

I stood there for a minute, stunned, watching him recede into the distance. A tourist from the north, I should have guessed. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I walked across the promenade to a bench with a nice view of the ocean below, carefully unwrapped my cannolis, took a bite, and marvelled at how good it felt just to be left completely, blissfully alone.

 
(Dear readers, I'm sorry to report that this will most likely the last post I'll be able to put up for a while, as I'll be taking time off from everything - including cooking and blogging - for the next month or so to work intensively on my PhD. Curse these real life obligations! Don't ask me how I'm going to survive, but assuming I do, you'll find me back here in mid to late May. Wish me luck!)

 
Sicilian Cannoli

Yield: 20-24 cannolis
Source: adapted from La Cucina Siciliana di Gangivecchio by Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene
Notes: Ever since trying cannoli that first time in Taormina, I've wanted to make my own, but somehow never got around to it until now. I was amazed at how easy they actually are, but you do need the tools of the trade, namely metal cannoli tubes, easily available from kitchen shops or online. I also took this opportunity to try my hand at making my own ricotta, which I hoped would better approximate the incredibly flavorful ricotta filling of those first Sicilian cannoli. While it may not have quite lived up to the memory, it was very good, and remarkably easy (I also loved the richness added by the heavy cream), and I won't hesitate to make it again whenever I need a superior quality ricotta. If you don't feel like making your own, however, Wanda and Giovanna Tornabene (whose wonderful book above I highly recommend as an introduction to Sicilian cuisine) suggest taking normal supermarket ricotta and draining it overnight in a cheesecloth-lined strainer to more approximate the thick, dense ricotta they use. As for the exact proportions of the filling ingredients, let taste be your guide - the Tornabenes only flavor their ricotta with sugar and a bit of vanilla, but I love the combination of chocolate, orange, citron and pistachio that seems to embody the quintessential flavors of Sicily in every bite.

For cannoli shells:
2 cups (280g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (70g) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (80ml) lard, melted and cooled, or vegetable oil, plus more for frying
red wine vinegar, as needed
1 egg white

For rich homemade ricotta:
1 gallon (4 liters) whole milk
2 cups (500ml) heavy/double cream
4 cups (1 liter) buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

For filling:
3 cups (about 750g) thick, well-drained homemade ricotta (or 4 cups (1kg) commercial ricotta drained in a cheesecloth overnight)
1 cup (220g) sugar, more or less to taste
2 teaspoons vanilla
finely grated zest of 2 oranges

chopped dark chocolate, to taste
chopped candied citron, to taste
1/2 cup (50g) unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped 

Special equipment: cheesecloth, candy thermometer, metal cannoli tubes 

Begin making the ricotta one day in advance. Put all the ingredients in a large pot and put it on medium heat. Let it heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it is hot and little bubbles form on the surface. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Then let it bubble for about 5 minutes without stirring. You'll see curds start to form. Let the temperture rise to 175F or 80C. Turn off the heat, and let the pot sit there, undisturbed, for 10 minutes. Using a skimmer or a large slotted spoon transfer the curds into a large strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth, gently scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck-on ricotta. When the draining has slowed to an occasional drip, set the strainer over a bowl and refrigerate (fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the top of the ricotta so it doesn't dry out too much). Let it drain until all the whey runs off and the cheese is quite thick, about 24 hours.

For the cannoli shells, put the flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and melted lard or oil. Mix together, adding enough vinegar, little by little, until you have a very smooth, soft dough (I used about 1.5 tablespoons, I think). Knead the dough on a board for a few minutes and work into a ball. The dough should be soft and elastic. Let the dough rest, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. It can be prepared a day in advance and kept wrapped in plastic at room temperature.

Roll the dough out into a thin, large circle (about 1/8 inch/2mm thick).  You can also halve or quarter the dough, and roll each piece out into smaller circles. Cut the dough into perfect 4-inch (10cm) circles (find something round in your kitchen with this diameter to work as a guide). Using a rolling pin, make one or two passes over each circle to create more of an oval shape, trying to keep an even thickness throughout.  Wrap each piece of dough around an oiled cannoli tube so that the longer sides overlap in the middle. Dab a bit of egg white where the dough overlaps and press to secure it well. Ready as many tubes as you have available.

Heat about 3 inches of lard or vegetable oil in a deep frying pan until hot but not smoking. A scrap of dough should start frying the instant it hits the oil. Fry two or three shells at a time, pressing them down if necessary to keep them submerged, until golden brown all over. This will happen quickly - possibly in less than a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Knock one end of the tube to loosen it from the shell, then remove it from the shell while it is still hot. Allow the tubes to cool before using them for the next batch. The shells are best used within a couple of hours, but will keep in an airtight container for a few days. Fill them just before serving.

For the filling, mix together the drained ricotta with everything except the pistachios. Taste and adjust the level of sweetness - some people like it sweeter than others. Using a teaspoon or a pastry bag or even your fingers, fill the cooled shells with the mixture. Decorate the ends with chopped pistachios and serve at once. 

 

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Reader Comments (45)

Sigh. What an amazing post. And now I want to make these at 7am.

I'm going to miss you and I'm hoping that spring will fly by so your absence won't seem long. I'm frustrated with your obligations, too! But real life calls, I understand :)

Good luck in all your endeavors, and hurry back! You'll have so many of us waiting for your return :)
April 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermatt
What a great post! I've never eaten canoli, but I did have some very similar encounters with northern Italian men when I was on holiday with a friend. The oddest chat-up line I came across was in Rome, when one man got his wallet out and started waving it around saying "I have current account, I have current account". Good luck with work, I'll miss you in the office!
April 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDharshi
What? You can't just disappear like that!...Good luck with your Ph.d. Can't wait to see you back again. best, m
April 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermari
Melissa,

Buena suerte!
April 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkevin
Great post, Melissa! I've been to two extremes of Italy as well - Alto Adige up north and Calabria down south. Very different experiences (and I definitely realised that sometimes it's a handicap to be naturally blond-haired and fair-skinned:)
Also - I managed to bump into a same guy two days in a row in totally different parts of Athens - a city of 5 millions! - few years ago. The problem was that I rejected his invite for a drink on a previous night by saying that I have to go to sleep and catch a ferry to the islands early next morning. Imagine my embarrasment when we met again next evening..
Good luck with finishing your PhD - you can do it!!
April 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPille
Melissa, I loved this story. It reminded me of my summer in Florence a few years ago, where it was virtually impossible to sit uninterrupted in a cafe with my journal and my cafe freddo...Your cannoli look absolutely divine, and make me wish I could bite into that crunchy, crumbly creaminess right now. Good luck with the PhD, and know that you'll be much missed!
April 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Good luck Melissa ! I'm getting my Ph.D too and I sympathize. I'll miss your posts !I hope you'll be back soon !
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiza
It also brings back memories of my trips to Italy when I was 17! I had been warned the same way. I was tall and more blond than the average Italian, and that was enough to mean "easy prey"! Loved your story!
I feel blessed as I had been looking for recipes for cannoli, including getting one not yet tested by Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice! So now I have two to try!

Good luck on your journey. You will be missed! As we say in French, we wish good luck by saying "Merde" (I am sure you know what it means!) Je te dis Merde!

A bientôt

April 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbea
As always, wonderful story-telling ...

I had the "northern" experience in Greece ... a tall blonde getting off a plane with Finns seeking mid-winter sun ... enter Terry the Greek God as I called him then and still now ... the blonde melted ... but for a week I had dinner with his family twice (they were used to blonde girls speaking hand sign and English ...) and danced all night at a wedding ... and shared long meals in tiny little tavernas in back alleyways ... so ... who knows ... there might have been an upside? Still, always listen to your mother and your instincts. I know mine was horrified1!
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlanna
Melissa,
Wonderful, evocative storytelling...I am reminded of my own trips to Italy and how much I loved the place. Forunately(?) I was not traveling alone so I did not get the "friendly" experience you did!

Best of luck with your Ph.D!
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
Mmmm. Delicious. In every way.

Good luck with the dissertation. That real life stuff is the pits. See you in May.
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlindy
hi melissa, funniest post! italian men are a highly persistant bunch aren't they? being asian definitely helps when i pull the i-don't-speak-english/italian/spanish/french line ;) your cannoli are truly gorgeous! - we happened to be in taormina last year, and spent virtually evey morning inhaling the specimens at pasticceria etna on corso umberto. i've been dying to try my hand at making them but just never got round to it - thanks for the inspiration and the recipe (which i'm printing out as we speak!) meanwhile, good luck with all you need to do and take care. till may it is then...
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJ
I'll miss your weekly postings so much while you're off doing "real" work... ;) Good luck and come back very soon!
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa
LOL! What an experience. I'm glad you were eventually able to have your cannolli there. The one you've made above looks absolutely delicious. I especially love the pistachio decorating the ends. Yum!

Best wishes as you focus on your studies.

Paz
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPaz
Dear Melissa,
I totally love Cannoli, even bought the little metal cannoli tubes on our last holiday. But guess what, I never actually used them, what a shame! Your results look beautiful and the recipe is already bookmarked, so the metal cannoli tubes may be on duty soon...
Sorry to hear you're taking a pause from blooging and cooking, but please don't forget to eat while studying ;)
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNicky
Well for your semi-farwell post, you couldn't have done better! And even thought I constantly think it, I don't think that I have ever mentioned that....you make THE most beautiful pictures. Good luck on your project!
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlisa
What a great post! I remember being astounded by the italian men when I went to Rome with my mother. I was just 18 and we had a beautiful time but I was glad to leave the country so I could walk down the street normally again. I will definetly try the recipe though as they look gorgeous. and good luck with writing the Phd! I finished mine last year and even if it is a slog, I found that the hardest part is to st down and do it but once you get rid of all distractions its ok. so I hope you'll write up swiftly and look forward to reading the new posts
best wishes
eva
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEva
Gee, I always seem to have just the opposite effect on Italian men...
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
What a great story! I loved it. Mom's seem to always be right for some reason! The cannoli's look fabulous!

~Dianka
http://na-zdravi.blogspot.com/
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDianka
Connecticut Italians are, by and large, Sicilians, with immigrants from specific cities resettling in specific Connecticut towns -- those from Amalfi went to New Haven, from Melilli to Middletown, etc. We headed home for Easter and celebrated with a trip to my favorite Italian pastry shop. We came away with some lovely cannoli, but it's hard to justify the 6 hour trip just for the pastry and the pizza. So it's nice to now see how I can make my own between trips. Thanks! And good luck with your Ph.D.!
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersprite
The best success on your Ph.D! Perhaps I can find time to make these beautiful cannoli before you are back blogging!
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTanna
Your post brought back many memories of Italy for me. I'll never forget my first visit to Rome with my wife. While doing laundry, the man running the laundromat offered my wife a massage.

Your cannoli look wonderful, especially the vibrant green of the pistachios.

I'm sad to hear you're on a brief hiatus, but I wish you all the best in your studies.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrob
Ah, the Italian men...

These cannoli look gorgeous (of course). Strangely, I was watching The Godfather on dvd -- as a way of postponing my academic work -- and read your post just after. Sicily has a different connotation for me right now!

Please take care of yourself in your absence. You'll feel so much better when all that nasty work is done. And then you can come back to us renewed!
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentershauna
Good luck (and much sympathy) with your PhD. No matter how it looks, you will eventuallly finish.

If your work is even half as good as the writing on this blog, you'll do fantastically.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJuti
Ciao, bella! I'm going to miss your lovely stories, beautiful photos, and tempting recipes while you're gone. Best of luck on the PhD!
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBrett
Ahhh, the thesis. I can NOT believe its been exactly 12 years since I defended my thesis! I actually enjoyed writing my dissertation.. in my field (cell biology) it was a matter of stitching together my published papers and writing up my unpublished stuff. With your writing skills, you should be several legs up!

Much luck and I look forward to your return!

Nika
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenternika
Dear Melissa, your writing has brought a big smile to my face. Wonderfully told, as usual. I can understand you very well that for the coming weeks you have to/want to concentrate on your dissertation, but I will be happy to see you back afterwards ! Good luck and much success to you ! angelika
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterangelika
What a beautifully written story, Melissa. How I want to visit Italy, and how I want one of these cannoli!

Good luck with your PhD!
April 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTania
Melissa,

Reading your posts is like travelling down memory lane with you. Your account of the "attention" Italian men like to pay to young women was particularly enjoyable.

And the photo of the cannoli is too much ... the vibrancy of the pistachios is almost breathtaking.

Lovely post.

All the best with your PhD work!
April 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne
Love the post! Great armchair (desk chair?) traveling. Good luck with your month "off."
April 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmyBee
Hi Melissa, I'm a man from the north of Italy. Don't worry, I'm happily in love with a fantastic girl... But this can't prevent me to manifest you my solidarity for your "not so good meets" in my country. I think you have been unlucky but of course I have to admit italian men are often sassy... Please forgive them and come again in Italy and, if the problem will lay again don't say you ara late for the train or similar... simply you are in Italy to meet your father that is an official of "Guardia di Finanza"!!!
In bocca al lupo per il tuo PhD!
Apologize me for my english, but I never met an english girl who teached me better... :-)
April 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSimone
Hah hah hah... fantastic post. Having done the backpacker thing across Europe several times when I was younger, and then having lived there for a brief time, I remembered being constantly amused how European men flocked to and hit on any American female traveler. Of course, the misunderstanding was that all American girls were "easy". I've watched friends fight off swarmy Italians and skanky Frenchmen. One rather overzealous Greek even tried to climb into the sleeping bog of one female friend during the ferry trip from Athens to Ios -- with her still in the bag. Amazingly, the minute the same gals started sewing maple leafs to their backpacks, the men started to leave them alone. Go figure.

Good luck with your writing. S has till June to finish hers. If she doesn't, she won't get the degree. So, we'll be thinking of you as she also finishes hers.
April 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChubby Hubby
I just came across this blog not too long ago, and now that you're taking a break I guess I'll be occupying myself by reading back all your old entries :) You're a splendid writer; godspeed with the dissertation writing.
April 24, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkarenology
I've never been to Italy, but had one experience like that in a train station in the Netherlands - ack. Really distasteful. And I didn't even have cannoli to turn to (it was Sunday and everything was closed...) Good luck with the dissertation - remember that it doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done. :^)
April 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTricia
Ooh - the memories of my Nonna's kitchen! I grew up on cannoli like this (and grew out, but that's why God made Weight Watchers).

Best of luck on the PhD!
April 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlida
Oh, Melissa, best of luck on the dissertation! I hope it all goes well and smoothly. We will miss you until you come back.
April 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTea
Oh cannoli! So delicious. Good luck with your work!
April 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentergemma
Great story! I'll look forward to your next post... Good luck with your PhD work!
May 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Machanic
Hah! Wonderful story! Have you read Sarah Vowell's account of her own experiences with cannoli in southern Italy? I think you'd get a kick oout of it!
May 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterYasmin
I just recently discovered your blog and was delighted by what I found: beautiful photos, excellent writing, and recipes that are inspiring.

I imagine how hard you must be working now on your PhD. Best of luck with everything, and thank you for your blog.

May 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAstrid
Great story, and even better recipe. Tried it for a "Sopranos night" theme dinner and they were a big hit. Good luck with your PhD!!
May 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBill Belew
What a brilliant post. I experienced the same 'stalking' in Italy, and it really woke me up to my instinct, for example some men became very creepy and my gut feeling told me to move, blend in with the crowd, ignore, etc. It does become awkward, especially as I'm a very polite person and could never imagine telling someone to blatantly go away as I've been recommended.

I'm going to Sicily for the first time in two weeks, and can't wait!
May 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulia
this is hilarious,i was just searching for something and came across this on google. I'm from nearby Taormina. I know what u mean, all my friends are like that. In Sicily in the tourist resort towns its normal to chase the foreign tourist girls.
It's sort of a tradition almost,hehe.

I'm surprised though that your little ecnounter with this 'short guy' was described so traumatically.

In Italy you'll maybe get the ciao bella and some attention which i appreciate may be annoying but it compares in now way say to what girls get on a night out in the UK for example.

I'm a little upset that you give us a fearful reputation, and descrive events in such dramatic tones.
Most of the time its just harmless, some nowadays have no style but hey imagine if u were a young guy growing up in Taormina and u see all these attractive foreign girls passing by as u walk from school. When you're older u'll be curious.

July 8, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdan

I'm going to Sicily in exactly a month...I've been waiting for a long time to go, I lived in Florence for a bit, so I'm excited to experience the south. I was wondering if you had any suggestions or tips, where you travelled to, what cities were your favorite, restaurants, or anything you remember.
By the way, I love your blog, it was one of my first foodblogs to come across and it inspired me to start my own! courtney at http://thedoughball.blogspot.com/

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Courtney - I'm probably not the best person to ask for specific advice about Sicily, considering how long ago I was there! I would say try to see as many places as possible, as they each have their own unique flavor: Taormina (of course), Palermo, Siracusa, Agrigento, Cefalu, Noto... The Aeolian islands are really spectacular, too, if you can fit them in. And don't forget to have some gelato in brioche for breakfast!

March 18, 2008 | Registered Commentermelissa

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