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Malta Weekend in Sicily

Palermo, June 7-10, 2013

Travelling from Malta to the heart of Palermo as guests of that Bailliage, we enjoyed an ‘al fresco’ typically Sicilian welcoming dinner on the Friday featuring fish, seafood and various pasta.

The Centrale Palace Hotel’s roof terrace with the distinct historic cityscape backdrop made a perfect start to our visit. The wines served – from the local Cantina Burruano – were also perfect. The vintner, Luigi Burruano is a Chaîne member. He gave a most informative discourse on the ethos of the estate’s viticulture and vinification methods.

Saturday started with an interesting and educational guided tour of the historic city. Revived by lunch at Ristorante Trattoria Ai Cascinari featuring local cuisine we explored the lively, characteristic Mercato Populare de Capo.

In the evening a formal dinner at Kursaal a Mare was jointly hosted by the Bailliages of Palermo and Trapani. The menu featured Sicilian favourites:  Anchovy and cod risotto with sweet Nubia garlic; Turban of sea bass with Sicilian parmigiana (aubergine); Blancmange with iced peaches and citrus fruit glacé.

Local wines made from Cataratto1, Ariddrhu2 and Zibibbo3 grapes complemented the menu perfectly. Speeches by senior Bailliage officers created the finale with mementos, gifts and badges exchanged.

Sunday morning was full of activities: being amazed by the Byzantine, Arab and Norman architecture of the famous Cathedral of Monreale; seeing the Benedictine monks’ cloisters; taking a break for beer and cappuccino.

Brunch followed at Bar Pasticceria owned by the Maître Rôtisseur Massimo Giambelluca. After the dessert, a special Chaîne cake was ceremonially cut by Bailli Dr Vivaldi. With its delicate texture and extensive icing this cake was unanimously agreed to be sheer indulgence!

Next stop was the summit of Monte Pellegrino. The spectacular panoramic views it afforded quickly erased the concerns of some at negotiating the narrow hairpin bends of the steep twisting road to reach it. This was followed by a visit to the grotto of Santa Rosalia.

Located in Victory Square, the Ristorante Trattoria Ai Normanni is noted for typical Sicilian fish dishes. It was here that we enjoyed our final dinner in an ambience oozing with history.

Heartfelt thanks were given to our host Bailli Dr Roberto Vivaldi and to Vice-Chancelier Eraldo Tuttolomondo for making this memorable visit an outstanding success especially given the establishment of even stronger connections between the Bailliages.

Charles Gatt, Chancelier

1 Catarratto is a white grape planted primarily in Sicily where it is the most widely planted variety.

2 Ariddhru is used mainly for the production of Marsala, but some growers choose to make an IGT accredited wine from it.

3 Zibibbo is the Sicilian synonym for Muscat of Alexandria. Accordingly it makes pleasant dessert wines.