in Thirteen Invasions


Sicilian food is the original fusion cuisine, a unique mix of all of its diverse cultural heritages.

The island has been at the heart of thirteen different empires over the last three millennia, and each one of them has left its mark on the Sicilian Gastronomy.

The Phoenicians were traders and pioneering seafarers, originally from Lebanon.

Fearless sailors and ingenious traders throughout the known world, the Phoenicians invented money, created an alphabetic script for taking inventory, and built the world’s first import-export economy.

Everyone in the ancient world wanted their red murex shellfish, because wearing clothes in this special colour protected them against the Evil Eye, a terrifying primal force which caused infertility, crop failure and death. Egyptian Pharaohs, Roman Consuls and Greek dictators dared not leave the house without their red clothes on. The name „Phoenician“ comes from the Greek word for red.

This was not all they sold. They also produced fine glass artwork and ceramics, they transported rare food crops, and they sold the best wood in the world for making ships’ masts, from their indigenous Lebanese pines.

Phoenician colonies sprang up all over the Mediterranean. These began as small trading stations, with a warehouse and a few guards who stayed behind to protect the merchandise and trade with the locals. Gradually, they grew into full-scale city-states. Their seminal culture laid the groundwork for much of modern Mediterranean religions, foods, languages, agriculture and art.

Carthage (nowadays called Tunis), benefitted from its central position and eventally became the largest of all the Phoenician city-states. When the Assyrians of modern-day Iraq conquered Phoenicia around 800 B.C., Carthage became the centre of the Phoenician civilisation. Carthage founded colonies of its own, including many in Sicily.

And the evil eye? To this day, some elderly Sicilians sprinkle salt inside their doorways and hide red pouches of lucky charms inside their clothing, to protect temselves from its harmful powers.

What did the Phoenicians bring to Sicily?

Grains and pulses
They brought a great many cereals to Sicily, including durum wheat, which makes the best pasta.

They also brought lentils, amongst other pulses. In those days pasta was made at home, fresh, each time it was needed, and it was popular throughout the countries encircling the Mediterranean.

Dried, ready-to-eat pasta was invented many centuries later.

Cous cous, which is simply wheat flour paste pressed through a coarse sieve, is thought to have been one of the most popular types at that time.

The Phoenicians established a sea salt industry in Trapani and Marsala, in western Sicily.

You need relentless sunshine and steady winds to make the sea evaporate and leave salt crystals on the ground.

Their salt farms were on the mainland, opposite the vast city and shipyard they founded on the island of Mozia, just off the coast by Marsala. 

They also established vinyards full of grape species they imported from the Middle East on the island of Mozia, which made exquisite wine.

Before that, Mediterranean people were drinking Greek stuff like retsina – so, pretty gross really.

The Phoenicians had a new way of corking the bottles and their wine was an entirely superior drink.

Try a slosh of Marsala; it’s ambrosial! The Sicilians drink it as a sweet desert wine and also use it in various recipes, especially with red meat.

Fresh figs, which flourish throughout Sicily, were a Lebanese crop which the Phoenicians brought over to Sicily and spread throughout their Mediterranean colonies.

They knew how to dry them in the sun which could make them last all year round, and they provided a high-calorie and vitamin-filled snack which was ideal travelling food.

The Phoenicians were masters in water drainage, and built the first large cities in Sicily, with rainwater channels to gather water for drinking, and drainage channels to eliminate sewage from the city.

The Greeks copied the Phoenicians by founding coastal colonies all over the Mediterranean from the 8th century B.C. onwards. We call them „colonies“, but they had full political independence from the mother city. They were economic and military allies.

For 500 years, rivalry between the Greeks and the Carthaginians was fierce. Piracy was the rule of the day, and attacking each other’s trading stations to steal everything from the warehouses guaranteed rewards and honour at home for the winning captain-cum-thief.

Athens, with her silver mines and highly skilled potters, was the greatest trader and colonist of the ancient Greek world. Athenian coinage was trusted worldwide.

One Greek colony, Siracusa in Sicily, gradually became more rich and powerful than Athens. Athens regarded it as a dangerous rival and tried (disastrously) to invade it!

What did the Greeks bring to Sicily?

These days, more and more baked goods in Italy are made from spelt (farro) which is the ancient species of wheat that the Greeks cultivated.

These are enjoying a great revival as a health food in modern Sicily.

The Greeks loved beans and pulses like the Phoenicians, but typically ate them as a sturdy stew with spelt added.

When they needed a premonition to help them foresee the future they would add grated cheese to the top of their bean and spelt stew, to give them trippy cheese dreams, which they interpreted with the help of specialist priests.

The oldest type of Sicilian cheese, called Pecorino Siciliano, is made from sheep’s milk and was invented by the Ancient Greeks in Sicily about 500 B.C.

It is not made anywhere in the world outside Sicily, and it is one of the world’s oldest types of cheese still made according to a strictly defined process to keep it consistent.

It has a D.O.C. (di origine controllata) marking from the Italian government, which means it is illegal to make it anywhere but Sicily or with any deviation from the traditional method.

The Greeks were very fond of cheese and made many varieties back in the old country, including many using goats’ and sheep’s milk. Sicilians have other varieties of cheese which also date from this period.

Fish and Seafood
Octopus and squid dishes in Sicily are also traditions originating with the Greek colonists.

The Ancient Greeks loved these types of seafood and ate them as a dietary staple. You may notice Greek pots with pictures of squid, cuttlefish and octopi on them in museums throughout Sicily.

The Sicilians still use the Greek method of fishing them, by dangling lanterns over the water; the octopi are drawn to them irresistibly like moths to a candle, and come blubbering up to the surface, where they are easily caught.

The most powerful, of the superpowers of the ancient world was the Roman Empire

The Greeks and Phoenicians muddled alongside each other for five centuries of pirate raids.

From the 3rd century B.C. a third power made its presence felt. The Romans were a group of farmers from dangerous malarial swamps with no natural resources or crafts to trade. They were not much good at sailing, either. All they had going for them were their outstanding military skills and aggression.

With nothing much to sell, they were not interested in trading and founding loosely-allied city states. They were building a military empire, with a centralised government. Ultimately it was this difference in outlook and objectives that made them the winners.

They began as raiders on land, conquering Italy. When they met the Phoenicians and Greeks they copied every aspect of their culture that they could, including their ships and sailing skills.

They beat the disjointed Greeks easily, picking them off one city-state at a time. They so admired the superiority of the Greek culture that they adopted it – gods, arts, philosophy and all – and spread it wherever they conquered.

The Carthaginians were altogether harder to beat. They had seen their mother country in the Middle East destroyed once, so they knew the key to success was unity. The two powers were so closely matched that the Romans, after three “Punic Wars” which lasted centuries, only won by a whisker.

The Carthaginians went down in Roman history as the most terrifying enemies on the planet. Their very name became stuff of legend and nightmares for Roman children. But for a few small twists of fate, we Europeans might all be speaking a Semitic language derived from Phoenician.

The Romans regarded Sicily as a backwater, fit to be intensively farmed and asset-stripped. Roman Sicily was characterised by political corruption, financial extortion and exploitation of the locals. They rebuilt some of the Greek and Phoenician cities they had ruined and taxed the natives to the brink of starvation, generation after generation.

What did the Romans bring to Sicily?

The Romans ate far more fish than meat, and particularly liked prawns and shellfish. They even established oyster farms around Sicily. Seafood salad is one of the great Roman contributions to Sicilian cuisine.

The Romans also introduced a much wider variety of vegetables to Sicily, and ended the Phoenician and Greek obsession with pulses.

Roman carrots came in various colours, most of them being purple; pretty much the only colour they did not have was orange.

Garlic and onions were popular among the Romans to flavour their dishes, and they established different varieties in Sicily, along with leafy green vegetables and types of lettuce.

Like most ancient people, the Romans drank wine instead of water.

They had not discovered – as the Chinese had – that germs could be eliminated from water by boiling it. So whilst the Chinese lived on tea, the Roman diluted their wine in the ratio of one part wine to three parts water, which is enough to kill most germs.

They were able to hydrate themselves in this way without getting drunk.

They thought the Celts, who drank wine neat and enjoyed drunken booze ups, were shockingly barbaric – indeed, the word “barbaric” derives from their name for this group of tribes and their habitual piss-ups.

Bread and Pizza
Roman bread was sturdy and wholemeal stuff. The typical loaf was round, and made to break easily into eight triangular pieces.

Romans were so obsessed with bread that poor people, who were hard up for food, would eat bread and nothing else.

You won’t find Roman style bread in Sicily, because nowadays we are fixated upon very fine white flour, but do try all the types of bread in Sicily because the flour is the same, and our bread is the nicest in all Europe.

The Romans ate pizza too, topped with cheese and vegetables but, of course, without tomato.

Roman pizza usually had a very hard base, which would snap almost like a biscuit, and they often just used the bread as a “plate” and picked the topping off it.

Sicilian pizzerias still offer a selection of classic tomato-free pizzas.

They vary from region to region so you will have to ask for local advice from waiters! Another typical Sicilian type of “pizza” is called sfincione. It is a thick piece of pizza with a big amount of tomato, onions and pecorino cheese on top – it is more like garnished bread than a pizza and you usually buy it in the baker’s shop or in corners located in open air markets rather than a pizzeria or restaurant.

Sweet and Sour
The Romans loved strong flavours and tangy, vineagary sauces.

A lot of their food was preserved in vineagar, which was dramatically more acidic than modern picked foods (which you may notice are filled with other preservatives and sold in jars of vineagar diluted with water).

When these pickled vegetables were added as ingredients, the whole dish would take on a tangy taste.

The Sicilian tradition of agrodolce (sweet and sour) style cooking – which uses olive oil, vineagar and sugar – was the very quintessence of ancient Roman cuisine.

One of the classic Sicilian agrodolce dishes is pumpkin, but other foods are also cooked with this mouthwatering sauce, including liver which is smothered in mouthwatering fried onion and the eggplant caponata which one of the most important sicilian recipe.

Fish Sauce and Anchovy Paste
Also in common with South-East Asians, the Romans loved seasoning their food with fish sauce, which they called garum.

They established Garum factories throughout their empire, and Sicilian and Spanish garum were considered the best.

Garum was fermented, and was probably more like the fish sauce used in modern South-East Asian stir-fries, but anchovy paste is the closest you will get in modern Sicily.

Anything with anchovy paste on it harks back to the great Roman chefs.

Arabs are so often portrayed as the underdogs, nowadays, that we sometimes forget they conquered southern Europe twice and ruled it for centuries.

The Sicilians don’t forget, though, for the Arabs invented pasta as we know it, shaped their language and brought them their citrus fruit trees, taught them to make dazzling coloured ceramics and founded street markets that still flourish like chaotic souks in central Palermo today.

The wealth of new crops and cooking stypes brought to Sicily by the Africans, an ethnic mix of Arabs and Berbers, is almost overwhelming. It is impossible to imagine how modern Sicilians, or indeed mainland Italians, would eat without their influence.

What did the Arabs bring to Sicily?

Citrus Trees
They took over Sicily in the 11th century and filled the island with citrus fruit trees of all varieties.

Lemons trees are so well suited to the Sicilian climate that they can spread like weeds, and produce fruit literally all year round; so a lemon tree in Sicily will be adorned in every month with white scented blossom, small green fruits, and large yellow ones ready to use.

Citrus trees really did seem like a gift from God to the ancients, because they could cure the life threatening disease scurvy; they lasted months and months on the tree; they flavoured anything sweet or savoury and made a drink as well; they could be carried on long journeys without spoiling; and they were easy to cross-pollinate and make new varieties.

The Moors loved their citrus trees so much they called citrus orchards “gardens” rather than “farms” and used them as places to sit and spend leisure time as well as to grow food.

The Moors also brought apricots, sugar beet, melons, rice, saffron, raisins, pine nuts, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon into Sicilian cuisine.

Whilst the last tree are not cultivated in Sicily, they are used in many dishes.

Let us remind you that rice and saffron are the most important ingredients of Arancine

The Moors also brought the wealth of nut trees Sicily is famous for, including pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews. Their cuisine involved the flavouring of savoury dishes with pine nuts and raisins, which the Sicilians still enjoy today.

Sicilian cakes are miniature works or art and a great many of them are very sugary and made from ground nuts, according to the old Moorish recipes. The Moors also invented the wonderful sugary almond paste know as martorana, which the Sicilians mould into fruit and vegetables.

Sicilian cassata is an exquisite cheesecake invented by the North Africans – the name means “cheesy” in Arabic. It was topped with candied fruits in a preservation process they invented. The extreme sugariness of all Sicilian deserts is a legacy of the Arabic sweet tooth.

They invented dried pasta and turned Sicily into the production centre of an international industry.

Dried pasta can be stored and cooked whenever it is needed.

I bet you didn’t know modern pasta was invented by Africans!

Records of pasta being eaten in Greece and Palestine go back to the 2nd century. It seems to have been widely eaten all around the Mediterranean in ancient times. They made it from flour and water, then boiled and ate it immediately. The Carthaginians introduced durum wheat to Sicily in the 8th century BC. It was soon being exported all around the Mediterranean. When the Moors came to Sicily, they realised durum wheat pasta can be dried hard. This makes it highly mould- and insect-resistant for long term storage and transportation. It was ideal for their export business and meant they could charge more for a value-added, ready-to-eat product.

I have seen some claims that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy, inspired by Chinese noodles. As you now know, this is blatant poppycock. Written records and archaeological evidence prove the Africans were mass-producing it in Sicily centuries before he was born.

Sorbet and Ice-Cream
What would Italy be without Ice cream? The north Africans invented this in Sicily.

The Arabs and Moors were experienced in making what they called sherbet, known to modern Sicilians as Granita or sorbet, by bringing large blocks of ice down from the mountains, shaving off flakes and mixing them with very sweet syrups.

Sicilian street vendors still sometimes make granita in this way, and Sicilian manufacturers produce a stunning range of flavoured syrups from natural ingredients.

The Moors in Sicily invented the addition of milk or cream to these cold dishes, thus inventing ice-cream. Many Sicilian bars still make their own ice-cream from purely natural ingredients.

Tuna Fishing
The Moors were very organised with food production, and transformed most of the common food types from small cottage farm products into industries.

They used modern technologies to develop a tuna hunting industry at key points around the Sicilian coast, building towers where the tuna were corralled into an ever narrowing stretch of water until they were trapped and could be speared.

This method of tuna fishing was used unchanged in Sicily for 1,000 years, and only stopped a few years ago (the last Mattanza — the name of the traditional tuna fishing– was made in the island of Favignana, located in front of Trapani, in the 2007) when large fishing trawlers took over.

The traditional Mattanza was forbidden after the 2007 due to the cruelty of this ancient tradition.


Can you imagine Italy without coffee? Or even imagine coffee without Italy?

Perhaps the most pervasive Moorish gift to Italy was coffee.

Originating in Ethiopia, it was regarded as a medicine by the Moors in medieval times. It was adopted with a frenzied enthusiasm in Italy, and became such a lucrative trade product that the Venetians competed aggressively with the Moors to dominate its shipping and sales.

The Vatican tried to protect its own economic dominance by claiming it was the devil’s crop, and a Moorish threat to Christians.

Despite his claims to speak on behalf of a higher power, the Pope was ignored on this occasion and Italian coffee consumption went from strength to strength.

The Italians invented all the varieties of milky coffees, from cappuccino to caffe’ latte, and Italian methods of brewing and serving coffee have led the world ever since they first discovered coffee and adopted it as their own.

The Italian method of forcing steam through ground coffee, used by several coffee machines, was invented as a time-saving method by an 18th century Italian business man and has been adopted by bars around the world.

The Normans, or Norse men, were the Viking invaders who took Sicily and all her wealth from the Moors.

They added a wider variety of livestock, thus increasing the range of meat-based meals available. They were skilled in breeding cattle, sheep and poultry, and they made these meat sources far more numerous in Sicily.

They also revived the breeding of the Sicilian black pig, a delicious source of sausages which was present in the Nebrodi region from at least the Greek period and which was neglected under the Muslim Moors.

The Norman contribution was not so extensive, however. They were most enthusiastic about the cornucopia of crops and food industries established by the Moors, the very reason they had wanted to invade wealthy Sicily in the first place. Their staples, such as apples and pears, were harder to cultivate in the Sicilian heat and only really survived in the mountain regions. 

The Jews didn’t invade Sicily so nobody knows when they first showed up; but they were translators, interpreters and scribes for a succession of governments, and probably controlled the show throughout.

Whilst various invaders debated kicking the Jews out, nobody went through with it because they simply couldn’t govern this multi-lingual society without them.

Palermo in particular is famous for its offal dishes. Much Sicilian street food is offal based, and the tradition arose from the Jews who, ironically, do not eat it.

Their charitable donations to the impoverished citizens of Palermo, of the animals parts their religion forbade, kept a great many families alive. This led to the imaginative use of the nutritious ingredients available to them which are kept alive in SIcily’s legendary street foods.

What did the Jews bring to Sicily?

Spleen Sandwich (Panino con la Milza), Stigghiole and Frittola
The immortal Sicilian spleen sandwich was a gift of the Jews, as was the frittola and stigghiola, a roast sheep’s intestine kebab.

Oddly enough, the Jews also taught the Sicilians their word for junk food. Sicilians call anything bad for you, that you really shouldn’t eat, a “porcheria“. When you translate this literally, it means “a pig-based food product”.

The Spanish were the last great contributors to Sicilian and Italian cuisine.

Let us share historicanl information from Spanish domination to nowadays:

In 1503 Sicily became a Spanish viceroyalty: this was the moment of the rise of Spain under the Catholic kings; it was the age of the great geographic and scientific discoveries and it was the periode when Turkey set out on its conquest of the West.

In this new political and military balance Sicily came to assume an extremely important strategic position and was considered an advanced outpost in the defence against Ottoman aggression.
Spanish Sicily in the 17th c. suffered a period of economic decline, as repeated famines depopulated the countryside and hunger swept the great cities.

The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 conceded Sicily to the Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II. But the Treaty of The Hague in 1720, desired by the Austrians and the English, gave the island to Charles VI of Austria. After the Savoys, the Austrians continued to impoverish Sicily with an excessive fiscal system which made people regret the Spaniards.

In the 1735 the island passed to the Bourbons of Naples who annexed it to the Neapolitan realm. During this change Palermo became the capital of the island. Towards the close of the 18th c., the socio-economic structure still hinged on domination by the aristocracy.

In the years that followed, Sicilians were divided into a small minority of conspirators against the Bourbons seeking proselytes amongst the peasants, and a dissatisfied majority either indifferent or determined to form part of Italy, convinced that the island’s problems had to be faced in a much wider context than within that of the now stagnant Bourbonic regime.

Garibaldi‘s expedition in 1860, with the landing at Marsala, the victory at Calatafimi, the entry into Palermo and the sub-sequent liberation of the whole island, was a magic moment for the hopes and expectations of the Sicilians. The so-called “hero of two worlds” disembarked in Marsala on 11th May 1860 with just 1,000 men in tow (hence the expression Grazie Mille). Not a shot was fired, for Garibaldi had been extremely cunning. Arriving in Sicilian waters, Garibaldi moored his two ships off the island of Favignana and waited. When the two French frigates stationed in the port at Marsala went out on reconnaissance, Garibaldi slipped in behind them and docked next to two British Navy ships and a British wine merchant’s cutter.
On re-entry to the port, the French were unable to fire upon Garibaldi for fear of hitting the British ships and causing a serious diplomatic incident. In the meantime, Garibaldi and the “red-shirts”, as his men were known, stocked up on the town’s golden nectar before continuing their rapid march across Sicily.
Passing through Salemi, where Garibaldi proclaimed a united Italy, their first real battle came four days later with a famous victory over the 3,000-strong French garrison at Calatafimi. The invading “army” swelled in ranks as thousands of Sicilians jumped at the chance to join their liberator and hero.

On 27th May they arrived at Palermo, where fierce fighting broke out. The city’s inhabitants rose against their French oppressors and much of Palermo was reduced to rubble.

Help was at hand, however, from the seemingly ubiquitous British Navy, which intervened and called for an armistice. The Bourbon forces surrendered the city and left to regroup further to the east and on the Italian mainland.
Within six weeks the whole of Sicily had been “liberated” except for the citadel of Messina. This too, however, was soon to fall and Garibaldi and his makeshift army marched on Rome.

Garibaldi’s dictatorship, his reforms and the annexation brought Sicily within the ambit of the unity of Italy. But the discontent was continued to be felt by Sicilians of all classes, in a moment of deep moral and economic crisis and between 1871 and 1914 more than a million of Sicilians left the island for good toward the United States and South American countries.

During WWII, Sicily was the first part of Europe to be reclaimed by the Allied forces.
After driving the German and Italian forces out of North Africa, the British commanders saw Sicily as the next natural step. The Americans preferred a direct attack on Germany through France but agreed that an advance on Sicily might help Russia by forcing Germany to redeploy its forces. At the same time, Sicily would be a significant strategic base for any future invasion of Italy (though this was not foreseen in the immediate future). The invasion of Sicily would also serve as a kind of training exercise for the future D-Day invasion in Normandy.On the night of 9th July Operation Husky got underway.

The Americans landed on the beaches of the Gulf of Gela, while the British and Canadian forces landed at the south-eastern tip of Sicily, around Pachino, and in the Gulf of Noto.

High winds made landings extremely difficult especially for the paratroop regiments who were dropped in to create a little confusion before the amphibian invasion. British, Commonwealth and Canadian troops moved north-west across the Iblei mountains, and north where they captured Siracusa with very little difficulty.

The Americans, meanwhile, came up against greater resistance as they were met by one of the two German battalions on the island. After securing their beachheads, however, they headed westward towards Agrigento and then across the centre to Palermo.
There was some confusion after the successful landing as to who would be doing what. Plans had been laid for the initial attack, but beyond that the rest of the campaign was somewhat improvised. The ground forces commander, General Sir Harold Alexander, and the commander of the American forces, General Patton, seemed to distrust each other and the latter began to disobey the former, eager to demonstrate the superiority of the American army.

Patton marched his men to Palermo despite being instructed to head further west. Sicily’s capital fell easily, however, and almost immediately the stunning news that Mussolini and his government had been overthrown. With Italian forces in disarray both armies marched on Messina. For Patton, arriving there first was a matter of personal and national pride, as we can see from a letter he wrote to General Middleton: “this is a horse race in which the prestige of the US Army is at stake……..we must take Messina before the British. Please use your best efforts to facilitate the success of our race.”

The British and Canadians faced the difficult task of getting around Catania and Mount Etna where the last remaining German forces had dug in deep. Patton duly won his race, arriving in Messina on 17th August, some 38 days after the start of the invasion. By this time, however, over 100,000 German and Italian troops, and a great amount of military equipment had been successfully transferred to the mainland, a fact that meant the fight up the Italian peninsula would be considerably more difficult than hoped for.
2,721 British Commonwealth troops, 2,237 Americans and 562 Canadians died taking Sicily in what as the largest amphibian operation of the entire war. Many of the dead were buried in War Cemeteries in Syracuse and Agira. Some 29,000 Axis soldiers also lost their lives.

Once Sicily was under Allied control, the decision was taken to continue the invasion up through the Italian mainland in what would be a long, bloody struggle.

Much has been written about the Mafia‘s involvement in the Allied invasion of Sicily. Folkloristic tales of Lucky Luciano being parachuted in to smooth the Americans’ path are certainly exaggerated, but it would seem that the Mafia, glad to be rid of their Fascist oppressors, were far from resistant to the US forces. Fascinating accounts of the mutual back-scratching between the Americans and the Dons can be read in Matt Dickie’s “Cosa Nostra” and Norman Lewis’…

After the Second World War, which left scars in the island that are still visible today, and after the proclamation of the Italian Republic, Sicily saw in 1947 the fulfiment of its aspirations of independence with the concession of regional autonomy on the basis of a special Statute, which has succeeded in balancing the values of the unity with those of an autonomous government.

What did the Spanish bring to Sicily?

Their most ubiquitous contribution was the tomato, which grows so well in the volcanic areas throughout Italy and Sicily. It is impossible to imagine modern Italian food without the tomato.

Its addition to pizza, which had since Roman times been little more than garnished cheese on toast, created the immortal dish of Italy. The boiling and preservation of tomato sauce for pasta dishes year-round had such an impact on the Italian palate that it is sometimes difficult to think of a single pasta sauce that doesn’t require tomato.

Prickly Pear
It was also the Spanish who imported prickly pear plants to Sicily. Native to central America, they now dominate the Sicilian countryside. The Americans call them Indian figs, referring to the American Indians. In true Sicilian style, this has been changed to Fichi d’India, which means “Figs from India”.

The Spanish also brought chocolate to Sicily, where it is still made into bars in Modica using the ancient Aztec recipe; the only other place in the world that chocolate is still made in this way is Guatemala.

Read More about Chocolate >

The Spanish also, of course, brought Sicily the potato. Whilst it doesn’t grow easily in the Sicilian soil, which is baked hard then drenched in torrents of rain, the Sicilians manage to cultivate it well and are great fans of chips. The Sicilians are, after all, the inventors of the chip pizza! Sicilians also love mashed potato, and use diced potato and herbs as a pizza sauce.

Another great Spanish gift to Italy was vanilla. If you stand outside an Italian bar and take in the magnificent aroma of coffe and vanilla, you may wonder how Italians ate breakfast before the Spanish came. Hardly an Italian brioche or pastry can be made without lashings of vanilla, and what would the Christmas Panettone taste like without it?

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