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A TASTE OF Catania

Sicily is famed its beautiful scenery temperate climate and diverse cultural infl uences. Francesca Unsworth visits the island’s second largest city to discover why it is every food-lover’s paradise.

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Catania and I didn’t get off to the greatest start. “Take a hike,” was the censored version of an insult shouted at me by a fishmonger yielding an intimidating cleaver in one hand, and a cernia (grouper), dripping with blood in the other. In his defence, I was documenting his skilful gutting and filleting of an enormous fish without his prior consent, mouth open in awe – apparent sacrilege in this historic fish market. While I can censor the language that escaped the mouths of gruff vendors, in the city’s pescheria scenes of gutting, de-heading and slithering live octopus were most certainly uncensored – an orgy of tentacles, shells and slimy fins. This is, after all, one of the most gloriously gritty markets in Italy, and the heart and soul of the city’s gastronomic culture.

The seas around Sicily are renowned for their tuna, swordfish and sardines

If you want to discover what is popularly eaten in the second largest town in Sicily, look no further than this hectic hotbed of trade in seafood and fish. An epic display of cockles, cratefuls of sea urchins, large chunks of swordfish and tuna, heaps of sardines and some unidentifiable curly shimmering silver flatfish that turn out to be spatola (scabbard fish), greet visitors under the ash-coloured arches near the port. The seas around Sicily are rich with varieties of fish but are renowned for their tuna, swordfish and sardines. The sheer freshness and delicate nature of the fish means that raw fish carpaccio is all the rage, particularly meatier swordfish and tuna. The sardine is celebrated in a number of popular dishes, so sampling the ubiquitous sarde alla beccafico is a must. Sea urchins are sold by the case-load and are often eaten like oysters (doused in lemon juice, then the pulp is scooped out) or used in spaghetti ai ricci.

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About Italia!

Making the most of the Italian summer is what the magazine is all about this month, with a zesty mix of inspiring features and beautiful photography to transport you to your favourite destinations.