Catania Market and Pescheria, Sicily

Catania Market and Pescheria, Sicily

We could hear the Pescheria, Catania’s open-air fish market before we could see it. The sound of fishmongers shouting their best price to undercut the neighbouring stalls filled the air along with laughter, banter and the smell of fresh fish and salt water. Catania’s Pescheria is an explosion of sights, sounds and smells – bustling and chaotic it’s alive with an atmosphere which instantly awakens all the senses – and the appetite!

Fish at Catania's Pescheria

A stall at Catania’s Pescheria

I was in Sicily with fellow destination blogger Lucy from ‘On the Luce’ to check out one of Ben Fogle’s new ‘Great Adventures’ shore excursions for Celebrity  Cruises.  The Sicilian Gastronomic Experience.  We’d spent a day exploring Catania and were now to take a journey into Sicily’s culinary heart with a tour of Catania Market before heading to a small village on the slopes of Mount Etna and to Eleonora Consoli’s kitchen.  We’d take a cooking class, put together by gastronomy journalist Eleonora, learning not only the secrets of local cuisine but also about the culture, traditions, and customs of Sicily.  But more about that later, because now we’re going back to that fish market.

Pescheria Catania Fish Market

Pescheria Catania Fish Market

Catania Market

La Pescheria sits just off Piazza Duomo near the fountain, Fontana Dei 10 Canali, which is fed from the city’s underground canals.  Many years ago the water was diverted to form an overground  curtain of water which has been utilised by the market traders ever since.  Step behind the fountain and you’ll find a terrace which overlooks the main arena of the fish market.  People stand to watch because there’s so much to see –  it’s early morning and La Pescheria is in full swing.

The fishermen hawking their catch of the day are as friendly as they are loud and as we toured Catania market with Maurizio, our guide, they didn’t hesitate in bringing their wares to our attention.  A squirming octopus was held up for inspection – would that fit in Lucy’s handbag? – probably not but the stall-holder was ready to try!  Some fish were so fresh they were still flipping around and crustaceans crawled their way over one another in a bid for freedom.  Bright tarpaulins protected the fish from the sun and shaded the stallholders who carefully prepared the fish.  Trays of silver sardines lay on piles of crushed ice, huge swordfish and tuna steaks sold alongside gleaming squid, prawns and more kinds of fish than I’ll ever know the names of.  And that was just the start…

Catania Market, Sicily

Catania’s Food Market

A warren of narrow streets leads off from Catania’s fish market leading to alleyways full of colourful fruit and vegetable stalls, meats cheeses, dried fruits, nuts and spices.  As we turned into the fruit and vegetable area of the market the vibrancy and colour hit us full on.

Maurizio told us that all the food in Catania market was seasonal and grown locally in the fertile volcanic soil of the island and was as fresh as you could get.   From the way he talked it was obvious he was passionate about food, both eating and cooking it.  He told us about the different influences over the years that have changed the way Sicilians eat; from  occupation by Greeks, Romans and Spanish to the North Africans and Arabs.

We found some small green spiky plant heads that looked like thistles.  They were grilled wild artichokes and we peeled off the soft part of the small leaves and chewed on the deliciously earthy flavour.  The stallholders were happy for us to have a taste or two…

Spices, dried fruit and dates are a legacy from when the Arabs occupied Sicily and we met Theresa Drago who plied us with salted almonds and delicious Mostarda di Mosto a chewy, caramel-like sweet made from grape must, cinnamon and ground nuts.

Sun-dried tomatoes drenched in olive oil were juxtaposed with bright green and black olives. Knots of garlic warmed in the sun and baked caramelised onions caught my eye.  Baked for 2.5 hours at 220 degrees and picked at around the table after a meal.  Food for sharing.

I adore the chaos and bustle of a lively market and Catania’s was a cornucopia of colour, flavours and atmosphere but we couldn’t stay any longer.  We had a meal to prepare in Eleonora Consoli’s kitchen where we’d learn how Sicilians put the heart and soul into their food…

Do you like food markets?  Do you have a favourite?  Please share!

Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises for hosting my visit to Catania. All views, opinions and love of food are, as always, entirely my own.

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Catania Market

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

Hoi An Market

This is Central Market in Hoi An where every day is market day and every day brings the hustle and bustle of traders selling their wares and shoppers on the look out for the freshest produce at the best price. The smell of fresh fruit, salads and vegetables hit the senses but not half  as much as the fish section.  Mopeds jostle for room with shoppers and the scene is a jumble of colour, noise and aromas.  This shot is a fleeting glimpse of someone passing through the hubbub.

This post is part of the ‘weekly photo challenge‘ Fleeting

Hoi An – a Culinary Quest

Hoi An – a Culinary Quest

Being a bit of a foodie meant that a big part of our trip to Vietnam was for the cuisine.  Fresh, zingy flavours bursting onto the taste-buds combined with mouth-watering herbs and the warmth of South East Asian spices was such a lure. The Red Bridge Cooking School kept cropping up during our research so we booked ourselves on a half-day cooking class hoping to glean tips to help us recreate those tantalising flavours when we returned home. We were so glad we did – it was a mouth-watering highlight of our week in Hoi An. (more…)

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