|One of the many mosaics on the floor of the an ancient Roman vacation resort in Sicily.|
|This scene and the one above show animals from Africa being loaded |
onto a combination galley and sailing ship to be taken to Rome.
|Girls working out in bikinis in the 4th century.|
According to Fodors.com: “The entrance was through a triumphal arch that led into an atrium surrounded by a portico of columns, after which the thermae, or bathhouse, is reached. It’s colorfully decorated with mosaic nymphs, a Neptune and slaves massaging bathers. The peristyle leads to the main villa, where in the Salone del Circo you look down on recently restored mosaics illustrating scenes from the Circus Maximus in Rome. A theme running through many of the mosaics, especially the long hall flanking the whole of one side of the peristyle courtyard, is the capturing and shipping of wild animals, which may have been a major source of the master's wealth. Yet the most famous mosaic is the floor depicting 10 girls wearing the ancient equivalent of bikinis, going through what looks like a fairly rigorous set of training exercises.”
After touring the villa, we had lunch at an agriturismo, and the appetizers may have comprised the best primo piatto I have ever tasted. It consisted of fresh ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and sprinkled with almond chips, a delicate pecorino, fresh artichoke, arugula and eggplant sautéed in locally produced olive oil, large thin slices of prosciutto and sausage, a rectangular egg frittata and pickled olives. We also had toasted bread brushed with garlic, sprinkled with Parmigiano cheese and drizzled with olive oil. I have had all these delicacies before, but never were they so expertly prepared or contained such delicious fresh ingredients. Our guide Alfio described it as a “zero kilometer” meal, meaning the main ingredients were either from the agriturismo itself or from nearby farms.
We continued on to Ragusa Ibla, where we took a short orientation tour of the city and then went out for another sumptuous (but smaller) meal.
|Ragusa Ibla, viewed from the piazza in front of the church of Santa Lucia.|
|Santa Lucia x 2.|
A highlight of the tour, at least for me, came in the evening, when we were treated to a demonstration of how the local cheese, Ragusano, is made. We were given samples of the smooth, hot cheese as it came from the mixing container, and we ate it mixed with fresh tomato slices. Usually it is formed into bag-like shapes and hung to cure for at least a few months, allowing it to develop a more robust flavor. Even without this added process, its warmth and freshness, combined with the acidity of the tomatoes, made it irresistible.
|Virginia mixes the milk and enzymes while her son|
Ignazio pours in hot water.
|Eating fresh, warm Ragusano cheese with tomatoes.|
|Virginia scoops the ricotta from the top.|
|Lucy adds an egg to her flour.|
|We were amazed at the speed in which the two Italian cooks (left) could form the raw dough into pasta shapes.|