Marsala is located on the west coast of the Italian island of Sicily, in the province of Trapani. Originally called Lilybaeum, it is a city with a rich history dating back to 396 BC. This city has been the principal stronghold of the Carthaginians, ruled by the Romans, and conquered by the Arabs. The Arabs gave it its current name, derived from Marsa Allah (‘Port of Allah’ or ‘Port of God’). In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi led his thousand-man army through Marsala’s gates in his quest to overthrow the Bourbon rule of Sicily, and unify Italy. Today, it is my home.
When I first arrived in Marsala two years ago, I was instantly taken by the crystal-clear, azure blue Mediterranean Sea that surrounds it, the vineyards that abound within it, and the wine that is named for it. However, it was the people who truly captured my heart. Though I didn’t speak the language, they did everything they could to communicate with me and help me get acquainted with daily life. They took me under their wing, and sort of adopted me into their families. For this, I am forever grateful!
Today, I speak the language fairly well, and love to visit with my newly-gained family. Although, I have to admit that I still struggle a bit to understand them at times because of their thick, Sicilian dialect, which is almost a completely separate language in itself. It doesn’t matter, though. My new Marsalese friends and I share a common language, which is the language of the heart. You see, we all have an intense love for the food, wine, and culture of this place, and love to impart that love to others. This love is what drives me to write this blog, and share a little bit of Marsala Mia (My Marsala) with you.
Life here is simple. At times, I feel as if I’ve stepped back in time 50 years. While there are still modern conveniences like cell phones, computers, and satellite television, many people still prefer a more old-fashioned way of life. You still see little old ladies walking down the street, pulling little carts behind them while shopping for their daily groceries. There are several supermarkets in town, but plenty of people still shop for their essential food items at individual fruit and vegetable stands, butcher shops, fish shops, pasta shops, pastry shops, and bakeries.
It’s all about freshness here. There are roadside stands selling the season’s best produce on almost every corner. Fisherman set up tables on the side of the road, or simply open the trunks of their cars, to sell that morning’s catch of sea urchins, sardines, or other fresh fish. I buy my eggs from a man who raises his own chickens. My first week here, my husband and I were waiting at a stop light, when an old man on a bicycle crossed in front of us. Hanging from the handlebars were five dead chickens. How’s that for fresh?!
So, I hope that you’ll join me on my quest to discover more about the people, food, and culture of this place, as well as on my culinary adventures in other parts of Italy and Europe. If there’s anything that you’d like to know more of about the food, travel, or life in Sicily, Italy, or Europe, please let me know, and I’ll try to include it in future blogs. In addition, if you’d like to visit Marsala, please let me know. I’d be more than happy to show you around the city and surrounding areas.