Cioccolato & Ciuri ciuri

Saturday – April 29

We slept in today! It was almost 7:30 when we arose! Even though our room was located right above the entrance to the hotel, noise was not an issue. Today, would be a “chill day” in comparison to those which have preceded it. After a very leisurely breakfast, we headed outside on a beautiful morning in Modica.

The hotel was outside the city of Modica, so Salvo had to fire up the bus for us to go visit this UNESCO World Heritage site. We were a little confused when he did not follow the sign to Modica, and instantly we knew Danilo had another surprise for us! We went around a curve in the road and saw a pull off. As the bus eased into a parking spot, the surprise came into focus - It was a view of the city of Modica! Absolutely beautiful!

Modica is a city divided by altitude. There is upper and lower Modica and from our viewing location both were visible. These two terms, uptown and downtown, could not be truer when describing this ancient city. Danilo and Salvo took a moment to translate the sign that explained what we were looking at across the valley.

In the upper right-hand corner of the picture, you will find Richard staring at a rock. We can attest he does not have Superman’s x-ray vision, but is peering at the Cathedral of San Giorgio through a small hole which had been drilled through the stone. This small orifice allows the cathedral to be seen in a whole new perspective.

When we stepped back from the peep hole, a different view lacking detail can was observed. It was not long before Danilo announced we would be heading over to Modica at a site next to the cathedral… however… Salvo cannot drive to the cathedral due to the narrow roads. That is when the whole picture came into view in our heads.

STEPS! If one locates the Cathedral of San Giorgio’s front door and slowly follows the steps downward to the bottom of the picture, they will see our starting point. Come on… Danilo we thought Sal could drive anywhere!

We headed downtown where Salvo dropped us off about a block from where we would start our ascent to the top. At the bottom of the climb, Tom was having flashbacks back to Sacré-Coeur in Paris. With each step we got closer to our goal. Reaching the top, we found the climb to be not as bad as what we had expected, but it is still a climb! Tom checked off his cardio stress once again.

We were greeted at the top and taken through a small door in the wall around the cathedral by our host Daniela. We found ourselves in a small orchard of lemon trees on a terrace. A long table had been set up and we eagerly sat down to enjoy what was to come. (It looks like Danilo sucked on one of the lemons with that face)

Daniela was going to tell us about the Cioccolato of Modica. She is the general manager of Cioccolato di Modica Sabadì and would describe her product to us with passion. However, before we tasted anything, we would learn about Sabadì, not the company, but the meaning of this very special word. Totally animated, Daniela explained Sabadì is perhaps a day that does not exist. 

However, It’s the day when we slow down, we reflect on what is really important. It’s the day when we think about what the quality of life really is and what we are doing to achieve it. It’s the day when we try to take the time to enjoy the little things. 

It would be so nice to start each day with a piece of chocolate, for surely if we did, every day would be Sabadì.

The town of Modica, which is thousands of miles from Central and South America, has become known for its special chocolate. She explained that the methods used are based on the same process that were used by the Aztecs centuries ago. Cold processing, no added cocoa butter, and a rough texture makes this chocolate come alive in your mouth. With no cocoa butter, the chocolate is heat resistant and not messy like most of the chocolates we have in the US. Sabadì also makes some interesting bars that have been infused with herbs, tobacco, and spices.

We were able to do a chocolate tasting which was paired with vermouths that Sabadì also makes. Tasting chocolate is just the opposite of wine tasting (which we are very familiar with 😉). When tasting chocolate, one starts with the sweetest and works towards the most bitter while always tasting and experiencing the chocolate before sipping the wine. Allowing the chocolate to slowly dissolve, the flavors coat every part of the mouth and with a small splash of vermouth, a firework show erupts from every taste bud.

This was a culinary experience not to be forgotten! Sabadì, as a company, is known for their ethical sourcing and attention to detail and has won many awards for their products as well as recognition from their community for things they have done for Modica. Indeed, Sabadì is a very special word, but it is also a very special company.

From our terrace of cioccolato bliss, we walked a short distance towards the cathedral and under a shady tree, we found a long line of chairs and a lady with a beautiful voice singing. We were clueless of what to expect but were soon introduced to Federica who would expose us to Sicilian folk songs. We all took our seats quickly to enjoy the songs. It was at that moment that Tom noticed that at some point a little chocolate fingerprint had mysteriously been placed on my lens.

Sorry Richard for the big chocolate smudge on your face. BTW – if you are confused, there are two Richards on our trip. Richard on the far right in front of Danilo and Richard our long-time travelling friend with a blurred face. With Tom's lens clean and Federica telling us stories through song, we all relaxed. Sometimes with a tambourine-looking instrument and sometime acapella, her voice was sweet and soothing.

Finishing a song, she handed each one of us a piece of paper with her name and the words to a song printed on the inside. It was a very popular song throughout Italy, Ciuri ciuri. What we did not expect was that we would be singing the chorus. Well back home everyone always appreciates when Tom sings solo… So low no one can hear him – the sing along may go very bad quickly. Somehow Frederica got us through it, but we all knew when we finished the song that The Voice or American Idol would not be seeking us out for next season. It was fun!

Leaving the shade of the terraces, we crossed in front of the cathedral to the Sabadì store. Literally we were “like kids in a candy store!” There were chocolate bars everywhere and each had a unique flavor and story to tell.

Daniela had large containers with all sorts of infused ingredients that she shared with us. Getting a big whiff straight out of the container and then trying the chocolate was an eye opening… wait I guess I should say, a nose opening experience. Danilo gave the signal and we all started to check out with our chocolate purchases and gathered outside of Sabadì. What a fun and educational morning it had been, but all of us were craving some real food after the amount of sweets we had consumed. The restaurant was not far, in fact, it was just a few steps away on the other side of the cathedral. We all settled in once again at a long table. Sitting directly next to the Cathedral of San Giorgio under the beautiful blue sky, our priority was to hydrate.

It did not take Tom long to figure out he left his hat on the bus. His face began to turn red and his head, which is a little light on hair, began to sweat profusely. The food was great, the beer was better, but Geoff lending his hat to Tom was the best! Eating quickly Tom returned the hat and retreated to the shade of the bar. Our chef was extremely friendly and asked if I would like some Granita. This semi-frozen dessert originated in Sicily and offers a cooling burst of flavor. Don’t be fooled, Granita is not just flavored crushed ice. In Palermo, one will find Gelato on every corner. On this side of the island, it is Granita! The choice was simple for Tom – Yes please he said, I will have pistachio granita! Tom is now a torn soul, between Gelato and Granita. The pistachio wins hands down for him no matter which cold treat he chooses. With lunch finished, we thanked the chef and began our walk to the bus.

Danilo took a vote on who wanted to walk back down the steps or who wanted to follow the narrow streets back to the bus. Pretty sure it was unanimous on the narrow streets, albeit it was a longer walk. Getting a close-up view of Modica while we dodged cars and vespas as we descended was well worth the extra distance. Janet even found a Vespa that she would love to have! Red really suits her well.

On our walk from uptown to downtown, Tom could not resist capturing this shot. For centuries the Sicilian people have taken what history has dealt them and thrived. There is probably no better example of this resilience than the house in the picture below. The owners lost their roof, so they cleaned up the mess and converted the destroyed area into a rooftop patio.

Arriving back at the hotel, we had free time until dinner. Everyone enjoyed their chill time differently. Some slept, some read books, some played cards, some tried to catch up on the blog, and then there was Janet. She could not resist the lure of an empty swimming pool. She braved the 60 something degree water to swim laps. No pictures captured this harrowing event, but trust me, she did do it.

Before dinner our posse gathered in the bar area for Happy Hour. The group had truly started to bond and hopefully these friendships will last for years to come. We enjoyed another good hotel meal, but nothing was over the top. Everyone headed to their rooms after dinner and we swear that if you listened very carefully, one could hear folks singing ciuri ciuri as they put their heads on their pillows.

Ciao until tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again Tom & Janet for the Blog. It is a great reminder of the wonderful time we all had! Diane and I are looking forward to the Posse gathering Sunday!