Scopello

The last week of our Sicilian Sojourn was spent in a villa a mile or so from Scopello, a small town built into the mountains rising from the sea on the northwest corner of the beautiful island we have been exploring. In Scopello, around every corner you will find pretty views of the ocean, the mountains, and towers (and tower ruins) improbably built on rocky peaks, like the lookout towers situated below the town, as shown in the photo above, and the structure far above the sunny town square, seen in the photo below.

We visited Scopello several times during our stay. We engaged in general exploration and shopping, had lunch in one of the restaurants that are found when you pass through the arch shown in the photo below, had before dinner drinks at a table in the town square, and enjoyed an excellent meal in a restaurant was a magnificent view of the mountains and ocean beyond. In every setting, Scopello was a charming place.

It’s also a colorful place, with lots of brilliant flowers climbing up the white-washed walls of buildings and growing along the stone walkways. You’ll see unattended cats and dogs roaming free on the town square and the narrow streets, or dozing in a shaded doorway. The locals and shopkeepers don’t mind, and we didn’t, either, as one feline-loving member of our party seized the opportunity to feed a local cat the remains of her lunch..

Scopello also is very much a walking town. You’ll see an occasional car or scooter on the streets, as shown in the photo below, but the vast majority of cars park outside the city limits, making the entire town a kind of pedestrian-only zone. The car-free reality gives Scopello a significantly different vibe than towns like Catania or Palermo, where careful awareness of cars and scooters is a must.

My favorite moment in Scopello came when we ate an excellent meal at one of the restaurants, polished off some fine (and very reasonably priced) Sicilian wine, and then sat chatting as the sun dropped below the horizon to the west. It was a beautiful sunset and an appropriate end to a wonderful night.

Three Pizzas

I’d been eager to try some Sicilian pizza, and when we took a break from our fruitless search for the Mazara del Vallo city hall it presented the perfect opportunity to scratch that itch. We stopped at the La Vela restaurant on the road running along the harbor and ordered three pizzas—the frutti di mare pizza, the porcini mushroom pizza, and the mortadella pizza. We didn’t have a clear sense of how big they were, and when they came to the table they were much larger than we expected. Still, we dug in to the challenge, and ate everything but one piece.

When you order pizza in a new place, you always wonder about the crust, the sauce, and the toppings. Our pizza had a nice, crunchy crust that was on the thinner side of the crust spectrum, a light layer of sauce, and more than ample and absolutely fresh toppings. These were definitely knife and fork pizzas. I also liked that each pizza was served with a fresh ball of mozzarella cheese. All of the pizzas were great, but the mortadella pie, shown below, was my favorite.

Scarpetta

I’ve learned a wonderful word in Italian during our trip. The word is scarpetta, which is literally translated as “little shoe,” but the common usage of the word has nothing to do with footwear. Instead, it refers to the act of breaking bread into small pieces, like a little shoe, and using them to mop up the sumptuous leftover sauce from a dish of pasta.

We’ve eaten a lot of excellent pasta on this trip, and I’m a strong believer in getting every last morsel of flavor from a fine dish—so I’ve heard scarpetta used a lot over the past few days. It’s sounds much more elegant than “mopping up,”don’t you think?

I’ve tried without much success to remember the Italian I’ve heard. Scarpetta is one word I’m pretty sure I’ll remember.