We wake up to birdsong and sunshine. We wake up to our beautiful villa. We make jokes about staying here forever. We breathe and take in the smell of orange blossoms, laurel in bloom, fragrant flowers that smell of jasmine. We wake up to the great big Ionian Sea. I do the sea a great injustice if I attempt to describe the water as a deep blue. It is that and more. The sky is the same. Both sky and sea take on different colors at different times of the day. We cannot take enough photos…of the sea, of the smoking mountain, of the great blue sky, of the food, of the sunrises and sunsets, of each other. It seems nearly impossible to capture it all and it seems not to be enough to simply stand still and take it all in. But, we do that too: we stand still, breathe in the Sicilian air, draw in the Sicilian sunlight, and open our hearts to this experience.
Yesterday we had two beautiful outdoor yoga sessions. We worked on elongation of the spine and on creating space. And then we discovered, in our yoga sessions, how lovely the lettini (pool chairs) are. You will see below how comfortable it is to do our ending meditation with legs up the chair, a form of viparita karani (legs up the wall pose) along the poolside. Everyone in the yoga group is relaxed, happy, peaceful.
Legs up the chair pose, shavasana Sicilian-style (Woody and John!)
We drove to the countryside, passing the most beautiful green terraced fields, orange and lemon orchards, vineyards, and olive groves. Fields and fields of wildflowers grow brightly in the springtime in Sicily. We passed cows, sheep, stone houses, and bright red poppies and purple thistles growing amid dainty yellow carpets of flowers I cannot name.
And then a visit to an organic ricotta farm. Yes, the real deal. We were greeted by Maria, the ricotta and cheese maker, her sister Giovanna, and Maria’s husband, Nino. Their walls were filled with photos of their four daughters and their families, of their daughter’s wedding photos. We watched Maria make the ricotta. It was amazing! They cooked so much homemade food for us. We felt like stuffed birds at the end of the visit. They served us their homemade wine, their country bread (and they also had gluten-free and dairy-free to suit some dietary needs in our group), their homemade pasta and sauce, their various cheese made from their ten cows, their prosciutto (yes, we saw the little piglets oinking around), and so much more.
Maria makes the “tuma” for the various cheese.
The cow’s milk is boiling to make ricotta cheese
Ginger helps with the stirring (we later did a “Stir the Ricotta Asana”
Maria makes all this cheese and it is later sold at local grocery stores to to private clients who come to the house.
A Tavola! The feast.
When it came time to leave, Maria and Giovanna packed up bags and bags of food for us to take home. There were 14 of us at the table, but our farmer hosts had cooked enough for the army of the Roman Empire. They kept bringing out food. I made the mistake of not telling my group that the first dish set out on the table was just the appetizer, that there was more to come. Oops! Rick delighted in having our group experience Sicilian hospitality, country-style, just as my relatives have done for him time and time again. We now have enough ricotta to last us a month, though it is meant to be eaten right away. We will share with our caretakers and driver.
Ricotta Farmers Maria and her husband of 45 years, Nino.
Their adorable dog, Chico (sounds like Kee-Koh and means little something small and dear)
At the end of our visit, Maria tenderly gave me a special mystery gift, all wrapped up in butcher paper. “Here, Francesca. This is just for you. A little something made with love from our farm. Take this home with you to America.” Later, at the villa, I unwrapped the mystery gift and saw about a large hunk of prosciutto. The real thing, crudo prosciutto, made from their own pigs, pigs lovingly raised from piglet-hood, fed on figs. An extremely valuable chunk of meat, cured so perfectly that it can last 1-2 years. I know the value because I know. Of course, I will share with the group. Even though I don’t eat prosciutto, I can still appreciate what it is. Our unique ricotta experience was truly remarkable.
Sicilian Green Bean Salad with Capers (served last night at the villa)