On our second day in Sicily, we only had one business appointment. We drove about an hour and a half outside of Catania to the Colleroni company, where we received a tour of the fruit packing plant as well as the orange grove.
I had no idea how much work went into the oranges we see growing on trees and the oranges that are presented to us in the grocery store! Crates and crates are brought into the plant by the hour, initially inspected, weighed, measured, and stamped with the producers name and barcode. Then they ride a conveyor belt through a series of inspections, both by hand and by computer. Any oranges that do not make the cut for their destination are removed, perhaps to be sent to the juice production lines.
After being shown the inside of the factory, we were bused to the orchards. Noon had come, so the workers who participated in picking the fruit had reached their lunch break, but one of the family owners of the company was kind enough to show us around.
Outside of the orchard we were given a great surprise. Wafts of smoke emanated from the peak of Mount Etna as she began to erupt! Don’t get me wrong, this was not a disastrous event. As the most active volcano in Europe, it is common for Etna’s eruptions to produce so much smoke that the nearby airport must temporarily close. For us, though, it was an amazing sight to see.
Inside of the orange grove, we were invited and encouraged to pull oranges straight off of the trees to snack on. This was a dream come true to me – I love oranges, and how much fresher could you possibly get?! In minutes, I was covered in sweet, sticky juice and full of good old Vitamin C.
To be precise, we picked a combination of regular Sicilian oranges and blood oranges. Here though, they are referred to as ruby oranges or red oranges, as to not deter the consumers from the fruit with a graphic name such as “blood”. I think that I would have eaten just as many regardless of what they were called.
For lunch we went to Buccheri, where we were again treated with a Sicilian lunch at a highly characteristic restaurant. We dined on homemade pasta with eggplant, sausage, beef, and pork chops. In Italy, lunch usually takes place later in the day, but it also is quite substantial!
Outside of the restaurant, we caught sight of the owner’s massive dog, Otto. He must have been part mastiff, he was so enormous. One look was plenty, and soon enough we all had rushed out to play with the giant. Despite being full of slobber, he was a sweetheart.
On Sunday, we spent the afternoon in Taormina, a world-renowned town, compared to the island of Capri. In a word, it was beautiful. We were desperate to go to the beach in the 70-degree and sunny weather, but the cable car that transfers you from the hilltop town to the shore wasn’t running. We are constantly reminded that no matter how warm we think it is here, for Italians this is still the middle of winter. Passers by on the street would look at our sundresses and tank tops with raised eyebrows, asking us if we were cold as they wrapped their puffy jackets tighter around themselves. Instead of the beach, we entertained ourselves by exploring the sunny streets and feasting on cannoli’s and arancini (fried rice balls) both of which Sicily is well known for.