This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
It’s closing time at the gelateria, but Giovanna Musumeci is waiting patiently as I pick the flavour to crown my cone. It’s a tricky choice: will it be pistachio from nearby Bronte? Yellow raspberries, grown on the slopes of Mount Etna? Or local walnuts, toasted in their shells by Giovanna?
In the end, I opt for the triumvirate of Sicilian ingredients. Oro Verde della Sicilia (Sicilian Green Gold) is an award-winning mix of pistachio, mandarin and caramelised almonds. It’s fresh and tangy but with a creamy base.
The tasting isn’t over. Giovanna and sister Sandra want to introduce me to something even better than gelato. At Santo Musumeci – the gelateria founded by their late father – they’re known for their granita: shaved ice swirled with fruit. Figs, raspberries, prickly pears, those yellow raspberries and creamy toasted almonds – I try them all.
Here, in the shadow of Mount Etna, things hit differently. People are warmer, flavours are more pronounced, the landscape is more dramatic. Opposite Giovanna’s gelateria in Randazzo stands a gothic church built of dark volcanic stone. Rearing up above an alleyway is Etna herself. To Giovanna, she’s “mamma Etna”. The Musumeci family has always sourced their ingredients from producers working on the slopes of what Sicilians call ‘idda’ – simply, ‘her’. “Turning fresh fruit into gelato is a real responsibility – not just to the producers, but to Etna herself,” says Giovanna with some seriousness.
She’s not alone. All around the volcano, Mamma Etna’s charges are using her fertile land to produce things to make a mother proud. Santo Musumeci’s gelato has won countless awards. Foodies flock to nearby Linguaglossa, where the Pennisi family of butchers has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Shalai, in their hotel of the same name. At Dai Pennisi, a tiny trattoria inside their butcher’s shop,