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Matthew Fort: Giving a fig

I discovered Sicily with my brother Tom in 1973 and fell in love. It struck me then, as it strikes me now, as the strangest, most exotic, most extraordinary place I’ve ever pottered over and round. It’s the only region I know where you live in 5,000 years of history every time you step outside. Many years after the initial reconnaissance with my brother, I decided to travel around Sicily on a Vespa. I started by riding more or less across the middle, from Marsala to Catania. Before coming down from the hills to Catania, I stopped off at the market at Adrano, where I’d bought some figs of striking beauty and unforgettable flavour, an exquisite harmony of sweetness, sharpness,...

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Matthew Fort: Venice's Arabian Wine

There must have been times during the last few months when we’ve all wished we were somewhere else. Somehow Venice has kept popping up among the tides of my own nostalgia. I’ve visited that divine and improbable city several times, most notably ending an epic, 6-month exploration of the Italian islands there in October 2015. Memories were brought into sharp focus by a wonderful newsletter written by two good friends Lisa Hilton and Anna Gilchrist, both authorities on Venice and its many cultural and culinary delights. Together they run the Venetian Supper Club and write a bewitching and more easily accessible Newsletter about Venice’s life and times. I strongly recommend subscribing to it. There’s no more captivating magic carpet on...

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Matthew Fort: Understanding the Italian tradition of 'campanilismo'

One day I was wondering through the pretty but not very distinguished Calabrian town of Cittanova when I fell into conversation with a chap who turned to be a professor of political history at the university in Rome. What was he doing here? I asked. Cittanova was a long way from Rome. Ah, he said, he was a native of Cittanova. He was born here. Rome was an admirable city, he said, but it wasn’t Cittanova, and so he liked to return to see his family and to ‘refresh my roots’, as he put it. He needed to taste his mother’s food, he added. How often did he come back? I asked. As often as he could, he said; about...

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