Avola, the queen of Sicilian almonds



Avola, in the district of Siracusa,  is a large, bright and baroque town. This is due to the earthquake that destroyed the old village in 1693, forcing the people to move from the hills to valley. The town you admire today is the result of that brand new rebuilding of the 18th century. Go visiting Avola is not just another cultural trip. It is nature, as well, and … food!

Avola, an historical heart

If you are in Avola, do not miss a nice walk through the streets of its 18th century historical centre. Closed by six large avenues that create a perfect hexagonal shape around Umberto I Square, the heart of Avola is rich in beauty and baroque. A few examples: the churches of St Sebastian, St Venera, Our Lady of Announciation, St Anthony Abbot … all built in white stone that changes its colour into pink or gold at sunset.

Along with the sacred buildings, do not miss the noble ones: the Town Hall itself, the Garibaldi Theatre, the Old Market Place, the Tower of the Clock. Walking along the avenues, even though you will only look at the shop windows or taste a local granita, is a pleasure for soul and mind. And speaking about pleasure … you must know that in the countryside around Avola the delicious Sicilian almonds, famous in the world, are cultivated.

Avola and the almonds

avola mandorle 002Avola discovered almonds cultivation quite late. Only in the 19th century, in fact, were the first cultivations of these precious fruits started, but in less than a hundred years this idea had already become a national success. Tourism has also raised the goodness of Avola almonds to worldwide success.

The variety grown here is the so-called mandorla pizzuta which, when properly processed, is used to produce excellent almond milk, almond granitas, martorana fruit, almond nougats and the famous Avola biscuits, of which the following is the recipe:

Ingredients:
500 g of shelled almonds
500 g of sugar
a pinch of salt
grated lemon peel
4 egg whites
decoration (almonds or candied fruit)

Preparation:
Finely chop the almonds and add them to the sugar. Add the egg whites, the salt and the grated lemon peel. Stir for a long time taking care to mix well then pour the dough into a pastry bag and, directly on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, enjoy giving the shape you want to your biscuits. Keep in mind that the classic Avola biscuit should have a round shape, or look like a small sun. Let them rest for one night and then add the chosen decoration to the center of each biscuit.
Bake at 180 ° -200 °C for 10/12 minutes, making sure they do not burn or become too hard on the outside.

Around Avola

Outside the town of Avola there are many interesting places to visit. The old “tonnara, for example, that is the place where once the tuna fish was collected and killed in order to extract the precious meat. Avola Antica,  the old village destroyed by the earthquake of 1693, located on top of white hills that even alone are already a remarkable natural monument.

Don’t miss the lakes of Cavagrande del Cassibile, a spectacular natural reserve located at the bottom of a deep gorge where crystalline water pools rise. The route is hard and difficult so never try it alone. Even if you are a group, do not go without a local guide. If you can, also ask for Contrada Borgellusa to admire the prehistoric Dolmen discovered there in 1961.


The author: Grazia Musumeci