Marzamemi, the tuna village

Eleonora Ruzzenenti | Live the World

November 23, 2022

In the last ten years thanks to the origin of my husband’s family I had the possibility to travel around Sicily discovering the many facets of its enchanting landscapes, often wild and untouched, but always charming in their simplicity. What makes the island different from the rest of Italy is its multicultural society, having a long history of foreign domination, from the Greeks to the Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese and every single domination left something to see, to taste, to hear. As a result Sicily is home of a stunning selection of architectural splendors, dating from ancient Greek and Roman times to impressive Baroque cathedrals and monasteries.

But the part of this land I love more is its south east corner, a small area packed with Greek and Roman ruins, magnificent baroque architecture and prehistoric tombs but also miles of deserted sandy beaches, nature reserves and superb food and wine. Here a great development had the famous cherry tomatoes along with the local wine production, fishing, and processing of seafood products such as tuna roe red (bottarga), carved by craftsmen using ancient drying systems derived from the Arabic-Phoenician culture. This corner of land hosts some of the most fascinating sites in Sicily, having preserved the authenticity of places and building structures typical of ancient seafaring and agricultural companies. And Around the south eastern tip of Sicily a few miles south of Syracuse is one of *Sicily's prettiest seaside villages, Marzamemi.*

Marzamemi is a small fishing port renowned for tuna fishing and tuna processing. The main attractions of this town are the tasty fish recipes served by picturesque restaurants, the amazing sight of the sea, the narrow alleys and buildings that remind us a medieval county, and “The Tonnara”. The history of Marzamemi is strongly connected to tuna-fishing and just beside the port the magnificent Tonnara evokes its rich past, characterized by fishing and the fishing of tuna. It has been restored as a venue for weddings and other events. Tuna is still present in town and local producers offer a variety of regional specialties in their shops, such as canned tuna, bottarga, capers or dried pomodorini from Pachino, a town nearby, famous for its cherry tomatoes.

The origins of the historic “Tonnara” of Marzamemi are very old and date back to the Arabs, who around the year 1000 A.D. planted what became the largest tuna in eastern Sicily. The real development of tuna came however in 1752, when the Prince of Villadorata Nicolaci decided to build the village of Marzamemi and there his residence, to manage trade and economic activities, focusing mainly on fishing and tuna processing . The first plant for production of tuna, date to 1912 ,and remained active until the Second World War. For over thirty years the activities of tuna has been suspended but at least the ancient factory was recently renovated and is now used as a hall of representation

Marzamemi is worth visiting at any time of year, but it really comes into its own in the summer months. It has a bubbly atmosphere with open-air bars, excellent seafront fish restaurants and music entertainment for anyone in a dancing mood. But at heart Marzamemi remains a working fishing village, complete with fishing nets drying in the Sicilian sun.

In the village you can find two different big stores with local products, they both sell a lot of delicious local specialities such as a large selection of fish products and amazing sun dried cherry tomatoes.

Adelfio Store: the family Adelfio has from 1931 kept alive the ancient tradition of conservation of fish according to age old methods of smoking and salting as was once used by the Arabs and Ancient Greeks. At their store you can buy a wide range of tuna, swordfish, bluefish and rare delicacies. They are very friendly and helpful and insist that you taste before you buy.

Campisi Store: is probably more famous and known than Adelfio but also more expensive. The cool thing about it is that close to the store they also have a restaurant area. The food in the restaurant is cooked using the ingredients in the shop and it's not like most other restaurants in that respect.

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