Sometimes all you need is a clean pool with a well-furnished deck and panoramic views of the Sicilian countryside. That’s part of what you get at Baglio Lauria, an agriturismo located in Campobello di Licata in southwestern Sicily. With all the wonderful things to see in Sicily in the North and East (Erice, the beaches around Palermo, Cefalu, Trapani, Taormine, Etna in general…) we had decided to go to the very underdeveloped South to see the ruins of Agrigento and the Scala dei Turchi, a stunning cliff of white marl, the access to which we came to find is blocked to tourists now. And the beaches down there are nothing to write home about either. Better San Capo de Vito in the North for that kind of thing. While disappointed in the place, the shots of vitamin D and the feeling of our skin sizzling under the Sicilian sun kept us very happy. The fact that we were waking up at a place like Baglio Lauria helped too.
As you roll into the parking lot and go up the beautifully landscaped walk-way, you find a complex of some three stone buildings, dating back tot he 18th century. Gorgeous cactus trees already in blossom in May, palms and plants in terracotta pots line the way. The property also includes around 50 acres of vineyards, olive trees, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, cultivating everything you can imagine from orange to tomatoes to quince. Needless to say, they make their own olive oil and juices, a sustainable tourism dream come true. The hotel comes with the aforementioned pool, located above the winery where Baglio Lauria produces its own Grillo. There’s a cozy, rustic restaurant and a reception that seems (wo-)manned at all hours of the day. On the second night of our stay, we chose to have a relaxed and cozy date night with dinner at the guesthouse. The format was a 4-course set menu and the dishes were a surprise until they arrived at the table. The dishes paired perfectly with the house Grillo. On that evening, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The first course was a little sampling of Sicilian things. There were two pieces of panelle (a Sicilian chickpea fritter) hot out of the fryer. There was also a wedge of very fluffy frittata with zucchini and potato. Then there was a nice piece of local Pecorino with black pepper, with a little dollop of homemade orange marmalade to enjoy it with. On a pile of lettuce there was also some absolutely wonderful breseola made from the black pig of the Nebrodi Mountains. The tender, juicy, very flavorful meat was drizzled with some of Baglio Lauria’s own olive oil, which I ended up buying a bottle of before leaving.
The second course was a pasta dish, a very simple penne with mushrooms. This was also drizzled with plenty of the house olive oil and served with a big bowl of grated cheese to sprinkle on.
The main course centered around two pieces of chicken breast. These were rolled into logs, stuffed with a juicy and flavorful combination of garlic, sweet raisins and pine nuts. They were then covered with a layer of crispy bacon on the outside and speck on the interior for an extra hint of porcine flavor. They were probably shallow-fried with a hint of a breadcrumb crust whose crunch contrasted beautifully the smooth chicken inside. This was served with perfectly seasoned, thinly sliced wedges of roasted potato on one side and cucuzza longa, a thing that I had really been hoping to try. We first saw these at the Palermo market and took note. They’re a kind of very long green bean, which is actually “calabash gourd” in English, a type of squash. This was served chopped up and sauteed with some egg scrambled in. A very cozy and comforting plate of food.
Dessert was a scoop of tart lemon ice cream mounted on some ripe strawberries, which we were already seeing sold on the street everywhere in Sicily. A bright and clean ending to a very filling yet light meal that left us both totally relaxed and satisfied.
And we were down in that rustic little restaurant just 10 hours later, filling up on breakfast before heading out for Syracuse. Breakfast at Baglio Lauria is also quite simple but accented with some of the wonderful products they make on the property. The best? The big bowl of fresh yoghurt, which is perfect when topped with their olive oil and cracked black pepper, or some of their homemade jams (apricot, orange, fig, strawberry, raspberry and many others) mixed in. Before leaving, the lady also gave us a bottle of their fresh pomegranate juice to take with us. This is delicious as well, very tart with a hint of bitterness on the back of the throat with none of the refined sugar and syrupy texture that I have always associated with pomegranate juice. We spent our last couple of hours at Baglio Lauria soaking up the sun in the company of so many lizards doing the same and taking turns diving off the board into crisp blue swimming pool. After a long, rainy and absolutely grim winter in Bordeaux, this friendly agriturismo provided all of the things that what we came to Sicily for: sunshine, a chance to relax and homey comfort achieved through excellent food and service.