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Fall Festival in Militello Val di Catania – Sagra della Mostarda e Ficodindia

October 19, 2012

Each year, in the Fall, there are many festivals in Sicily tied to the foods of the season.  One of them is the Sagra della  Mostarda e Ficodindia(I have found it spelled Ficodindia and Fico d’India) in Militello, Val di Catania, a town which sits  on a hilltop at about a one hour drive from Catania. The drive to Militello is a pleasant one as one drives through hills and valleys and at a turn, here and there, in the backdrop  one  can enjoy a gorgeous view of  Mt. Etna.

Mt. Etna in the Backdrop along the Drive to Militello

A field of Prickly Pears with Mt. Etna in the Backdrop

I recently visited the town of Militello during its annual festival of prickly pears (fico d’india) and mostarda.  It was a sunny day, quite hot for October, and the whole town was bustling with activities.  There was music, vendors selling their goods of the season, children playing and people dancing in the main square.  One the traditions is a parade of Sicilian carts up and down the main street.

 Prickly Pears

As I walked by one of the booths, the sounds coming from the loudspeaker caught my attention. I stopped to listen  and heard a traditional Sicilian storyteller.  In the early 20th century, storytellers “cantastorie” were quite popular in Sicily.  Mainly represented by men, storytellers would travel around and alternate singing and storytelling on the streets. Some would carry around a board representing a visual of the events they described.  The stories covered a variety of topics, from the events taken from chivalry literature to opera retold in the Sicilian dialect to stories of the popular tradition.  This tradition of storytelling was quite common in the fifties and sixties but came to an end with the spreading of mass media.

As I walked on, I saw several vendors roasting chestnuts, selling different kinds of nuts as almonds and then there was the mostarda, after which the festival was named.   

  Chestnuts Roasting


There are two types of mostarda that are prepared in the Fall is Sicily.  Mostarda made with grape must and mostarda made with the pulp of the prickly pears.  I love mostarda made with grape must and as a child I would watch my grandmother make it and place it to dry in the sun.  Mostarda is made by squeezing the juice out of the grapes, placing the juice and corn starch in a pot and reducing the mixture over the stove. Then the thickened mixture is dried in the sun and the result is a thick, hard jelly.

Mostarda made with Grape Must

Next, I saw cotognata, made from mele cotogne, their name in Italian, which are quince in English.  Quince is cooked in water and sugar, and then the mixture is strained, placed back on the stove and cooked until it becomes a thick paste.  The paste is then placed in molds and it too is dried in the sun for 3-4 days.  Then once it has dried, it is taken out of the molds and dried a little longer until it is firm.  Cotognata is quite sweet!

Mele Cotogne – Quince

Cotognata made from Quince

Finally I walked to the main square and climbed the steps to the main church.  From above, I could see the entire square.  The  sound of the music, audible throughout the square, guided the daytime dancers from tango, to foxtrot, to salsa.

Daytime Dancers in the Square

At last, the Sicilian carts which had paraded down the street in the morning, drove by heading to their final destination. They are behind the crowd and a close up picture was not taken as the battery in my camera died right there and then!!!! 




  1. Found out about this after the fact (normal) have it on our calendar for this year.. thanks for the lovely photos and information.


  2. Kelly Andrew permalink

    I have a cousin (that I recently connected with through Facebook), that lives in Militello Val di Catania. He just sent me a video of this celebration & I wanted to know more about it. Thanks so much for your informative post, we hope to make it there someday! 🙂


    • Hello Kelly,

      It always brings me joy to receive messages from readers who write to let me know they have enjoyed my blog. I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart!


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