Swordfish in Sicily:

Swordfish and tuna in Siracusa, Sicily

Swordfish and tuna at the Ortigia Market in Siracusa, Sicily (2012)

Tradition is a powerful thing. It connects people over huge distances and over thousands of years. In some places, the foundation of tradition is so strong it supports bridges to the past that seem to lead all the way back to the beginning. Sicily is one of these places and in Siracusa you can take a bridge into the past, to the old city on the island of Ortigia. Here, fishing is one of the oldest traditions. The market is lined with numerous pescherie, with the fishmongers calling attention to the best of the days catch. They sell fish here I’d never even heard of before, like pilot fish (fanfole or nfànfaru) and pearly razorfish (pesce pettine), but when it comes to the tradition of Sicily two fish stand alone… tuna and swordfish. During my visit to the Ortigia Market, this display of pesce spada (swordfish) and tonno (tuna) at Casa Del Pesce Fratelli Cappuccio was hard to miss, in the background the owners are having a rather lively discussion.

If you hear them say pisci spata or tunnu – they’re speaking Sicilian.