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Granita, the sicilian snow

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Cannoli, Cassate Siciliane or the traditional “Gelo di Melone” are the most popular delicacies in Sicily, likewise every province in Italy is rich in novelty and surprises. But in the hot part of the year the undisputed queen of the Sicilian summer is the granita. Granita is a semi-frozen dessert, creamy, refreshing and gritty at the same time. In Sicily is a real institution and according to the tradition it’s part of the morning breakfast (once served with fresh crusty bread, now replaced by a delicious brioche locally known as tuppu). You can actually enjoy it any time during the day, sitting in the shade, on the beach or during a cool evening stroll downtown.

Granita is creation that pre-dates the Romans and can be traced back to the Arab rule of Sicily. Originally it was made by mixing the snow from Mt. Etna with fruit juice or sometimes rosewater. Eventually it was discovered that mixing sea salt with the snow created a refrigerant with which the granita could be frozen; this allowed the snow to be removed as an actual ingredient and the recipe changed to its current one. Now it is made with water rather than snow, flavorings are added and then the mixture is frozen by surrounding it with ice and salt or, more recently, by placing it in the freezer. Of course with the passing time the recipe has been improved.

The most classic variants spread throughout the island are lemon, almond and coffee. The nuances of the Sicilian ingredients are important to the flavor of the finished granita. For instance, Sicilian almonds always contain a small percentage of bitter almond, which is crucial to its intense flavor, while Sicilian lemons are a less acidic. Besides traditional flavors, in province of Catania are widely appreciated tastes of pistacchio (original Bronte), chocolate and fruit ones such as blacks mulberry, peach, wild strawberry when in season, mandarin, orange, and pineapple. In Messina, in Aeolian Islands and in the rest of the island the choice of flavors and the working process are similar to Catania ones.

Not to be missed:

Every year at the beginning of june Acireale hosts the Nivarata, an amazing festival which draws thousands of visitors to taste the real Sicilian Granita! The festival represents a good opportunity to discover one of the best culinary Sicilian tradition and to be taken on a food trail through the architecture, history and culture of one of the baroque temple of Sicily. Acireale will welcome you with its spectacular churches and squares, and with all its enchanting monuments.

My top ten places for the best sicilian granita

Bar La Timpa, Santa Maria la Scala. A small bar managed by "aunt Tanina" with her husband. They prepare delicious and genuine granite. The fruit feels all right and the tastes available always depend on the seasonality of the products. We advise you to taste black mulberries, directly from the family's vegetable garden, but also almond and peach. Here the brioche are not always available, also because the owner prefers to let her customers taste the granita with bread. Just like it used to be.

Caffè Europa. Catania. I do love this bar. Here the granita melts in your mouth not to mention the brioche. My favorite flavors are chocolate, almond and pistachio. If you prefer fruit granita then you will have a wide choice. Mulberries is fantastic.

BamBar, Taormina. Just off the main shopping street in Taormina and not far from the amphitheatre, this is a small cafe with the best granite in town.

Bar Alecci, Gravina di Catania. Delicious flavors pistacchio, peach, but also the unusual and thirst-quenching watermelon.

Caffè Cipriani, Acireale. In the heart of the historical center of Acireale, this café is located just opposite the splendid church of San Sebastiano and offers surprisingly good and abundant granites. Try, if it is in season, taste figs.

Condorelli Bar, Acireale. Acireale has always boasted a reputation for granite and in this bar you will find a toasted almond flavor with a hint of cinnamon sprinkled over. The family manages also Nevaroli Condorelli in Acireale, larger and modern.

Antica Pasticceria Irrera, Messina. Surely this Pasticceria deserves a place in the sancta-sanctorum of the best pasticcerie of Messina and propably of all the region, all the Sicilian sweets are represented as best you could, even those less known as Pignolata. The coffee granita with cream and brioche is the most classic breakfast in the city.

Caffe' SIcilia, Noto: almond and coffee granita is absolutely delicious. Surely this bar worth a visit even if in my opinion, the Sicilian granita you can taste in Catania is absolutely the best (but I'm biased)

Caffe' San Domenico, Acireale. Located just in front of the splendid church of San Domenico, this small and homonymus bar is known for the arab almond granita with the star anise that makes it fresher and the Sicilian dusting of cinnamon.

Bar Florio, Licata. The genuine ingredients and the delicious grace of the owners make it an unmissable stop for those who pass by Licata. Recommended lemon granita, a specialty of the house since 1952, and that with mulberries.

Bar Quaranta, Catania. This caffe', located in the small tourist port of Ognina protected by the church dedicated to 'La Bambina', allows you to taste a delicious granita in one of the most fascinating and poetic places in Sicily.

Bar Kennedy, Acireale. Located in a less noble and baroque area of ​​the city, but modern and frequented by many young people, who in the evening find themselves in the pitch for a sandwich hit and run. Its almond and mulberry granita are my favourite!

Foto credits by Daniela La Rosa - Michele Ali'

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The author

Eleonora Ruzzenenti

Eleonora Ruzzenenti

I am Eleonora, from Italy. I share with you a frenetic passion for travelling and an insatiable curiosity for different cultures. On itinari, you will find my stories about Italy.

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