Raw fish tends to be associated with certain countries that enjoy long and winding coastlines, plenty of beautiful sunshine and a strong fishing culture. The Japanese have sashimi and the Peruvians have ceviche, but anyone wanting to tuck into the delicacy in Europe should make the trip to Sicily for its incredible pesce crudo (literally ‘raw fish’). Along with arancini, it’s the quintessential Sicilian dish to tuck into from the comfort of a beautiful villa, bathed in sunshine whilst looking out onto the azure clean waters – a truly unforgettable experience.
Most of us associate raw fish with soft, melting slices of tuna and it’s often named as the most popular species to eat fresh and uncooked – especially in Japan. Sicilians are mad for tuna, too, and they eat the whole fish, from lips to fin tips, making the most of the cheaper cuts of dark red meat to the most expensive fillets from the lowest part of the belly next to the head. In May, tuna lovers from all over the world head to Favignana to see the mattanza, where Sicilian fishermen join forces to cast a complex system of nets to catch particularly large bluefin tuna, which are in high demand in places like Japan. And Sicily's coastline is still dotted with tonnare – historic tuna fisheries where special chamber traps were used to guide fish to shore, before they were killed and prepared for sale. Many are no longer operational, but those in places like Scopello and Marzamemi can be visited and offer a fascinating insight into the island's history.
But whether you eat pesce crudo in Catania or sashimi in Tokyo, it is essential that the raw fish be freschissimo – extremely fresh – ideally, as freshly caught as possible. Sicily is surrounded by sea; the Mediterranean laps along Sicily’s west and south coasts, the Ionian Sea lies to the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea rolls onto the north. This makes sourcing freshly caught, local and seasonal fish easy, and buying some at the local market should be at the top of any holidaymaker’s list.