Southern Italy would not be southern Italy if we did not mention those orange delights. There are many varieties such as bergamot, navel, mandarins, clementine, blood oranges and many more. They come in all different shapes and sizes. Some have a pale orange colour, others dark orange, reddish orange and bergamot either with a yellow or green colour. I would like to talk about some of these varieties.
Orange delicacies in southern Italy
There are orange groves all over southern Italy. You can also find those citrus trees in the streets. The southern Italians eat them straight from the trees. Some might have a slight bitter taste, others have that juicy sweet taste. These trees can survive up to 40 years old and longer. You will also find them in peoples’ gardens. Learn more about them and how to grow these wonderful citrus fruits here.
Southern Italians make everything out of them; orange flavoured or bergamot liqueur, perfumes, soaps, ice cream, jam, granita and freshly squeezed orange juice. My husband’s family uses the orange peel as counters for tombola (bingo) at Christmas time. Many desserts are made with orange peel. These orange delights are full of vitamins and antioxidants and are just as valuable as the lemons. They thrive well in southern Italy’s Mediterranean climate.
Winter and summer fruits
Everything grows well in this part of Italy even the famous Chilli peppers of Calabria. You can read more here about them. Going back to oranges, the oranges ripen in Calabria in November which makes it a winter fruit. In fact, you will always find oranges and nuts on a table during the Christmas period.
Even the panettone and other Christmas desserts contain pieces of orange peel. Although, it is a winter fruit, you can however find a unique variety of oranges in Sicily in June. This means you can find these orange fruits all year round.
Some people use them as ornamental sculptures in their garden as well as eating them. They use oranges a lot in Sicilian cooking, especially to flavour the Sicilian speciality sarde a beccafico and other dishes. The slightly smaller variety is the bergamot, mostly found along the Jasmine Coast in Calabria.
The bergamot liqueur is made with this fruit, sugar, milk and pure alcohol. They export it all around the world and also make perfumes and soaps with it. Did you know that they use bergamot to flavour earl grey tea?
This fruit looks more like a lime as sometimes the peel can be dark green or yellow. The taste is bitter if you eat them on their own but wonderful when they are used in desserts and liqueurs. There are also mandarins, blood oranges and clementines which are extremely sweet and ideal for a snack.
The blood oranges taste delicious when they are squeezed. They should already be sweet but if you prefer them sweeter, just add a little sugar. They also make mandarin liqueur in southern Italy made with the same recipe as limoncello. You will see oranges everywhere you go in southern Italy.
I remember staying in a farmhouse in Sicily full of orange trees. The owner said to the guests to help themselves to the oranges. It was a real joy when you felt thirsty and you would just stretch out your arm and pluck them from the tree. A real refreshing delicacy in the summer in that hot Mediterranean climate. The owner made us freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast, the best I had ever tasted.
Different colours of orange
Actually before we left, the owner of the farmhouse gave us a jar of home-made orange flavoured jam made by his mother and a bag full of these orange delights. You can read more about this farmhouse experience here. Everywhere you go in southern Italy, you can smell the scent of these fruits; in the hotel gardens, peoples’ homes and even in the streets. It is no surprise that you can find souvenirs in the form of oranges.
They are always present in landscape paintings. Even the sunsets such as the Aeolian islands from Tropea, Palmi and Milazzo are spectacular with the glow of many different orange and red tones. The colour orange is everywhere in southern Italy. Some of the houses and buildings are in different shades of this colour. This is of course, southern Italy. You can use a copy of my travel resources here to get around Calabria and Sicily.