Fancy some nuts?

I photographed these traditional Sicilian market stalls during the village festival this summer. They sell all kinds of nuts, and a few typical sweets as well. The vendors travel around Sicily from village festival to village festival – there’s always one going on somewhere – livening the streets up and selling their healthy snacks.

nut stall 2

The paintings represent the stories of the wars of Charlemagne and depict some of his famous knights.

market nut stall


Those silver barrels to one side are three-tier fountains, which keep cold water running continuously over broad beans in one, and pieces of coconut in the other. Sicilians also eat dried, raw salted chick peas as snacks. Roasted pumpkin seeds are popular, too.

Roasted pistachios and cashew nuts are my favourites.

nut stall 3


These beautiful hand painted stalls are an indispensable feature in village festivals and, along with the Sicilian carriages or carretti Siciliani, they are a very important form of folk art. I hope we will see them for many years to come.

16 thoughts on “Fancy some nuts?

  1. I love Sicilian nuts, this time of year torrone is my temptation. Now that is some serious art work there, how on earth do they reach them? Every festa isn’t complete with a little ‘calia’ as they call it here which usually includes a mix of chick peas, canellina (sugar coated cinnamon), roasted peanuts in the shell, pistachios and a sprinkling of roasted hazelnuts. What mix do you get? And I have noticed over the past couple of years you can also get biscuits and sugar coated almonds too …

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  2. Calia-chick peas and Simenza(sp)-salted pumkin seeds, I remember eating the latter until my lips burned at Nana’s and going to the feast in Chicago. They would dress up a young girl like an angel and suspend her from a high wire from telephone poles and send her across to the other side high above the crowd. I know she was terrified. Can’t remember what saint it was in celebration of, all I remember was the smells and the food.

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    1. Maybe it was at St Philip Benizi Church in Chicago? The pastor at the time (and for MANY years!) was the amazing Father Louis Giambastiani. When I was a girl we went to that feast every year. It was a feast in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was always wishing I could be one of those flying angel girls! Two girls would slowly “fly” from buildings on opposite side of the street, meeting suspended over the float carrying the statue of Mary. The set-up was just like a clothesline pulley. But I had no chance as we we did not live in that parish, where my mother had grown up.

      In yet another Chicago Italian neighborhood, where we lived until I was almost five, there was an Italian deli and my favorite snack was the chick peas. Most Chicago Italians were actually Sicilians.

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  3. Yojimboe! How nice to hear from you again.
    I actually remember seeing a block and white photo of that poor little girl flying on a zip wire! I have been searching on Google and i just cannot find it, but there is definitely a picture online somewhere. Beba have you got any idea how to search for it? I tried the name of the church you mentioned but that didn’t get me anywhere.
    Do you know if that was a tradition invented in America or a replica of a tradition from some Sicilian village?
    BTW it’s funny that you both like the chick peas. They’re the only thing I don’t like because it always feels as if they’re going to break my teeth!


    1. If you google: st philip benizi chicago , you will get a list of web sites that are related. One is

      I didn’t persist long enough in searching websites to locate any flying angels but I will keep trying! New Sicilian/Italian immigrant photos and stories are posted constantly on the web by folks who want to preserve the memories, even if most of the buildings and communities are now gone.

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    2. It is Maria S.S lauretana Society the feast is held every Labor Day weekend this year the fest will be held in Niles, IL


    1. Really good question and, as far as I can tell, not all that much to be honest.
      I do know that the tradition of Sicilian marionettes (which represent soldiers of Charlemagne) and these paintings in carts, nut stands and a few other folk objects originated at the time of Charlemagne as an art form, so maybe they just picked up on what was popular at the time …..and then never changed it (which would be extremely Sicilian).
      He was considered a hero in the lands which had been colonies of North Africa because he fought against the Moors. There were travelling minstrels all over Sicily for the centuries after his death who sang the famous ballads and epic poems about him. So I suppose that rooted him in folk culture and he stayed there.
      I would not be half surprised if these things were once popular throughout Europe and died out everywhere but Sicily – the more I learn about the history of Sicily the more I find this happening in everything we consider “Sicilian” – that it used to be “European” and simply died out everywhere else.


    1. Thank you so much for the Charlemagne explanation, I have puzzled over that for a long time! I believe you are spot on when you reckon a lot of things that Sicilians hold onto were once popular Europe-wide but times & fashion moved on. That’s one of the delightful things about Sicily, they value the beautiful past & tradition. Bravu! Ps my little granddaughter LOVES her almonds, cashews & pistachios so I always treat her to a bag of each time I visit her, though I know her mamma confiscates them as soon as I leave because she disapproves of the salt content!


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