Riding through Sicily on a bright orange Vespa stirs up a long-forgotten childhood memory
My dad was first introduced to the sweet fortified wine Marsala by the Sicilian tradesmen he worked with as an apprentice plumber.
They also introduced him to olives, mortadella and other Italian delicacies that were new to Australia at the time.
My mum would buy the Marsala from an Italian deli in Liverpool – the Sydney suburb, not the English city – and kept it in a cupboard above our very 70s wall oven.
Dad would occasionally sneak a swig, so my mum started marking the level on the label after she finished cooking to try and catch him out. When she confronted him, he’d say it had evaporated and that she shouldn’t keep it above the oven.
I told that story to Mr and Mrs Casano when I visited their winery In Marsala. I stumbled upon it quite by chance on my grand Vespa journey through the sunny parts of Italy that became my book, Vroom By The Sea.
Mr Casano said his father had been the first to export Marsala to Australia. And that they still made Ambra Semisecco.
He showed me a bottle and the label was still exactly the same, 30 years later.
‘Buone memorie,’ I replied.
As I was about to leave, his wife emerged from the office with a bottle of Casano Ambra Semisecco in a special gift box.
What’s more, if was exactly the right size to hang from the hook on my Vespa and wedge tightly against the floorboard.
An important consideration when I still had 1,500 kilometres of my journey to go.