This past weekend, my International Trade class took a field trip – to Sicily! At Temple Rome, a lot of classes have similar excursions to all different parts of Italy, and, in some instances, different countries (I’ll get to tell you about two more to Florence and London!).
On Thursday night, we checked into the Best Western Mediterraneo in Catania, Sicily. Aside from having made the trip with other students for years, our professor is from Sicily, so he was an expert in the area. Catania, is on the east coast of Sicily, facing the Ionic Sea, between Messina and Syracuse. It is located at the base of Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in all of Europe. From the airplane we were able to see the faint glow of lava giving dim light to the darkness, yet the mountain around it was still dark.
On Friday morning, 24 students dressed “business casual” piled onto a coach bus to make several appointments with companies dealing in international trade. We first visited, SASOL, a chemical company owned by South-African capital. Due to its placement on the island of Sicily, the company sits at a prime location to bring in raw materials, such as coal and oil, for processing.
Second, we visited Oranfresh, where we were welcomed by the marketing manager and given a tour of the production plant for a world-wide producer of machines for freshly-squeezed orange juice. Oranfresh distributes these machines in all shapes and sizes to small businesses, schools, gyms, etc. Most of the machines that I saw were destined for cities in China, but I did glimpse a few headed towards Miami! Apparently, US sales have increased ever since Michelle Obama began campaigning for a healthier lifestyle, and perhaps we will begin to see them more often.
For lunch we went to the Tenuta del Gelso facility where we were able to participate in a local wine tasting followed by a meal of typical Sicilian food. A beautiful spread was laid out for us in a room that formerly housed the company’s original wine production. Women would carry bushels of grapes on their heads to the rooftop, and deposit them through the windows for elderly women and children to stomp with their feet. Then the juice would flow down to the factory floor where men would collect it for processing.
We sampled a red wine and a white wine produced by Tenuta del Gelso while snacking on “fancy bread”, bread dressed with olive oil and herbs, cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and several olive spreads for bread. It was delicious! The room was near silent as we savored the food – that’s how you know it’s good.
At the lunch table we were served two pastas, one dressed with a red sauce and eggplant, the other a green pesto and olives. This was followed by a classically Sicilian salad, made up of components that the area is famous for: sweet oranges, fennel, and onions. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Stuffed to the brim, we made one last trip to the printing company ETIS2000, the company that produces the newspaper for all of Sicily, as well as magazines, billboards, and other paper products. We were lead all around the factory, up stairs and onto catwalks, able to see the printing process at every step. Newspapers whizzed around our heads, were folded, and carried out the door. ETIS was so welcoming. They even put our class visit picture into the next day’s paper!