Monday, 12 August 2013

Fitness Sicilia 2013: Livin' It Up For 7 Days!

Seven days. The longest five when you work Monday to Friday, plus the shortest two when you have to go back to the longest five just when you're about to put your feet up.

A week can sprint or drag before your eyes, but the route is the same nonetheless. Surely, there's so much more to do in 7 days than checking your in and out box, having tea at 4pm, and absentmindedly listening to the droning printer?

Nearly a year ago, I joined a Zumba group in my local gym. I couldn't get around the thought of everyone's sweat evaporating around me or being surrounded by some narcissistic men flexing their biceps and triceps with gritted teeth while looking at their reflection as if they're all prepping up to audition for American Psycho II, but I've always wanted to dance  à la Strictly Come Dancing, so I decided to bring on the tights!

Davide di Prete of Zumba Northwood

It didn't take long for me to dance my way (I know, how cheesy is that?) to Davide's Zumba classes. I was hooked from the very first night. From salsa to merengue, bachata, chachacha, reggaeton, Bollywood, belly dancing and hip-hop, among others, I was sold, I moved up to Zumba Toning (with my purple sticks) and have attended Zumba Sentao, Aqua Zumba and Cheerobics. For our Christmas party class, he came in wearing a pink halo and a shimmery winged pair of trainers for another event (or was it the same?). The personal styling cemented my commitment to his classes.

Davide's music background (he still plays the viola and has done complementary training in piano and violin for his classical studies) consorts with his dance credentials ranging from Caribbean Latin dance to Latin American dance, Cuban Rumba, Cuban Salsa, Rosanegra Salsa style, and Latin Brasilian dance to name a few. Click here if you're from the area and would be interested to attend his classes and join a wacky group!

His classes have made us drop our inhibitions (we just put them back on again on our way out of the studio) and yes, we dance as if we're in the privacy of our bedrooms. I've developed a fantasy of having the shape, face, legs and moves of Alesha Dixon when she performs 'Drummer Boy', and Davide takes the persona of Bruno Tonioli (at least in my mind). Though I'm not surprised at all if I am Bruno and he is Alesha.

Alesha Dixon and Bruno Tonioli, formerly and currently of Strictly Come Dancing fame

 I thought that the farthest I'll go to attend one of Davide's fitness events is to Thorpe Park for a toning masterclass. Bringing over a week-long fitness programme to southern Italy, the home of Tarantism, a 15th to 17th century disorder characterised by the strong urge to dance, was certainly apt and a long way from Thorpe Park. Davide has indeed proven that he's The Godmother of Sicilia.

As with any other holiday, 7 days are never enough. In my attempt to be as brief as I can possibly be, there are still a few more highlights I overlooked, but will include in my next post. I was chuffed to be in and out of the pool instead of my mailbox, to have cafe ginseng instead of tea, and to have freshly squeezed Sicilian lemons straight from the tree. 

How do you make a regular week extraordinary?

1. Dance and exercise everyday. Well, almost--vino bianco and vino rosso hangover permitting.

Clockwise: A few of the fitness routines that ran 2 to 4 times per day--Aqua Zumba with Davide and Bhavna; Body Balance in the garden with Davide; Body Combat with Zishan Din; Lyric Jazz dance with Margot Villata;  and Salsa every night (not pictured as we were all busy dancing)! Apologies to Tao for missing her class as I managed to crawl back to bed!

And the most important exercise routine--enjoying a variety of gelato flavours and Italian pastries!

2. Balcony spotting. One of my favourite activities whenever I visit a new place. From a trip to Vienna, I wrote, "Balconies are another structural aesthetics I literally look up to. From quaint to regal, wrought-iron to Roman balustrade, a balcony is inviting and coquettish, beckoning you yet also giving just a glimpse of what your eyes can admire and reach only from a distance." Sicilia didn't disappoint me.


3. Scale Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe, see the crater from the 1865 eruption, and take home a pyroclastic rock from the most recent eruption in April 2013.

On the left is a pyroclastic rock from the April 2013 eruption, which was still soft it broke into several pieces; on the right is perhaps from the early 2000s or 1970s eruption, which according to Fabio, our tour guide, is a rare piece as the rock encases a sandstone from inside the volcano.

4. Go on a boat trip and island-hopping

The corner photo was taken at the blue cave in Taormina, where you can scuba-dive; the photo above it was the sunset view from the restaurant in Spisone where we had our sumptuous farewell dinner; the beach on the left corner was at Giardini Naxos.

5. Eat pasta as if I've never had them before, with risotto, potatoes, veal, swordfish, and pistachios in pasta (yet again) in between. Don't forget the gelato, granita, and cannoli Siciliani!

Just a few of the pasta dishes our group had in Sicily. I had to stop taking food shots at some point as I did find my meals less enjoyable when I had to constantly fish out my camera from my bag. I then stopped taking my bag to the dining area.

I particularly enjoyed the dish on the uppermost left corner which was similar to an Austrian schnitzel; the photo below it, of minced pork wrapped in leaves which I was told were picked while we were having one of our fitness routines; the photo below which was the starter on our last night in Sicily--octopus salad, marinated anchovies, zucchini and bruschetta, washed down with bellini; and the main course in the corner right photo which looked to me was another serving of caponata, a Sicilian aubergine dish!

Left: limone gelato and cannoli which can be bought in London but it's always best to try the real McCoy; Right: peach granita and brioche for me, and strawberry granita for my friend Eve

6. Nature-tripping and walking around Viagrande, Catania

The corner left photo was that of the underground storage of Catanians where snow was kept in winter and was ideal for preserving food products; birch trees are unusually abundant in the Mediterranean island

Chapels and an abandoned villa, the likes of which dotted Catania

Lush greens, a public park, neighbourhood flowers, a side street, and grapes hanging from the vine at Oro d'Etna shop

7. Make new friends!

Ahhh...what a lovely time I had with everyone who either comes from Northwest London or south of the river. Thank you for a wonderful experience!

Hope you enjoyed reading this feature. Next time, we'll explore Zafferana, have some miele tasting, and walk around Taormina, among other things!



  1. Sounds (and looks!) like you had a great time. I'm way too lazy to be that active at home or abroad, but that really sounds like fun!

    1. I was one of the laziest in fact, and joined some of the routines only in the beginning, then slowly sneak away to take photos. I just wanted to have pizza by the 2nd day!

  2. It looks like you had such a lovely time!! You had all the right ingredients for sure-I adore Sicily so it was hard to go wrong anyway right/ :)x

    1. Really had a lovely time, and as of 10pm tonight, Davide has already rolled out the next event! That photobomber doesn't stop! Hahaha x

  3. What a great time you had! Plenty of activities , the freshest pasta, Italian pastries - perfect! I have a thing about balconies too and you spotted some lovely ones. I'm a Zumba fan and always look forward to the class - I like the mix of music and dance styles. So much fun, it just doesn't really feel like exercise at all!

    1. True! Can't stand just being on the treadmill. If the Zumba instructor's excellent, the experience's even better. Most days were packed with fitness routines, I couldn't manage to attend all. On our last day, 5 exercise routines were done! I was constantly thinking about what food will be served next. I just love balconies...not sure why :D

  4. How fantastic this looks. I would love to be there right now! lol. I've done Zumba before and it's quite fun. The food looks delicious! Glad that you enjoyed yourself. I love the outdoors, so these photos make me smile. xx/Madison

    1. You can join next year Madison :D Not sure where it'll be next time but I don't mind ending up in Palermo or Puglia. I loved the fresh ingredients and freshest fruits. Missing it now...
      Glad the photos made you smile :D

  5. You had a great time darling!
    I love Sicilia and I love pasta and.... I love cannoli!!!!!!
    Have a fab day honey!

    1. Yes indeed Paola! Not surprised you love pasta and cannoli :D
      Have a lovely day x

  6. Oh how fantastic! I would love to do this! I'm just pondering whether to head to India for a month next year for a yoga teacher training intensive.... The last time I did it I ended up pregnant! No chance of that this time, I think!

    Zumba-ing in Sicilia sounds more relaxing!

    1. Hi Ruth! If you have the time, the India trip for yoga would be great. I do a bit of yoga but I'm not flexible enough so I find it very difficult. I have to work on it. Whereas dancing comes naturally. Wow, yoga put you in such bliss you got pregnant :D
      It seems this fitness holiday will be an annual one now and more Zumbarettes are keen to go--even from outside the UK. LOts of people weren't able to come because of Ramadan.

      Lovely to hear from you, Ruth!

  7. Well that was action-packed. These are my favourite types of holidays, I'm not a lie on the beach all day kinda gal. The only thing I would have to dismiss however is the Zumba and dance classes, but everything else, yep I'd be good to go.

    Pasta is one of my favourite dishes and despite it not even being lunch time yet, those piccies are making my mouth water!



    1. The action actually started when I managed to lock out everyone in my our cottage the first night. The key got stuck in the door and the villa owners had to call 2 (take note, 2) locksmiths to destroy the door! The owner said it was the first time it's happened. I did think you'll be laughing at me for this, like you did when I was stuck at the airport for Amsterdam in May. Hahahaha. A bit of a theme here, huh? Getting stuck.

      You might wanna come next time then! Everyone's welcome! Just watch while lounging by the pool when we're Zumba-ing xxx

    2. oooh that sounds tempting. You sound like you'd be a laugh and not just because of all the 'action' you cause ha ha. Catch up soon hun xx

    3. The door was fixed but we just left it unlocked the whole time. One of the villa dogs found her way upstairs but she was a friendly one so we let her in. T'was like a little village where you can leave your door open and you're safe. Quite ironic in Mafioso land! Hah! :D

  8. What a fantastic time away!!... I always find exercise so enhanced by music - Zumba is great and so energising... Aaah ... the food in Italy!! xx

    1. Zumba has introduced me to lots of Latin beats I've never heard of before, plus classic tunes that have been reworked for Zumba dancing. I try not to purchase the tunes for my iPod as I don't wanna get sick of it, but some are just really worth listening to.
      Yes, the food was lovely!

      Thanks for dropping by Jenny x


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