After a nomadic childhood and an international education, travel is so ingrained in Andres Modak’s DNA that he formed his company, Snowe, with the traveler’s spirit in mind. The brand, which he cofounded with his partner Rachel Cohen, is focused on creating gorgeous home essentials that the jet-set can enjoy coming home to. But despite an impressive number of passport stamps, there are always new places for Modak to explore. In fact, a family trip recently brought him to Sicily for the first time. The verdict? “Sicily just blew me away. . . . It’s a place of layers on layers, including food, architecture, and people.” We sat down with Modak to find out how he and his family got to the heart of all those different layers.
Home away from home
“With a family that travels as much as ours does, it’s hard to find one place to call home, but really, home is when we’re all together.” Rather than stay in a resort or hotel, the globetrotting clan headed to the small fishing village of Santa Maria la Scala, and found a large villa to call home for 11 days.
As the Sicilians do
For a family that enjoys cooking just as much as Sicilians do, the villa was more than just a space of their own—it was a fully stocked kitchen of their own. “We are a family of food lovers; some of us are cooks and some of us just love to eat, so we do love to incorporate that into our travels,” Modak said. Some of the most memorable meals of their trip were cooked in the villa’s kitchen after a stop at the nearby fish market in Catania for mantis shrimp, mackerel, and cuttlefish.
Of course, they weren’t about to pass up Sicily’s fabulous restaurants, either, and Modak couldn’t help but wax poetic about the island’s culinary offerings: “There’s a family-run restaurant in Syracuse called Sicilia en Tavola that serves out-of-this-world food, like spaghetti with sardines, pine nuts, and fennel. Il Tocco, in Acireale, is built around a tree and serves some of the best homemade pizza around. The same family has been running the place for 80 or 90 years, and when we were there on a Sunday night, it felt like the whole town had gathered there as well.”
Gelato is ubiquitous in Italy, but for Modak’s family, the small town of Noto in the south of Sicily really took the cake—er, ice cream. The gelaterias of Noto, like Caffe Sicilia and Corrado Constanzo, are famous for their wine-based gelatos, which come in flavors like rosé or moscato.
Whether off the beaten track or on it, Modak found that Sicily is for wandering. “The smaller fishing villages in the south were real gems. We did the tourist track as well, of course, like Taormina, and the picturesque beach town of Cefalù, but it was by strolling through smaller towns, going to markets, and talking to people that we found the real Sicily.” The family loved sleepy Noto, which is full of stunning architecture, pinkish yellow buildings, and lots of winding alleys to explore. Even exploring deeper into the neighborhoods of Syracuse gave the historic city a more familiar feeling. “There is a distinction between the historic neighborhoods that is easy to see in the differences in the architectural styles. As cheesy as this sounds, it really feels like walking through time.”
Beyond the Beach
There’s also plenty to do inland from Sicily’s famous coasts. Modak noted that, while it’s not as dramatic as heading into the Alps, there are plenty of adventurous activities to enjoy heading up toward Mount Etna’s snowcap, like mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking.
Give and take
And what would Italy be without vino? The family stopped at Cottanera vineyard, perched on Etna’s volcanic soil for a few bottles of their Barbazzale Rosso, a wine that takes its name from the bearded goats that live on the slopes of Mount Etna.
And while they all brought home a few bottles of wine for themselves, Modak also left something—one of Snowe’s linen chef’s towels as a gift for the owner of the villa. “When I travel, I like to leave a gift for my host, and I think that because Snowe products are so versatile, they feed into all sorts of different environments and can be used in many different cultural contexts.”