After spending a total of 10 days in Sicily, I learned that the fresh produce in Southern Europe is by far the best in the world, and not only that, but the "pomodoro" (tomato) is absolutely delicious and wonderfully cheap.
For most of our meals, John and I ate out at restaurants that we chose for their fantastic views over the Mediterranean sea. The food seemed to be delicious everywhere, whether you went to a small restaurant hidden in the winding streets of Palermo or on top of a cliff in the small town of Erice.
We did have the option of cooking in two of our self-catering flats, which sounded like a great idea ahead of time, but in reality amounted to cooking a grand total of one meal. However without cooking we may not have really understood why the pomodoro is such a vital Italian ingredient -- the fruit is sweet, succulent, and amazingly inexpensive. At our grocery store we found a package of 12 ripe, just-off-the-vine tomatoes costing 95 cents. If only I could find a way to import Sicilian produce to the U.S.! I'd make a fortune and no doubt feed many happy bellies.
Most of the Italian food I experienced would be nothing without this vital ingredient; everything from the expected pizza and pasta dishes to marinating olives and roasted tapanades. Then on a short walk around Castellamare del Golfo we discovered tomatos sun-drying in the street, as if it were a common thing to do outside (which it probably is in these small towns).
Once you've tasted the Sicilian pomodoro it's not hard to understand why tomatos are the essential ingrediant in Italian cuisine. It also makes it very hard to go back to the ones at Safeway.