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Hyblaean Wildflower Honey - Sicily

Produced in a very small area of Sicily is Hyblaean wildflower honey (Italian: Miele millefiori Iblea), widely documented since ancient times as one of the great honeys. We know it was associated with an ancient town called Hybla but where exactly the actual town of Hybla was, is unclear. Historians debate whether Hybla is the name given to two or three (or more) ancient towns founded by Greeks in Sicily.

Hyblaean Mountains (I Monti Ible)

Hyblaea may also have been the name of the goddess worshiped by ancient Sicilians, a goddess also known to the Greeks and associated with nature and honey. Today, the honey is not associated with a town (or a goddess), but the Hyblaean Mountains (I Monti Ible); a chain of volcanic mountains under 1,000 meters high in south-eastern Sicily, mainly in the the provinces of Syracuse and Ragusa. The combined action of several factors (soil characteristics, altitude, latitude, proximity to the sea) results in a particular plant species combination.

Of particular note is Thyme, an important factor in the characteristics of this notable honey. It is mentioned by the Latin writer, Vergilius (first century BC), Eclogues, in addition to singing the praises of bees Iblea, refers very clearly to the goodness of the Thymus Ibleo when he speaks of Galatea, a nymph loved by Polyphemus, who says Virgil be sweeter than the Thymus of these mountains. There is also a belief that ancient stands of Linden trees on “Mount Hybla” (figuratively meaning Hyblaean mountains) may have also been an important contributor to characteristics of the legendary honey (although citations supporting this have not been found by HoneyTraveler).

The composition of this mulitfloral honey is not particularly different from the average values that are found in all Italian multifloral honey. What characterizes it is not the chemical composition, but the combination of sensory qualities related to the rich and varied local flora. The color is typically amber (rusty), the flavor is slightly acidic and has a vague but pleasant aroma of vinegar. It is a typical table honey, appreciated for its consistent characteristic flavor in different years of production – unusual among multiflower honeys. With such a distinctive flavor, it is best appreciated with bread or cheese.

The estimated annual production is 150,000 kilos. Mainly produced in late spring. It is easiest found in the local area, although you can find it in the best shops in Catania and Palermo.

Other honeys produced in the Hyblaean locale:
Thyme honey (Miele di timo “sadera”)
Orange Blossom Honey /Citrus Honey (Miele di zagara /di agrumi)
Chestnut Honey (Miele di castagno )
Carob Honey (Miele di carrubo)
Eucalyptus Honey (Miele di eucalipto)
Sulla Honey (Miele di Sulla)
See all Sicilian honeys

Traditional Beekeeping Today
Beekeeper Sebastiano Pulvirenti is one of the last fasciddari (beekeepers) and standard-bearer of traditional beekeeping in the Hyblaean Mountains. In 1970 he had about 1500 hives made of fennel stems (know as fasceddi), which gave about three kilograms of honey each. While very crude compared to today’s movable frame hives, they were very inexpensive to make and the honey and wax could be extracted without destroying the bees. Today, he has about a hundred fasceddi in a shelter under rock in the heart of the natural reserve of Valle Anapo, near the old railway station, Pantalica. An excellent documentary showing exactly how these old types of beehives were used (Italian). See an English (non-video) translation here.

Italy Honey

  • Best Honey in Italy and the Mediterranian – Winners Announced September 19, 2010 The results are in from the national competition, “Roberto Franci” promoted by the “Honey Week” festival in Montalcino, Italy, that ran from September 10 to 12, 2010.
  • Taking The Honey Cure In Italy August 17, 2010 Italy is home to a wide variety of high quality, certified honeys. We visit a store in Milan to discover why the consumption of honey is relatively low among Italians, and of course to try some great honey.

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Resources and further reading

Literary references to Ibleo honey (Italian translated to English)
Pantalica Nature Reserve

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