I have been following Veronica Di Grigoli’s blog for a few years now, laughing along at the Sicilian Housewife’s struggles and humorous confusion associated with day-to-day life in Sicily as an expat.
Now the blog has become a wonderfully polished and hilarious laugh-out-loud-belly-laughing-thigh-slapping book and I cannot resist expressing my absolute delight! The Dangerously truthful diary of a Sicilian Housewife is set under the biting heat of the Sicilian sun and sirocco, deep in small town Sicily, far away from anything you can ever imagine.
I happily talked to my fellow Sicilian based blogger friend recently about her life in Sicily and openly encourage everyone to read a copy of her hilarious book, which should be required reading for anyone considering a Sicilian life.
I visited Palermo ten years ago for a wedding and it was literally love at first sight. Within a year I was living in a fishing village called Aspra, married and expecting our little boy.
Do you have much contact or interactions with other expats?
Very excitingly, a Malaysian friend has recently moved to my village. Apart from this, the only foreigners to be found where I live are African refugees asking me for food or a Euro to buy themselves a pair of flip-flops.
What should I absolutely see in Sicily?
I hardly know where to begin because there is so much to see here, but perhaps you should try to see Etna, Europe’s biggest and most active volcano; Monreale Cathedral with over 2,000 kilogrammes of gold and illustrations of the entire bible on its walls; and the Baroque town of Noto which is a UNESCO World heritage site.
What should I be eating or drinking in Sicily?
First, a spleen sandwich of course! On day two, try an arancina, which is a shell of rice with a delicious bomb of meaty ragù or cheese or salmon inside. From day three onwards, live on ice-cream. Make sure you don’t omit pistachio, mulberry or mandarin orange and I advise double helpings of hazelnut.
What is the worst and best part of living in Sicily?
I once spent a year with no running water because so many neighbours had not paid their bills. The water company just decided to cut off the entire street.
What’s your perfect or typical day in your part of Sicily?
One fairly perfect day happened last summer when several neighbours I hated got arrested for being in the Mafia and locked up for years.
Another way to spend a lovely day is on the village beach in summer, where you always bump into friends who are fatter than you. (cf. item about ice cream).
If I was coming to you to do this interview where would we meet?
I would take you to Solunto, a city founded 3,000 years ago by Carthaginians from Tunisia, on a mountain with spectacular panoramic views across the sea. It’s ten minutes from my house.
Sicily is a focus of so much Italian history, what’s your favourite part of the tapestry?
The invasion from North Africa in the 11th century.
The Moors explain why there is so much cultural difference between northern and southern Italy. The ancient Romans had a very different mentality, all about discipline, self-sacrifice and hard work. I cannot find a trace of that in modern Sicily or southern Italy!
Besides this, the Moors invented ice-cream, and pasta as we know it, and majolica ceramics and many construction techniques found in almost all of Europe’s cathedrals. They created so much of what we consider Italian.
Tell us about your professional life; how do you make ends meet in Sicily?
That’s proving difficult lately. In Sicily you have to look for work wherever you can find it so I do some consultation projects, some translation work, I have authored and translated several books and I am constantly seeking other opportunities.
My best source of income these days is my book “Sicilian Card Games: An Easy-to-follow Guide”.
You have a young son, how has motherhood been in Sicily?
When my son was a toddler, he would get smothered in kisses wherever we went. The postman, the chemist and all the fishermen in the village would kiss him, cuddle him and offer him sweets. Absolutely any Sicilian restaurant would rearrange half their tables to make space for our push chair, and offer to warm up bottles of baby formula too.
Sicilians treat everyone’s bambini as their own and I love it… though it can make it difficult to avoid your child becoming spoiled!
I know you teach ESL, how is it teaching in Sicily? Is it easy to find work and are your students as lethargic as in other parts of Italy?
Teaching classes of Sicilian primary school children makes you lose your voice and can induce insanity, so I have always tried to focus on adult private students instead. Most of them were lively, motivated and very interesting to teach; I have taught lots of doctors, medical researchers and scientists, which I loved.
Over the last three years the level of demand for private lessons has steadily declined and I now only have one!
Do you think Italy is a ‘monocultural’ society?
Yes. In Sicily, the Spanish brought the Inquisition in the 15th century and being anything other than a conformist Roman Catholic meant death. The culture of fear drove people to start speaking the same dialect, wearing the same clothes, eating the same food and doing whatever it took to avoid standing out.
The suspicion of what is foreign and fear of what is different flourishes in Sicilian culture to this day.
How is your Italian? Any advice for others trying to pick up Italian? Do you speak with a Sicilian accent?
I speak with an English accent!
The best way to master a foreign language is to hang around children. They will not let a SINGLE mistake go. My little boy provides this service for me full time these days. Anyone without a fluent Italian-speaking kid of their own should do whatever it takes to borrow someone else’s!
How did you first come to the blogging world?
My friends all wanted to know what this place is really like. The Sicily of the movies and the media has nothing to do with the real Sicily. When a friend started a blog I realised it would be the perfect way to tell everyone at once!
Tell us about your wonderful blog, The dangerously truthful diary of a Sicilian housewife?
I write three kinds of posts: photo posts of beautiful places in Sicily, “diary” posts which make people laugh, and opinion posts about current events and issues which affect us all.
As well as being a hilarious blogger you are also a pretty skillful writer, tell us about that …
Thank you for the compliments: keep them coming!
I was one of those kids who read thousands of books under the bed covers using a torch after my mother had told me to go to sleep. I think the best way to improve your writing skills is to read as many examples of good writing as possible.
So what’s coming up on Sicilian housewife? Any new projects you’d like to talk about.
I am about to have another spate of guest blogging, writing and interviewing for other websites and inviting guest bloggers to write for mine.
I’m also planning to start interviewing some Sicilians from various walks of life for my blog… though that may not come online until summer!
Be sure to read Veronica’s blog: The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife and like her Facebook page.
All images have been lovingly lifted from The Sicilian Housewife.
Veronica Di Grigoli was born in London and has worked in Istanbul, London, Milan, New York, Zurich, Frankfurt and Palermo.
She studied Classics at Cambridge University, and fell in love with Italy and all things Italian… including one man in particular!
She now lives in Palermo with her husband and son, cooking dangerously large portions of pasta, driving her car among maniacs, and trying to avoid sunburn when it is forty degrees centigrade.
She loves the weird and wacky side of living abroad and learning the hidden secrets of foreign cultures.