A lifetime of Sundays

  My Sicilian grandparents have passed away, and their absence from my life has left me with a great sense of emptiness. Their stories and their Sicily is a comfort to me as my family’s connection to the island is vital and goes back many generations.  I married a Sicilian, a distant cousin in a…

Impressions of Palermo: Mafia

  Palermo is a place that has always created many different pictures in my imagination. Palermo is the city of the Mafia, a word I've never really understood until I came to live here. The Mafia is not a Hollywood stereotype; it is a tangible form of organised crime that has grown and developed together…

My Sicily: a poem

What is Sicily to me? There are hundreds of Sicilies. An island of hundred faces. like the tale of Medusa who becomes more elaborate at every retelling. Singing like Rosa Balistreri with an emotional strength pouring out the tears in an overflowing stream. A song of Sicily’s poverty, her beauty, with her insatiable energy, the…

Sicilian saying: Nothing ventured

Taking a look at the world of Sicilian sayings I'm constantly being reminded of the Sicilian down to earth nature; they say it how it is without mincing words. I love their honesty. Once again, I am reminded of my Nonni's persistent words of advice in each of these Sicilian sayings posts. My Sicilian grandparents…

Sicilian saying: Education

I know my dearly departed Sicilian grandparents always placed a lot of value and importance on education. Even though they didn't have the opportunity to have a lot of schooling, they were constantly learning new things. They managed to navigate a new country and language with great success. I always considered them a great font…

Italy’s cheating heart

An emailI recently got an email from one of my readers with an interesting question. After reading a book by British historian and aristocrat John Julius Norwich, she thought that she might have to worry about the Mafia. My reader is thinking about buying a house in Sicily, and a flippant throwaway line from Norwich…

Sicilian sayings: angels and devils

One of the most vital attributes of Italians and Sicilians is their sincerity. In general, Sicilian's are very honest; they don't like people who put on a false face. Hence this week's Sicilian saying, which gives us a warning about the fraudulent nature of some people. With the church-attending tradition at the foremost of our…

An introduction to Flamboyant Italian personalities

Life is always a challenge for an ex-pat living in Italy. There is a constant struggle with the language, continually being reminded of an outsider by snide remarks and condescending quips about your accent. Yet ex-pats develop a thick skin and put up with many frustrations so we can soak up the beauty, way of…

To panettone or not to panettone…

I fondly remember growing up in Western Australia: every year, my Sicilian Grandmother would proudly pull out and slice some sweet panettone bread after Christmas lunch. For Nonna, the fluffy mushroom-shaped loaf was a fine treat filled with candied orange, citron, lemon zest and raisins. As a fussy teenager, I hated it. I was usually…

Sicilian saying: how to get rich

I think it's pretty endearing that most Sicilian sayings have an innate distrust of the wealthy. Quite literally, money becomes the root of all evil. In the once agricultural-based society of Sicily, money was less important; the focus was on work, family, friends, community and savouring the moment. Anyone with money was usually from the…

The good volcano

Etna is an absolute monster, a living, breathing part of the Sicilian landscape. Its sixty by forty-kilometre base is the heart of the island. The three thousand three hundred meters tall shadow has given birth to the fertile Sicilian land, rich in mythology. The volcano is different things to different people. For the ancient Greeks,…

Wintertime

During my first winter in Sicily, I visited La Pillera, an idyllic place near Montalbano, buried in the depths of the forests of the never-ending Nebrodi mountains. It is a place where time stops, and the outside world is forgotten. Here, amongst the hazelnut trees, a decomposing villa camouflaged in the folds of the sprawling…

Inside the Palazzo Salleo

My vision takes a moment to adjust to the dimness inside as I’ve just stepped through a doorway. After a few moments, I take in the shape and scale of a grand staircase crowned by an ornamental gateway. The ostentatious gate is embellished with intricate archways. A row of sculptured wrought iron flowers crowns the…

Sicilian Sayings: Giuseppe Pitrè

I've always loved the folk wisdom of Sicily. I grew up hearing snippets of sayings from my Sicilian grandparents. When I was younger, I used to find them a little annoying, rudimentary and often with annoying sing-song rhymes. But reflecting on what they said, I realised the wisdom they contained was valuable. The rhymes helped…

A Baron’s dominion

Deep in the kingdom of the hazelnuts, the Baron of Salleo’s family had wealthy agricultural patronage with many hectares of hazelnuts, olive trees, wheat fields, together with country properties, a residence at the centre of Sinagra and another in the nearby hamlet of Baronia, most probably named in honour of the Baron himself. The Salleo…