Slow paced but dangerous

Life at the in-laws is slow-paced but pleasant. Their house is a few kilometres out of Sinagra, following the river inland. Taking a left turn up from the road parallel to the seasonal river bed brings you to a steep climb where the road turns left again abruptly on a terrifying hairpin curve. The steering…

Earning a nickname

There are no skeletons in the closet in small-town Sicily, as the broader population identifies every individual member with distinct soprannome or nicknames. These simple and often coarse caricatures have existed for generations and can pinpoint members of a particular family, or are earned after a significant event, distinctive physical feature or personality trait. A…

A tasteful introduction to Sicilian cuisine

Italy is a foodies paradise, and each town has its own particular specialities. From region to region and city to city, each place has its form and interpretation of pasta, typical seasonal ingredients, wines, cheeses, and desserts. It would take months to work your way around the boot and taste everything. Without the luxury 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…

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,…

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…

Slipping in from the window

Sitting at my kitchen table at my Sinagra home, I open the window on the balcony from the kitchen, which peers out onto a dirty grey wall. The wall is of another house which I can see directly in front of my window. There is another balcony jetting out of the smaller place, basically three…

Sicilian detto of the day: Fools

This week’s Sicilian saying is the quintessential mixture of astute observation, wisdom and crudeness. Symbolic of the Sicilian erudite, down to earth no-nonsense approach to life. And I love it. So the saying says: Lu minchiuni ‘un si conusci quannu nasci; si conusci quannu cresci. To break it down a little, my literal translation is:…

Soundscapes

  The soundscape of Sinagra effortlessly comes inside my home through the window. Since my house, like most others here, has precious little space between it and the street or even the neighbours homes. Each house leans up against the next; the front door opens onto the road, which is now too narrow to accommodate…

The Art of asking

A couple of years ago, I read Amanda Palmer’s fascinating memoir titled the Art of asking. I’ve been a fan of her music since the Dresden Dolls burst onto the alternative music scene in the early 2000s. Apart from being a memoir, The Art of asking explores creativity and how to make it a career.…

Arriving in Sicily

The arrival (Catania, August 2002) Arriving at Catania airport, my husband and I are hit by the blistering heat of August in Sicily. We are two sweaty zombies after an eighteen-hour flight from Perth, Western Australia to Rome, followed by another hour from Rome to Catania. It is hotter than hell. Our clothes are wet…

Moving towards Sicily

The Sicily of today is very different from the one my grandparents left behind; it has gone through a tremendous economic boom which saw it move from an agricultural-based economy to one based on industry, all in one generation. People in contemporary Sicily live as well as anyone else and barely recall the hardships of…

Immigration in their blood

My Grandparent’s generation in the 1950s wasn’t the first to have left the island; the inhabitants of this region have immigration in their blood. Sicily’s ancestry comprises generations of colonising Greeks, from conquering Romans, to tyrannical Normans, cosmopolitan Arabs and imperial Bourbons. Sicily’s timeline is made up of a long succession of dominations, thirteen different…