First and lasting impressions of Palermo: Sicilian conquerors

I pass by other places that I've vaguely heard of and seem familiar with yet are merely names like Tusa, Acquadolce and Finale. Then there is Cefalù, the famous beachside resort town from ancient Greek times. From the train, there are endless beachside villas, fishing boats and ruins left behind by long-departed Greek and Roman…

First and lasting impressions of Palermo: Midnight in Sicily

There is a book by Australian writer Peter Robb which has contributed to my ongoing fascination with Palermo. After reading Midnight in Sicily, I imagined wandering through Palermo's streets, exploring Norman palaces, experiencing the exotic food markets and discovering little hidden restaurants which cooked an endless array of seafood. Apart from being one of my…

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…

Life in the classical underworld

I sometimes feel as if I am a modern Persephone, abducted by my husband to live in the underworld. An underworld in the classical sense, the ancient Greeks' afterlife, the place where Hades, the ruler of the spirit realm, abides and where mythology finds its home. I wasn't kidnapped but somewhat constrained by my love…

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…

The end of summer

Sicily at the end of August is a fiery ball of heat, humidity, mosquitoes and desert winds whipping up from Africa. We arrive in Sicily in the final month of Summer; my husband decides to take a couple more weeks off work; to rest and get over jet lag. Italy shuts down at this time…

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…

Sicilian Status Quo

In my search to understand the character of Sicily, I discover the work of the Sicilian writer Giuseppe di Lampedusa. His novel, The Leopard, is set in the period of the Risorgimento when Italy violently transformed itself from a collection of principalities into a unified country. This masterpiece is filled with insightful observations on the…

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…

Making friends with death

Since coming to Sicily, I’ve become more acquainted with death. In Sicily, mortality isn’t hidden in funeral homes or polite obituaries printed in newspapers. The end of life is part of every day, and the rites associated with mortality become tinged with a mixture of superstition and religion. The ceremony of death in Sicily makes…

My Father in law and his lawyer

My father-in-law looks like the classical Sicilian Mafioso. When I first met him, I found him intimidating, with his mumbling voice, imposing figure and well-kept moustache. As I spent more time with my new family, I discovered a doting grandfather. He helps his family in any way possible. He has a commanding presence over his…

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…

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…

Flamboyant Italians: Vittorio Sgarbi

Sometimes, living in Italy is like being inside an awful soap opera; it's a vibrant, quirky, melodramatic place filled with controversies, corruption, and paradoxes. Italy is a place of great beauty, creativity and unique experiences, overshadowed by equally abhorrent ugliness, criminality and hypocrisy. The Italian people themselves manifest these conflicting traits. I have come across…