1,000 words about Sicily: Fichi d’India

Driving through the countryside outside Catania, under the shadow of Mount Etna between the lava rocks and the dark soil dotted with olives and pistachio trees. There is an introduced plant that thrives and has been claimed by Sicily the fico d’india literally the Indian fig.The prickly pear is a natural survivor of everything from…

Why we need Cinepanettone

It’s nearly Christmas, the end to a disastrous year for the world as many countries are stepping in and out of various shades and types of lockdowns. With vaccines in arrival and virus mutations on the news, it’s a shady time in history. Italians are scrambling to do their Christmas shopping, preparing festive menus even…

A humble olive harvest

There is something humbling about participating in a traditional olive harvest. Every couple of years, I get to help my husband, and his family gather olives to make oil for our own family. Everyone loves the taste of good high-quality oil, and I refuse to do without it. I grew up eating olives, and I’m…

The New Wines of Etna

Photo by Josh Bean on Unsplash Ben Spencer is a journalist and professional winemaker who lives and works near Mount Etna. He explores the Mount Etna wine-producing area in a mixture of culinary history and guide book in his excellent new book The New Wines of Mount Etna. Spencer’s passion and knowledge of wine make…

How to peel a fico d’india

The exotic prickly pear (fico d’india) is a delicacy in Sicily and thrives around the entire island. Known also as the Barbary fig (opuntia ficus-indica) it is a species of cactus cultivated throughout the world in arid and semiarid areas and is thought to be native to Mexico. It is best to taste them after…

The prickly situation of the Fichi d’india

Mountains of prickly pears cactus plants line the roadside spreading out into the uncultivated land, they thrive in the lava soil and produce a much-loved fruit, in Sicily. The flat, irregular, leaves of the fica d’india are oval-shaped, a little bit bigger than a table tennis racquet. The fruit of this cactus ripens gradually around…

Italian Song Challenge Day 30: Heather Parisi

https://youtu.be/99YyIr6YJmU Once again, I wasn’t listening to Italian music in my childhood, nor did I spend my childhood in Italy. So I choose this song which is something everyone in Italy grew up listening to. A cute song from the 1980s which was also used in a famous Italian cartoon series. Heather Parisi is an…

Italian Song challenge Day 29: Måneskin

https://youtu.be/GWVMcigVt48 Maneskin totally decimated the 2017 edition of the talent show X factor with their irreverent style. The energy of their stunningly original lead vocalist Damiano David, allowed them to finish in second place. They mix together contemporary rock, with folk, shock rock and 1980’s disco. The unique groups sound, attitude and presentation, has made…

Italian Song challenge Day 28: Noemi

https://youtu.be/HPVSB8kOWrM Veronica Scopelliti, known by the stage name of Noemi, is a highly successful singer-songwriter and television personality. After several years working in the music industry with only moderate success, she decided to participate in the 2009 edition of X Factor Italy. Even though she did not win the competition, the program showed off her…

Italian Song Challenge Day 27: Laura Pausini

https://youtu.be/FpOEN93LX-E Laura Pausini became famous after being discovered as a child while performing in a local piano bar. Pausini's incredibly powerful voice brought her television stardom, and her recording career has made her famous all around the world. Pausini rose to fame in 1993 when she won the newcomers section of the 43rd Sanremo festival…

Italian Song Challenge Day 26: Gianna Nannini

https://youtu.be/llt3K3dJuaM Gianna Nannini grew up in the Tuscan town of Siena. She spent her childhood learning music, she studied piano at the Conservatorium at Lucca and worked in the family business as a pastry chef. At the age of 18, Nannini participated in a music festival at Montecarlo, coming in fourth place. The following year…

Italian Song Challenge Day 25: Lucio Battisti

https://youtu.be/FBKE86YmS6w Lucio Battisti (1943 – 1998) was a hugely influential Italian singer-songwriter and composer who was widely recognised for many of the songs that defined Italian pop in the 60’s and 70’s. Battisti released 18 albums from 1969 to 1994, with many translated and released in other languages including Spanish, English, French and German. He…

Italian Song Challeng Day 24: J-AX & Fedez

https://youtu.be/yKT_euhimTk Officially J-ax and Fedez were not a band, the two irreverent rappers were collaborators over several albums. They both have a gift for fast-paced, acidic, funny lyrics and parody. Together they have created many immensely popular Italian pop songs over the last few years. It’s sad to see that they will no longer be…

Italian Song challenge Day 23: Ermal Meta

https://youtu.be/4WMejmcT9ZY Ermal Meta is a fascinating artist originally from Albania he literally fled civil war as a child, arriving in Italy on a boat. His work reflects the point of view of migrants to Italy, the oppressed and marginalised. His songs, far from being harsh or dark, are filled with hope and joy. After becoming…

Italian Song Challenge Day 22: Fiorella Mannoia

https://youtu.be/BzuOhH9EwYs Fiorella Mannoia’s father was an Italian film stuntman, and she and her brother and sister also worked in this same industry as children as stand-ins. Mannoia made her debut in the world of music when she sang at the Castrocaro Music Festival in 1968 where she got a contract with a record company. After…