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…

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…

Getting under Sicily’s skin

Removing the mountain's skin is like exploring Sicily. This place needs to be dissected with a sharp implement to cut through all the layers of history, culture and society to uncover its raw heart. Carving up the mountains is impossible, and slicing through Sicily's different elements of life will prove to be just as tricky.…

A Sicilian feast

The feast starts with the still-warm bread from the village bakery at Floresta. Sliced into thick pieces, they are quickly snatched up to fend off the growing hunger. A bundle of serviettes, plastic plates, knives, forks and glasses are scattered around the table, enough for a rustic meal. Two large four-litre bottles of wine, one…

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…

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:…

First Days living in Sicily

During my first days living at Sinagra, I noticed people had a strange way of treating me. It is as if I’m a novelty. I am a new plaything, a foreigner whom people regard with curiosity. I quickly became the subject of local gossip. Walking out into the main square in town with my husband,…

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 strange…

All’s fair in love and Ferragosto

Italy has an abundant amount of public holidays, ranging from the usual stuff like New Year’s day and padded out with things like Liberation Day (25th April), International workers day (1st May) and Republic Day (2nd June). Not to mention a fine cavalcade of religious celebrations, including the Epiphany (6th January), All Saint’s Day (1st…