A taste of local politics

This year it is election time in my small Sicilian town. I've never been one to follow politics on any level unless it has to do with a particular issue or social problem. I can never muster the energy to pursue it. Yet, I am constantly surprised at how deeply political everyone is in Italy.…

The Fertility of Sicily

An old Sicilian mantra says in Sicily there are only good or bad seasons. In a place of few subtleties, there is only the bountiful or frugal and little in between. Sicilians are born out of their land and are shaped by the seasons the landscape creates. A Siciliano will hibernate in winter and interact…

AC Milan madness

  I don't follow sports or sports clubs, but since moving and living in Italy, I have been exposed to the culture of Italian soccer. Here the sport of soccer is a way of life. Who you follow on the soccer field will determine who your friends are, and you will form connections and alliances…

Saint Leo is back

May is usually the month when the inhabitants of Sinagra have their annual appointment with their Saintly patron of St Leo. It has been two years since the festivities have been allowed to occur, thanks to Corona, so this year's 8th of May celebrations were filled with emotions for the Sinagrese. I can honestly say…

Leonforte

Goethe once said to have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy, for Sicily is the clue to everything. But to understand Sicily, you need to go to its geographical centre because the key to the island's identity is there. The province of Enna is known as the belly button…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…