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…

An introduction to Flamboyant Italian personalities

Life is always a challenge for an ex-pat living in Italy. There is a constant struggle with the language, continually being reminded of an outsider by snide remarks and condescending quips about your accent. Yet ex-pats develop a thick skin and put up with many frustrations so we can soak up the beauty, way of…

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 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…

30 years of Fantaghirò

Apart from the usual annual preparations for Christmas like the tediousness of gift buying, yuletide menu planning and gift wrapping, there is also the tradition of Christmas movies. Everyone has their favourite, whether it be a black and white Jimmy Stewart classic, a kitsch Father Christmas tale, the Grinch that stole Christmas or endless tired…

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…

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…

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…

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…