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…

The Art of asking

A couple of years ago, I read Amanda Palmer’s fascinating memoir titled the Art of asking. I’ve been a fan since her band, the Dresden Dolls, burst onto the alternative music scene in the early 2000s. Apart from being a memoir, The Art of asking explores creativity and how to make it a career. Above…

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…

My Sicily: a poem

What is Sicily to me? There are hundreds of Sicilies. An island of hundred faces. like the tale of Medusa who becomes more elaborate at every retelling. Singing like Rosa Balistreri with an emotional strength pouring out the tears in an overflowing stream. A song of Sicily’s poverty, her beauty, with her insatiable energy, the…

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…

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…

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 DNA

Poetry is and will always be my first love. My poems come from my dreams, imagination and emotions. They appear in my mind unexpectedly. An idea comes in a phrase or an image that keeps repeating itself. Something will pester me to the point I cannot ignore. I write it down and it leaves my…

Words from Sicily: 100 Sicilies

Gesualdo Bufalino wrote about Sicily’s many different faces. He was fascinated by the multifacited nature of the island, filled with many paradoxes and contrasting elements that often exist side by side. The complexity and instability of the island’s cultural history has created an engimantic place which is difficult to define. Bufalino says how there are…