The inspiration of Sicily

English Novels and Novellas

Sicily is a perfect place for lovers of historical novels, it is such an evocative place, bursting with the energy of a palpable history which seeps into everything on the island.

In fact, Sicily has inspired many English authors to write beautiful fiction.
The Sicilian migrant diaspora is also one of the most creative spawning a genre which draws from Sicilian culture, family history and the collective migrant experience.

First, second and even sometimes third generation Sicilian writers have been inspired by their heritage and continue to create beautiful literary works dedicated to Sicily.

One of my favourite novellas inspired by a person who has explored his own personal history in Sicily is The Lady of the Wheel by Angelo F. Coniglio.

The Lady of the Wheel is a journey into the poverty, misery and dignity of the insular world of the Nineteenth-Century Sicilian peasantry. This labour of love is passionate and detailed and takes us deep into a Verismo like the realistic world of small village life with heartfelt pathos and a veil of ancient dialect.

Maria Rizzo is left alone to birth and give up her fifth child. Hiding the pregnancy from the community, in the heart of a harsh Sicilian winter, Maria dresses her beautiful green-eyed baby girl in the only fine clothes the family owns, a dolls dress and goes to the church to deposit the child in a special rotating door, designed to gather up foundlings for adoption by the church. We follow Maria and her daughter on their journey to find one another.

Coniglio’s novella is a beautifully sparse and well-crafted story which takes us into the poverty of one of the darkest times in Sicily’s modern history. The story of these abandoned children from the island’s history is filled with pathos and power.

Angelo F. Coniglio

I interviewed Angelo Coniglio a while ago about the background to this story and his unique passion for Sicilian genealogy which lead him to discover this story from his own personal family history.

Tell us about your book The Lady of the Wheel, where did you find this amazing, evocative story and how is it connected to you?

I have been doing Sicilian genealogical research for about ten years.  I started with the ancestors of my parents, both of whom were born in Serradifalco in central Sicily.   Then I began doing research for my friends, many of whom are also Sicilian American.  Some of my ‘friends’, my research showed, were actually distant cousins.  One had ancestors from Racalmuto, a village in Agrigento province.  One record that I found had nothing to do with his ancestry, but it caught my eye.  All births were recorded, even stillbirths and the births of abandoned children, who were left in the public ‘ruota’ or foundling wheel.  Since the parents of foundlings were unknown, the infants’ names were concocted by church or civil authorities.  Their made-up surnames were stigmatic: ‘Proietto’, (which means ‘cast out’); ‘Trovatello’ (‘foundling’); ‘Esposto'(‘exposed to the elements’) and so on.

In the 1800s in Sicily (and in much of Europe), each new birth had to be registered with civil authorities.  Usually, the infant’s father took it to the town hall to be registered, but in the case of foundlings, they were presented for registration by the person, usually a woman, who had found them.  The occupation of these women was variously given as ‘custode dei trovatelli’ (caretaker of foundlings), or ‘ricevitrice dei proietti'(receiver of castoffs).  In the particular foundling record that caught my eye the occupation of the declarant was given simply as ‘ruotaia’.  This is a word that is no longer used in modern Italian, but ‘ruota’ meant ‘foundling wheel’, and ‘ruotaia’ meant ‘woman who tends the foundling wheel’.

What further piqued my interest was that the name of the wheel-tender was given as Rosa Esposto, meaning that the ‘lady of the wheel’ most likely had been a foundling herself.  My story grew from there.

Sicily has so much fascinating history, how did you settle on this particular early modern period, the plight of the poor class and the role of the church? Tell us a little bit more about this dark phase in Sicily’s history.

My parents were born in the 1800s, so my search for their birth records and the birth records of my friends’ parents naturally led me to examine records from that period.  Over the years I have read much about the plight of families from the Southern Apennine peninsula and Sicily, after their homeland was subsumed into the Kingdom of Italy.  The poor in that region only got poorer and their youth were conscripted into the Italian army to fight northern wars.  Those factors led to the huge migration to the US and elsewhere.  80% of ‘Italian’ immigrants to America were from the South and from Sicily.

How did you manage to balance the history with the fictional elements in The Lady of the Wheel?

I guess the history came from my analytical side (I’m a retired civil engineer and educator), and the ‘fictional’ elements are a blend of facts found in my research of original Sicilian records, along with family stories that I remember.

 

What’s your own personal link to Sicily, tell us about Serradifalco, how are you connected?

Serradifalco is a small interior town whose main industry was once sulfur mining.  My uncle Giuseppe Coniglio came from there to Robertsdale, Pennsylvania in 1912.  He was an out-of-work sulfur miner and found work here as a coal miner.  He had left behind his wife Angela Alessi, sister of my mother Rosa Alessi, who was married to my father Gaetano Coniglio, Giuseppe’s youngest brother.  Get it? Two brothers married two sisters, not uncommon at all in small Sicilian towns.

In 1913, my uncle convinced my father to be the chaperone for my aunt Angela when she came to the US, so my father did so, temporarily leaving my mother (pregnant with my eldest brother) in Sicily.  My brother Guy was born in late 1913, and a year later my mother and he joined my father in Robertsdale.

Both sides of my wife’s family also sprang from Sicily, so the two of us are 100% Sicilian.

 

Do you visit Sicily often? What is your favourite Sicilian memory and experience?

I visited there in 2006 with my wife, two sisters and several nieces, and again in 2009 with my sisters and nieces.  My wife and I and two nieces are returned again in late May 2016.

My favourite memory is the warmth and friendliness of the Sicilians of small-town Sicily.  Whether they were my relatives plying us with home-grown food or strangers breaking their schedules to take us to see a local sight, they made us feel welcome.

 

I hear you are planning to write another book set in Sicily, tell us about that.

The Lady of the Wheel is a short book that practically wrote itself.  Though it’s set in Racalmuto, there are references to my ancestral village of Serradifalco.  ‘Serradifalco’ means ‘mountain of the hawk’, and I’m working on a fictional history of the town, from before Roman colonization through the recent past.  The title of that book will be ‘The mountain of the Hawk’.  Needless to say, it’s a much more daunting undertaking, a Michener-like challenge.  I am also considering putting together a book, tentatively titled ‘Discovering Your Sicilian Ancestors’, a compilation of newspaper and blog articles I have written on that subject.  Sicily and the former Sicilian territories of Southern Italy have some of the best records in the world, with civil records of birth, marriage and death dating back to the early 1800s, and church sacramental records, sometimes back to the 1300s.

 

You are also an academic with a passion for Sicilian genealogy tell us a little about your professional life and your research in Sicily

I was an academic; an adjunct professor of civil engineering at the University of Buffalo, and a practising civil engineer.  I’m retired from both, and I guess I’d be classified as an ‘amateur’ genealogist since I prefer not to charge for my services, but rather to help others to do their own research.  My Sicilian research actually has mostly been done from afar, using online services and microfilms rented at my local Mormon Family History Center, where I’m a volunteer.  I have done some on-site research in Sicily, viewing some hundred-plus-year-old registers in my own ancestral town and that of my wife.

 

I always get asked by my blog readers how to go about researching family trees in Sicily, you seem to be an expert, how does one go about it?

Before starting, google-search for, and purchase, one of many books available on Italian genealogy.  They can help you understand original Sicilian records, which are in the Italian language.

a. Review family records and local (church, library, court) records to get your immigrant ancestor’s NAME as it was in Sicily, and at least their approximate BIRTH DATE.  US Censuses are available at libraries and online and can have such information, as well as their early RESIDENCE in the US, and their IMMIGRATION DATE.

b. Ditto for your ancestor’s TOWN OF BIRTH.  This is important because the records must be searched according to the town in which they were created.  Knowing ‘they were born in Sicily’ is not enough.  Passenger manifests, available online can give an immigrant’s last residence or place of birth.  Remember that married or not, Sicilian women went by their birth surnames and would be so listed on manifests.  Citizenship papers (Petitions for Naturalization) can have all of this information.

c. Unless you can afford to travel to your ancestral town or pay someone to do so, you can search for records with the help of the Mormon site familysearch.org   Records for your town may be available online or on microfilm that can be viewed at your local Mormon Family History Center.  There is no proselytizing at these centres, and their services are free for all patrons.

d. Starting with a recent ancestor you know something about; find his/her birth, marriage, and/or death records.  Sicilian records are very detailed and give age, occupation and addresses of persons involved in a civil registration.  Use that information to search for records of earlier ancestors, and continue back in time to build your family tree.

You regularly contribute to Italian/Sicilian American publications about Sicilian heritage, tell us about some of your articles, why do you think it is so important to maintain links to Sicily?

I’m a sucker for ‘heritage’.  Regardless of our ethnicity, I feel we should ‘know our roots’.  Our ancestors, and the things that shaped their lives, actually helped form our lives, and knowing them is knowing ourselves.  I have friends who have visited Italy, and when I ask where they went, they say “Rome, Florence and Venice.”  I ask where their families were from and they reply “Racalmuto, Messina, Agrigento.”   Then why didn’t they visit Sicily?  “We didn’t think there was anything to see there.”  To travel that far and not visit the actual land of your fathers, is, I believe, a travesty.

Tell me do you think that Sicilian migrant voices/writers are important, why?

Sicily and Sicilians have been WRONGLY painted harshly because of the sensationalism of one small aspect of our society.  I’m saddened by the glorification of criminals, and would much rather see Sicilians and descendants of Sicilians display the intelligence and passion that made Sicily a cultural gem.

Sicily has produced so many fine writers, would you like to share which literary voice speaks to you the loudest and why who would you recommend to read to get a sense of Sicily.

Although my work has been compared to that of Verga, I had not read him prior to writing my novella.  Now, doing so, I see how he captured the sometimes tragic but always ‘bravu’ character of ordinary Sicilians, and I am diving into his works.

Theresa Maggio’s ‘Mattanza’ is spellbinding, and her ‘The Stone Boudoir’ captures the essence of small Sicilian mountain towns.  Lampedusa’s ‘Il Gattopardo’ and Anthony Di Renzo’s ‘Trinacria’ tell of the upheaval of Sicilian society after the ‘risorgimento’.  John Keahey’s ‘Seeking Sicily’ is a delight.

Is there anything else you would like to mention, do you have any other projects lined up in the near future.

I am concerned that the Sicilian LANGUAGE (it’s NOT a dialect of Italian, although there are many dialects of Sicilian) is not taught in Sicilian schools, and is not spoken by many modern Sicilians, who have drunk the Italian Koolaid and believe that Sicilian is ‘the language of the poor and ignorant’, when it was the first Romance language, pre-dating and helping to form the Tuscan dialect that is now accepted as ‘Italian’.  I encourage fellow Sicilians and their descendants to use the language in their speech and their posts, to help keep it alive.

I also like to remind descendants of immigrants from Abruzzo, Puglia, Calabria and the rest of the Southern ‘Mezzogiorno’ that any of their ancestors born there prior to 1860 were actually Sicilian, subjects of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies or its predecessor the Kingdom of Sicily.

I have a history of Sicily at La Bedda Sicilia,  and at the bottom are links to many Sicily-oriented pages about our language, naming conventions, foundlings, and so on.  I also invite your readers to check out my novella and if they choose to purchase it, to please post a review at Amazon.

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Thanks so much to Angelo, who was so kind to find a moment to talk to me.

His wonderful novella is available as an ebook on Amazon if you want to read it.

Also if you want to do any kind of family research in Sicily he is definitely the man to ask and will readily reply to any questions simply send him a message on his Facebook page here.

Sicilian Moments

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Calogero Ricciardello is a talented Sicilian videomaker who has worked in Europe and Australia over the past decade. He is currently based in Bologna, which is also where he completed his studies in Experimental Cinema and Documentary.
Despite working in many different places Calogero has never forgotten his native island and his new project is dedicated to creating a series of loving portraits of Sicily.
Calogero’s Sicilian Moments are short documentaries dedicated to every day life in Sicilia and reflect his personal relationship with the island.

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He told Sicily Inside and Out more about them in a short interview recently:

Tell us a little about yourself and Sicilian Moments. What is Sicilian Moments?
Talking about Sicilian Moments is like sharing a piece of myself, of my origins, of my childhood and the connections I have with this land.
My story is similar to many others. Tales of departures, sacrifice, hope. You leave Sicily for many reasons but then you always return. This place becomes a part of you, and you can never really forget: when you find yourself living else where, you find yourself always thinking about it. It’s a common feeling many Sicilians have when they no longer live in Sicily.
Sicilian moments is a project which will shorten this emotional distance, which will allow everyone to get closer to Sicilian culture, through the tale of its traditions and culture.

What is the inspiration behind this project?
To show my homeland, always through strong and deep emotions. To enter in contact with the people, the way of life and the musicality of our dialect, all of this makes me feel like a part of something. Something which I still don’t know or completely understand but I am trying to trace and show through these small ‘moments’.

 Why Sicily and the Nebrodi region in particular?
The Nebrodi mountains were the landscape of my childhood. I grew up surrounded by the green of the mountains, in a small hamlet, where we children were left free to explore and understand the countryside. Fortunately, there still weren’t any smartphones or internet.
I remember adventures on motorini, through the pine trees and country roads. Here nature is grand, powerful and therapeutic. You cannot help but feel happy when you find yourself in these places. Of course my relationship with the Nebrodi is more profound than the rest of Sicily, I know this area very well but my work will not focus only here. Sicilian Moments is a project which is about all of Sicily.

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What is you particular connection or relationship with Sicily?
A strong connection ties me to Sicily from birth, ever since my parents gave me this name. ‘Calogero’ which has Greek origins, but is a typical Sicilian name. This name in itself defines a specific origin in a precise place. Being named like this means being one hundred percent Sicilian.

Is there a specific memory that you can’t wait to explore with a Sicilian Moments video?
There is no specific memory in particular it is rather a collection of sensations, smells and sounds, I wish to explore in some way. My work isn’t forced, it’s spontaneous and I sotry to be authentic. Of course these short stories will be faithful to the seasons and the traditions, gestures and festivities, who follow them.

 Complete this phrase: For me the beauty of Sicily is …
the collective joy which is born out of a deep sense of belonging to this land.

Where can we hear more about your videos or become involved in this project?
There is already a Facebook page for the project, which is updated daily with new videos. Other then that I am still going ahead with a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds on the Produzioni del Basso web page, so anyone can make a small donation, to contribute and make this project happen.

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The main sponsor of the documentary series will be the Pistí group, an important producer of artisan Sicilian pastries and desserts. It is thanks to its owner business man Nino Marino, a great supporter of the Nebrodi region, that this project is moving ahead.

If you are interested in hearing more about Calogero Ricciardello and his projects see Sicilian Moments Facebook page here, for a sneek peek some video’s look at Calogero’s web page here and for more information on how to donate please visit the crowdfunding page here. (The crowd funding campaign has ended but if you want to become involved you can get into contact through Facebook.)

 

Calogero Ricciardello is a director of Sicilian origin. He graduated at the University of Bologna in Experimental Cinema and Documentary. He started his career as a camera operator and video editor for Italian television. He has worked extensively in Australia as a director and photography director in various documentaries and many video projects as well as a stringer for a news agency in Berlin. Now he lives in Bologna, Italy, where he continues his work as a director and video maker.

Thanks so much to Calogero for finding the time to answer our questions. Best of luck with the project and congratulations for the wonderful initiative and creativity. Looking forward to seeing many beautiful Sicilian Moments.

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Se preferisce Italiano clicca qui: Momenti Siciliani

 

Seeking Sicily an interview with John Keahey

Seeking Sicily

Sicily’s rich history, culture and literature are filled with endless stories, and so one writer or interpreter visiting here will never come up with a definitive interpretation, each experience will remain unique. Sicily has many faces and reflections, depending on where and when you visit and who you meet, it is impossible ever to finish exploring this multifaceted place.

Every book written about Sicily is so valuable as each author who writes about Sicily from a unique experience, and a personal point of view gives us a piece of the puzzle.

John Keahey’s contribution to the story, Seeking Sicily: a cultural journey through myth and reality in the heart of the Mediterranean (Thomas Dunne Books, St Martin’s Press. New York 2011) is a delicate, intimate, intellectual and extremely well-researched portrait of Sicily.

Keahey is an American journalist who has written extensively about Italy and explores many exciting elements of Sicilian culture, history and literature.

Unfortunately, Keahey is a foreigner working with an interpreter, and so there are the usual minor misconceptions, idealism and small superficial errors which will identify him as such.

Sicily is not a comfortable place to explore, at times it is isolated by its own geography, mentality, language, culture and landscape. It is difficult for foreigners to accepted into the community.

Even if Sicilians seem welcoming, they can still exclude outsiders out by switching into their dialect. The centre of local Sicilian communities is made up of an intricate web of relationships, language and interconnections which is virtually impenetrable for an outsider.

But, Keahey’s journalistic eye and sense of story are impeccable, through extensive and detailed interviews with many proud Sicilians he digs below the superficial mask to get to the heart of this place with insightful, rich and evocative insight.

Seeking Sicily offers readers a charmingly well-written introduction to the island. Thanks to a robust journalistic process Keahey sheds new light on the history, culture, literature and cuisine of the island.

In particular, the research into Sicilian writers like Leonardo Sciascia and Pirandello, the Mafia, the Spanish Inquisition, mythology and the many different conquerors of Sicily are exciting and make Seeking Sicily a more than worthy addition to the library of work dedicated to and inspired by Sicily.

After reading Seeking Sicily, I was enthralled at how John Keahey was able to write so freshly and vividly about Sicily. It is surprising to see how Keahey was able to discover so many refreshing facets to Sicily. Many books about Sicily, can be quite repetitive when it comes to Sicilian history.

I was excited when I found a contact email, and John Keahey granted me an interview which I’m happy to share with you along with the great news that his new book about Sicily has been released this November (2018).

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What is your particular connection to Sicily, how did you fall in love with the place?

I have a hard time defining this connection: As far as I know, I have no direct Italian/Sicilian ancestors, so blood isn’t an issue. All I can sense is that I spent two weeks in Sicily, in the Catania area, at a U.S. Naval Air Station (Sigonella) in 1986. Friends and I would drive into Catania (indeed a remarkable, beautiful city!) for dinner each evening, and on the weekend I rented a car and drove to Sciacca, on the southern coast. En route, creating a small hill east of Agrigento, the Greek ruins strung along the Valley of the Temples suddenly appeared, and I knew I was in love with the place. The people, the food, and the culture cinched the deal. By 1990, I was making almost annual trips to Italy, for pleasure and my first two books, and Sicily kept creeping back into my mind. When I worked on my first Sicily book, I made four trips, and the connection was cemented.

What do you think makes Sicily such a special place?

As I hinted above, it’s the people, first and foremost, then the culture that I learned about from reading Sicilian authors (plus several viewings of Visconti’s The Leopard!) and by studying the history. The culture and the people are shaped by that history and by the reality that Sicilians have never been in control of their own political destinies. The last conqueror of the island is, in fact, the Italians. Northern Italy, not counting ancient Rome, has been in control since 1871, and the island’s people continue to under its wing.

Randazzo, Catania

How did you go about researching your book? What was the process from the initial idea?

My publisher Tom Dunne (St. Martin’s Press) and I agreed that the book would be made up of varying amounts of history, culture, literature, with some Sicilian food and food history tossed in. Anything else ­­ a plan of action, a travel itinerary around the island, which places I would visit ­­ went by the wayside. It’s an organic process, and how it grows is up to chance. I’ve learned to be flexible and allow a change of plans to take over. One example: I am crossing a street in Palermo en route to see something I had read about. I was struck by a thought as I glanced at a street sign, and turned right instead of left, ending up at the crumbling, ruined birthplace of the author of The Leopard. This chance manoeuvre led to the beginning of what became chapter one. I never made it to the place where I was initially headed.

 

What is the one place someone should visit or the one authentic Sicilian experience for anyone visiting Sicily? Tell us about it.

What is an “authentic” Sicilian experience? The impoverished peasant class, beholden for centuries to large landowners, disappeared shortly after World War II; widows almost never wear black once the funeral is over; women, once forbidden from venturing out of the house on their own, are as free as men ever were; the only carts pulled by mules and horses are just seen during festival parades and in tourist rides; streets once used by the occasional cart or wagon are now hopelessly jammed with automobiles; the thrilling tuna harvest off the south­ central coast is nowhere near what it used to be. And, fortunately, the Sicilian Mafia is deep underground; bodies no longer pile up in the streets of Palermo (in a 15­year period during the 1980s­90s, there was a thousand Mafia death in those streets). The mob is still there; tourists just never see it. The streets are alive with activity, day and night.

So the experience today is one where history can be explored, the art of all eras appreciated, wonderful food unlike any elsewhere in Italy consumed, vistas of rolling hills and expansive vineyards abound, and most importantly, friendly people are found nearly everywhere. For example, I made four visits to a small, non­ tourist village in the south, wandering the few streets and speaking with just a handful of residents. By my second visit, several months later, some locals remembered me. By visits three and four, some even remembered my name and would stop by my table at the local restaurant for a conversation. I stay away from the heavily touristed villages with all their T­shirt shops and copycat restaurants with “tourist menus” and seek out the small places where local shops don’t even sell postcards. That, to me, is authentic Sicily.

Obviously, first­ time visitors need to spend time in some of those larger places. That’s where the art, the big museums, the reconstructed Greek ruins are, and they must be seen. I’ve been to the Palatine Chapel in Palermo three times and spent Easter Week in world­ famous Enna, so I’ve done my share of “touristing”. Now I want to seek out the hidden, the less well-known, the secret places.

Why do you think Sicily has inspired and continues to encourage writers?

I can only address what inspires me and why I keep going back. Perhaps it is the fatalism of the people who seem to do quite well living in the moment. While many, of course, speak Italian, most grew up in households where Sicilian, a separate language, was spoken. Sicilian has no future tense, and I speculate this is because Sicilians over three thousand years had no future to look forward to; it was always in the hands of outsiders. Plus they live in a place historically wracked by earthquakes, bloody Mafia control, and occasional catastrophic volcanic eruptions. They view Etna as a giver and a taker: Its lava ­enriched soil gives an incredible bounty ­­ almonds, wine, lemons, oranges ­­ but Etna can kill you in an instant. The sour with the sweet. All this has helped shape a unique Sicilian mindset that has intrigued generations of writers, both from within and without.

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Who is the one Sicilian writer who spoke to you most clearly?

There are many Sicilian writers with whom I did not get acquainted, at least not yet. But of the dozen or so I have read and written about, it has to be Leonardo Sciascia and Giuseppe di Lampedusa. If you only read those two, you would be on your way to a basic understanding of who Sicilians are. Of course, go back a few years and explore Luigi Pirandello and Giovanni Verga, and watch the Visconti films “The Leopard” and La terra trema.

How is Sicily so different from the rest of Italy?

Sicilians famously do not consider themselves Italian. The only time, perhaps ­­ and I say this flippantly, of course, ­­ that they claim to be Italians is when Italy is a finalist in World Cup Soccer. They are different for all the reasons I’ve mentioned ­­ 3,000 years of being ruled by at least 15 or so outsiders, the dangers of everyday life, etc. ­­ but also because of their awareness that those in the north of Italy only want them for their military service or their labour in automobile factories or as maids in their homes. Just recently, a northern Italian Member of Parliament said he considered that sending his home soccer team to play in Palermo was the same as sending it to Africa. Sicilians do not feel they are part of the peninsula. Rome lets Sicily’s roads deteriorate while pouring money into the north. Funds might be sent down for a project, but when the money runs out, work is stopped, often for years. One of my earliest memories while driving around eastern Sicily in the mid­1980s was highway off­ramps heading to nowhere, abandoned ends of bridges over highways with no middle span, unfinished apartment houses and factories, all left to rust and crumble. Sicilian oranges are left to rot unpicked while Rome strikes a deal with Morocco to import oranges in exchange for North Africans buying Fiats made in the north of Italy. It’s complicated, and what I have cited here barely scratches the surface.

 

I know you are a real Italophile and have written extensively about Italy, please tell us more about the subjects of your books.

My first book, “A Sweet and Glorious Land: Revisiting the Ionian Sea”, is about southern Italy, particularly Naples, Calabria, Basilicata, and Puglia. Then came “Venice Against the Sea: A City Besieged”. It deals with Venice’s struggle with high water in the face of global climate change. My Sicily book was third (“Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean”). Fourth is “Hidden Tuscany: Discovering Art, Culture, and Memories in a Well ­Known Region’s Unknown Places”. The fourth deals with western Tuscany, which many travellers to Tuscany ignore while spending their time along the region’s east side.

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You mentioned you will be back in Sicily tell us a little more about your trip and next book.

The Sicily book, in particular, seems to have struck a chord with the travelling public (as well as a lot of the third­ and fourth ­generation Sicilian Americans!). That tells my publisher and me that interest in the island remains high. I have travelled through the same places many times ­­ for research and to take family and friends on visits there ­­, and I want now to find places visitors seldom if ever, get to. So book five will be an exploration of the island seeking out those places. I’ll miss a lot, to be sure, but I’ll also discover a lot as well. There is no title as yet. The release is tentatively scheduled for Spring/Summer 2018.

 

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Thanks so much to John Keahey for finding the time to answer my questions. Molto gentile. I love your book and on behalf of all of your readers, I thank you for writing it, as it has enriched our knowledge of Sicily.

For more information about John Keahey’s books and impressive book trailer for Seeking Sicily see his author page here.

The new book Sicilian Splendors: Discovering the Secret Places that Speak to the Heart has just been released this November (2018) fall and is available on Amazon.

Seeking Sicily is also still available on Book Depository and Amazon.

Syracuse: City of legends an interview with Jeremy Dummett

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Jeremy Dummett is a lover of history, a dedicated Italophile and a frequent visitor to Sicily. It was while on a trip to Syracuse in 2005 that the seeds of an idea were planted.

Dummett became interested in the history of ancient Siracusa, he discovered an immense amount of literature referring to this city and found no recent publications about this amazingly rich place in English, and so Syracuse: City of Legends (I.B Taurus, London 2010) was born.

The book offers us a wonderfully complete insight into ancient Greek Syracuse, with many exciting links to historical figures such as Socrates, Plato, Archimedes and Cicero.

The city of legends places Syracuse firmly in the timeline of history with exciting insights into Roman Sicily, the early Catholic church, the Byzantine and Arab periods and an intriguing look at Caravaggio’s connection to the city.

The book is divided into two parts, the first dedicated to the history of Syracuse and a second part which is a general guide to the city where Dummett gives us the benefit of his extensive knowledge as a frequent visitor.

Syracuse: City of legends is both an excellent general history of Sicily, a resource for anyone wanting to know more about this place from its origins to recent times and a general tourist guide for first-time visitors.

I recall visiting the Baroque city of Noto last year which is near Syracuse and asking around at many bookstores for a good general history book about this city, but I only managed to find one in Italian which was an architectural book about the project to rebuild the city after a major earthquake in 1693.

Dummett has also published another book about Palermo.

I did a brief email interview with him last year as he was launching his new book where we talked more about this work.

 

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Tell us about your first book Syracuse: City of Legends.

It tells the story of Syracuse, from its foundation by Greeks in the eighth century BC up to modern times, combined with a survey of the monuments. It is the first historical guide to the city.

Why Syracuse? What brought you to this place for the subject of a book?

The book developed out of several visits to Sicily, staying in Syracuse. I could find no book that told the story of the city, which is filled with monuments from different eras. The atmosphere of the place struck my imagination. Back in London, I started research out of curiosity which led to a draft for the book.

And you now have a new book about Palermo, tell us about this new work and how the two places are similar or do they have different personalities?

My book on Palermo follows the same format, so it is another historical guide. The two cities could hardly be more different, geographically or historically. Syracuse was famous in antiquity, as one of the great Greek cities, equal in size to Athens. Palermo was famous in the Middle Ages when it took over from Syracuse as the leading city of Sicily. The Arabs made it their capital of the island in the ninth century AD. The modern cities have very different personalities. Syracuse is primarily a tourist destination. Palermo is the hectic capital of Sicily, the centre of government for the island, a commercial centre and university town, as well as a tourist destination.

What is the most fascinating element of Syracuse and Palermo you want to share with us?

Syracuse: an ancient Greek harbour city, built in golden sandstone. Later it was a centre for early Christianity. There are clear links to the ancient Greek civilisation in the cathedral, which was built around a Greek temple, in the archaeological museum and the Euryalus castle. The early Christians are remembered by the extensive catacombs.

Palermo: a medieval city of the Arabs and Normans, capital of the powerful kingdom of Sicily, which has retained a strong North African feel. Later it became the baroque city ruled by Spanish viceroys. Links to the Arab-Norman civilisation can be seen in the cathedral, the Palatine chapel, Monreale, the Zisa and the Martorana. The baroque style dominates the city, to be seen in churches, palaces and public squares.

Why do you think people are so fascinated by Sicily?

It offers a unique combination of attractions. As an island, it has stunning natural beauty, to which generations have added spectacular urban architecture. The history, monuments and literature are all of outstanding interest. It is very varied by region, with something for everyone. The combination of ancient ruins, sparkling beaches, unspoilt countryside and wonderful food is hard to beat. Not being overdeveloped means that a holiday in Sicily is still something of an adventure.

Sicily has such a complex history, how did you manage to navigate through its immense history? Tell us a bit about the Sicilian history you discovered.

I concentrated upon one city at a time, which makes the task more manageable. Most books on Sicily follow the format set in the eighteenth century by writers such as Goethe, which involve a tour around the island. By concentrating on one city, the history, though still complex, is continuous and easier to follow. Sicily has such great regional differences that you really need to look at each region, or city, in turn.

Symbol of Sicily

What’s your own personal link to Sicily, how have you found your way to this place?

Purely by visiting Sicily and becoming fascinated by it. Sicily and Italy, in general, is currently going through an economic and political decline, are you at all concerned about how this could affect historically important cities like Syracuse and Palermo, what is your opinion of the current situation.

The current economic crisis is very apparent and difficult to manage. On the plus side, it is concentrating minds on how to develop in the future. There is huge potential in both cities for increased cultural tourism.

Syracuse seems already to be reaping the benefits of increased numbers of visitors. In Palermo, improvements continue to be made to make the city more attractive to visitors. Central areas such as Piazza San Domenico are now free of traffic while La Cala, the old port, has a walkway around it with new bar-restaurants from which to view the yachts and fishing boats. A clear way forward is emerging from a very difficult period.

What would you like people to get out of your books, what was the reason behind them?

I would like readers to understand what these cities are about, their backgrounds, their stories and how they relate to the monuments to be seen today. No such books currently exist which was the reason for writing them.

You have an academic background tell us a little about your professional life.

See bio on my website.

Are there any other interesting projects you are currently working on that you want to tell us about?

Not yet! I am still working on the follow up to the launch of my Palermo book.

Thanks so much to Jeremy Dummett for finding the time to answer my questions. Molto gentile. I love your book and on behalf do all of your readers I thank you for writing it, as it has enriched our knowledge of Sicily.

Syracuse, City of Legends and his other book about Palermo is available on Amazon  and the Book Depository.

His new book Palermo, city of Kings: the heart of Sicily is also available on Amazon and the Book Depository.

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Trinàcria: A tale of Bourbon Sicily an interview with Anthony Di Renzo

Reading Trinacria

One of the most surprising discoveries on my journey to know and understand Sicily better has been Anthony Di Renzo’s book Trinàcria (Guernica, Toronto 2013) which eloquently evokes the spirit of Sicily.

Di Renzo gathers threads from Bourbon Sicily through the periods most vibrant characters and to bring their energy back to life. With the voice of the Marchesa of Scalea, he creates an eccentric aristocrat character filled with sarcasm, arrogance and shrewd observation.

Trinàcria begins as a Hollywood director is set to film a big budget historical film in Sicily, akin to Visconti’s cinematic masterpiece the Leopard in 1963. The director inadvertently reawakens the spirit of the cantankerous Marchesa who is quite peeved she is being used as the inspiration for cinema and consequently tells us her life’s story, revealing herself to be the Trinàcria of the title.

This tale from nineteenth-century Sicily is intriguingly dark, gothic and morbid as the movie director directly addresses the mummified remains of the long dead Sicilian noble deep in the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo.

The Marchesa’s eternal soul irreverently comments on the ironies of life in a rich monologue about life, death and human hypocrisy.

Following the memories of Trinàcria, we meet other key figures from this period including Garibaldi, the Neapolitan poet Leopardi and opera composer Giuseppe Verdi.

Di Renzo’s novella is a fantastic work dominated by the vivid energy of Sicilian history and is a must-read for anyone who wants to viscerally experience the spirit of Marchesa Zita Valanguerra Spinelli who is part of a genuinely a haunting literary experience.

Not content in merely reviewing this excellent book I pestered Anthony Di Renzo for an interview, which I am happy to share with you.

He answered my questions about the background to this beautiful book and a little bit about the fascinating Sicilian American academic who created it.

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Tell us about your book Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily.

In one sense, Trinàcria is a ghost story. Zita Valanguerra Spinelli, the Marchesa of Scalea, posthumously narrates the events of her life from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo. The book is literally a tale from the crypt, a bit of Sicilian Gothic fit for November, the Month of the Dead. In another sense, Trinàcria is a meditation on Sicilian history and politics. Most English and American readers think the book is only about the past. Most Sicilian readers, however, claim it is also about the present. The novel has much to say about globalization and neoliberal economic reform.

How on earth did you come across the Marchesa of Scalea?

The Marchesa is based on Alessandra Spadafora (1778-1851), the Duchess of Santa Rosalia, who was the mistress and eventually the wife of Benjamin Ingham, the Anglo Sicilian wine merchant. I first read about her in Princes Under the Volcano, Raleigh Trevelyan’s history of Sicily’s Marsala dynasties. A daguerreotype, taken when Donna Alessandra was a shrunken old gargoyle in bombazine, captivated me.

As I stared at the portrait, the old woman’s lips seemed to move. A hollow voice in my head whispered the opening to Giacomo Leopardi’s Chorus of the Dead: “Sola nel mondo eterna, a cui si volve/ Ogni creata cosa . . .” O Death, alone immortal on earth, unto whom every created thing must come, our disembodied natures now come. The rest of the novel followed from there.

But there is a more sinister backstory to your relationship with the Marchesa. Fill us in on what happened when you ignored her?

The Marchesa originally was a supporting character and an alternate narrator in a multigenerational novel called After the Fair is Over. She played Juno to the Aeneas of that book’s protagonist: her immigrant great-grandson, Attilio Tumeo, A powerful literary agent advised me to cut her story to make the manuscript more marketable. My wife, a student of Jungian psychology, warned against this. The Marchesa, she reminded me, represented the chthonic female energy of pagan Sicily. Did I really want to mess with that? I told her not to be so superstitious. I was the Sicilian, not she. Unless I played ball, I would never get a book contract.

Shortly after cutting the Marchesa, I was stricken with viral meningitis. For three months, my brain was on fire. I dreamt a jellyfish swam in my skull and stung me. When I described this to my mother, she exclaimed, “‘A medusa!” Medusa is the Sicilian word for jellyfish. Clearly, I had pissed off the Furies and vowed to make amends. After a long convalescence, marked by chronic migraines, I restored, revised, and expanded the Marchesa’s story until it became Trinàcria. This process took seven years. I hope the results please her as much as they please me.

But you still had problems finding a publisher for Trinàcria. Tell us about that.

Dozens of American editors rejected Trinàcria. Nobody, they declared, wanted to read about a Sicilian Marchesa, especially a dead one, unless she had written a cookbook.  Granted, Donna Zita made a mean pasta Bellini, but she was no Anna Tasca Lanza.  Unlike that other culinary Marchesa, she had never started a cooking school at Regaleali or served as a consultant for Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.’s Italian Classics line.

Do you think perhaps one of the problems for publishers was the subject of death and the afterlife? Was it too confronting? Why did publishers have such a problem with her?

Actually, novels with posthumous narrators, such as Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, are quite popular in America. Vampire and zombie fiction also sells well. But the Marchesa, a more frightening harpy, is a foreigner from an alien time. She represents the unappeasable and irredeemable past, everything secular commercial democracies had to demonize and destroy to justify their existence. Nobody wanted to stare that gorgon in the face for fear of turning into stone. 

Have you ever visited the Catacombs at Palermo? What are they really like? Did the dead really speak to you?

My mother claims to have taken me to Palermo’s Catacombe dei Cappuccini, but mercifully, I have no memory of this early childhood trauma. Sicilian friends and relatives, however, have described the experience in gloating detail. All cultures enjoy haunted houses as a carnival attraction, but the Capuchin crypt surpasses anything in Disney World. The dioramas are more astonishing, not to mention more political. Individually, the mummies represent the vanity of a specific social class or profession; collectively, they symbolize jaded humanity’s awakening at the Last Judgment.

But one needn’t take a dark ride or a ghost train at an amusement park to contact the dead. One simply needs to be tuned to their frequency. When I was a boy, I was like Haley Joel in The Sixth Sense: I saw dead people all the time. My nickname was Antonio degli Spiriti. Now, these visitations rarely happen, which is for the best. Anglo-American culture tends to classify this phenomenon as schizophrenia. I just think of it as an alternative cell-phone plan.

Does dead frighten you?

Not at all. All Souls Day, il Giorno dei Morti, is one of my favourite Catholic feasts. It’s the living who scare the shit out of me. If you’ve ever washed C-Span or the Republican Presidential Primary Debates on Fox News, you know exactly what I mean.

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Speaking of ghosts, Sicily has so much fascinating history. How did you settle on the Bourbon period? Tell us a little about this phase in Sicily’s history.

The Bourbon period marked the transition from feudal to modern Sicily. Death throes and birth pangs simultaneously convulsed the region. It was a period of repressive reaction and violent revolution. Its paradoxes and contradictions have attracted such diverse Sicilian writers as Frederico de Roberto, Luigi Pirandello, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, and Leonardo Sciascia. As a Sicilian American, however, I am more fascinated by the political oppression and economic corruption that eventually caused the Sicilian Diaspora.

How did you manage to balance the history and fictional elements in Trinàcria?

The novel’s theme provided the balance. Trinàcria confronts the problems of representation and the perils and seductions of memory. I’m reminded of that wonderful line in John Ford’s elegiac Western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That is why the novel’s frame deals with a movie director’s attempt to shoot an epic about the Risorgimento in Palermo during the centennial of Garibaldi’s invasion. That director, of course, is based on Luchino Visconti.

Apart from the larger-than-life character of the Marchesa you also used some very significant historical characters. Tell us about your interpretations of Leopardi, Verdi, Garibaldi, Bellini, Benjamin Ingham and Joseph Whitaker. How much poetic license did you use?

Except for stage-managing encounters with fictional characters, I used little poetic license with the novel’s historical figures. Most of their dialogue is based on their own letters and journals or on contemporary newspapers and eyewitness accounts. Even the book’s most fantastic sequences—the sudden disappearance of the volcanic island of Ferdinandea, the grandiose speeches and surreal displays at the Great Exhibition—are historically accurate.    

What’s your own personal link to Sicily?

My maternal ancestors were petty Spanish aristocrats who settled in Bagheria in the early 18th century. My great-grandfather, Antonino Coffaro, moved to Villabate in the mid-19th century and studied horticulture at the University of Palermo. He supplied Garibaldi with food and ammo before the siege of Palermo and sold citrus to Ingham & Whitaker.

Do you visit Sicily often? What is your favourite Sicilian memory or experience?

I have not visited Sicily since I was a small boy. It would be too painful. All my relatives are dead or dispersed. Worse, Villabate, once the centre of the Conca d’Oro’s citrus industry, is now an industrial zone. But I have two vivid memories from those early years. The first is sitting in a tangerine orchard at dawn and luxuriating in the healing fragrance. At the time, I was quite sickly, and my mother practised this Sicilian form of aromatherapy to restore health. The second is eavesdropping on relatives and neighbours who had participated as extras in Visconti’s film adaptation of The Leopard. Some of their anecdotes appear in Trinàcria.

Tell us about any other books you are working on.

I am still working on After the Fair is Over, the story of Donna Zita’s great-grandson in America and am currently correcting the galleys for Dead Reckoning: Transatlantic Passages on Europe and America, a collection of lyric essays and prose poems about postmodernity and globalization co-written with Andrei Guruinau. State University of New York Press will publish next spring.

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You are also an academic. Tell us a little about your professional life.

I primarily teach business and technical writing at Ithaca College in Upstate New York. This is fitting for two reasons. First, I worked for several years as a publicist, copywriter, and medical writing before attending graduate school. Despite earning a masters and a doctorate respectively in British and American Literature, I still experience English as the language of public and private institutions and the marketplace. Sicilian remains my mother tongue, and my literary models tend to be Southern Italian and Latin American writers.

How difficult is it to publish literary fiction these days? Tell us about your experiences and strategies.

Commercial publishing rarely values literary fiction, particularly literary fiction that challenges readers and deviates from the conventions of Anglo-American realism. As Nat Sobel once told me, it would be almost impossible for a Gabriel Garcia Marquez to publish A Hundred Years of Solitude today. Ethnic writers are forced to network. Frank Polizzi, editor of Feile-Feste: The Literary Arts Journal of the Mediterranean Celtic Association, and Michael Mirolla, editor-in-chief of Guernica Editions, believed in Trinàcria, but the book never would have been published without help from Debra Santangelo, founder and president of Sicilian Connections, and Roberto Ragone, a consultant and fundraiser, or without the sponsorship of the Italian Cultural Foundation at Casa Belvedere

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You contribute to and help sustain such online publications as The Times of Sicily and L’Italo Americano. Tell us about these projects and how important they are to you.

As Ignazio Buttitta observes in Lingua e dialettu, Southern Italians and their descendants are playing for their lives on a disintegrating mandolin. Every day, another string breaks in the middle of a song. For all its rhetoric about diversity and multiculturalism, global capitalism systematically destroys local cultures and languages to facilitate universal consumption. If we don’t fight to preserve our heritage, nobody else will.

Are there any other interesting projects you are currently working on that you want to tell us about?

When I’m not writing or teaching, I sing English and Italian comic opera in regional music companies. This probably explains my work’s Rossinian brio and sarcasm. Trinàcria treats history and politics as an opera buffa. Unfortunately, the joke is on us.

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Thanks so much to Anthony Di Renzo for finding the time to answer my questions. Molto gentile. I love your book and on behalf do all of your readers thank you for writing it as it has enriched our knowledge of Sicily’s history and character.

Trinàcria: A Tale of Bourbon Sicily is available on Amazon and Book Depository.

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The poetry of Theresa Maggio

Theresa Maggio

One of the most surprising finds in my journey into Sicily was the discovery of the works of American journalist Theresa Maggio.

Her concise poetic prose distils the true essence of Sicily in an almost intoxicating style.
Maggio’s intimate memoirs are delicate little stories which distil the essence of the character of the island.

From the ancient traditions in her novella Mattanza; love and death in the sea of Sicily where she describes the great blue tuna being lifted out the men harvest the bluefin, lifting them by hand from a labyrinthine trap used by fishermen at Favignana. The fishermen no longer use this technique, with the advent of commercial fishing this tradition has ended, yet the songs and struggles of these workers are lovingly recorded by Maggio for prosperity.

The distinct personality of the isolated old towns in her second book, The stone boudoir; travels through the hidden villages of Sicily are wonderfully evocative. Maggio’s ability to paint such vivid portraits, allows us to visit these rustic mountain towns and the women who help to keep them alive.

Her voice was one of the first voices I heard from Sicily, and it indeed spoke loudly, clearly and directly to my romantic, poetic soul.

I was thrilled to get in contact with Theresa Maggio and talk to her about her work.

 

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Your first two books Mattanza and Stone Boudoir came from a part of your own personal family history and experience tell us about how they happened together.

Yes, my first connection to Sicily was through my family. I first went there when I was still in college to see where my paternal grandparents had come from and to meet the relatives who were still there.

Back home years later I actually started writing about the little towns I had visited in 1986, when I lived in Mondello, where Piero the fisherman would take care of my dog while I went off on bus joy rides into the hinterlands. Santa Margherita Belice, my ancestral town, was one of my destinations. But so was Favignana. My friend, writer Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) , was my first reader, God bless her, and when she read the Favignana chapter I guess it popped and she said, “Here’s your book. Write this.” And that was how Mattanza was born. But I still had all these stories I wanted to tell about beautiful little medieval mountain towns, so as soon as Mattanza was finished I wrote a five-page proposal for Stone Boudoir and Perseus Books, Mattanza’s publisher, bought that too.

How would you describe your books to someone who has never read them?

Colourful narrative nonfiction that makes you feel like you were there.

Was it difficult to find an audience/publisher for these books at all?

HAH. For the first one? You bet. I had given up. It took years. I saved all my rejection notes. A simple “no thanks” would have sufficed, but one editor wrote back something like, ”WhatEVER made you think I or anyone else would POSSIBLY be interested in reading a book about men killing tuna?” You’ve got to have a thick skin. No matter, I used it for fuel (“I’ll show HIM!) and forged ahead.

Years later when the book was about to be published I asked my friend and journalism school classmate (and your compatriot), Geraldine Brooks, to read it and write a blurb. She, without knowing about that editor’s stinging comment, came up with this opening line: “If you think you do not want to read a book about the death of tuna, think again….”

I was so pleased with my editor and publisher, Perseus Books, distribution and general treatment at Perseus Books that I offered my second book exclusively to them and they took it with just a mini-proposal and a few sample chapters.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book based on their own family history or heritage?

As for any book, figure out what makes you passionate about your subject and use that for your motor. If your people immigrated, learn the foreign language you need to learn to do the research on site.

You are working on a new book about Palermo, tell us about this new work?

It’s about good people in the historic centre who love their city, be it the people or the stones, and how they show that love by their actions.  

Do you consider yourself an Italo-American writer or does this classification bother you?

I am Siculo-American (and German–American) whether I like or not, and so far all my books have been about Sicily, so I really couldn’t complain even if it did bother me.

Your writing style is beautifully precise, intense and almost poetic, are you at all influenced by the poetic genre and if so by who.

Thanks for such a wonderful compliment. You know, back in grade school the nuns had us memorize and recite stanzas of nineteenth-century poems. I think something rubs off. I learned to appreciate rhythm and rhyme. Robert Frost is my favourite, but I also liked John Donne. I used to compose poems when I was a kid, but then I quit because I wasn’t very good at it, and for other reasons, but I thought that from then on I would turn my energy to write better declarative sentences.

Also, in journalism school, one professor advised us to read a favourite author the night before writing a piece, because that author will flavour your writing. It is true, and it works.

I actually do write a poem in the morning these days, with my left hand, as a warm-up, and to connect to the right hemisphere of my brain. I think it works and sometimes the poems are funny.

Sicilian Cart

Do you visit Sicily often? How would you describe contemporary Sicily?

Well, legally, without a visa, I can only be there for three months out of the year. So recently it has been nearly once a year, for three months at a time to get the most value out of a plane ticket.

The second question – too big for my brain.

You have a background as a journalist, do you think this has influenced your writing if so how?

Definitely. You know being classified as an Italian-American writer doesn’t bother me but having my books reviewed as memoirs really grates. Because in memoirs you can filch and make up quotes and facts you supposedly remember from long ago, whereas I consider my books first-person narrative non-fiction. Every word is true. I wrote Mattanza in such a way that it could be fact-checked by the New Yorker, just in case they ever wanted to publish an excerpt. (Never happened.) They might have had a hard time fact-checking the dream I reported, but I do keep a dream journal.

Why do you find yourself returning to Sicily as a subject for your books, I’m sure it’s quite personal, but what captivates you so much about this island?

Sicily has been a good muse, that is true. You cannot beat it for natural beauty, climate, strata of history, cuisine and character of the people. Sicily is also affordable. I don’t have a lot of money, and when I go there I can rent a room in an apartment share or stay with friends who put me up in Catania. I speak Italian, understand a lot of dialects, I’ve done the reading, I have the contacts, I know and love the territory, so it is fertile ground for me. Like I said, you can peel Sicily like an onion and have an ever-deeper understanding of and appreciation for the island. Yes, if I had more money I would expand my territory. I never made it to Corsica in 1986 when I was sidetracked by a Mondello fisherman; I’d still like to go there and explore. I’d like to spend a year on the Isle of Jura, in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides, with 5,000 red deer and not 200 people, where George Orwell holed up to write 1984 because the place was “un-get-attable”. But there is a satisfaction in knowing one place really well.

Do you have a favourite Italian or Sicilian author you want to share with us?

I’ve read Lampedusa’s The Leopard four times. I loved Vitaliano Brancati’s Don Giovanni in Sicilia. But Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series I just devour like popcorn. And immediately want more.

Are you working on any other interesting projects?

On the back burner until I sell this book (wish me luck): My video documentary about the incredible feast of Saint Agatha in Catania. It is ready to be edited, and is partially edited, but needs a professional touch and funding.

Sicilian Prickly Pears

A million thanks to Theresa Maggio for answering my questions and for the gift of her beautiful books about Sicily.

Her first Mattanza; love and death in the sea of Sicily is currently out of print but can be tracked down through your local public library while  The stone boudoir; travels through the hidden villages of Sicily is available on Amazon.

While her new book about Palermo is something to look forward to.

To read more about Theresa Maggio see her web page and YouTube channel (Vermont and Sicily), she always graciously replies to emails.

Theresa Maggio

Theresa Maggio says:

I was raised in Carlstadt, NJ, went to Catholic schools from K through 12. Double majored in French and English at Wells College, worked summers at a lodge cum stable in Vermont. Hitchhiked the states and some of Europe, learned to tend bar, cocktail waitressed, became a laser optics technician in Vermont, then was recruited by Los Alamos National Laboratory to work in their captive optics shop. Went to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and returned to Los Alamos as a science writer, covering, among other divisions, the nuclear weapons designers and the Nevada Test Site. Quit to go live with a fisherman I met on vacation in Mondello, Sicily and the rest is history.

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Blogging around the world: Tahira’s Shenanigans

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Tahira from Tahira’s Shenanigan’s hiking through Wadi Rum, Jordan

 

Blogging is about finding that right balance of personality, photography, fun and words to make others want to read and comment.

 

One of my favorite blogs which has found this harmonious mix is Tahira’s Shenanigans, which I accidentally came across while searching out travel blogs to inspire me and it is a real treasure.

 

Tahira is a cardiovascular critical care nurse from the States who is currently working in Saudi Arabia and writes about her travels around the world in amazing places like: Thailand, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan.

 

I was excited when she agreed to do an interview with me and she happily answered my questions about traveling and blogging:

 

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On top of the world in Scotland

 

You are a very well travelled person, tell us about the most fascinating place you have visited and why was it so fascinating?

I have two parts to answering this question.

While I have been fortunate to travel to a lot of different places, I must admit, the place where I have been living as an ex­pat these last two years, without a doubt, is the most fascinating. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is by far the most different and the most removed from anything I, as a Westerner from a free & democratic society, have ever experienced. For me to put into words, at this time, why it is so fascinating would take up way too much of our blog time and use up all of my word count as your Guest Blogger. So I will leave that for a different forum.

In the meantime the most fascinating place I visited, outside of The Kingdom, has to be Sri Lanka. Where the people were so friendly it almost tears one up, but at the same time they live with so little. It’s where my eyes truly opened up to the fact that one does not need much to be happy. That the material things in life were not the most important. Repeatedly I was overwhelmed by the Sri Lankans generosity. It was a solo trip I made and throughout the week or so I was there I came across countless people who opened up their homes to me, invited me to their dinner table, gave me their help and time in getting from one place to the next, all without asking for anything in return except my friendship and company. How amazing a feeling.

 

How do you plan and fund your trips?

I get lots of inquiries to this so I’m glad you addressed it here. I work full time as a cardiac critical care nurse in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. Not only do I get 52 vacations days right off the bat but I can also manipulate my work schedule where I have time off without using vacation time. Meaning I work, work, work, and save up my scheduled days off and then use them all at once and in turn not be dipping into my vacations days.

And as far as funding, I keep a little “travel fund” where I put a small portion from each salary into. Being in the Middle East is a perfect spot to be in because I feel I’ve been centrally located to be able to get to a lot of places that under normal circumstances would not only be very time­consuming and tiring but very expensive to get to were I traveling to them from the States, lets say.

And as for planning, there is not really a set pattern to my “planning”. Some of the places have been spontaneous and some have been planned way in advance. There are a lot of like minded individuals here in Saudi Arabia who I’ve gotten a lot of suggestions and tips from and I follow a lot of travel blogs where I’ve also gotten several ideas. So I’ll pull a little from here, a little from there, and somehow it all always just seems to work out perfectly.

 

You often travel alone, any advice for people who like to travel solo?

I get asked this a lot too. My biggest advice is to be open. Open to change, to new ideas, to cultures, to different ways of doing things. Change is going to happen no matter what and I’ve learned that that is magnified especially when one is traveling. Something is going to happen to throw a wrench into your plans. It’s inevitable. And when traveling solo things are magnified because you’ve only got yourself to rely on. Things that one thinks is a ‘big deal’ almost always turns out that it’s not really all that big of a deal. I have learned the true meaning of acceptance. Acceptance of change. Acceptance that just because you have an idea of what something should be like, does not mean that is how it will be. And let me also say that for the most part, these changes, these problems, these wrenches that have popped up in my travels have usually steered me to something even better. My second piece of advice is to get lost ­ and this kind of ties in with being open to change and acceptance part. Get lost out there, it’s when I’ve been lost that I have come upon the most beauty.

 

You have built up quite a following on your blog, do you have any advice for new bloggers?

Be yourself.
Unless you are really serious. Then don’t be so serious.
I think it is really important to not take oneself so seriously all the time. Or take their blog so seriously all the time. Leave some room for some fun.

 

Do you think the world is becoming a smaller place? Why or why not?

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we are so connected nowadays via the internet. Through blogging alone I have friends in all corners of the world that I’ve met and we actually have true friendships. And I have countless stories of bumping into folks I know in the most remote or random of places ­ The Irish Bar in Dubai. The TGV train from Paris to Toulon. The coffee shop in the Istanbul Airport. Hiking in the Saudi Arabian desert. And the list goes on.

But I’m going to say no as well. This world is so vast and big. I’ve only covered a very small portion of what is out there. It’s endless. Which makes all the possibilities endless.

 

What do you think about the expat life? Why do you think so many people choose to be expats?

Because it feels like you are on one long vacation. Even though I’ve been working (a lot) these last two years, I still feel as if I’ve been on a two year vacation.

 

What led you into the world of blogging?

I wanted a centralized way of keeping my friends and family updated of my status. Some of my friends/family were on Facebook, some on Twitter, some on neither. So I sent out the link to the blog to all of them and they had a choice to come and check­in and see what I was up to. Little did I know I would be introduced to an entire new world, the world of blogging and bloggers, and have an entirely new network of friendships from all over the world. And it’s been the absolute most positive experience. Once I realized just how supportive and encouraging and helpful the blogging community is I was hooked.

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A typical Saudi family ­ what the men wear and how the women are covered.

Do you have any culture shock related stories to share?

Well. Yes, most definitely. As I mentioned early Saudi Arabia is not exactly what Westerners are use to. It is the most conservative country in the world. They live and operate under a whole different set of rules. Outside of the Diplomatic Quarters women and men do not mingle, there is no alcohol, no bars, no cafe’s, men wear these long white robes and women are covered from head to toe in all black. And that is just the tip of the iceberg….

Tell us about your blog …

Well. It’s a cornucopia of stuff. It’s about my adventures, the traveling I’ve done, my evolving photography, it’s about where I’ve been and where I’m going. At last look I had just about 700 followers of the blog and I am so extremely grateful, but at the same time a bit perplexed, that people are actually interested in what I have to say. There are some moody posts, I share things I’ve learned, things that inspire me, things that make me happy, but in the end it’s mostly about the changes and the growth that I’ve gone through since moving to Saudi Arabia. As I looked back over the blog I saw how the blog has evolved and I realized I’ve evolved right alongside the blog. And I think that’s what keeps folks coming back for more and brings the new followers around as well.

Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favourite travel book which you think best describes a particular place or the art of travel in a particular way for those who are unable to travel.

I love this question. It got me to remember a book I read some years back that I simply adored. I just pulled it up and I think I’m actually going to re­read it now. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Women by Alice Steinbach. A remarkable book written by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with the back drop being Paris, Oxford, and Milan. It’s almost like a book of postcards depicting her journey physically and metaphysically.

What would be your ultimate dream trip?

Ah. Tough question. I don’t really have a “dream” trip. It’s what I’m in the mood for at the moment. What calls to my soul. Being a beach­bum at one moment. Hiking mountains the next. I could be craving a hidden cabin deep in the Alaskan wilderness. And sometimes I need the pulse of a major metropolitan city, the feel of the underground and elbow to elbow with all the city dwellers. If I’m living and experiencing what my heart desires, I suppose at that moment that is my dream trip.

Complete this phrase: I travel because …

not only to understand other people and cultures but more so to understand myself. Travel far enough, you meet yourself.

What are the five things you would definitely never leave home without …

Camera, iPod, Kindle, travel size baby wipes, and a hat(s)

You always have the best shots on your blog, so tell us what camera do you use and perhaps a little advice on how to get a decent photo.

I have a Nikon 5100. Honestly, everything I know about taking a decent photo has been by trial and error. My advice, take a lot of shots, one is bound to turn out good.

So what’s coming up on Tahira’s Shenanigans that we can look forward to …

Perfect timing of this question. And it’s the perfect forum to announce that I will be leaving The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within the next few months. While it’s been an amazing two years, it’s time to head on out and conquer other parts of the world. I am craving The America’s and everything American. I’m returning to North America and that’s all I’m prepared to announce at this time. But I promise there will definitely be more shenanigan’s and there is so much I am looking forward to. The options are wide open and endless….

Have you discovered any other wonderful travel or expat blogs that we should be reading?

There are so many wonderful expat & travel blogs out there. One of the combined travel/ex-pat blogs I simply love following is Journey Around The Globe.

It’s a blog by a mom of two, from the United States living in Belgium with her family and traveling across Europe (and Asia, and Africa.) I am all about Europe so following along on blog has been pure joy. The photography is spectacular and the writing is a class act.

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The South of France, Le Croix Valmer wine country.

Thanks so much to Tahira’s Shenanigans a totally inspiring travel blog. I must recommend taking a look at some gobsmacking fantastic photos as Tahira is sharing some images from her adventures every week, there are new photos with a pinch of wisdom to reflect on too!

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A Sicilian Summer with Brian Johnston

Photo by Tomas Anton Escobar on Unsplash

I’ve always been a lover of the travel writing genre, ever since my mother gave me a paperback of Bill Bryson’s ‘Neither here nor there’ which took me backpacking through Europe before I left high school. Since then I have made my way through many travel writing classics from Paul Theroux to Bruce Chatwin. Many great writers throughout history have also been great travellers.

Together with contemporary travel writing, there is also the historical travelogue which not only does it allows you to explore a particular part of the world but gives you a sense of how people from other centuries travelled and how the specific destination has changed through time.
While doing research for my own attempt at this genre after a decade of living in Sicily, I came across the work of Brian Johnston who has become one of my favourite writers. His book Sicilian Summer: a story of honour, religion and the perfect cassata is a beautiful read and captures the spirit of this mysterious Mediterranean island while guiding us through its cuisine, history and culture.

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Invited by a friend to visit family in Sicily Johnston takes the opportunity to experience some wonderful Italian hospitality. What he discovers is not only the vibrant cuisine of Sicily but also the seductive way the islands infectious personality can draw you in.

As Brian Johnston himself says about his one Summer in Sicily:
I found myself unexpectedly swept up in flamboyant family dramas and complex village politics, eccentric personalities and age-old feuds. As the cover blurb puts it, this is “a delicious and wholly irresistible tale of passion, power, politics and pasta”.

It also turns out Johnston is a professional, down to earth and approachable guy who graciously accepted to do a ‘virtual’ interview via email and I was thrilled to talk with him.

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How would you describe your books to someone who has never read your work?

My books are travel books on a simple level, inviting the reader to discover a destination, but I also like to infuse them with some of my personality – after all, it’s a place seen through my own very particular eyes. And I hope they are thoughtful, thought-provoking and amusing as well. I don’t think anyone should take themselves too seriously.

 

Do you have a certain method when you are working on a travel writing piece? For example, how did something like Sicilian Summer come about?

Sicilian Summer just started with being inspired and jotting down notes of my experiences and thoughts wherever I went. Then trying to make some semblance of order and sense out of them, and a whole lot of extra research when I returned. I suppose even short articles work more or less the same way in miniature. Good note taking at source is certainly the basis of any good travel piece.

 

Montalto is the fictionalized town in Sicilian Summer, what is the real small Sicilian town near Messina it was inspired by? Why did you feel the need to disguise the name in your book?

There would be no point in disguising the name if I was going to tell you where it really is! I just felt that, given I was writing about the personal lives of so many people in that village, that I should protect their privacy. You know, writers always dream of having bestsellers. I had visions of queues of fans knocking on villagers doors… I don’t think they would have wanted that.

 

Have you visited Sicily since writing Sicilian Summer and what else have you discovered about this intriguing island?

Actually, I haven’t been back to Sicily. Sometimes I’m a bit wary about returning to places where I’ve been really happy. They’re never the same the second time around. Sometimes they’re best left in the mind…

 

Sicilian Summer is very much a love letter to Sicilian cuisine. What is your ultimate Sicilian meal from appetizers to dessert and why?

I might start with some pasta puttanesca, fiery with chilli and garlic, and some grilled fish to follow the lemon and capers. The dessert is a hard one, too many temptations. A cassata perhaps.

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Please tell us about your other travel books …

My first book was Boxing with Shadows, an account of the two-and-a-half years I spent living and travelling in China. Humorous encounters with a TV crew, a snake, a drunken shoe salesman and China’s most famous rock star are interwoven with more serious observations on political campaigns and ethnic minorities and balanced with personal reflections.

My second travel book, Into the Never-Never, is about me and my sister Nicola’s adventures across Australia. Sicilian Summer was my third and alas so far my last, apart from contributions to anthologies. Too busy earning money as a journalist!

 

You also have a travel blog The Thoughtful Travel Writer how are you enjoying the world of blogging? Do you think all writers should have a blog or are there simply too many bad blogs out there?

There are a million travel blogs out there. Some may be bad, but most have their market, even if it’s only the 10 people in the blogger’s family. Nothing wrong with that. But I’m not convinced all writers should have a blog. It’s incredibly time-consuming for little or no monetary return. You just have to do it for the joy of it, and hope some readers get pleasure out of it too.

What advice would you give to a writer who wants to get into the travel writing business?

The great Victorian writer John Ruskin observed ‘I know of no genius but the genius of hard work.’ The world is full of travel-writer wannabes, but only hard work and unflagging professionalism will take them from part-timers to professionals.

 

As a freelance writer, how important is it to get great photos for your own articles?  Please tell us what camera do you use and perhaps a little advice on how to get a decent photo.

Few freelancers can get by these days without supplying photos, so it’s very important. I recognize that I’m a better writer than a photographer, so often provide a mix of my own photos and those supplied by tourism offices. I use a Canon EOS. I’ll leave the advice to others better qualified!

 

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Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

 

Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favourite travel book which you think best describes a particular place or the art of travel in a particular way for those who are unable to travel.

When it comes to the art of travel and what travel means, I’m a big fan of Australian author Bruce Chatwin. Try his Songlines or What Am I Doing Here.

Do you think travel writing has become fashionable? If so is this a good or a bad thing?

I think travel writing has come and gone in literary fashion over the decades and even centuries. I’m not sure as a literary genre that it’s that fashionable at the moment – difficult to name a truly well-known travel author since Bill Bryson’s heyday a decade ago. Online travel blogging is another creature; there has certainly been an explosion of interest in that. Surely it must be good that people take such an interest and enjoyment in travel.

What are you working on right now?

An article on Bordeaux for a newspaper travel section, and several articles for various magazine on everything from Singapore to Sydney and New Zealand.

Is there any part of the world you are dying to visit or write about if so where and why?

People always think I’ve been everywhere, but that’s far from the case. I’d love to see East Africa, a place I’ve fantasized about since seeing the movie Out of Africa as a teenager. Seeing those vast animal migrations would be awesome.

Do you think travel writing is about luck or good planning? Why?

There’s no luck involved in travel writing. To be successful in anything takes a lot of hard work and hustle. Outsiders see only the glamorous side, but to make a full-time living as a travel writer takes a lot of exhausting travel, work and marketing.

If you could spend one week in any major city of the planet, where would it be and how would you spend the time?

I know it’s a cliché, but I’d choose Paris to while away a week. It has so many good museums, and the streets are just made for walking. There is beauty all around.

Where is Brian Johnston heading off to next?

Off to Romania and Hungary shortly. Should be interesting!

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Thanks so much to Brian Johnston for finding a moment in his busy schedule to talk, if you want to know more about his work and his current obsession with river cruises see his page here.

For more information about the Sicilian Summer, book be sure to see my review for the Times of Sicily.

If you are interested in reading this delightful piece of travel writing Sicilian Summer: a story of honour, religion and the perfect cassata is available on Book Depository.

 

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Blogging around the world: Maldives Dreamer

I’ve always dreamt of running off to a desert island for a holiday on the beach, snorkeling and eating seafood. To my surprise I found a blogger who does that regularly and has transformed it all into a beautiful blog.

Irene from Maldives Dreamer lives a regular life in Norway, traveling to the Maldives to escape the humdrum of every day life and she takes you along for the ride through her photography and posts which explore these idyllic islands.

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A wonderfully relaxed Irene from Maldives Dreamer at her favourite place in the world!

 

Tell me how you first discovered the Maldives? 

I have always been a beach lover. I love warm and tropical destinations, the ocean and the relaxing beach life with my toes in the sand. While doing research for different trips over the years, the Maldives kept popping up as one of the best beach destinations in the world and was therefore on the top of my bucket list for a long time. However, I was a student at the time and couldn’t afford a trip to the Maldives so I kept dreaming about visiting one day. Once both me and my fiancée got jobs after finishing college, we started saving up money and finally visited the Maldives a year later. We fell in love with this magical place, and have been returning again and again ever since.

How do you plan your trips there, the islands seem terribly isolated, how do you get there from Europe? 

The Maldives are located in the Indian Ocean, just southwest of India. So yes, it’s a long journey from Norway where I live and from Europe in general. There are several routes from Europe, for example British Airways (via London), Condor (via Frankfurt), Austrian Airlines (via Vienna), Edelweiss Air (via Zurich) and Meridiana (via Milan and Rome). The easiest route for us is from Norway to either Frankfurt or London, and then a direct flight to the Maldives from there. When we plan a trip to the Maldives it involves a lot of research. There are over 100 resort islands to choose from, and the islands are more different than you might think, so it’s important to know that the island you end up with is a good match for your criteria and preferences. Once we have decided on an island, we book either directly with the hotel or through a travel agent. The hotel will then arrange transportation from the airport to the island, normally by seaplane or speedboat.

You live in Norway and visit the Maldives often, how do you manage this, is there a terrible culture shock or do the two places have something in common?

Because the Maldives is a Muslim country, there are of course some differences regarding our cultures. However, the locals in the Maldives live on separate islands away from the resort islands in order not to blend with the tourists. This means that you will not be able to experience a lot of the local culture and traditions on any resort island as the locals live elsewhere (except for the staff working on the resort islands). You can of course go on excursions to the capital etc. to get a closer look at their way of living. It is also possible to stay in guest houses at local islands instead of tourist/resort islands, but if you do this then you have to follow strict Muslim laws meaning no alcohol, no bikinis or swim wear at the beach (cover up at all times) etc. At resort/tourist islands these rules do not apply ­ however it is still important to show respect for their culture. Suntanning topless is for example forbidden and something you should never do in the Maldives. The closest I have gotten to a culture shock in the Maldives was during Ramadan; the Muslim staff does not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. I remember offering a staff member a bottle of water when we were on the seaplane together as it was so incredibly hot. He said he couldn’t drink anything before after sunset. Not even water. It was boiling hot and he had to go all day without water ­ but he was used to it.

How would you describe your life in Norway? 

My fiance and I live in one of the biggest cities in Norway and we love the city life. I am an accountant while my fiancé works in IT. We both love what we do and we work hard. Our everyday life is very regular and nothing too exciting really, it is mostly work along with spending time with friends and family. And we travel as much as we can. Like you probably know, we have a lot of cold weather in Norway and lots of rain too all year round. Our summers can have unsettled weather and in order for us to be guaranteed some sun and warm weather, we have to travel further south. This is one of the reasons we like to travel so much: to escape the cold weather at home.

 

How would you describe the Maldives to someone who has never visited them? 

The Maldives is heaven on earth. It is such a beautiful place with a unique geography; 1190 small islands dotted around in the turquoise Indian Ocean. The islands are lush and green, surrounded by warm water, and with some of the best beaches in the world. And the best part is that you have the beaches almost to yourself. There are no crowds of tourists ­ quite simply because you can only fit so many people on a tiny island. You will experience remoteness, picture perfect views, peace and quiet, romance and barefoot luxury at its very best. Just when you think it can’t get any better; the Maldives also offers world class snorkeling and diving. You can’t visit the Maldives without having a look underwater ­ the coral reefs and marine life is nothing short of spectacular (given that you choose an island with a great reef, of course). In addition to hundreds of tropical fish, turtles, reef sharks, rays, eels etc. you also have the chance to see whale sharks here ­ the biggest fish in the world (up to 15 meters long).

Do you think the world is becoming a smaller place?  

Definitely. People travel much more than before, the travel industry is constantly growing, and it’s becoming easier and cheaper to visit destinations that was considered too remote 10 years ago. There are more possibilities now, more destinations to choose from, more airlines to get you there, more travel agents and websites to help you research. Travel is more common and affordable than before and I think this is great; everybody should get a chance to travel and discover the world.

You have built up quite a following on your blog, do you have any advice for new bloggers?

 My advice for new bloggers is first and foremost to love what you blog about and be passionate about it. That makes blogging much more fun! I would also look around on other blogs, get inspiration, comment on other blogs that you are interested in, and get a feel for how the blogging community works. Search for tags that are related to your blog and let them guide you to other great blogs in the same category. Try to give your readers a clear picture of what your blog is really about, and keep it organized so that is’s easy for readers to navigate and have a look around to explore your blog.

Tell us about your blog … what led you into the world of blogging?

After having visited the Maldives many times, and falling in love with this amazing country, I really wanted to share my knowledge and experience with other travelers. I started thinking about creating a blog as this would be a great way to not only share my passion but also get to know other travelers in the blogging community ­ and take part in their journeys to different corners of the world. So I decided to give it a try ­ why not? Now I get to follow so many amazing blogs that inspires me and I really enjoy reading other people’s stories and adventures around the world. And I also love all the amazing feedback I get from my readers.

What do you think about the expat life? Why do you think so many people choose to be expats? 

Well I’m technically not an expat as I don’t live in the Maldives ­ I just travel there frequently. I think many people choose to be expats because they are curious what the world has to offer, they want to explore and see more of the world. When you are an expat you get much closer to the culture and people than if you visit for a couple of weeks on holiday. You get a whole different experience by living there permanently; the every day life, the routines and a closer view on the culture. I can see why that appeals to many adventurous people.

 If I ever get to the Maldives what are five things I should defiantly do. 

1. Unwind and relax. Enjoy the beauty and the remoteness. 

2. Snorkel/dive. The coral reefs are world class and exploring the underwater world is a must! 

3. Go on a whale shark excursion. You have about an 80 % chance of seeing them. 

4. Have a private candlelight dinner on the beach ­ with your feet in the sand listening to the waves and watching the stars. 

5. Start planning your return trip :­)

What are the five things you defiantly would never leave home without on a trip to the Maldives

1. My fiance 

2. My camera (incl. underwater camera) 

3. Bikini 

4. Sun lotion 

5. Chill­out music

Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favourite travel book which you think best describes a certain place or the art of travel for those who are unable to.

I actually don’t own any travel books. I prefer to do all my research online. The only travel related book I have is a book about the marine life in the Maldives which identifies all the different fish species that we see while snorkeling. And that’s about it!

You always have the best photos on your blog, so tell us what camera do you use and perhaps a little advice on how to get a decent photo. 

Thanks! I am very passionate about photography, and have become even more interested in it after discovering the Maldives. It’s such a picturesque destination that I literally have thousands of pictures from our trips. I use a Canon EOS 1000D for most of my pictures. In addition I use a Canon Powershot D10 and D20 for underwater pictures. Taking pictures underwater can be a bit tricky because of the lack of lighting, the waves and currents and also because fish don’t really stand still. So you have to be quick. Sometimes you need to dive down a couple of meters to get a close­up shot, zooming in is not always the best solution. I have never attended any courses for photography techniques or anything like that, I’m 100 % self taught. So if I can learn, anyone can ­ practice makes perfect!

So what’s coming up on Maldives Dreamer that we can look forward to … 

Well, I am getting married in June, and after the wedding we are off to the Maldives for a long honeymoon. We are staying for 7 blissful weeks, and visiting 5 different islands, so there will be plenty of updates from new islands in the Maldives to look forward to. Stay tuned :­)

Have you discovered any other wonderful travel/expat blogs that we should be reading? 

I am reading lots of great travel blogs at the moment, here are some of my favorites (with links):

Bucket List Publications 

Where’s my backpack?

Turquoise Compass

The Vintage Postcard

The Shooting Star

Compass & Camera

Cheers to Irene who managed to find a moment to do an interview despite organizing her wedding next month. All the best to you and be sure to know we are all extremely jealous of your plans to run off to the Maldives for your honeymoon 😉 

Be sure to keep us posted on your experiences in this beautiful part of the planet and may you have many more adventures on Maldives Dreamer.

Thanks to Irene for the photos too!

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