The Dangerously Truthful Diary of A Sicilian Housewife

Diary of a sicilian housewife

I have been following Veronica Di Grigoli’s blog for a few years now, laughing along at the Sicilian Housewife’s  struggles and humorous confusion associated with day-to-day life in Sicily as an expat.

Now the blog has become a wonderfully polished and hilarious laugh-out-loud-belly-laughing-thigh-slapping book and I cannot resist expressing my absolute delight! The Dangerously truthful diary of a Sicilian Housewife  is set under the biting heat of the Sicilian sun and sirocco, deep in small town Sicily, far away from anything you can ever imagine.

I happily talked to my fellow Sicilian based blogger friend recently about her life in Sicily and openly encourage everyone to read a copy of her hilarious book, which should be required reading for anyone considering a Sicilian life.

beach
 So how on earth did you end up living in Sicily?

I visited Palermo ten years ago for a wedding and it was literally love at first sight. Within a year I was living in a fishing village called Aspra, married and expecting our little boy.

Do you have much contact or interactions with other expats?

Very excitingly, a Malaysian friend has recently moved to my village. Apart from this, the only foreigners to be found where I live are African refugees asking me for food or a Euro to buy themselves a pair of flip-flops.

What should I absolutely see in Sicily?

I hardly know where to begin because there is so much to see here, but perhaps you should try to see Etna, Europe’s biggest and most active volcano; Monreale Cathedral with over 2,000 kilogrammes of gold and illustrations of the entire bible on its walls; and the Baroque town of Noto which is a UNESCO World heritage site.

 What should I be eating or drinking in Sicily?

First, a spleen sandwich of course! On day two, try an arancina, which is a shell of rice with a delicious bomb of meaty ragù or cheese or salmon inside. From day three onwards, live on ice-cream. Make sure you don’t omit pistachio, mulberry or mandarin orange and I advise double helpings of hazelnut.

What is the worst and best part of living in Sicily?

I once spent a year with no running water because so many neighbours had not paid their bills. The water company just decided to cut off the entire street.

What’s your perfect or typical day in your part of Sicily?

One fairly perfect day happened last summer when several neighbours I hated got arrested for being in the Mafia and locked up for years.

Another way to spend a lovely day is on the village beach in summer, where you always bump into friends who are fatter than you. (cf. item about ice cream).

If I was coming to you to do this interview where would we meet?

I would take you to Solunto, a city founded 3,000 years ago by Carthaginians from Tunisia, on a mountain with spectacular panoramic views across the sea. It’s ten minutes from my house.

Sicily is a focus of so much Italian history, what’s your favourite part of the tapestry?

The invasion from North Africa in the 11th century.

The Moors explain why there is so much cultural difference between northern and southern Italy. The ancient Romans had a very different mentality, all about discipline, self-sacrifice and hard work. I cannot find a trace of that in modern Sicily or southern Italy!

Besides this, the Moors invented ice-cream, and pasta as we know it, and majolica ceramics and many construction techniques found in almost all of Europe’s cathedrals. They created so much of what we consider Italian. 

Tell us about your professional life; how do you make ends meet in Sicily?

That’s proving difficult lately. In Sicily you have to look for work wherever you can find it so I do some consultation projects, some translation work, I have authored and translated several books and I am constantly seeking other opportunities.

My best source of income these days is my book “Sicilian Card Games: An Easy-to-follow Guide”.

 

Sicilian beach

You have a young son, how has motherhood been in Sicily?

When my son was a toddler, he would get smothered in kisses wherever we went. The postman, the chemist and all the fishermen in the village would kiss him, cuddle him and offer him sweets. Absolutely any Sicilian restaurant would rearrange half their tables to make space for our push chair, and offer to warm up bottles of baby formula too.

Sicilians treat everyone’s bambini as their own and I love it… though it can make it difficult to avoid your child becoming spoiled!

I know you teach ESL, how is it teaching in Sicily? Is it easy to find work and are your students as lethargic as in other parts of Italy?

Teaching classes of Sicilian primary school children makes you lose your voice and can induce insanity, so I have always tried to focus on adult private students instead. Most of them were lively, motivated and very interesting to teach; I have taught lots of doctors, medical researchers and scientists, which I loved.

Over the last three years the level of demand for private lessons has steadily declined and I now only have one!

Do you think Italy is a ‘monocultural’ society?

Yes. In Sicily, the Spanish brought the Inquisition in the 15th century and being anything other than a conformist Roman Catholic meant death. The culture of fear drove people to start speaking the same dialect, wearing the same clothes, eating the same food and doing whatever it took to avoid standing out.

The suspicion of what is foreign and fear of what is different flourishes in Sicilian culture to this day.

How is your Italian? Any advice for others trying to pick up Italian? Do you speak with a Sicilian accent?

I speak with an English accent!

The best way to master a foreign language is to hang around children. They will not let a SINGLE mistake go. My little boy provides this service for me full time these days. Anyone without a fluent Italian-speaking kid of their own should do whatever it takes to borrow someone else’s!

How did you first come to the blogging world?

My friends all wanted to know what this place is really like. The Sicily of the movies and the media has nothing to do with the real Sicily. When a friend started a blog I realised it would be the perfect way to tell everyone at once!

Tell us about your wonderful blog, The dangerously truthful diary of a Sicilian housewife?

I write three kinds of posts: photo posts of beautiful places in Sicily, “diary” posts which make people laugh, and opinion posts about current events and issues which affect us all.

As well as being a hilarious blogger you are also a pretty skillful writer, tell us about that …

Thank you for the compliments: keep them coming!

I was one of those kids who read thousands of books under the bed covers using a torch after my mother had told me to go to sleep. I think the best way to improve your writing skills is to read as many examples of good writing as possible.

 So what’s coming up on Sicilian housewife? Any new projects you’d like to talk about.

I am about to have another spate of guest blogging, writing and interviewing for other websites and inviting guest bloggers to write for mine.

I’m also planning to start interviewing some Sicilians from various walks of life for my blog… though that may not come online until summer!

Sicilian fisherman

Be sure to read Veronica’s blog: The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife and like her Facebook page.

All images have been lovingly lifted from The Sicilian Housewife.

veronicadigrigoli

Veronica Di Grigoli was born in London and has worked in Istanbul, London, Milan, New York, Zurich, Frankfurt and Palermo.

She studied Classics at Cambridge University, and fell in love with Italy and all things Italian… including one man in particular!

She now lives in Palermo with her husband and son, cooking dangerously large portions of pasta, driving her car among maniacs, and trying to avoid sunburn when it is forty degrees centigrade.

She loves the weird and wacky side of living abroad and learning the hidden secrets of foreign cultures.

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The toilet situation in Italy

***Warning this post contains images of Italian toilets, bad double entendre and Australian slang***

Cosi toilets in Italy post

I have never understood the reason behind the lack of public toilets in major Italian cities as you would think it is a common courtesy to keep lovely, clean toilets for tourists and visitors.

So what should anyone visiting do to find service rooms in an emergency? Well you can find toilets in shopping malls, at train stations, at ‘Autogrill’ stops on the Autostrada highways, occasionally you can sneak into a bar/café but you are generally obliged to buy something, if you are game you can pop into the town hall or into an office building where no one will say anything to you if you are quick and look as if you work there.

In more touristy areas you can find a clean toilet provided by the local tourist board, which you will have to pay for as there is someone there during office hours to clean it, but these are usually locked up after hours, weekends and public holidays so you are literally screwed if you need to use a toilet in these times!

Apparently it has not always been like this, my husband tells me in the bountiful 1980’s even every small town had clean public toilet service, but vandals and budget cuts put an end to this utopia.

Those few toilets you do find require a gas mask at the entrance, boy toilet paper and disinfectant hand wash it a must. I’m guessing most places have had the same frustrating problem with vandals as the toilets you do find around the place are filled with graffiti, usually proclamations of love and lust, everything from ‘Ti amo Angelina,’ to ‘per divertire chiama Tommy 333333999.’

Well I suppose if you have weak pelvic floor muscles, or you can’t simply tie a knot do as the Italians do and slip in between two parked cars, near trash dumpsters or some bushes and do as nature commands. You are not going to get arrested or fined as we are in Italy baby!

P.S: On researching this post (yes I did put some thought into this one), I came across a couple of useful posts about the toilet situation in Italy which will help you understand what you will come across. Here are some Italian Toilet Basics from Andi Brown at Once in a Lifetime travel and a how to flush tutorial by Alex Roe at Italy Chronicles.

 

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Insights into Ferragosto

Ferragosto COSI

Italy has an abundant amount of public holidays, ranging from the usual stuff like New Year’s day and padded out with things like Liberation Day (25th April), International workers day (1st May) and Republic Day (2nd June).

Not to mention a fine cavalcade of religious celebrations including the Epiphany (6th January), All Saint’s Day (1st November) and the Immaculate conception (8th December).

In addition each city and town gets their own holiday to celebrate their local patron Saint (Rome for example celebrates St’s Peter and Paul on the 29th of June and Milan gets Saint Ambrose on the 7th of December.)

By far the most sacred of all holidays is the major Ferragosto summer vacation which Italians look forward to every year with a heightened level of fervent desire.

Surprisingly there is actually some serious history and culture behind this time of the year, according to Wikipedia :

The term Ferragosto is derived from the Latin expression Feriae Augusti (Augustus’ rest), which is a celebration introduced by the emperor Augustus in 18 BC. This was an addition to already extant ancient Roman festivals which fell in the same month, which celebrated the harvest and the end of a long period of intense agricultural labor.

During these celebrations, horse races were held across the Empire, and beasts of burden (including oxen,donkeys and mules), were released from their work duties and decorated with flowers. Such ancient traditions are still alive today, reflected by the many Palio celebrations all around Italy, the most famous on the 16th August in Siena. Indeed the name “Palio” comes from the pallium, a piece of precious fabric which was the usual prize given to winners of the horse races in ancient Rome.

The popular tradition of taking a trip during Ferragosto came about during the Fascist period. In the second half of the 1920s, during the mid-August period, the regime organised hundreds of popular trips through the Fascist leisure and recreational organizations. People’s Trains for Ferragosto were available at discounted prices.

Tourist shop

My first summer alone in Italy I found myself stuck in Bologna in between projects, right in the midst of August holidays. I didn’t know anyone in this major Northern Italian city which becomes like a ghost town, every second store is closed and there is hardly anyone around. Bologna isn’t a touristy town so it wasn’t like being in Florence or Rome which are always filled with people all year round. It was a lonely place to be.

August in Italy means the thermometer hits its peak and the humid Italo summer closes down the entire peninsular as all Italians go to the beach.

In Sicily families who have migrated to the north of Italy traditionally come home to visit estranged parents and relatives and lie roasting on some Sicilian beach. With the Economic Crisis most are no longer making the trip, holidaying closer to home or not at all.

The 15th of August itself is a religious feast day which celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, when the Catholic church believes the Madonna’s sinless soul and incorruptible body was taken up to heaven. In my small part of Sicily there are many ancient festivities in the cities where the ‘Virgin of the Assumption’ is the patron or protector, the day offers elaborate parades and celebrations from Randazzo to Messina, Capo d’orlando, Motta d’Affermo, Novara di Sicilia and Montagnareale. Sorry but all my links are in Italian but the images really give you a sense of the elaborate nature of the celebrations, Sicilian’s know how to put on a show! 

Sicilian Cart

All Italian towns have their own saint which they call upon for help, nowadays it’s a quaint tradition and great excuse for a celebration but Patron Saints were an effective form of propaganda for the early church and brought in many new Catholics into the fold.

Sicilians like most Italians celebrate mezzo-agosto holiday with copious amounts of food, strange isn’t it ;-), either picnics in the mountains or bomb fire barbecues on the beach not to mention an endless array of food festivals or sagras which offer you taste of all things Sicilian. There is plenty of drunken action and I’ve witnessed many a heated argument over nothing, silly car manoeuvres and accidents. Don’t get me started on the mess that is left behind the next day! The whole nation strips down into vacation mode from suits to speedos and loud shirts, it seems ‘in ferie’ or on holidays gives people an excuse for bad behavior and worse fashion.

So what do I have planned?

Well I’ll probably will be guzzling beer, scoffing downing BBQ lamb while wearing a bikini which shows off my prosciutto thighs and flabby mummy tummy, trying to keep cool.

Buon ferragosto a tutti!

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Postcards from Sicily: The art of hunting

 

Art of hunting in Sicily

 

The sport of hunting is widely diffused all over Sicily and Italy.

The Greenie in me is terribly uncomfortable about living side by side with this sport.

However I can understand the cultural value of this tradition as it has connections to the proud agricultural world, the community and families from the past.

These empty cartridges are symbolic of an ancient sport which reflect some fine details and elements who illustrate the beauty of the natural world.

 

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Quirky questions about life in Italy

Today I want to tackle your questions about living in Italy full-time. To be honest I haven’t been asked many questions so I got my virtual and real Facebook friends to send me some random ones, which I’ll answer below.

 

Life in Italy

Maryann asks: How is the plumbing and the water?

Well, the average Italian bathroom is made up of a strange contraption called a bidet, which is parked beside the toilet, not it’s not an alternative place to do your business but rather a spot to sit and wash your intimate bits. You can also close the bidet’s plug to wash your smelly feet after a day of sightseeing or do a rinse of dirty socks or underwear, quite versatile really!

In private homes the hot water system is usually manually turned off and on as required. This is a money-saving device as electricity is so expensive in Italy (which is also partly the reason for the lack of air conditioning along with the fact Italians think cold air can make them sick, but this is a whole other topic to explore!) So you need to think at least twenty minutes to half an hour ahead before you want a shower, unless you don’t mind cold water.

You will find the water pressure totally piss weak compared to the U.S or Australian standards, so try to do one thing at a time, either wash your hair or give yourself a shower as you won’t be able to rinse well.

The drinking water here is awesome and there is plenty of it! Water restrictions and filters don’t need to exist here and in most major cities there are public water fountains overflowing with mountain spring water which are regularly controlled by the local authorities. Yes, you can even drink from a tap at the Trevi fountain, obviously it doesn’t come from where all the coins are thrown but it is from the clean source which comes from the original roman aqueduct.

It is an excellent sign when you see locals waiting in line with their water bottles in hand, it’s like drinking Evian, but it’s free!

Sharon asks me: Do you think in English or Italian?

Well, I obstinately think in English, simply because I read it and write it so much.

I quickly translate into Italian in my own head, I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s pretty much instantaneous.

I sometimes dream 50/50 Italian and English.

When my brain isn’t working I’ll accidentally slip in an English word or do something silly like pronounce an Italian word with a particularly heavy Australian accent which gets me some puzzled looks.

Why not check out our expat blogging group C.O.S.I’s last post about what it’s really like to learn Italian in Italy. See Tongue tied in Italy for more insights.

Michelle asks: Do you have pasta for lunch and dinner?

It’s true Italians love pasta and I think Sicilians would love to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they could. I have overdosed on pasta and try to avoid it but the locals usually do have pasta at least once a day.

They are also big on bread. As if the pasta doesn’t make you gain weight, the bread will! After a plate of pasta there is usually a second course of either meat or salad in the summer and don’t get me started on their roasted vegetables usually conserved in extra virgin olive oil, their predilection for all things fried and cold cut meats!

Yes, my waistline has been gradually let out through the years.

Jason asks: Do all Italian men exude romantic charm?

Well, what a surprising question, coming from a guy too!?!?

I’m sure the majority of Italian men believe they are romantic and charming. But girls keep in mind Italian men are extremely sleazy, their ‘romantic charm’ is all an act to try and charm your pants off. Now there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s all you want, just don’t think you’ve found the love of your life or expect to be taken home to meet the family. If you want an Italian husband be prepared and expect a long hard road to be excepted into the family!

My Sicilian husband is quite shy and reserved and he doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body (we have a rule, if he wants to buy me a gift I have to be there to choose it or else he will get something I don’t like!) I guess I got ripped off with the whole ‘romantic charm’ quota, but at least I can trust him and he stands out from all those other Italian peacocks!

Aron asks: What are the biggest differences between here (Australia) and Italy?

Wow! Now that’s a huge question and I’m constantly making comparisons between my native Australia and Italy. It’s kind of tricky as over the past decade the Australia I fondly remember has changed a lot, it isn’t as relaxed as I recall it, Oz too is going through the same economic crisis as Europe and it has become a terribly expensive place to live amongst other things (which is yet another topic to explore!)

The biggest difference comes from the very distinct cultures, a general topic which trickles down to form the many bumps and pot holes in the road of expat adventures in Italy. The constant culture shock between Italy and Anglo-Saxon expats makes everyone around you think differently, behave bizarrely and confuse the hell out of you constantly.

One real shock for expats and visitors from outside of Europe is the discovery that Italy is a living breathing museum. Like the rest of Europe, Italy is a place where people have lived since prehistoric times and where history and people have left behind their junk. If you dig a deep hole in Sicily you will probably find pieces of Greek ceramics, Roman coins and Etruscan tombs. There are many stories of construction workers or farmers digging around who have discovered complete Roman villas and valuable archeological sites by mistake. The Roman villa filled with the best preserved mosaics from the late roman empire in the whole world at Piazza Armerina near Enna, Sicily was buried under twenty meters of earth, local farmers had been cultivating crops on top of it for generations without knowing anything about its existence.

Cultural differences

Those are the end of the questions I received but here are ten more funny and infuriating cultural differences off the top of my head which I’d like to dedicate to anyone thinking about moving to Italy:

1) Italian’s don’t walk around without shoes, they take it as a sign of poverty/barbarism and if gals take off their shoes in the front of a guy it will be taken as a sign you want to have sex!

2) Italian’s are superficial, appearance is vital to them. They never do their shopping in a track suit and sneakers with morning hair. I’ve seen women do their grocery shopping in high heels, sequins and freshly dressed hair!

3) Food is a religion in Italy. Don’t you dare overcook the pasta or else you will be ostracized. It’s ‘al dente’ or die of shame. Stick to the cooking time on the pack!

4) Italy can be as dirty as a teenagers bedroom floor, recycling is a new concept and many Italian’s are used to other people cleaning up after them, which is never the case in the real world.

5) Italian hospitals are scary places, avoid them if you can.

6) Customer service is a foreign concept in Italy, as is politeness along with the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You will be pushed aside on trains, others will jump the queue in front of you, doors will be slammed in your face and bank tellers will pretend you don’t exist and close as you reach the teller.

7) It is still fashionable and socially normal to smoke in Italy so you will have to put up with smokers puffing in pubs, restaurants, bars and people polluting your house and car.

8) Italian’s aren’t into sport as a pass time (of course there are always exceptions to this, especially when it comes to soccer or cycling.) So you won’t see many sports activities or clubs happening on the weekends.

9) Italian bureaucracy features heavily in Dante’s Inferno.

10) As of 2020 the act of breathing will be taxed in Italy.

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Tongue tied in Italy

It is always a challenge for non native speakers of any language to learn and assimilate into a new country but Italy has its own particular surprises reserved for struggling expats.

  COSI language collage

Before moving to Italy permanently I thought I was quite savvy with my Italian. After all I had almost majored in Italian, lived in Bologna and did the usual Florentine study thing. Heck it would be a breeze. I’m Italo Australian for god’s sake, how hard could it be to become fluent? A few more months of should do it, right?

Man, I was never so wrong about anything in my life. I soon discovered, Sicily isn’t like the rest of Italy, it is another planet.

Sicilian’s don’t know how to handle foreigners trying to learn their language, they will pretend not to understand you, furrow their brows, pick your accent, painfully point out your terribly foreign sounding voice and try to charge you the triple price.

A world away from my beloved ‘Firenze.’ I remember one time in Florence while ordering an iced tea drink, I accidentally said I wanted a ‘pesce’ (fish) flavour instead of pesca (peach)! I got a strange look from the barista but the charming Florentine smiled and corrected my mistake in the nicest way. He said I shouldn’t lose heart and told me if it wasn’t for the mistake with the words he wouldn’t have picked me for a foreigner at all *gush*.
Meanwhile in Sicily when I open my mouth it’s:
‘You’re not from here are you?’ After the first syllable.

There are Sicilians who are dipped in a thick syrupy dialect. Most people have grown up speaking their local tongue at home and look at you strangely as you speak Italian to them. If you think learning Italian is going to be difficult, going all feral and trying to learn a dialect is nearly impossible, it takes years of practice to speak a dialect well and it helps if you’ve been born speaking it too 😉

So how did I handle my first moments of living in Italy full-time? Very awkwardly and shyly. At first, I didn’t speak too much, thank goodness hand gestures are big in Italy. Then one day I just told myself to stop being a big baby and stop caring about making mistakes. Even native Italians aren’t perfect while speaking ‘proper’ Italian and if the only thing they can say is I’m a foreigner well, then that really is the truth and why should it bother me so much. So that’s been my attitude until this day and it seems to work fine.

The one thing bothers me still is the lack of actual Italian lessons I’ve taken while living in Italy, which is none. So in a vain attempt at perfecting my Italian I searched out courses for foreigners, the closest school was at Taormina and now there is another place at Cefalù but both are terribly far away from me and expensive.

Taormina art studios

I thought about going back to University and enquired at the language faculty at the University of Messina. I wanted to study Italian as a second language and perhaps pick up French or another European language. It was an ambitious idea, but surprisingly enough even if the course was taught in Italian they didn’t offer Italian as a second language. So I’d be doing everything in Italian and studying English, French and German. It wasn’t going to work for me!

This left me with the long hard old school of language learning known as ‘total emersion.’ I had a basic grammatical foundation so I spoke only Italian, watched t.v and as a workout made my way through the convoluted journo-speak of Italian newspapers.

Now after twelve years of living, working and interacting with Italy I can say I am a fluent speaker but I still feel insecure as I lack a certain level of academic or intellectual polish. I’d love to write in Italian but I am lost when it comes to the conditional tense which is used to express opinions, wishes and hypothetical ideas. Those pesky reflexive verbs give me the creeps as do feminine and masculine word endings and other tricky stuff which doesn’t exist in English.

Santo Stefano Ceramics

I’m trapped in the present tense and simple past participles as my grammar is very basic. It’s enough to get by and understand the world around me but I hope to study more to wrestle this monster that is Italian language.

Not to mention what it’s doing to my English! I often reverse my syntax and it seems I’m inventing my own personal dialect. When I can’t think of the word in English I will throw in an Italian one into the mix. I think I may be accidentally teaching my young son pigeon.

My son has begun to attend school here so I can always learn Italian with him as Italian school children study truckloads of grammar. Most high schools who are geared to preparing students for university do Latin, which is like the ultimate grammatical workout for Romance languages. Could I go back to High School? Hmmm, perhaps I should simply invest in an online language course!

One thing is for certain, you never truly finish learning a language and there are no secrets to it, you simply need to dive in or else you will lose your independence.

And above all ‘Nil carborundum illegitimi’ (Don’t let the bastards get you down) as everyone has their own special way of acquiring language it’s an individual journey, enjoy it!

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So you’re married to a foreigner … an Italian perspective

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What’s it like for a Sicilian to be married to a foreigner?

Living in the south of Italy is very much like living in a Middle Eastern country, Sicily isn’t the south of the Italian peninsula but rather a northern state of Africa. Sicilian’s are very traditional and proud of their culture. An islander is foremost a ‘Sicilian’ before they are an Italian. Until a few years ago someone catching the ferry across the strait at Messina to Calabria was greeted with ‘Welcome to Italy’ signage. That is why I have personalized the title of this collective post as marrying a Sicilian was so much more complicated than simply marrying an Italian, it was about being considered a foreigner by the wider community for many years.

There is a Sicilian saying which goes:

Moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi

Literally ‘wives and cattle from your hometown.’ Now you might be going WTF does that mean? Which was exactly my reaction was when my husband uttered this pearl of Sicilian wisdom into my ear. (If you are involved with a Sicilian be prepared for endless bits of folk sayings to come your way, I suggest you do as I do, ignore them or use them as quaint decorations on ceramic tiles.)

So if the saying said to avoid foreigners in marriage unions, why in the hell did my husband marry me? His response is a laconic Sicilian ‘BOH!’ a guttural sound uttered by islanders which means they have no idea.

Something happened deep in the soul of this quiet sensitive typically Sicilian man to make him fall for this opinionated, free spirited and at times short tempered Australian girl. This ‘cow from the other side of the world.’

Choosing to marry me wasn’t the easiest thing for my man G. to do, his close knit family was convinced he’d move away to Australia and they would never see him again. But once they understood I wasn’t the wicked witch of the West and wanted to experience life in Sicily they gradually accepted me.

When we first moved back to Italy after being married in Australia we were the source of local gossip, many thought I wouldn’t last long in small town Sicily, but I’m still here! There’s no secret to it only perseverance and sacrifice.

 

sicily-map2

 

There are still many compromises and a tug of war still going on. G. puts up with my questioning, challenging and insisting. He has been dragged to the most isolated capital city in the world (Perth, Western Australia which is also my home town), five times over the past decade.

G’s tried and failed with English thanks to a frustrating hearing problem, which has turned me into a screecher over the years.

My Sicilian male is bemused by my need for constant dialogue and can’t understand the idea behind blogging (but I’m thinking this may be a general ‘male’ problem here – apologies to all the male bloggers out there!)

I harbor ambitions which my G. cannot understand, he sulks and says to himself, why aren’t I enough for my wife? You see I’m not your typical Sicilian spouse, who is usually your stay home type. I need to travel, buy books, take photos, connect to the internet, write, be creative and accomplish things. I’m a really ‘shitty’ housewife. I have turned whites into all the colours of the rainbow by forgetting socks in the wash, I can’t iron to save my life and my house is always dusty. Take me or leave me. It seems my husband can’t live without me, go figure!

Despite our differences G. is a steadfast Siculo male who is still in love with his wife, he is proud of how I have inserted myself into his home and holds me as tightly and passionately as ever in his life. G. frustratingly may not say much but subtly supports me and still tells me I’m ‘bellissima’ even if I’ve gained a few kilos over the years.

My Sicilian man reflects his island, he is deep, intense and spell bounding, lets hope the spell lasts forever.

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Map of Sicily taken from: The fashion blog Rum and Lace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten ways to tell you’ve been living in Sicily too long

1. I unashamedly buy my underwear at the markets.

I used to be embarrassed at the prospect of buying undies and bras from market stalls, the idea of everyone observing me was once crippling. Now I don’t blink an eye and happily rummage around the lingerie stand. I also occasionally buy fruit and vegetables from the back of a truck and seafood from a refrigerated van, when in Rome …

2. When someone asks me how I am I answer like a Sicilian.

‘Sono qua … Ca sugnu’ (I’m here), come vuole Dio (by gods will). The customary response of a fatalistic islander.

Man riding on a donkey province of Messina

3. I study supermarket flyers religiously and prepare meals from discounted items.

Sicilians never pay full price for anything as saving money is an obsession. The economic crisis has simply made it more of a necessity. I always ask for a discount on luxury items as I know I am entitled to one. I’ve become an expert haggler at the markets, my strategy simple, name your price, stick to it, threaten to go to another stall and you will get a great deal.

4. I can eat my bodyweight in pasta.

Yes, the waistline has been gradually let out over the years as I’ve succumbed to Sicilian’s gluttony for pasta, sweets, sugar coffee and salami. It’s been a pitiful downslide into hedonism, but it’s all so good and the diet always begins tomorrow.

Photo by Rochelle Del Borrello

5. I no longer get ticked off by delays and long waits or lines at the post office, bank or public offices.

I simply clear my timetable, wait, complain together with the other people or to the teller and take it all with a pinch of philosophy. We are in Sicily after all, it’s always been like this, there’s no need to stress, take it as a lesson in patience.

6. I take the time to greet people with a handshake, a little chat and often use the typical Sicilian custom of the brush or kiss of the cheeks.

I like how people in small towns take the time to socialise, even if it takes up time if you are in a hurry, stopping and starting conversations or offers of numerous cups of coffee. But if you have not seen a friend or relative for a while it is perfectly normal, a shake of the hand and a peck on both cheeks (starting from the left and either brushing each side or actually kissing so as to avoid head butts and awkward pauses) A word of advice though, be sure to go indecisively, as it means you are respected, well loved and accepted, there’s nothing to be frightened of!

7. I hardly ever use my car, I walk a lot around my town, to run errands, it’s nice to move my fat ass around so that constitutes physical exercise, doesn’t it?

Also, there is no way I’m driving with all those Sicilian maniacs on the road, it’s friggin dangerous! I’d rather confront the stares of all those little old men who hang around in the square rather than put my life in danger. I also refuse to go back to driving school to convert my Australian drivers license, its an embarrassing prospect, I simply renew my international license annually!

8. I am no longer surprised by news reports about corruption, swindling, cheating and tax evasion in Italy.

It happens so often I’m thinking it’s part of the cultural makeup, when you have a system that robs you blind it’s normal to want to get something back and a lot of people take it by force, a vicious circle really.

 

9. I am used to living in a more closed off conservative almost segregated society.

 I have no Sicilian friends and Sicilian society tends to believe men and women cannot be friends without a sexual element involved (a very old-fashioned idea) and then there is very little talk about emotions, opinions or even girly talk! I thank god for my writing, my blog, fellow bloggers, my Australian girlfriends, mother and husband for small talk. Virtual friends on FB are helpful too!

10. I demand good coffee and wine!

have always loved coffee, when I was younger I was all about creamy cappuccino and latte’s but now I need the punch of a sugary espresso in the morning to get me up and going. A good bottle of wine is a regular feature of my table and I am always on the lookout for the perfect wine and food combination. A fine wine can really enhance a meal and it’s not about getting drunk, it’s a real art to match the perfect wine with fine fresh seasonal produce. Italians take long expensive courses to develop their palate and it’s a true pleasure of slow eating!

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplas

 

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P.S: This post was inspired by two fab bloggers who wrote similar lists about their experiences in Sicily and Sardinia namely Veronica from The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife and  Jennifer from My Sardinian Life. Be sure to check out their lists and wonderful blogs.