Slow paced but dangerous

Life at the in-laws is slow-paced but pleasant. Their house is a few kilometres out of Sinagra, following the river inland. Taking a left turn up from the road parallel to the seasonal river bed brings you to a steep climb where the road turns left again abruptly on a terrifying hairpin curve. The steering…

Earning a nickname

There are no skeletons in the closet in small-town Sicily, as the broader population identifies every individual member with distinct soprannome or nicknames. These simple and often coarse caricatures have existed for generations and can pinpoint members of a particular family, or are earned after a significant event, distinctive physical feature or personality trait. A…

Getting under Sicily’s skin

Removing the mountain's skin is like exploring Sicily. This place needs to be dissected with a sharp implement to cut through all the layers of history, culture and society to uncover its raw heart. Carving up the mountains is impossible, and slicing through Sicily's different elements of life will prove to be just as tricky.…

A tasteful introduction to Sicilian cuisine

Italy is a foodies paradise, and each town has its own particular specialities. From region to region and city to city, each place has its form and interpretation of pasta, typical seasonal ingredients, wines, cheeses, and desserts. It would take months to work your way around the boot and taste everything. Without the luxury of…

A Sicilian feast

The feast starts with the still-warm bread from the village bakery at Floresta. Sliced into thick pieces, they are quickly snatched up to fend off the growing hunger. A bundle of serviettes, plastic plates, knives, forks and glasses are scattered around the table, enough for a rustic meal. Two large four-litre bottles of wine, one…

The good volcano

Etna is an absolute monster, a living, breathing part of the Sicilian landscape. Its sixty by forty-kilometre base is the heart of the island. The three thousand three hundred meters tall shadow has given birth to the fertile Sicilian land, rich in mythology. The volcano is different things to different people. For the ancient Greeks,…

Wintertime

During my first winter in Sicily, I visited La Pillera, an idyllic place near Montalbano, buried in the depths of the forests of the never-ending Nebrodi mountains. It is a place where time stops, and the outside world is forgotten. Here, amongst the hazelnut trees, a decomposing villa camouflaged in the folds of the sprawling…

A Baron’s dominion

Deep in the kingdom of the hazelnuts, the Baron of Salleo’s family had wealthy agricultural patronage with many hectares of hazelnuts, olive trees, wheat fields, together with country properties, a residence at the centre of Sinagra and another in the nearby hamlet of Baronia, most probably named in honour of the Baron himself. The Salleo…

Slipping in from the window

Sitting at my kitchen table at my Sinagra home, I open the window on the balcony from the kitchen, which peers out onto a dirty grey wall. The wall is of another house which I can see directly in front of my window. There is another balcony jetting out of the smaller place, basically three…

Another world

Trinacria is a world away from the rest of Italy. In a geographical, industrial or political sense and through its distinct culture and lifestyle. Sicilians retain elements of traditions in their everyday lives, which have been inherited from past generations. Sicily has been bombarded by a mixture of invading cultures throughout its history, and Sicilians…

Arriving in Sicily

The arrival (Catania, August 2002) Arriving at Catania airport, my husband and I are hit by the blistering heat of August in Sicily. We are two sweaty zombies after an eighteen-hour flight from Perth, Western Australia to Rome, followed by another hour from Rome to Catania. It is hotter than hell. Our clothes are wet…

Moving towards Sicily

The Sicily of today is very different from the one my grandparents left behind; it has gone through a tremendous economic boom which saw it move from an agricultural-based economy to one based on industry, all in one generation. People in contemporary Sicily live as well as anyone else and barely recall the hardships of…

Immigration in their blood

My Grandparent’s generation in the 1950s wasn’t the first to have left the island; the inhabitants of this region have immigration in their blood. Sicily’s ancestry comprises generations of colonising Greeks, from conquering Romans, to tyrannical Normans, cosmopolitan Arabs and imperial Bourbons. Sicily’s timeline is made up of a long succession of dominations, thirteen different…

Sicilian DNA

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

A lifetime of Sundays

My Sicilian grandparents have passed away, and their absence from my life has left me with a great sense of emptiness. Their stories and their Sicily is a comfort to me as my family’s connection to the island is vital and goes back many generations.  I married a Sicilian, a distant cousin in a strange…