Blogging around the world: Mozzarella Mamma

 

One of the most inspiring expat blogs I’ve come across in Italy must be Mozzarella Mamma which is the creation of Trisha, an American journalist who has been living and working in Rome for the past two decades. She’s an inspiration simply because she has managed to juggle being a professional, bringing up three children, life in the eternal city and has become fluent with Italy on many different levels. It was a real pleasure to fling a few questions at Trisha via email, here’s our interview.

Trisha the gal behind Mozzarella Mamma
Trisha the gal behind Mozzarella Mamma

Do you consider yourself an expat and if so did you make a conscious decision to live the expat life and how did you end up living in Rome?

I do consider myself an expat. I didn’t make a conscious decision to lead an expat life. I met my Italian husband while we were both in graduate school at Columbia University in New York. We met in the US and married in the US and agreed that we would live the first five years of our marriage in Rome and then spend the next five in the US and try to go back and forth. We figured we both had pretty movable careers. I am a journalist, he is a professor economics. When I moved to Italy with my new husband it was a bit of a culture shock. It was only then that I began to grasp the whole Italian men and their Mamma business. In the end we have remained for 20 years living in Rome (near his Mamma) and only returning to the US for holidays. I would love to spend a few years in living in the US, but I have finally accepted that that is not going to happen.

For a more colorful explanation, you can check out my blog post How I ended up in Italy.

How would you describe Italy to someone who has never visited? Are the people welcoming to foreigners?

Italy is a fabulous place ­­ filled with art and history, fantastic food, gorgeous cities (Florence, Venice, Ravello, Perugia etc etc). Italians are blessed with having both mountains and sea ­­ there is the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts with magnificent beaches (Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, etc etc), and the spectacular Italian Alps. The Italian people are probably the best part ­­ they are friendly and welcoming eager to share their language, culture, history, food and their country with anyone who is interested.

Name five things I should see and do in Rome?

Well there are the standard tourists spots that one must see: The Coliseum, the Roman Forum, The Campidoglio. I love all the Roman piazzas ­­ Piazza Navona, Piazza del Popolo, Campo Dei Fiori, Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps.

I also am a huge fan of Caravaggio, so I would suggest hunting down the Caravaggio masterpieces in the Roman churches. Here are a couple of my blog posts on that:

Cooling down with Caravaggio and Caravaggio and Women.

Of course you can’t visit Rome without seeing the Vatican, and the Sistine Chapel. I suggest to people­­whether or not they are Catholic­­ that they try to catch the Pope’s Weekly audience on Wednesday’s or his Angelus from the window of the papal apartments on Sundays. It is fun to be a part of these events and to see the new Pope Francis.

 

St Peter's unmistakable dome, Roma
St Peter’s unmistakable dome, Roma

 

What should I taste/eat in Rome?

Oh gosh, everything. I guess I would start with the coffee ­­ espresso, cappuccino, Caffe Latte, and of course have a cornetto with that. Moving on to lunch ­­ pasta in a Roman Trattoria, then an apertivo sitting outdoors at sunset watching the pinks, orange colors on the ancient Roman monuments. For dinner there are so many restaurants ­­ Rome’s Ghetto has some fabulous places. One of my favorite restaurants is a bit out of the way, is called Ristorante Caprera and it has fantastic fish dishes.

 

If I was coming to you to do this interview where would we meet and what would we be drinking?

We would meet at the Tree Bar ­­ a little restaurant/bar in a park near my home. I would be drinking a pro secco or an aperol spritz.

 

Do you suffer from (US/Italian) culture shock or do you find there is something common ground with your current adopted home?

I have suffered from much culture shock in Italy. I get frustrated at the insane traffic, the pharmacy, the food rigidity, the pressure on women to be beautiful and sexy, the constant need for bella figura. I will copy some blog posts of that below. I think the common ground is always humor. I laugh at myself, Italians laugh with me, not at me, and they are easily able to laugh at themselves.

See Nico’s Traffic Rules, Fumbling in the Pharmacy, Espresso, Corruption, Murder and the Bella Figura, Linguini and luscious legs, Something Fishy in Rome, The Fine Art of the Christmas Broth.

 

Do you ever suffer from homesickness and how do you cope with it?

I miss my family in the US a lot, but I talk to them regularly on the phone and communicate on email on a daily basis. But there is no time for homesickness. I have a job, an Italian husband and 3 Italian­American children plus a blog that occupy my every waking moment.

 

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

I am different from many expats in that I don’t lead an expat life, hanging out with other expats and doing American things. I am fully inserted with my Italian husband into an Italian lifestyle.

 

Did you have much of a problem with learning the language, what advice do you have for English speaking expats?

The great advantage in learning Italian is that Italian’s are so nice about it. They don’t care if you make mistakes, they are happy that you are trying. I have had a lot of difficulty with some aspects of the Italian language ­­ the subjunctive, the Lei formal tense, the imperative­­ still I always muddle through.

Here are some blog posts on that: Lei ­ Language Confusion and Swallowing Toads and Seeing Green Rats

 

What’s been the most rewarding/high point and then the most frustrating/low part of your time in Italy?

It has been very rewarding working as a journalist and covering events in Italy and the Vatican. The experience of traveling with Pope John Paul II, covering his death and funeral, traveling with Pope Benedict XVI, covering the election and the Papacy of Pope Francis has been extremely satisfying. In addition I have covered everything from Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi to immigrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Venice Film festival. I love all the news I get to cover. You can see from my blog that I often write about my experiences working in the field. I also have been given contracts with Italian television to serve as a political analyst during the US elections commenting on Italian TV explaining our the political system works in the US. It is satisfying to me to be able to explain US politics to Italians in their language.

You have been living in Italy for 16 years where you have worked as a journalist and brought up three children. How on earth have you managed that?

It is actually 20 years now, I came to Italy in November 1993. I don’t know how I’ve managed it. A couple of key things ­­ I’ve learned to drive in Italian traffic and don’t get upset when stupid jerks on mopeds yell and curse at me. I don’t let myself get cut off by people in fancy Mercedes of BMW’s­­ my little Fiat is a fighter. I’ve learned to argue and gesticulate in Italian. My life is a big juggling act and I always have a lot of balls in the air ­­ they fall all the time, but I try to laugh, pick them up and start again.

Do you feel more American or Italian these days?

I always feel American and very proud to be so. Many people say I speak more like an Italian now (talk fast and gesticulate a lot) and tend to be more argumentative, and I tend to dress more like an Italian (no sneakers and sweats), but my heart and soul will always be American.

See blog post: Sweats at the Supermarket.

 

Epic, timeless Colosseum of Rome.
Epic, timeless Colosseum of Rome.

Since you are a journalist and write about events in Italy I simply have to ask you a few quick questions about current affairs in Italy, if you don’t mind:

A) What do you think of Renzi?

I like Renzi. He is young and ambitious and doing everything he can to bring Italy out of its economic crisis and I hope he succeeds. I did not like the way he stabbed his fellow­party member and former Prime Minister Enrico Letta in the back to get where he is, but perhaps that is they way Italian politics works (a tad Machiavellian).

B) How do you think Italy will manage to come out of the Economic crisis?

No clue. You can ask my husband that question. He is a professor of economics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. His blog is www.gustavopiga.it

However, my gut reaction is that Italians always muddle through ­­ as I said above they have great food, an amazing cultural patrimony, and a gorgeous country. There is also a combination of the black market business and traditional Italian attitudes of family safety net that help keep the economy from sinking.

C) Do you think there is a solution for the refugee problem? And why do the Italian and international press exchange the word ‘migrant’ for ‘refugee’ so easily?

I have no idea what the solution for the “refugee” problem is, but I think the way it is being handled right now is not working. Italian Navy and Coast Guard ships are fishing hundreds of “migrants” in rickety old boats out of the Mediterranean every day (I get their videos sent to me every day in this period when the weather is good). I think the key is giving more aid and investment directly in the countries that the migrants are coming from. “Migrants” and “refugees” are different. Migrants are people who are coming usually for economic reasons, refugees for political reasons. I have seen hundreds of North Africans arrive who are mostly looking for work, and hundreds of Eritreans and Sudanese escaping from dangerous political situations. But among the North Africans some can be political refugees as well. It is impossible for a journalist or rescue workers to know in one boatload who is a migrant and who is a refugee­­ that takes days of interviews to sort out.

I have also done a lot of blog posts on Lampedusa and the refugee situation.

Ceramics Santo Stefano

Tell us about your book “Mozzarella Mamma: Deadlines, Diapers and the Dolce Vita,” how’s it coming along?

My book is now officially going nowhere. I’ve given up on it. Most of the best parts are already in my blog anyway. I’ve decided to dedicate myself to my blog and I will wait until I retire to write a book. However, if a publisher contacted me and offered to publish my book, I would re­work it, but that is highly unlikely to happen and I do not have any free time to get into the act of trying to find an agent and get published, that in itself is a full­time job.

What led you to the world of blogging?

I started my blog as a way to attract a publisher for my book, but as I said in the answer above I have now given up on the book and the blog has taken on a life of its own. I now consider my blog as a way to keep a diary of both my professional and personal interests and experiences ­­ this can all be eventual material for a new book.

How would you describe your blog, tell us about it …

Well, my blog is all over the map. It started out being funny tales about trying to be a working Mamma in Italy then it has evolved a bit into background descriptions of news stories I am covering. However, I think my best posts are the humorous accounts of trying to be a good Mamma and maintain the Bella Figura in Italy.

Have you ever had negative experiences with blogging? Tell us about it, how did you handle it?

I really have not had negative experiences with blogging, it has been all positive for me. I have had so many contacts with wonderful people from around the world ­­ Australia, India, Turkey, and the US ­­ to name a few. My blog has opened up a new world for me.

Actually there is one small negative aspect ­­ blog guilt. Once you start blogging you feel like you need to do it all the time and you start feeling guilty when you don’t post. Sometimes I am just too tired, or too wrapped up in personal things, or just don’t have anything to write about, but I still feel guilty for not posting. But there is also the reverse side of that, when I do a post that I feel is really good, the writing is sharp and the pictures are strong, it gives me enormous satisfaction.

What kind of blogger are you, is it about getting a zillion visitors or subscribers, selling your books or is it all therapy?

As I was saying above, I am not aiming for getting visitors or subscribers and am not aiming to sell books. It is not even therapy for me. I consider a diary of my life.

You have quite a good following on your blog, any advice for the rest of us?

I am not sure I have such a great following on my blog. My only advice to other bloggers would be try to enjoy it, do not give up, do not worry about who is following you or numbers of visitors or subscribers. One of the best parts of blogging is the friends you make­­ enjoy the comments on your blog, respond to them all, and try to read other blogs and comment on them. I have a lot of fellow­ blogger friends who I have never met in person but I feel fond of them, I enjoy reading their blogs and commenting on them, and I am pleased when they comment on mine. It is hard though, for many people blogging is a full­time job and they have more time to blog and comment on other people’s blogs­­ for me it is an effort, but an effort that is worthwhile.

Books can take us places without leaving home, do you have a favorite 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 am not really into travel books­­ I do love historical fiction and biographies that take me to another time and place. I just finished reading “Catherine the Great” by Robert K. Massie which I loved. One of my favorite books is Louis De Bernieres’ “Birds Without Wings” which takes place in Turkey at the beginning of the 20th century. Another favorite about a childhood in Africa is Alessandra Fuller’s “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.”

As far as books on Italy are concerned, here are some of my favorites: “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone, “Umbertina” by Helen Barolini, Naples’ 44 by Norman Lewis and Alexandra Lapierre’s “Artemisa,” Lynn Rodolico’s “Two Seas” and the Italian classic Luigi Barzini’s “The Italians.”

So what’s coming up on Mozzarella Mamma that we can look forward to …

Yikes, not so sure what is coming up on Mozzarella Mamma. I am going on the Papal plane to the Mideast with Pope Francis at the end of May and I will definitely blog about that. I am also doing some research of Livia, the wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus and will eventually blog about her. I am also contemplating a couple of silly posts, the first on dealing with my teenage (now 19­year­old son) and the complicated questions of when the girlfriend sleeps over, and another one on Italian with­the­dog­in­the­park culture.

 

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

About Turkey: http://archersofokcular.com/

About Renovating in Italy: http://www.renovatingitaly.com/

Hilarious accounts of being an expat in Italy: http://marriedtoitaly.com/

Stunning sunset in Rome bathing the monuments in golden light.
Stunning sunset in Rome bathing the monuments in golden light.

Thanks so much to Trisha for taking a moment to answer my questions. I wanted to thank her for her blog apart from being an inspiration for me Mozzarella Mamma is a wonderful mix of observation, current affairs and culture shock with a pinch of humor and irony.

Trisha has the answer to one of the most difficult questions a female expat can ask. Mainly: ‘how does a woman adapt and change to meet the demands of one society while trying to maintain her core beliefs, values and cultural traditions? [Her] own answer to this question has always been, with good friends, humility and a sense of humor.’

Words to live by.

Much gratitude and good karma to you Mozzarella Mamma, I look forward to hearing more about your journey in ‘Bella Italia.’

 

wcm0046

 

A journey to the Volcano with Venero Armanno

 

sicily 5

 

Venero Armanno’s trio of Sicilian themed novels is a significant accomplishment, written masterfully by the son of Sicilian migrants with a powerful dedication to Sicily.
The volcano is a novel of emotion, passion and fire set in the shadowlands around Etna and tells us of the epic journey of Emilio Aquila. The book takes us back and forth from Sicily to Brisbane Australia through Emilio’s own precise and vivid memories.
Firehead is a wonderfully sensual, passionate story about Sicilian migrants to Australia and a young man’s obsession over the disappearance of his neighbour, the read headed Firehead of the title.
While The Black Mountain tells the story of a boy sold into slavery to work in the sulphur mines of 1940’s Caltanissetta, deep in the rugged almost savage centre of the island.
These Sicilian themed novels by Venero Armanno, are a homage to the Sicily of post world war two and a generation of migrants who dispersed themselves all around the world.
In the words of Armanno himself, each of these books are, in their own way, about family and love, the effects of the migrant experience on first and second generation migrants and the search for the self.
I was lucky to speak to Venero Armanno about his work and creative process.

 

Venero Armanno2

 

How would you describe your writing style and novels to someone who has never read your work?

Trying to describe my work is one of the hardest things to answer—I’m glad some critics will do it for me.

It would be far easier if I worked in something easily identifiable, such as genre fiction: “I’m a crime writer, and my books investigate the dark psyche of people in the underbelly of Chicago.” I’ve often wished I could say something as straightforward as that.

In reality, my books are probably a blend of literary and commercial fiction; they tend to be page-turners while having a fair amount of depth (one hopes). People say the books are sensual and emotional. I’ve written a lot about the migrant experience, however, that’s far from my only main theme. Mostly I’m interested in ideas of what it is to be alive, what it is to love, what it is to hope for better things…

 

Do you have a certain method when you are working on a novel? Is it mostly research and then creativity? For example, how did something like the Volcano come about?

This varies from novel to novel, so there’s no one set answer, though my overall answer would be my method is to write without thinking too much… grasp an idea and run with it, wherever it leads. Over-thinking stifles just about everything. You can’t be over-thinking very much if you force yourself to write 1000 words a day or so. In the end, you just have to let it all flow out.

With The Volcano, I had a basic idea, but it started out as a screenplay, which grew into a three-part epic. When I really looked at that roughly 600 pages of screenplay, about twenty pages were good. So I started again from scratch. Mostly I researched as I wrote. – that is, when I came to places where I needed more information, I went and found it. That research led to other things that could go into the book… there were multiple drafting, believe me.

Do you mind being labelled as an Italo-Australian writer? What does it actually mean to you and for your writing to be classified as such?

I don’t mind and I don’t think it makes any difference one way or the other. I doubt my readership is primarily Italo-Australian, or even particularly ethnic. I think more was made of this in the first part of my career… Around the early 1990s, I remember some newspaper articles equating my writing to Paul Keating’s view of a much more multi-cultural Australia, but that was a long time ago.

You also work in the screenplay genre, how does this fit in with being a novelist, does it influence your style?

No, they feel like two completely different worlds, to be honest. “A screenplay is a blueprint for a work of art that doesn’t yet exist.” – one of my favourite quotes about the form. A book is in itself the work of art (or whatever).  I really dislike the spare type of fiction prose that seems to emulate the form of screenwriting; my writing is a little more lush and sensual. People say I write like a European/Italian/Latino – and that’s how I like it. With screenplays we’re always thinking more visually and externally; with fiction, what I love is the ability to play with, and live in the interior world. So I don’t much see the two types of genres intersecting… at least not for me.

elijah-o-donell-760367-unsplash

What advice would you give to an unpublished novelist?

“If you aren’t writing, you’re not serious. What would you say to a kid who wants to play guitar in a band and be a rock star, but never bothers to pick up a guitar and learn/play?”

Then, ask yourself why you want to do this. If it’s for money and fame, go do something else. If it’s because you genuinely love books and have been a reader all your life, then fantastic – try to be the best writer you can. That means to write a lot, every day, damn the consequences and try not to be a people-pleaser. Aim for the middle to long-term, not the short-term. Even if you solely concentrate on short stories, be aware that the road is long and that positive vibes are few and far between. Can you go several years without someone giving you some affirmation that what you’re doing is worthwhile? Can you deal with failure after failure? Because that’s what it will be like. So you have to do this for yourself, and for the sheer joy of writing. The rest is totally secondary, or irrelevant.

 

Black Mountain Venero Armanno

Give us a blurb about your most recent publication?

Okay, this is the official one:

‘Black Mountain is an eerie and compelling read … Like the best of fiction, it remains with you long after you have finished.’ Christos Tsiolkas

Beginning in the sulphur mines of Sicily over a century ago, Black Mountain takes you on a journey through time and back again.

When a boy sold into slavery finds the courage to escape his brutal life, he is saved by a mysterious stranger, who raises the boy as his own. Renamed Cesare Montenero after Sicily’s own ‘black mountain’, Mount Etna, the boy grows up to discover that his rescue was no accident, that his physical strength is unnatural, and that he has more in common with his saviour than he could have imagined. And when he meets the enigmatic Celeste, he suspects for the first time that he may not be alone.

Based on factual events and ranging through Italy, Paris and the rural fringes of coastal Australia, Black Mountain is a haunting exploration of what it means to be human.

 

What are you working on at this moment?

I’ve been redrafting a new book called CRYSTAL GIRL, and that work’s done for now (I think), so it’s off with publishers and agents. I’ve been working on something very different since then, a very large novel called WOLF HOUSE. Let’s just say it involves a girl with powers she doesn’t quite understand, a haunted house, Sicilian witches and, well, some very wolfish feelings… I am absolutely loving writing this book. In fact, right now it has gone off for a long run on its own; I feel like I’m just there for the ride.

 

How are you connected to Sicily? Do you visit Sicily often?

My family went back to live in Sicily for six months when I was at a very impressionable age (nine), so I’ve always felt very connected to the place. My parents, in Australia, lived a very Sicilian lifestyle too, if I can put it that way. So that increased the connection.  I don’t have a lot of families left there so I haven’t been back in a while, but I’m very keen to take my young family.

 

Tell us about your other ‘Sicilian’ themed books …

These would be The Lonely Hunter and its sequel Romeo of the Underworld, Firehead, and The Volcano.

Each of these, in their own way, is about family and love, the effects of the migrant experience on first and second generation migrants, and the search for the self.

 

Black Mountain is your most recently published novel, tell us more about this, how did you discover this amazing setting and story?

I first came across the history of small boys forced to work in the Sicilian sulphur mines, in unthinkable conditions, during my research into The Volcano. It was such a powerful history that I felt I should use it for a book on its own, and not in some other work. I also wanted a little more time to read and talk to anyone who might have had first or second-hand experience with this slavery. I’m glad I waited quite a few years before attempting Black Mountain – I have to say, I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

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Do you have a favourite Sicilian author/work?

I like the old stuff. Just recently I finished rereading some wonderful books: Conversations in Sicily by Elio Vittorini; Little Novels of Sicily by Giovanni Verga; The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia; Night’s Eyes by Gesualdo Bufalino. Of course, you can’t go past Il Gattopardo! I also love Cesare Pavese, even though he’s not Sicilian. And my wife gave me a new, first-time novelist’s book On Earth As It Is In Heaven, by Davide Ennia (he’s from Palermo). It looks great.

But right now I’ve started reading a lot of Japanese literature…

Are you a blog reader at all? I know you have one but I get the impression you aren’t a fan.

Yeah, it’s a funny thing. Writers like being locked away in a room, then they’re expected to be public in some way. I like my privacy and I don’t need people to know what I think on an hour by hour basis! Or day by day, month by month, year by year…

My publishers encouraged me to develop my own blog site and Facebook page, so finally, I did. I think in three years I have managed to write two and a half blogs – honestly, I couldn’t care less. My energy should go into novels anyway. I’ve since updated my blog site so it just gives a bit of information for any reader that might be curious about my work. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, or even distant… I’m just not the type who needs to express blog-style thoughts. I have full novels to do that, after all.

I don’t follow blogs by people whose work I enjoy, either. There’s more fun in mystery. I come from that generation where you didn’t have access to artists and writers, and so (maybe) their work spoke more acutely.

Antichi mistere

A million thanks to Venero Armanno for finding the time to answer my questions.

Armanno’s writing style is sensuous, lyric and heart-achingly beautiful to read. He has written numerous novels and is a respected and experienced academic.

Some of his other beautifully sensitive, sensual and evocative stories set in Australia with their heart well and truly in Sicily include My beautiful friend, Romeo of the Underworld and The lonely hunter.

His latest book Burning Down is a thrilling journey into the world of boxing and organised crime in Brisbane is also available through the Book Depository and has been nominated for the 2018 Queensland Literary Awards. Read more about this book on Armanno’s blog here

The Volcano  is available as an ebook on Amazon while The Black Mountain can be ordered from the Book Depository.

I reviewed Venero Armanno’s book the Volcano in detail for the Times of Sicily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Expat’s Open Letter to Babbo Natale

 

Father christmas

 

Dear Father Christmas,

 

As you know every Christmas I experience away from my family and friends is always tinged with guilt and melancholy. Even if the blessings of my children and new friends distract me from dwelling on negativity. Such is the life of an expat.

 

I don’t particularly want any gifts for Christmas, I was writing to you to let you know how I’m going to make sure you pass on my love onto everyone.

 

St Nicholas

 

This year has been wonderful thanks to my blogging, I’ve had numerous compliments and have met several people on similar journeys to mine which has helped me to feel less isolated and has encouraged me to continue my writing in all its forms. I’ve finished my first book and I’m well into a second which will be a collection of essays and I have many new ideas.

 

Dearest St Nick I ask you to give everyone I’ve met this year a warm embrace and thank them for their kind words. As for my wonderfully open and loving family I give them my love as always. And for you Santa, I pray everyone remembers Christmas should be about giving of themselves and not giving to others.

 

Until next year.

 

A warm embrace.

 

wcm0046

One dirty rotten Sicilian

I’m the first one to dissuade people from believing in the stereotype of the greasy haired Sicilian Mafioso who swindles shopkeepers out of their hard earned money with threats and extortion. Something I am finding difficult to do thanks to the antics of one certain Catania born boy which have tainted the image of Sicilian in the press.

 

After watching the pathetic soap opera created by Fabrizio Corona I am convinced in the existence of the ‘tabloid Mafioso’ who has created his own tough guy image in a bid to create endless publicity and product placement.

 

Image                       Image

 

It’s been difficult to ignore the Italian presses obsession with this self styled and proclaimed paparazzi pin up over the past few years as his image has been stuffed down the viewing publics throat.

 

Corona started off his career as a paparazzo, in two thousand and seven he became a central figure in a series of extortion scandal known as Vallettopoli, which involved many Italian celebrities. He was arrested and spent seventy seven days in prison but was later released into house arrest. 

 

Mr C. has revealed himself to be a shrewd manipulator of the press using his infamy to his advantage creating a bad boy image which he has been making a living off ever since thanks to: book deals, a fashion line which uses his name as its calling card, reality shows, modeling, television appearances, being featured in documentaries, relationships with show girls, a rap album and more charges for blackmail.

 

 

The latest publicity stunt recently comes after being convicted by an Italian court and sentenced to five years in prison. Corona promptly skipped the country driving to Lisbon, Portugal where he gave himself up to Portuguese police after claiming his life was in danger if he returned to Italy. He has since been deported back to Italy and is facing extended jail time. 

 

I don’t want to be accused of kicking someone when they are down but I need to say Corona’s fate was brought on by himself as he was playing the same game of other well known VIP’s like Paris Hilton or Linsey Lohan who desperately want to hold onto the spotlight no matter what (be it in a more extreme mode). The hunger of fame is an illness and a cry for help from sad insecure people who don’t feel loved or even love themselves.

 

Not only is there this culture that hungers for fame but in our post reality t.v culture there is also the phenomenon of becoming famous without any valid reason. Some actresses, actors and reality t.v survivors have become victims of media hype to become extremely popular or well known for no particular talent and so are destined to burn out. It’s a vicious cycle when the media creates synthetic fame only to chew up people and spit them out. 

 

Corona for me is to be pitied, a poor schmuck who wants all the attention for himself. Lets hope he grows up a little, gets some character and tries to do something valuable with his life rather than selling his soul to the highest bidder. 

 

The biggest shame is how his behavior inadvertently reinforces the Sicilian stereotype.

 

Unwilling Expat

 

News break: Bad mannered Italian’s

It’s official Italian kids are the most bad mannered while overseas. Thanks to a recent report from ANSA Italy (on ansa.it) Italian children on vacation are the least civilised in Europe, according to a survey conducted in 500 European hotels.

 

According to the report the worst offenders were children from Milan and Rome followed by children from Naples, Turin, Bologna, Bari, Palermo and Calabria.

 

The Italian ankle-biters are infamous for being too loud and boisterous, wilful damage of hotel property and running in the corridors and dining rooms.

 

In my opinion this can easily be extended to the adults as well, who are usually oblivious to how irritating it can bee to hear Italian tourists speaking loudly amongst themselves on airplanes or in inappropriate places like churches and during chamber music concerts.

 

I’ve even heard Italians complain loudly about how bad the food is and how they desperately want a decent plate of pasta. All I can say is, if they wanted to have decent pasta well then they should have stayed in Italy!!

 

A person should always be on his best behaviour while visiting another country, it’s just plain rude to complain beforehand, first you experience something new, reflect and then decide whether you like it or not, don’t ever judge too soon.


Hey Italy ain’t perfect either!!

Rochelle

Missing my Nonno

Isn’t it amazing the surprises life has in stall for us? At times I’m a little overwhelmed by the strange new directions this journey has pulled me through some painful, others colourful, adventurous but all unexpected. I imagined myself at this stage working as a journalist in some t.v or radio station with a novel or two bubbling up in the background, yet I find myself living here in Sicily, Italy bringing up Matthias, doing it all in another language and feeling like someone has just hit me over the head and cancelled the past decade of my life from my memory.

The hardest loss has been that of my adorable Grandpa, who died two years ago now yet his loss is still palpable for many reasons. Firstly that I never got to say goodbye, we were planning to go back to Australia the year he died as I was expecting Matthias, but my mother in law got sick and we postponed, then he passed away and we didn’t end up going back at all. So I didn’t ever see my Nonno either alive nor at his funeral.

It’s going to be hard when we go back not to see him at the airport, or when I can’t hug him hello instead of goodbye like our final goodbye during my last flight out from Perth. It’s going to be difficult to see my Nonna (Grandmother) alone at my mother’s house as she is well into her eighties and has felt the loss of Nonno greatly.

I still feel him so strongly in my life. It hurts to think little Matthias will never know him, that I will never hear his voice calling me darlin’ again, that he won’t be grilling meat on the BBQ for Christmas, that he won’t be insisting that we eat and drink more than our own body weight. Simply that such a wonderful character is absent from our company when we desire him so much. What a huge hole to fill.

Yet, my dear Nonnino, you are still surprising me, as I stumbled on a picture of you at my last birthday at home in Perth, Western Australia. Do you remember? We went to Fremantle to eat at the Little Creatures Brewery. It was the hottest day of the year and we were all perspiring to death waiting for a free table, then we drank too much beer and went for ice cream after at Baskin and Robbin’s right there on the pier. I found a lovely casual candid photo that I took of you sitting next to your grandson Damian, son Fil and daughter in law Rosanna. You didn’t even see me take it, yet I am so glad I did because there you are my splendid, handsome Nonno. One look at you makes me remember every happiness in my life, for a moment you are still here, held close without realising.

     

 

Love from your darlin’

Tremors

    

      (A slightly smoking Mt Etna taken from the Nebrodi Mountains last year)

Italy has always been a place susceptible Sicily more so than other regions. I’ve never felt anything, that is until this summer when the Mt Etna volcano has been erupting. Etna has always been relatively active and is quite far away from us towards Catania.

 

In the past we’ve breathed in its ash over as few weeks but it seems to be very angry lately. We’ve been having a series of tremors since the beginning of summer but I didn’t feel anything until one night at around midnight as I was nodding off to sleep I felt a few seconds of pure fear.

 

The sound of it was what hit me the most; it was like a massive explosion, I thought the old abandoned house across the street had collapsed but then the movement of an 8 on the Richter scale earthquake hit.

 

It was like a bad disaster movie, every thing just shook and rocked and I couldn’t even moved, then within a flash it was over. We all ran outside, but there was no more movement. I was all over.

 

Those maybe 4 seconds were enough to make me a nervous wreck for the rest of the week when every little sound or movement made me jump out of my skin.

 

 Losing control of your movement and your surroundings I think if the most disempowering thing that can ever happen. In short it scared the s*** out of me!

 

My heart goes out to those poor people in the USA who experienced an earthquake just the other week, especially those in NY who justifiably thought the worst after the memories of S11 jumped back into the foreground. And then right after they had Hurricane Irene … talk about fodder for doomsday theorists!!

 

The earth’s motions here in Sicily have been justified by spectacular fireworks from Etna, with lava being thrown up several hundred meters in the air. One night I was even rewarded by a single Etna explosion which lit up the horizon for a few seconds like a red hot aurora borealis.

 

There’s nothing like a spectacular natural phenomenon to instil a feeling of awe and fear deep inside your soul.

 

10 books to read instead of visiting Sicily

I’m big on reading and the journey books can create in your life. If you can’t travel a book can give you an authentic experience without leaving your armchair.

Sometimes travelling isn’t always possible but this is no reason not to experience a place through its literature. Sicily has inspired many locals and foreigners with its history and unique character while the Sicilian migrant diaspora has created a rich selection of island inspired literature all over the world.

So if Italy is out of your reach dip into my personal reading list to experience Sicily in all of its splendour.

Eatable cactus

   The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

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This is a wonderful historic novel set in the  world of the ancient Sicilian aristocracy is filled with sumptuousness and decadent expressions of baroque Sicily. This classic work of literature written by one of the islands most famous writers and superbly crafted with many truths about the nature of Sicily.

 Sweet Lemons: Writings With a Sicilian Accent Edited by Venera Fazio and Delia De Santis

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This anthology published in Canada collects the best of Sicilian literature and contemporary migrant voices. (Ahem, including this humble blogger) Self promotion aside it is a must read for those keen in having a general taste of contemporary Sicilian culture and migrant literature from all around the world.

The Stone Boudoir: Travels Through the Hidden Villages of Sicily by Theresa Maggio

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Theresa Maggio is one of my favourite writers her works are filled with gorgeous description, refreshing brevity and a stunning understanding of her subject matter. Her writing style is poetic, vivid and simple. Total magic.

Mattanza: Love and Death in the Sea of Sicily by Theresa Maggio

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Here is another book from Ms Maggio, I couldn’t resist putting this one on the list simply for its mixture of autobiography and travel writing. It documents an ancient Sicilian tradition and Maggio’s own personal love story. This one is currently out of print but if you can manage to track it down through a public library it would be worth the trouble. I also managed to interview Theresa Maggio a while ago, click here to read our conversation.

 On Persephone’s Island: A Sicilian Journal by Mary Taylor Simeti

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This personal journal depicts Taylor Simeti’s unique journey to Sicily and is an authentic portrait of life on this ancient island. Her writing is strong, honest and stunningly beautiful. Simeti is considered a living legend, she has written many books about Sicilian food and has a business based on the island’s traditional agriculture.

 A House in Sicily by Daphne Phelps

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This is a little dated now but it is a wonderful biography of a colourful English dame who inherits a house near Taormina and ends up moving to Sicily in the post world war two and ends up staying forever. This classic is currently out of print but it is a wonderful book which will make you fall in love with the idea of Sicily and the late Daphne Phelp’s quirky adventures running a guest house with terribly famous guests in the then semi rural town of Taormina.

 Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb

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Peter Robb is an Australian journalist who spent many years living and working in Palermo, Sicily. It is a heavy book to make your way through filled with loads of history but it is great for anyone who wants to know the real facts behind real life politics and the mafia in Sicily.

The Volcano by Venero Armanno

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 This is a prime example of superb Australian migrant literature, Armanno is a son of Sicilian migrants who uses the magic of his parent’s Sicily for the backdrop to this wonderfully crafted novel. It is an epic journey through the Etna hinterlands from a cruel time and tracks the journey of a migrant to Australia. I spoke to Venero Armanno about this book and the other two which make up his Sicilian trilogy, click here to read more about this fascinating author.

Sicilian Summer: a story of honour, religion and the perfect Cassata by Brian Johnston

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Sicily is an inspiring place, in fact Johnston spent only a summer here in Sicily and wrote this beautiful portrait. Johnston is a well known Australian travel writer and this book is filled with his signature observations and love of fine food. This little gem is out of print but if you want to know more about it be sure to read my interview with Brian Johnston here.

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Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean by John Keahey

Keahey is an American journalist who has written extensively about Italy and offers us many absorbing elements of Sicilian culture, history and literature. Keahey’s journalistic eye and sense of story is impeccable, through extensive and detailed interviews with many proud Sicilians he digs below any superficial mask to get to the heart of this place with insightful, rich and evocative insight.

I recently spoke to John Keahey, click here to hear more about this great Italophile.

(images from google images)

Being a writer in Sicily

Ok, I know it’s a bit pithy but I think we are all writers in the way we create our own narratives and lives. The the endless dialogues we have each day, our own internal monologue and interactions are all pieces of writing.

As life progresses it gives us different masks to wear which allows us to create the different parts of our journey: son/daughter, student, sister/brother, girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband, lover, parent, professional, in-law, grandparent … our roles are endless.

The experiences we choose in life dictate the richness of our own unique narrative. The business of writing as a profession takes the natural ability we all have to a different level documenting and crafting each word on the page, whether it be on the virtual ‘page’ of a computer screen or scribbling in a notebook.

I love new ideas and writing helps me to explore different areas which in turn stimulate other interests and move me into other directions. It’s an addiction which gives me an appetite to understand this world. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of asking questions.

Sicily has become an extensive part of my story, it is a piece of my family’s history and speaks to me so eloquently.

Randazzo side streets, Catania

Moving to Sicily has been a challenge and I struggle everyday with the culture shock, but realistically it is a fantastic place to be a writer. Stories literally come up to you and introduce themselves, others slap you in the face or make friends with you doing a casual conversation. The slower paced life is conducive to reflection and the writerly life sits well with this place. In fact the island has produced many famous writers, who are an inspiration to me. Pirandello, Verga, De Roberto, Brancanti and Quasimodo are my favourites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are you writing with your life?