Sicilian Impressions: Maschere

Carnival time in Italy is filled with endless fried desserts, parades, tricks and masquerade.

The masks can be beautiful like the ones at Venice’s world famous Carnevale or terribly ugly like these.

When you see one do not be afraid, they are harmless they only want to be offered a glass of wine or mime something funny or rude to make you laugh.

They don’t talk, they are only strange spritely manifestations of the Carnival spirit.

Maschere 1


Postcards from Sicily: maccheroni

Maccheroni Siciliani


Sicilian maccheroni, are the ultimate feast. Served with rich Bolognese sauces for every occasion from birthdays to Christmas to New Year.

Not for the faint hearted … your waistline will suffer for them but your taste buds will be in heaven.

Maccheroni season is just around the corner …


Flowers and lights for our ancestors

I morti in Sicilia

November is a sombre time in Sicily, traditionally it’s not all jack o lanterns and candy rather its about taking flowers to the cemetery and lighting artificial lights instead of candles in memory of the dead.

All souls and dearly held saints are prayed for in religious services in the Roman Catholic church and the autumn signals the beginning of winter.

Sicilian’s make the rounds of the graveyards with chrysanthemums cradled in their arms, paying floral homage to their ancestors and placing light globes around the edges of tombs.

Trinacria’s necropolises are decorated by the living as the photo’s of the dead demand it, the images on each tomb and mausoleum plea to be acknowledged. Each photo has surreptitiously robbed a piece of their soul imprisoning their glances in an eerie reflection of life.

As we honor our deceased in among flowers dampened by the rain and hazardous electrical wiring, we secretly utter a prayer for those we love and hope not to be accidentally electrocuted.

The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightway I was ’ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,—
“Guess now who holds thee!”—“Death,” I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang, “Not Death, but Love.”

                                                                                 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Sonnets from the Portuguese.


Postcards from Sicily: playing cards

Random Photo: Sicilian playing card


Sicilian playing cards are works of art. There are many versions around, these ones are Neapolitan and I picked them up at my local Tabaccheria.

This is the ace of spades a wonderfully baroque angel holding a cascade of flowers and an Arabic vector.

I grew up playing Sicilian card games and love the artistry of these playing cards. Perhaps I’ll start a collection…


Postcards from Sicily: Bomboniere Passion

Random Photo: Bomboniere Passion

I’m developing a passion for the Italian and Sicilian flare for giving out bomboniere for every possible occasion.

Over the last couple of year’s we’ve received a few from weddings and now the birth one’s have started up.

This little ball of pink is for the latest little girl on the block. For the record that’s a ladybird key ring (or key chain) depending on your geographical location.


Postcards from Sicily: Gethsemane

Friday Photo: Gethsemane

I’ve always loved Sicilian churches prolific use of mosaics. Last summer I got to the church of the Madonna of Tindari (ME) and managed to sneak a shot of this beautiful image of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

These mosaics are like living breathing operatic scenes filled with life and drama. I think I’ll never tire of visiting them.


Postcards from Sicily: Spring trying to poke its head out

Spring trying to poke its head out

The weather in Sicily and all over Italy has been terrible lately.

Usually at this time of year we are already into the swing of spring.

Here’s hoping the spring will unexpectedly poke its head out like this cute little church at Martini a suburb of my little town Sinagra, Messina.

Here’s hoping for some surprises!


Postcards from Sicily: Funky winter fruit

Friday Pic: Funky winter fruit

One funky winter fruit common here in Sicily are these gorgeous fruit called Corbezzoli in Italian or Mbriaculi in Sicilian. They are fuzzy little slightly spiky balls of sweet goodness. Apparently when animals eat too many of them they ferment in their stomachs making them slightly drunk.

According to Google translator these are Arbutus fruit, check out the Wikipedia entry!


Secluded Sicily: San Marco d’Alunzio

San Marco d’Alunzio
©Rochelle Del Borrello 2013

This curious itsy-bitsy place attracted my attention when I first saw it from a train heading from Palermo to Messina. I blinked my eyes in amazement to witness a town literally camped up on the top of a mountain.

San Marco d’Alunzio seems tightly compacted up there on Monte Castro some five hundred and forty meters above sea level but there are many features packed into this wee town.

Founded in the fourth century B.C during the Greek period in Sicily, San Marco has a rich history as a prosperous agricultural and economic centre in the area.

Strategically speaking it was in a perfect position both as a look out and a defensive point and so it found itself being jostled between the various conquerors of Sicily, from the Romans to Byzantines and the Arabs.

Another amazing aspect of this town is just how many churches it has, there is a joke which says there are more churches than people at San Marco.

Look in at the Commune of San Marco d’Alunzio and you will find the Churches of Santissimo Salvatore (which only partially survives),the main parish church of San Nicola di Bari, the church of the Aracoeli built with a sumptuous local marble, the churches of Sant’Antonio,  Sant’Agostino, San Basilio, Santa Maria dei Poveri, Casile, Gesù e Maria, tutti i Santi,  Quaranta martiri, San Giuseppe, San Giovanni and the convents of the Cappuccini and the Benedettine.


San Marco d’Alunzio
©Rochelle Del Borrello 2013


It is a testament to the Sammarchitani (as they are known in Sicilian) that they are able to maintain so many churches filled with precious art and decorations, I’m sure they are quite a tourist attraction.

The marble from San Marco is famous throughout Sicily and is used in many important monuments in the province of Messina, including the interior of the provinces impressive town hall, even the main roads and squares are paved in it.

Antonello da Messina Municipio di Messina
San Marco’s marble holding up a bust of the artist Antonello di Messina at the Messina town hall.
© Rochelle Del Borrello 2013


I once read in a curious little tourist guide that the folks at San Marco are particularly well known for their politeness and always say hello and welcome everyone with particular warmth. What else can you ask for in a picturesque Sicilian town, loads of history, beauty and good manners, sounds marvelous doesn’t it!



The inspiration of Etna



I’ve been wanting to post about my visits to Etna and how the volcano has always been a rich source of inspiration for me. Her latest eruptions have given me the motivation to get to writing about her.


Yes to the Sicilian’s Etna, is very much a ‘she,’ a strong female symbol of fertility. Etna is the active nucleus of the island, central to Sicily’s creation, both in a mythological and geological sense.


Etna is in constant movement, she changes herself through the years, she has been snow-capped through the winter, covered by mist in the summer, always a regular smoker and now gives the world an impressive show of fireworks.




The force of the volcano is caused not only by what happens above the ground but also by what is happening below. Etna isn’t only one but is part of a conglomerate of numerous volcanoes including those on the Eolian Islands and under the Tyrrhenian sea. They are exceptionally active and are known to make sections of the sea boil.


I am safely tucked into a comfortable corner in the province of Messina, far away enough from Catania not to witness directly Etna’s outbursts.I often go to visit nearby Catania and have recently been up into the Etna National Park to both base camps used by very game tourists to scale up to the main part of the volcano.


Now right now there is no way any one in their right mind would go up to Etna, which is obviously in the midst of a significant eruption, but seeing the aftermath of past lava paths, while Etna sleeps is a safe way of experiencing the power of the volcano’s spectacle.




Along the rambling road from Catania there are many ruins left behind of houses consumed by the old lava flows and yet Etna is rendered almost mundane by the expansive development of tourism. There are too many souvenir stores, dormant craters being scaled by young and old, four wheel drive tours and cable cart rides, Etna seems not so dangerous.




Whilst the other side of Etna scaled via Randazzo which is the major city at the base of Etna’s more than three thousand meter peak is more rustic and simple. The lava flow of 2001 destroyed most of the touristy infrastructure on this side and it has only recently been reconstructed. The impact on the forest vegetation is marked by the paths burned in the ground, a contrast to the black alien landscape on the Catania side.










The Etna National park is filled with so many rich textures and I found those whispering pines so mesmerizing.

All of these are now only memories as the face of Etna is changing itself again.