Wednesday, April 27, 2016

SUPPER WITH GIORGIO AND GIOVANNA

On Monday evening my friends Giorgio and Giovanna, who own Casa Natia, were expecting their first guests there and I was delighted to be invited to join the welcome party.

Giovanna and her friend had been working all day making culinary delights such as scacce [focacce] and I can honestly say I'd never seen so many focacce in one place at one time!  These were filled with cauliflower, ricotta, sausage and ricotta, aubergine and tomato, tomato and onion  - and I'm sure there were one or two more fillings that I've forgotten to mention!  There were also girelle biscuits and of course, Giovanna's homemade cannoli:




This was the welcome basket for the lucky guests:


You can read more about Casa Natia here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

BLOGVERSARY SABATO MUSICALE

What with all the excitement of our do on Thursday in honour of a certain lady, I almost forgot it was the tenth anniversary of this blog too!

When I first started writing the blog - and I confess I didn't really know what I was doing - I thought it would discipline me into writing almost every day and enable me to give something back to Sicily by dispelling a few myths.  I think it has done those two things but I have gained so much more from it:  The blog has kept me going through good times and bad, has given me the opportunity to learn new technological skills and has, on occasion, led to professional writing assignments.

But most importantly, through the blog I have made friends all over the world and I have met some of my fellow-bloggers, such as Katia Amore of Love Sicily, Liz, James, Bill and Eric and Ellee Seymour.  To all of them, and all of you, I would like to extend my love and my thanks for reading Sicily Scene.

I don't have the time to post as often as I used to, but I have no intention of giving up! I'm currently working on a cookbook.

Here is a song from the island that inspires the blog:

Tariqa - Luna, luna

Friday, April 22, 2016

A BIT OF A DO

I'm not known for my monarchist leanings but it would have been churlish not to dress up for the Queen yesterday, wouldn't it?




After all, one has to hand it to the Queen!



And over at London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale, we decided to have a bit of a do. Many thanks to Cicara Caffeteria and Delizie D'Autore.




The Queen arrived a day late because she couldn't fit us in yesterday. But today she popped in for a nice cup of tea and our students had some questions for her.






These included the most important question of all which is, of course, a culinary one!


Buon compleanno, Maestà!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

SICILY SCENE REVISITED - THE WATERWORKS [OR MAYBE NOT]

I cannot leave the long-running water saga out of my posts from the archives!  If anyone had told me, before I moved to Sicily, what an issue water would be, I would probably never have come.  It is not the problem it used to be, as for the past two years we've had water from underground pipes instead of having to have a cistern filled every week or so but every now and then, particularly in summer, there is a morning when I turn the tap on to find...... nothing.  Believe me, I never waste water now!

Here is an early post from an August when we not only ran out of water in the condominio, but had a cistern leak too, so that when the tank was refilled we lost it all. This was no joke in a temperature of 40°, as you may imagine.




ACQUA LONTANA... 16th August 2006
"Acqua lontana non spegne il fuoco"
[Italian proverb = "Far-away water won't put out the fire".]

This proverb has a figurative meaning but I am taking it literally and personally at the moment.The water saga continues and yesterday I had a veritable army of men here trying to sort out the situation.

I heard the plumber hammering away in the cistern area early yesterday morning but he left after an hour and I didn't get a chance to speak to him. So I didn't know if he had gone off to get something, was coming back or had given up till after today's bank holiday. No one else was in for me to ask.

In desperation, facing a sixth day without running water, I reluctantly called the owner of this flat, then, there being no reply, her husband, who happens to be a plumber. ["Why didn't you call him in the first place?", I hear you ask. Because there is a hierarchy regarding who makes these calls here, because I didn't want to disturb the family at holiday time and because the man upstairs had already called in a plumber.] Eventually, through a friend, I tracked down Luigi the husband at the sea and he very kindly said he would come at 3pm., which he did. Luckily, just as he arrived, the man on the first floor and the one on the fourth floor came back, so they were able to explain to Luigi the technical stuff about what the other plumber had, and had not, been able to do.

Luigi then explained to me that he could probably get the system working again, but not before yet another water lorry arrived [as the supply had already leaked out]. I knew that one of the neighbours had requested another tank from the Comune, but, it being nearly 4pm by then, Luigi said that he "knew a man who knew a man" who could get a private water carrier to come straightaway, probably. The first floor man and I agreed that this would be best [the other tenant having had to rush back to work] so Luigi phoned "the man who knew.." and, sure enough, within ten minutes we heard a chug-chug-chug up the street and the private water carrier appeared, followed by Luigi and the "man who knew a man". The lorry driver put loads of water into the cistern, shook hands with us and wished us all a buon Ferragosto [Happy 15th August holiday] and, no sooner had he reversed out and chug-chug-chugged down the road, than we heard the chug-chug-chug up the road of the Comune lorry! Well, we weren't going to refuse another fill-up, given the circumstances, and, although the Comune lorry driver did not seem happy at first, having seen the other lorry go, when we explained everything to him he fairly happily siphoned another tankful in. By this time, of course, we were providing great entertainment to all the people hereabouts who had not gone away for the season; they were all out on their balconies watching, wondering, no doubt, why we were receiving our fifth lorry-load of water in six days, and making the pazienza gesture [throwing your hands up in the air] whenever any of us looked up.

Simi dog and I were worn out by the end of it as the water did not come back on immediately after the fill-ups, oh, no! Something was still wrong down there and we had to go up and down god knows how many times and shout, "C'è acqua!" ["There's water!"] or "Non c'è acqua!" ["There's no water!"] from the balconies as the men tested the thingamajigs in the cistern cupboard.

Eventually, there was water and I'd never realised before what a lovely sound water gushing from a tap can be! Do you think my problems were over at that moment, though? Not on your nonna's nelly! At this stage, we learned that someone had left a tap on in the block. [I can quite understand how this had happened, as when you are always testing to see if water comes out, you reach a point where you can't remember whether the tap is on or off.] So the man downstairs said he'd have to turn the water off again to avoid a flood if the other tenant didn't come back soon. Then my friend Linda and her family whisked me off to their house for supper, as they had surmised, correctly, that I needed to get away from the situation. I was so relieved, on returning, to see all the tenants' cars in the parking space and to find the water still on when I came upstairs!

Tomorrow the first plumber is coming again - I think to replace the original pump that broke - and soon we are to have a meeting regarding exactly who will do what when "non c' è acqua"!

Update - 2016:  We never did have that meeting.  That would have been planning ahead, which is too much like tempting fate.  Although there are less problems now, I still keep a supply of filled bidoni - just in case.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

SICILY SCENE REVISITED - AROUND THE ISLAND

Continuing my nostalgic journey through Sicily Scene's archives, I began to think about the many lovely places I have visited on this ever-fascinating island.  I have no doubt about my favourite - it is the Valley of Temples in Agrigento and I especially enjoyed this visit.  One of the most unusual events I have attended was the annual Easter display of "bread arches" at San Biagio Platani and I hope to get there again one day.  Then there is the Infiorata in Noto [coming up soon], which I try to attend every year and of course I love Catania! These are but a few of the island's treasures and there is always something new, somewhere, to discover.  But I think one of the most interesting trips I have taken was this early one, so I'll repeat the first of a series of posts on it here:

On the Nelson trail - 24th January 2007



About 37 miles northwest of Catania, tucked away in the shadow of Etna, lies the town of Bronte, the dukedom of which was bestowed upon a certain Admiral Horatio Nelson by a grateful King Ferdinando [III of Sicily and IV of Naples] in 1799. A little further on still is Maniace, where the former Benedictine Abbey became known as Il Castello dei Nelson. And that is where I have been today. It is a lovely and impressive place, as I hope the photos will show - much lovelier than I had anticipated. I should like to be able to tell you that England's saviour lingered there in the sun with his Emma - and many Sicilians believe that he did - but, alas, he died without ever having seen it. The first of his descendants to arrive there was his niece Charlotte, who, reaching it after a truly nightmarish journey, decided that it was not to her taste and stayed only three days! [More the fool her!] It was later used by other members of the family but under agrarian reform in Italy in 1961 much of the land was redistributed. The Nelson family sold the castle and park to the Comune of Bronte in 1981.
There may, however, be another British connection: the Rev. Patrick Prunty or Brunty, father of another Charlotte plus Emily, Anne and Branwell, changed his name to Brontë in 1802. I like to think that he did it as a homage to Nelson then added the diaeresis for effect and the dates do tally. By the way, I am not of the Mrs. Gaskell school of thought with regard to Patrick Brontë for I do not believe that he was a monster: he saw that his children were educated, encouraged them to write and cared for Branwell tenderly during the latter's last illness. I am also of the opinion that the main reason for his opposition to the Bell Nicholls marriage was concern for Charlotte's health, and in this he was, tragically, proved right. But I digress. Let us at least hope that poor, bereaved Mr. Brontë found some comfort in his name in the winter of his life. I wonder what, if anything, he knew of the little town in faraway, sunny Sicily? He was a well-read man, so it is possible that he knew something....
I now have to confess that I made this trip the lazy way. It would not be possible to get to Bronte and back in a day using public transport, so I hired a car and a driver. This is not a particularly cheap thing to do in Sicily but it was cheaper than staying in a Catania hotel overnight and, more importantly, saved me kennelling Simi for a night. ["And I should think so, too!" she is saying as she sits beside me, waiting for her walk.] This, again, is something the Sicilians need to sort out: no one will use Modica or anywhere else as a base if they can't get around. Not everyone wants to hire a car, as even if you are used to driving in Italy, to do so here is, at the very least, challenging! The best thing that towns of Modica's size could do to encourage tourism would be to organise escorted trips to places of interest such as Bronte.
But let us return to our hero. Nelson, me old hearty, I've always thought you looked terribly lonely all the way up there on that column. So next time I'm in London, I'll sit in the National Gallery's restaurant, gaze across at you and tell you all about your Duchy of Bronte today. How's that?
More photos - and more, and more - in a minute!

Here are links to the other posts about this visit:

On the Nelson trail - 2
On the Nelson trail - 3
On the Nelson trail - 4
On the Nelson trail - 5
On the Nelson trail - 6
On the Nelson trail - 7


I hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SICILY SCENE REVISITED - MIGRATION

In tonight's look back at Sicily Scene over the last ten years, which focuses on migration, I was going to say that I hoped I would never have to write about incidents like this and this again.  Yet, exactly one year after the "Hecatomb" tragedy, it is probable that another large-scale migrant disaster has occurred in the Mediterranean.

I say "probable" because there are conflicting reports over exactly what has happened and the numbers involved but what I can glean is this:  Three days ago four inadequate boats carrying up to 500 migrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia left Egypt for Italy and there has been no definite news of them since so they are believed to have capsized.  Relatives of some of the passengers have called Don Mussie Zerai of Habeshia because they had received calls from their loved ones aboard asking for help but there was no response when they tried to call them back. Then the BBC Arabic Service reported 400 passengers missing and 30 survivors but other news services are reporting 200 dead.  A man claiming to be a survivor said that 500 people were lost and that he was one of only 23 who survived.  UNHCR earlier put the number of survivors at 40.  UNHCR, the Italian Government, Médecins Sans Frontières and the Italian Coast Guard are all awaiting further information as I write. 

This comes two days after Pope Francis shamed Europe's leaders by actually doing something to help desperate people and three days after Italy's Premier Renzi presented his country's "Migration Compact" plan to the EU Commission and Council.  It has been generally welcomed.  The Compact proposes much closer cooperation with migrants' countries of origin and with transit countries, backed up by the use of dedicated funds which could come from Eurobonds [though the German government does not like this idea, preferring to tax petrol to raise the money]. Under the plan member states would commit themselves to actively helping with border control, reducing migration flows and with repatriation and readmission of migrants.  In addition, they would step up the fight against human trafficking.  Premier Renzi has also expressed his displeasure at the Austrian plan to erect a barrier at the Brenner Pass, a thoroughfare which Italy regards as essential for its trade.

With the closure of the Greek-Balkan migrant route, Italy is again preparing itself for a migrant influx, particularly as summer fast approaches.  Up to 6,000 migrants used the Libya-Italy route last week and 10,000 are estimated to have entered the country in March.  Italy continues to save lives in the Mediterranean and to treat migrant arrivals with a humanity sadly lacking in other parts of Europe.

Migration has been a subject close to my heart for the past ten years and my first post on a migration tragedy was this one , from 2006. It is short but illustrates the fact that no one was taking notice then. Since that time the world has been forced to acknowledge the crisis but not in the way I would have hoped: I have always been pro-EU and am entitled to vote in the forthcoming referendum on Britain's continuing membership. I shall vote "in" but, given that 28 countries, some of which are among the richest in the world, can find neither the political will nor the compassion to work together on this humanitarian crisis, even I have to ask what this organisation is for.

I know how it feels to leave your country and it is difficult even when you choose to do so, love the new one and have been fortunate enough to take with you the people and things that give you solace. No one displaces himself, leaving everything behind, without a valid reason.

A reminder that you can find links to all my migration posts here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

SABATO MUSICALE

I like this, from Renato Zero's new album Alt, which tops the album charts in Italy:

 Renato Zero - Gli anni miei raccontano

SICILY SCENE REVISITED - THE SIMI POSTS

Continuing my look back at significant posts in the run-up to this blog's tenth "blogversary", I cannot leave out the person - for to me she was, and remains, a person - who accompanied me to Sicily and sustained me until her death in 2015.  Regular readers will know that I am referring to my darling dog Simi, who often took over the blog and got more comments than I did!

Here are three of her best:

What the savvy dog is wearing - 14th January 2009




Hi, folks. Simi here!

I bet you’ve been wondering where I was! Well, I’ve been very busy trying to keep my mummy under control and for two days I’ve had to bark all the way through a hurricane! And mummy’s always on the computer so a dog can hardly get a paw in edgewise on the keyboard these days.

But I knew you’d all want to see my new toy, which I got for Christmas. It’s called Mr Bally-squeak. [My mummy says I mustn’t put those two words together the other way round. I can’t imagine why – it must be just one of those human things I can’t understand again.] I also got this rather slinky top for my birthday. I had to wait for it as mummy ordered it especially from my friend Mr Enzo’s shop. She says I’m a BIG girl now I’m 10 and that BIG girls who mean business wear black! [She must be right because when I stroll saucily down the road in it I stop that old poodle in his tracks.] Ever since the top arrived mummy’s been chasing me around the house trying to persuade me to pose in it. This morning I decided to humour her and I lay on the bed so that you could all see the pretty heart. Don’t I look a sassy girl? Mummy said it was like trying to photograph Princess Diana so then I posed with my Diana eyes. “That’s enough of that – I’m off!” I said when she’d taken that one. My new auntie, la zia Rosa, was cleaning the shower by then so I had to go and help by getting under it and jumping up at her. I like la zia Rosa because she calls me “amore” and tells mummy I am “troppo intelligente” [which is true, of course!]

Well, ciao for now, fans. I hope you get all the doggie-chews you can eat this year!

Love from

Simi xx woof!

A Ferragosto message from Simi - 15th August 2011





Hi, folks.  It's Simi here!

That Queen lady who is mummy to all those corgis is not the only one to post messages at holiday time, you know!

Well, I'll bet you've all been wondering how I cope with the heat in August:  it's not a problem really, as I've had my second summer haircut and my mummy bought me this hat.  That ole black poodle down the road is swooning away!  



My mummy says it's not a holiday today in all of your countries and that it isn't one in Wales, where we used to live.  I can't remember because every day's a holiday for me - hee- hee!

Wherever you are, fans, I hope you've had a very woofy and waggy ferragosto!

Love from

Simi xxxx woof!

Look who's writing! - 19th December 2012





And my birthdoggieday and Christmas presie combined - well, she says they're combined but I'm sure I'll get some more doggie treats - is this lovely, warm raincoat with a hood. Isn't it the Pekingese knees? 


This is my "strut the dogwalk" pose


and you have to admire the back view, fans!



As usual, that ole black poodle down the road is a-whining and a-pining for me, hee-hee!

Hope you're all being good so that Santa Paws will bring you lots of chewies!

See you soon.

Love,

Simi xxxx woof!


I'll always miss you, my precious Simi.  Thank you for giving us all such a lot of fun on the blog.

Friday, April 15, 2016

SICILY SCENE REVISITED - THE COOKERY POSTS [1]

I had always cooked international recipes, and particularly Italian ones, in the UK so it was a bit of a surprise when I first came to Sicily to discover that some of these recipes wouldn't work here because the cuts of meat are different. The second surprise was the lack of spices for, apart from cinnamon, chilli pepper and a mixture known as "curry" [which I leave well alone] for the more adventurous, few are used.  Cumin seeds and ginger are stocked in most supermarkets and you can find harissa, but that's about it.  It is interesting that, despite Arab settlement, Sicily never absorbed the use of spices in the way that other European areas with a Mediterranean coast did.

Yes, I'm well aware that I'm in the country that arguably has the best home cooking in the world and a region within it which is particularly renowned for its culinary traditions, so why would I want to cook dishes outside that repertoire?  Because I'm a Brit and both new and old recipes excite me, I suppose.

I soon worked out ways of adapting the recipes I'd always cooked to what was available here and when I went to Catania and bought unusual spices or my British friends sent me some, I used them to create my own "fusion cooking" as I made friends with my butcher and got to grips with the fine cuts of meat he, and others like him, provide.

Here are three favourites from previously posted  recipes that I have invented myself.

First of all, this is the most read recipe ever on Sicily Scene:

Bistecca alla pizzaiola - 24th August 2008



Bistecca alla pizzaiola: a classic of Neapolitan cuisine, yet these days it is hard to find a recipe for it, among all the rubbish featuring complicated dishes that gets published under the clasification, "Italian cookery". What so many of these authors and their publishers forget is that the primary characteristic of most Italian cookery is that it is simple.

The doyenne of cookery writers, Elizabeth David, of course gives us a pizzaiola recipe, in Italian Food, the volume that, famously, woke the British up to the fact that good food still existed in the postwar era. Valentina Harris [a cook whose earlier books I prefer to her later tomes] also has one, in Italian Regional Cookery. I have mixed the two recipes and added some "Welshcakes" touches!

Here we can buy a pizzaiola cut of beef steak, but if you can't, you need to ask for the widest, thinnest cut possible. Yesterday I was lucky enough to get 4 enormous pieces [which would probably serve 6] for 5.68 euros and they really were so big that I had to cut them in half again!

When I make a pizzaiola, I like to deal with the sauce first: if you want to be a purist, you may use skinned and deseeded tomatoes or your own passata, but for this I find a couple of cans of cherry tomatoes, with their juice, much less trouble and perfectly adequate. Chuck these in a saucepan along with about a tablespoon of olive oil, 2 cloves sliced garlic, some seasalt and ground black pepper and a good handful each of not too finely chopped basil and parsley. You can add some dried oregano too, if you like [and I do!] plus some olives [my touch]. Swirl all this around while it cooks for a few minutes, then take it off the heat.

Now season the meat and cook it in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a wide pan or griddle. [I like to griddle mine.] Whatever you do, do not overcook it. I throw the pieces into the sauce as they are done but authentic recipes will tell you to serve up the meat, then add the sauce. Most Italian cooks would probably let it all cool a little at this point but I serve the dish immediately.

Serves 4 - 6.

Buon appetito!



This is one of the simplest recipes I have come up with and I still make it often:

Militello chicken - 17th October 2010


I invented this dish last night and have decided to call it "Militello Chicken" in honour of the mandarin honey I found in that town last week:

Marinate 8 or so chicken breast escalopes - an Italian butcher will cut these very thinly for you but in the UK you may have to pound them thin - in the juice of 2 clementines, 2 tablesp olive oil and a half teasp saffron powder [or the contents of 2 envelopes of saffron powder in Italy].

After about 2 hours, lift the escalopes out and let them dry a bit on kitchen paper. Heat 2 tablesp olive oil in a ridged griddle pan and cook the escalopes on both sides. [Stand well back as you put them in.] Lift them out onto a plate. They will be a nice, golden colour like this:





Make a dressing with 2 tablesp olive oil, 1 tablesp mandarin honey [or orange blossom honey or, failing this, ordinary honey with some orange juice] seasalt and black pepper. Toss the dressing with salad leaves to which you have added some clementine segments and serve with the chicken.


Serves 4.

Buon appetito.



Summer is coming so here is my favourite main course salad recipe:

Tagliata with cherries - 6th June 2014

The cherry harvest continues and the other day, I decided I wanted to experiment by using some with a tagliata [the sirloin cut]. I know all you Italians will be horrified again at such a mixture of sweet and savoury ingredients, which you claim you never use together, so please, look away now! 

There are also days when I long for some of the Middle Eastern flavours I used in my cooking in Britain and that is why I came up with the idea of using rosewater in the dressing.

The dish turned out well so, for the brave among you. this is what I did:




Ask the butcher for a 600 gr piece of tagliata [if you are in Italy] or sirloin if you are elsewhere.  A few hours before you want to serve the salad, lightly oil the tagliata on both sides, place it on a heated, ridged griddle pan and cook it on both sides to your liking. [I like mine medium rare for a salad.]  Take it out of the pan and leave it to cool on a cutting board. When it has cooled sufficiently, slice it diagonally into fairly wide strips and put in the fridge.

Destalk 500 gr  ready-washed spinach leaves. Tear them if they are very large and put them in the fridge. 

Cook 8 slices frozen, grilled aubergine as directed on the pack and put in the fridge when cool. [You can, of course, grill your own if you have time but let them dry on kitchen paper if you do.]

Wash, stone and halve about 20 cherries and chill these, too.

Now make the dressing:  In a small bowl, mix the following ingredients well with a fork:  5 tablesp olive oil, 3 teasp culinary rosewater, seasalt and black pepper to taste and a few chilli flakes.  Leave the dressing to chill in the fridge.

When you are ready to assemble the salad, put the spinach on a large serving platter, then add the aubergine slices and, on top of these, the tagliata slices, some torn fresh basil leaves and the cherries. Give the dressing a final, robust stir with a fork, then drizzle it over the salad and serve.

Serves 4.

Buon appetito


I hope you've enjoyed this selection from my recipe archives.  More coming soon!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

MARSHMALLOWS - ALLA SICILIANA

I had been wanting to make Hope and Greenwood's Raspberry Marshmallows for a long time, but raspberries are very difficult to get hold of here.  Mirtilli [whortleberries] however, are not, so I decided to give it a go with these. On the same day, I found a few raspberries and blackberries in the greengrocer's so added these, too.

Another requirement for this recipe is liquid glucose.  The owner of our local pasticceria very kindly offered to give me the tablespoonful I needed but I wanted to make the recipe with something I knew I could get again, without asking him for a favour.  I had read that good old British Golden Syrup is a reasonable substitute and I had some that I had bought in Catania.  I am glad to be able to report that it worked!

My slices are not as tidy as "Sweet Miss Hope's" but wow, they were good!







Tuesday, April 12, 2016

SICILY SCENE REVISITED - THE FIRST POST

In a few days' time, this blog will be ten years old,  Between now and the "blog birthday", and with your indulgence, I am going to repost some of the articles that have been popular, have given me great pleasure to write or that have otherwise been significant for readers and for me.

Here, then, is the first short post that kicked off the whole thing. I confess I didn't quite know what I was doing!

Tangerine Land - 21st April 2006

When I was a little girl, in Bristol, England, in the 1950s, you could only get tangerines at Christmas. They were about the most exotic food you could buy and we didn't differentiate between tangerines, mandarins, satsumas or clementines. Any round, orange, citrus fruit that was too small to be an orange was a tangerine!I can still see my father's delighted face as he came home on winter nights and produced a tangerine from each of the pockets of his long, dark blue overcoat. I thought the smell of the tangerine was heavenly and even now, it signifies Christmas for me. I didn't know where the fruit came from but I knew I wanted to go there!

Coincidentally I am writing this almost 33 years to the day since my father's death. How happy he would be to know that I have come to live in the land of the tangerine!

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

MANNERS MAKETH ..... A KING

I rarely want to give a politician a Welsh cwtch [cuddle] but I did feel that poor Mr Renzi needed one today.  Having welcomed King Harald V of Norway to Rome, Mr Renzi either automatically or in a state of some nervousness offered his hand, only to have the gesture spurned by the King.  The reason is thought to be that protocol requires royals to offer their hand first.  
Video via La Repubblica



Well, protocol or no protocol, I know who I think was ruder! What about you?

It is even rarer for me to defend the royalty of my own country - I am not known for my monarchist sympathies - but I have to say I cannot imagine Elizabeth II being so impolite. When Mr Berlusconi put his hand on her shoulder a few years ago - definitely a breach of protocol - did she go off in a huff or refuse to speak to him? She did not. She just carried on with the job, as she always does.

I think Mr Renzi is to be congratulated for recovering himself so quickly.  As for His Majesty, a little humility would go a long way.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

SABATO MUSICALE

I'm feeling sentimental this week so here's a lovely song from a lovely man:

Patrizio Buanne - Come le viole

Friday, April 01, 2016

A TALE OF TWO VILLAGES

The Sicilian village of Sambuca di Sicilia [Agrigento Province] had an extra reason to celebrate at Easter when it was named the most beautiful village in Italy in the TV Borgo dei Borghi competition. This result represented a hat trick for Sicily as Gangi had won the title in 2014 and Montalbano Elicona in 2015.

Situated near Sciacca, Menfi and Selinunte and with 6,000 inhabitants, Sambuca di Sicilia was a Sicanian stronghold and boasts impressive churches, a still discernible Saracen district and the remains of a Roman aqueduct. Its "signature dish" is minni di virgini, little cakes in the shape of a woman's breast.   

I've never been to Sambuca di Sicilia but will take the word of honorary citizen Laura Boldrini, currently President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies [lower house] as to its charms. Laura Boldrini was elected to Parliament on a Sicilian list and also has links to Sambuca di Sicilia from her former role as spokesperson for UNHCR.  The village has been particularly welcoming to migrants.

By all accounts there was quite a party there over the Easter holiday, with everyone making plans for the expected influx of tourists following the poll result. The villagers' jubilation, however, was not shared by the inhabitants of Cervo Ligure in Northern Italy, a village which had been excluded from the competition at the last moment due to alleged irregularities in the decisive online vote.  I have been to Cervo a couple of times and can confirm that it is lovely.

Then today, less than a week after the competition result, this happens:  seven Mafia-related arrests in Sambuca di Sicilia. Oh, dear!  If I were a resident of Cervo, I think I would be even more unhappy and if I were the Mayor of Sambuca di Sicila I would be wondering how on earth I was going to get my village out of this one! 

It is easy to criticise so it is perhaps worth pointing out that Sambuca di Sicilia is to be admired for granting honorary citizenship to this brave lady too.


Me in Cervo, 1980s.

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