Voi che vivete sicuri Nelle vostre tiepide case, Voi che trovate tornando a sera Il cibo caldo e visi amici: Considerate se questo è un uomo Che lavora nel fango Che non conosce pace Che lotta per mezzo pane Che muore per un sì o per un no. You who live in safety In your warm houses, You who find warm food And friendly faces when you return home. Consider if this is a man Who works in mud, Who knows no peace, Who fights for a crust of bread, Who dies by a yes or a no. - Primo Levi, writer, chemist and Auschwitz survivor, 31.7.1919 - 11.4.1987.
Oh dear, oh dear - the honour of Sicily has been besmirched and this time it is very serious as it involves food: it is all about a 30-second television advert for a certain brand of stock cube. In the advert, Tiziana Stefanelli, the winner of MasterChef Italia two years ago, is being shown how to make caponata by a Sicilian woman. But when the Sicilian lady committed the cardinal sin of adding a stock cube, twitter and social networks exploded.
Tiziana Stefanelli has said she is sorry about the strong feelings that have been provoked by the advert but that she thinks Sicilians have other things to worry about. She also said that she is glad that some women have time to make their own stock as she herself often does not.
Had this happened in a neighbouring country, I would have said, "Aux armes, citoyens" but the best I can suggest is that all good Sicilians take up their ladles. Ai mestoli, cittadini!
This was, I think, the first piece of classical music that I ever listened to intently and I thank the teacher who made me love it - when I was five years old. I think you all know why the following words are in my mind at the moment:
"Che farò? Dove andrò? Che farò senza il mio ben?"
What with all the midnight fireworks and singing along to Auld Lang Syne from London on the teley, I didn't realise it was snowing outside till about 1 am, when a friend's tweet alerted me. I went out onto the balcony, expecting to find a few inconsequential flakes falling here and there but not settling and found, to my astonishment, snow to be reckoned with!
This was the view from my bedroom window this afternoon:
Snow has not been seen in the Ragusa area since 2005 and not in Modica, I believe, since 2003. Even then, it disappeared very quickly, so you can imagine how the above carpet of what I call "proper snow" is already being declared the event of the century in these parts.
The last time I saw "proper snow" was ten years ago, in Britain and I was with a man I loved very much. I could go all romantic and tell you how it brings back bittersweet memories, how the snow made that last meeting perfect and how I gazed at him adoringly as he drove me home through the storm. But actually, I think I'll tell you that I am scared to go out in case I slip, that the lorries are not out in force sanding the roads, that it is impossible to keep warm indoors unless you are literally sitting on top of a radiator and that I am dreading all the things that could go wrong in Sicily if this admittedly pretty covering does not melt away by tomorrow!
My gadget of the year - well, more of an implement, really - is this €0,99 easy-ice-cream-scoop:
Of the books I've read this year, my favourite in Italian was this biography of the journalist Oriana Fallaci and my favourite in English has to be Edge of Eternity, which completes the Century Trilogy by my fellow-Cardiffian Ken Follett. More historical novels please, Ken!
My Scrooge of the year award goes to the Comune di Modica for scrapping the "single inhabitant" reduction when they introduced the hated new rubbish tax, the TARI, a few days before Christmas. Come on, Modica! There's no way I generate the same amount of rubbish as a family of five and I think I'm going to start a twitter campaign about this injustice.
Whilst we're being negative about poor old Modica, my most-read post of 2014 was, surprisingly, this one, which attracted the attention of the local press. Sorry, Modica - I do love you, really.
On a more cheerful, seasonal note, the most original Christmas decoration award goes to Bar Cicara for their cork tree:
The Italian logic prize goes to the shopkeeper who, having discounted certain items by 50% and sold two to customer number one, then told customer number two - me - that the former had been "extravagant" as soon as she'd left the premises. I give up, Italy!
My favourite Italian TV programme of the year continues to be Masterchef Italia, which has just started its fourth series, closely followed by BakeOff Italia. For those of you who missed it, here is the contestant who endeared herself to the entire nation by throwing her éclairs around the kitchen when they went wrong. Hasn't every cook been there?
I must show you my fun thing of the year: it is this makeup box, a Christmas present from two of my youngest students and using it to update my all-important look is a very enjoyable way to pass the time!
My heroes of the year are the Italian Navy, Coast Guard and all who continue to risk their own lives and willingly give up their comfort at this time of year to save and help migrants and others, at sea and on land. Let us hope that there will be no more migrant tragedies in 2015, or tragedies like the two we have seen so far this week.
That brings me to my hopes for 2015: as always, I hope for world peace, for peace in my own life, for more time with my precious Simi [now 16] and, this new year, for more time with my newfound sister.
Happy New Year to all of you and thank you for reading Sicily Scene!
Buon anno a tutti voi e grazie di aver lettola Sicily Scene!
It is not often that the Italian government is praised for a tax decision but tonight I join others in congratulating them on their decision to defy the EU and reduce VAT on ebooks from 22% to 4%, thus giving ebooks fiscal parity with conventional books. The change comes into force on January 1st.
The EU, for some inexplicable reason, does not regard ebooks as a "cultural product" and France and Luxembourg have already incurred its wrath by bringing in a similar change. Now Italy, too, could find itself at the European Court of Justice over the matter, but Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has said it is worth the risk in order to protect the cultural industry and the book market as a whole.
Marco Polilli, president of the Associazione Italiana Editori, which started the twitter campaign #unlibroèunlibro ["a book is a book"] has said that the decision is "a victory for the country and not just for the world of books..... it is a success for readers, for [hitherto] non-readers who will now be able to choose how they read and above all, a victory for common sense."
Let us take a moment, in the midst of all the criticism and blame-laying, to commend the work of the Italian Navy and other rescuers in the Norman Atlantic ferry operation. Coordinated from the Italian naval ship the San Giorgio, rescuers worked through the night in atrocious conditions. The Marina Militare should also be thanked for tweeting regular updates, both in Italian and in accurate English. All passengers and crew have now been evacuated from the ferry and the Italian press is reporting ten dead. The number lost at sea is uncertain and the passenger lists are still being checked against the names of those known to have been rescued and those who have, sadly, died.
My thoughts tonight are with all affected, as I am sure yours are.
The duffle coat's back, you know, and this time round it's très chic - like me! My mummy got me this one for my doggie-Xmas-cum-birthdoggieday present. You should have seen the effect it had on that ole black poodle when he saw me in it!
Hope you all had a very Merry Xmas too, fans, with lots of chewey sticks. I did!