Tuesday, September 02, 2014


I'd studied several recipes for polpette al limone and was particularly inspired by one which suggested cooking the polpette on a bed of lemon leaves but we can't get lemons with the leaves on at this time of year. [They will come in the autumn.] I wondered for a few days what I could use instead and then it came to me - I would try with fresh bay leaves! In my version, I added pinenuts, for the very good reason that I like them in polpette and I used pane grattugiato [very fine dried breadcrumbs which we can buy in packets in Italy] instead of soaking bread in milk and then squeezing it.

OK, you need:

500 gr minced veal
2 large Sicilian or unwaxed lemons
1 clove garlic, crushed
c. 1 tablesp. chopped parsley
a few cut rosemary needles
about 8 leaves fresh sage, chopped
125 gr pane grattugiato
80 gr grated Ragusano or Parmesan cheese
olive oil
seasalt and black pepper
50 gr pinenuts
2 eggs, beaten
about 20 fresh bay leaves

In a bowl, mix the veal, grated zest of the lemons, garlic, herbs, cheese, pane grattugiato, pinenuts, seasoning and eggs with a fork. Roll the mixture into balls with your hands - it should make about 14.

Lightly oil a small roasting tin and place the bay leaves in the base. Put the polpette on top of the bay leaves, then cut the zested lemons into wedges and put these in the gaps.  Drizzle some olive oil over the polpette and scatter a few rosemary sprigs over the top.  Cook at 180 C for 25 minutes.

These are also pretty good cold, so would make interesting picnic food.

Serves 4 generously.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Let's hear again from fabulous 60-year-old Fiorella Mannoia, who is currently touring Sicily and appears in Palermo tonight:

Fiorella Mannoia - Caffè nero bollente

Friday, August 29, 2014


On Tuesday I reported that Mare Nostrum operatives had rescued 73 people and recovered 18 bodies from a migrant boat which had got into trouble off Lampedusa on Saturday night. The poor souls who lost their lives were thought to have died from asphyxia but, even more horrifically, it now emerges that some of them had cranial and spinal fractures which would indicate that they had been hit with metal bars and survivors are saying that this happened as they were embarking in Libya. Investigations continue as I write.

There has, however, been one heartening story from Pozzallo where, among 439 migrants arriving on Wednesday, were a young girl and her beautiful, white cat. The two were separated upon landing despite the girl's protests, for the cat had to be taken to a veterinary centre to be medically checked and vaccinated and it has to be said that, following the ordeal of the journey, puss was not happy either. His owner is hoping to get to Germany where she has relatives and everyone is hoping that her feline friend will be able to accompany her. I somehow think that Italian officials will do their best to ensure that this happens.

A total of 800 migrants were brought to Sicilian ports during Wednesday and 546 more were saved by Mare Nostrum operatives in the Sicilian Channel during the night. Seven people traffickers were arrested and helpfully presented evidence against themselves in the form of selfies taken during the journey.  [This is not the first time this has happened.]  Sadly, the 24 bodies recovered from the wreck of a fishing boat south of Lampedusa on Tuesday were brought to the Port of Augusta.  

Wednesday was also the day when Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano met European Home Affairs Commisssioner Cecilia Malmström and it has been agreed that a new Frontex operation will, from November, complement what Italy is doing. Commissioner Malmström's  press release on the meeting can be read here.  As she says, the success of such a joint operation will depend upon the willingness of all member states to contribute and Italy, as the current holder of the EU presidency, is expected to be instrumental in finding funding solutions. Let us hope that this is the help that Italy has been requesting for so long.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Once again it has taken a tragedy for the migrant situation with which Italy is dealing every day to make the international press: on Saturday night the Italian Navy saved 73 people and recovered 18 bodies from a boat which had partially sunk 120 miles south of Lampedusa. The 18 dead were found on the bottom of the boat and they are presumed to have died from dehydration or the inhalation of petrol fumes. Ten migrants who had either fallen or jumped into the sea were saved by inflatable life rafts thrown to them by the crew of the naval ship but it is thought that up to another ten migrants were lost at sea. On Sunday evening the survivors and the bodies were taken to Pozzallo where Mayor Luigi Ammatuna spoke of an unending tragedy, a genocide with consequences that Italy, and Pozzallo in particular, cannot shoulder alone. The bodies have now been transferred to the Protezione Civile morgue in Ragusa while Mayor Ammatuna makes arrangements for their burial in the cemeteries of neighbouring towns. The Mayor has asked both the Prefect of Ragusa and the Italian Interior Ministry for help.

Meanwhile another Italian naval ship has arrived in Reggio Calabria carrying 1,373 migrants who had been saved in recent days. Fifty people aboard had scabies and the ship was also tragically carrying the body of an Eritrean man who had, according to survivors, been hit with a metal bar by a people trafficker as the migrant boat left Libya. 

Yet another overcrowded migrant boat sank half a mile off Libya on Friday night and it is estimated that 250 passengers have died. Bodies were still being washed up onto Libyan beaches today [Tuesday].

Tuesday as a whole has brought no better news, with another fishing boat carrying migrants having capsized south of Lampedusa. The Italian Navy and Coast Guard have rescued 364 people and six bodies were initially recovered, a figure which has now risen to 24.

It is reported that a total of 4,000 migrants were rescued or recovered by Mare Nostrum operatives last weekend alone. Perhaps the Vatican City newpaper L'Osservatore Romano put it best, saying that a "silent war" is taking place in the Mediterranean.

Today representatives from the Italian Interior Ministry, Frontex [the European External Borders Agency] and the European Commission met to discuss the situation and an urgent meeting between Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano and European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has been scheduled for Wednesday. Cecilia Malmström has said that this is to define priorities and decide how Italy and other Mediterranean countries can be helped in this situation. Can we really hope that words will be accompanied by deeds this time?

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Orietta Berti has always been one of my favourite Italian singers and, as I'm feeling sentimental, here she is in 2013 performing  the song that she and Massimo Ranieri sang at Sanremo in 1969, when it was placed tenth.

Orietta Berti - Quando l'amore diventa poesia

Friday, August 22, 2014


A very pleasant lunch with friends at Basilico', in a shady corner of Modica Bassa today, consisted of:

beautifully presented antipasti,

a tagliata steak served with rucola [rocket] and Grana cheese for me,

spatola [scabbardfish] with vegetables for one friend

and linguine with tuna for the other:

There were small, warm bread rolls too, and plenty of them:

For dessert, this chocolate and orange mousse was definitely a winner!

There was service with a smile, shade and relaxing music too - well done, the Basilico'!

Thursday, August 21, 2014


As I've mentioned, it can seem, in Sicily, as if everything has stopped for the Ferragosto holiday and the days around it but there are two things which did not - the incidence of migrant boats foundering in the Mediterranean and the political debate arising from these sad events.

On 14th August 750 migrants who had been rescued in the Sicilian Channel arrived in Brindisi [Puglia] on an Italian naval ship. Among them were 140 children, many of whom were unaccompanied. On 15th August 1004 migrants, most of them from the Middle East and Nigeria, were taken to Naples, where taxi drivers given the job of driving them to hospital or reception centres turned up for work wearing masks. Scabies and illnesses such as gastroenteritis are feared although more serious diseases have been ruled out. A fine "welcome" but an understandable one, perhaps.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said on August 15th [the day of the bank holiday] that Operazione Mare Nostrum, launched on 18th October last year, must be wound up by Italy before its second anniversary and that Frontex [the European External Borders Agency] and the EU must take over. He said that Italy had shown itself to be a world leader in migrant reception and that Italian police had arrested 539 people on suspicion of people trafficking between 1st August 2013 and 31st July this year. The European Commission accorded him a curt response on Tuesday, saying that Frontex does not have the resources to replace Mare Nostrum and that EU member states must each help more. This last is exactly what Italy has been asking for all along, a plea which has fallen largely on deaf ears so I would like to know what guarantee we have that it will happen now.

Bureaucrats may argue, but people will always try to escape from hell and the absence of hope.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014


Last week, our street was closed for three days for lavori stradali [roadworks], much to the chagrin of my neighbours, who drive everywhere. [What anyone who was disabled was supposed to do during this period, I don't know - not go out, I suppose, it being assumed that they would have family to help them.]

The workmen helpfully cleared a pedestrian path around the hole

but the path came to an abrupt end here:

Several of my intrepid neighbours seemed to find clambering over the low wall quite normal

but take a closer look at the slope below it and you'll understand why I didn't take the risk!

However, I did make the acquaintance of several neighbours I hadn't spoken to before because they had never, to my knowledge, actually walked down the street and one day a kind workman carried my shopping right to the door.

Quannu a sorti ti voli aiutari, anfina a casa ti veni a truvari.
When Fate wants to give you a hand, it will come to your house to find you.
- Sicilian proverb

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Last night saw a homecoming for Chiara Civello, the singer born in Rome of Modican parents and called, by Tony Bennett, "the best jazz singer of her generation". I didn't go to Chiara's concert in Modica last night, but I have been lucky enough to see her perform live in the past.

I like this version of the Jimmy Fontana classic Il Mondo, from her new album, Canzoni:

Chiara Civello - Il Mondo 

Thursday, August 14, 2014


If you are a tourist coming to Modica tomorrow for the Ferragosto holiday, you will be able to visit this,

Modica, Duomo di San Pietro


Modica, Duomo di San Giorgio

and this:

Modica, Chiesa di Santa Maria di Betlem

Virtually everything else, I am sorry to tell you, will be closed. This includes museums, the house of Modica's Nobel laureate Salvatore Quasimodo and, in the countryside, the Cava d'Ispica.

Yes, it is true that if we come to another country, we have to do our best to adapt to its rhythms and I have no problem with that. However, dear Comune di Modica, you cannot continue to behave in such a way and, at the same time, blame your woes on the crisi economica and tell us how much you want tourists!

Happy Ferragosto.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Ensign of the Italian Navy

It's always nice when Italy receives praise rather than brickbats and this week Rupert Neudeck, co-founder of the humanitarian association Cap Anamur, has suggested that the Italian Navy be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its humanitarian work in saving 73,000 migrants in the Mediterranean during the Mare Nostrum operation.  Mr Neudeck also said in Hamburg that European policy towards migrants is a disaster and that Northern European countries have a duty to take in more refugees to help countries such as Italy.

Mare Nostrum is a controversial initiative in Italy but no one could deny that the Marina Militare are doing a sterling job. It is estimated that they have saved 1,396 migrants in the last 24 hours alone.

But can a military force be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? What about this? What do you think?

I decided to find out more about Rupert Neudeck and was surprised to learn about this event, which took place a year before I settled in Sicily. It also shows how things have changed.


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