Saturday, November 28, 2015


Let's listen to a beautiful song from Tiziano Ferro, who appears tonight and tomorrow in Acireale:

Tiziano Ferro - Il regalo più grande


Lucky lady and queen of pop Madonna received a distinctive, seasonal gift following her three tour appearances in Turin last weekend, namely a Sicilian panettone specially made and personalised for her by young pastry chef Mario Fiasconaro. 

Traditionally made Fiasconaro panettoni contain only the finest Sicilian ingredients, such as citrus honey, Avola almonds and Bronte pistacchi and Madonna's cake was "carved" to reveal a sugar sculpture of the singer on stage during her tour.

Madonna's personal chef Travis Dorsey visited the festival Una Mole di Panettoni, also in Turinto receive the gift on his employer's behalf and is said to have been very impressed, particularly by the beautiful aroma of the cake.  He promised to take it to Madonna's hotel suite so that she could enjoy some "sweet" post-performance time.

Let's hope the lady's health and beauty régime allows her to partake of this Sicilian delight!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Plaque on Salvatore Quasimodo's birthplace in Modica

A little piece of Sicily is to go on sale next week in the form of the Nobel Prize medal awarded to one of Modica's most famous sons, the poet Salvatore Quasimodo, in 1959.  This will be the first sale of a Nobel medal in Italy.

The lot, to be auctioned by Bolaffi of Turin, consists of the medal, the diploma, the original photos of the ceremony and a DVD of it [although the latter is available online anyway].  The starting price is €50,000 but it is estimated that the collection will sell for €100,000 - €150,000.

Bolaffi have decided to set aside €20,000 of their commission to create a scholarship which will enable a student from the Istituto A.M. Jaci, the Messina high school which Quasimodo attended, to study in Milan, the city where the poet lived from 1934 and in which he is buried.

It remains to be seen whether a Sicilian cultural association or other entity will bid for the lot but the Bolaffi decision does mean that Sicily will derive some benefit from the sale. Who knows where the lucky student's Milan experience will lead him or her and what ideas he or she might bring back to Sicily?


There are, in my opinion, two ways of seeting yourself up for the day: one is a full British breakfast [without egg, for me] and the other is a freshly squeezed Sicilian orange juice.  On the right you see the first of the season:

As I've mentioned before, no self-respecting Sicilian barman will squeeze a non-Sicilian, out-of-season orange and, even though the orange season started a month ago, our local bar did not deem the fruit good enough for juice until this week. And long may things continue thus!

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Number three in the Italian charts is this song of loss from Marco Mengoni:

Marco Mengoni - Ti ho voluto bene veramente

Friday, November 20, 2015


So after visiting the UK for the first time in eight years, what changes did I note? I tend to notice weird, often insignificant things, so here are my weird observations, in no particular order:

  • Handbags are still on the small side.
  • Eateries are noisier than Italian ones but at least they are free of the ubiquitous televisions you find in the latter.
  • Why did I get a separate "glass of ice" every time I asked for ice in my mineral water?
  • There is a craze for sweet potato chips.
  • Halloween has become a more pleasant festival than I remembered.
  • When did people start saying "See you later" to mean "soon/sometime/never"?
  • I was interested to see what kind of shops have survived the recession and was surprised to find several novelty shops in the centre of Cardiff still there.
  • I was negatively flabbergasted at the cost of public transport and positively so at its efficiency [after 10 years in Modica].
  • I was relieved that most people I talked to were more sympathetic to refugees than when I left and than the media would lead one to believe now. I was also relieved that most people I met did not think the UK will leave the EU.

Et plus ça ne change pas.....

As a post scriptum on my trip home, here is a note to Comiso Airport, a clean and efficient facility that we are justly proud of in these parts:  I know Sicilians don't like to be comfortable, but the rest of the world does, so please can we have some seating outside the airport? Weary travellers waiting to be picked up after you close need somewhere to sit!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Just in case you were wondering, Bertie-Pierrine was very well looked after while I was away. She was full of wags to have me back, though, and I was so relieved to see her! She also thoroughly approves of my new, British duvet cover - Italian single beds are slightly smaller than British ones so the covers don't always fit my faithful old duvet.  Somehow I don't think this cover is going to last long!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


However much we love our new country, sooner or later most expats feel like this:

But that wasn't the only reason I took a quick trip back to the UK a couple of weeks ago, as you will see.

Firstly, it was an opportunity to spend some time with my new-found sister and meet the rest of my birth family and their friends.

"We're having a little party for you tomorrow", announced my sister Jill upon my arrival. I was astonished and delighted to find that she had invited what seemed like the whole of Norwich and I must say, she was rather Italian about food, as it kept coming!  Don't you just love brother-in-law's specially made shirt?  

The "sisters" poster was made from a photo taken when Jill and her husband were here in Sicily last year and yes, there were fireworks too!

As I said, the delicious food just kept on coming.....

I very much enjoyed walking around Norwich with my sister and it made me feel closer to my birth mother to walk through the market there, as I had learnt it was something she often did.

Then there was a visit to the Norfolk Broads:

Here I am the next day, hair done and ready to go and meet my blogging friend Ellee Seymour for the first time!  We were off to London for a very special occasion indeed and Oxford Street looked beautiful from the bus:

The occasion was the Charles Aznavour concert at the Royal Albert Hall and all I can say is that both Monsieur Aznavour and the venue were merveilleux.  And thank you, Ellee, for the dedicated copy of your very interesting book, The Shop Girls. I loved it!

Wednesday morning and I was off again, to WALES at last!  I'd had the hiraeth for a long time, you see and I also needed to reconnect with the mum and dad who had brought me up.  Of course, I cried as the coach came into dear old Cardiff but was "the 'Diff" going to be ready for my Catania hat?

It turned out that it was and one of the first things I did was to have a walk in the park in the rain. I met up with lots of friends, gazed open-mouthed at the sheer number of new shops in my hometown and spent several hours just trying to orientate myself! I was very relieved to find that the universal greeting there is still, "Hiya, love".  

Later I visited the Senedd or Welsh Government building - it hadn't been built when I was last in Cardiff - and was impressed, especially when I was told that it is probably the first Assembly in the world to have achieved gender equality in its membership.

These lovely gentlemen deserve a BIG photo all of their own for they are none other than the members of the fabulòus Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir and they kindly allowed me to attend their rehearsal. There's nothing like the sound of a Welsh male voice choir and a more rousing version of the Welsh national anthem I have never heard in my life!

There was another concert, this time at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and performed by the students of the Brass and Percussion Ensembles. I'm sure some of these young people are going to be stars. 

I had to have a "full Welsh" breakfast before leaving and the dear friend I stayed with lovingly orepared this excellent Jamaican Pepperpot Stew.  Then it was time to go and, as I passed the entrance to the Castle grounds at twilight, I couldn't help shedding some tears for the little dog I walked there so long ago.  "Ta'ra, love", I said to the 'Diff.  "I'll try and come back soon!"

Not that Cardiff is full of "tumble- down old shack streets" and not that my friends there are "corny country cousins" but this is for my hometown and for them:

Saturday, November 14, 2015


During a quick trip home to the UK last week, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir rehearsal. Oh, how I've missed sounds like this!

Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir - Bread of Heaven

Earlier, on November 3rd, I achieved my ambition of seeing the great Charles Aznavour live in concert. This little man embodies the spirit of France, of which we are all thinking tonight:

Charles Aznavour, Royal Albert Hall 2015 - Les Deux Guitares

Friday, November 13, 2015


My post was going to be quite different but then the shocking news from that lovely city that we all associate with freedom came in. I can only say that, like millions all around the world, my heart is in Paris tonight.

 Henry Mancini - The Last Time I Saw Paris


Two developments this week would seem to indicate that the wider world is at last beginnng to recognise the humanitarian work that Italy has been doing for so long with regard to migration:

On Monday we learnt that IFRC [International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies] is to award its biennial Henry Davison prize to the Sicilian Red Cross for its humanitarian work on behalf of refugees. This award is given to individuals or societies who have significantly improved the lives of vulnerable people.

The President of the Sicilian Red Cross, Rosario Valastro, will receive the award in Geneva on 6th December.  Mr Valastro has written to all Sicilian Red Cross volunteers to thank them and has said, 

"I only want to think of everything that you have seen with your own eyes, the real-life stories that you have heard, the hands of men, women and children that you have touched: men, women and children, not numbers, nor just migrants, but people to help without asking questions."

Yesterday the UN announced the appointment of Italian Filippo Grandi, formerly of UNWRA, as the new High Commissioner for Refugees. This is being seen in Italy as a positive development and Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said that it shows recognition of Italy’s efforts and commitment over the years on behalf of refugees. Outgoing High Commissioner Antonio Gutteres said,

“Filippo Grandi has huge experience in the field: his capacity and deep knowledge of forced migrations will be of great help for the agency and for its mandate to protect and assist millions of people.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Just back [details coming later in the week] and I find that Sicily can still surprise me, for I had never seen these on sale before:

Come to think of it, I had never seen them anywhere and I wasn't the only one, as even elderly Sicilians were asking the greengrocer what they were. Sorbe is the answer and I gather they are related to rowans and are the fruit of this tree. They seem to be a largely forgotten fruit and these come from the Etna area.  The greengrocer said they can be eaten when they turn brown and I can tell you that they have a pleasant, peary taste.

Più si vive, più s'impara - you live and learn.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


At the end of the week when the water was switched back on in the Trevi Fountain, to the applause of tourists, what other song could I play?  The official reopening is on November 3rd.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


In the past week I have seen much coverage of interrupted Eurotunnel services as desperate people who only want a decent life again surge towards the trains, coverage of politicians threatening to close borders and many reports of Sunday's European Leaders' Summit on the Western Balkans Refugee Route. The press release for the latter is here and it does not make very jolly reading. The states represented, we learn, will "refrain from taking unilateral decisions whose effects are inevitably borne by others", a reference, presumably, to the practice of closing your border and bussing those refugees who had previously got through along to someone else's.  The only solution, we are told, is to "stop the flow" but, apart from sharing information more efficiently, we are not told how the EU proposes to do this.There is no mention of saving human life in the whole release.

Well, Italy [not represented at this summit] does not have the luxury of being able to close its Mediterranean entry points and, although the world has forgotten the Libya-Italy route, thousands of people continue to use it and tragic results continue to ensue: on 19th October Italian naval personnel found seven women and one man dead on an overcrowded migrant dinghy off Libya. The causes of death are thought to have been asphyxia and exhaustion. The other 113 passengers were saved by the naval ship  The previous weekend 1,300 people were saved by the Italian Navy and Coast Guard in the Mediterranean.

As I've mentioned before, Italy has a good record in bringing people traffickers to justice but receives little international credit for it, although politicians from other countries huff and puff about stopping this despicable trade. Surely it would make sense for these leaders to cooperate more closely with the front-line nation which is already expert in this area?

According to figures released by the Italian Red Cross today, 130,000 migrants have been helped by their staff and volunteers in Italian ports since January.  The Port of Augusta has seen the most arrivals and Sicily, with a total of 85,000 arrivals, is the Italian region which has been the most active in providing a response to the situation [in terms of reception and help].

Fears are now being expressed that migrants will begin using the Albania - Italy route if more European states close their borders. This is not a new route but it has largely fallen into disuse. When will the world understand that people fleeing for their lives will do so in any way they can or - as we have so often seen while "caring" countries stand by - die in the attempt?

The autumn tides of 2015 are expected to bring with them many more refugees, as people rush to try to reach Europe before atrocious weather sets in.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Here's an oldie which is enjoying 21st century success because of a new film of the same name [released in Italy this week]. I must say Luciana Littizzetto does some excellent crying in this trailer!

Alessandro Amoroso - Io che amo solo te [trailer]


Chocolate to taste and buy at Bonajuto, Modica
Congratulations to my adopted city and its chocolate, which, it has been announced, has outsold chocolate from its two other great Italian homes - Perugia and Turin - at Expo 2015 [closing at the end of this month].

At the Cocoa and Chocolate Cluster, the 22 exhibitors from Modica sold chocolate products worth €217,546,  amounting to 46% of chocolate sales there.  Chocolate from Perugia accounted for 29.10% of sales and chocolate from Turin 24.64%. 
Chocolate being made by the traditional method at Bonajuto, Modica

Mayor of Modica Ignazio Abbate said that these figures prove that the human and financial resources the city has put into Expo were a good investment for both its image and its most famous product. The city's own chocolate festival, ChocoModica 2015 [5th - 8th December 2015] will, he said, benefit from the success of Modican chocolate at Expo.


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