Tuesday, July 22, 2014


In Britain, as I write, a very famous baby is celebrating his first birthday; in Messina, as I write, arrangements are being made for the burial of a migrant baby of the same age who was found dead on arrival in the port.

Having been advised of a migrant boat in difficulty by a satellite phone SOS call at 4 am on Saturday, the Rome Coast Guard alerted a Danish tanker bound for Tunisia and the Coast Guard in Lampedusa. The tanker was first to arrive on the scene, between Libya and Malta, and immediately set about rescuing the passengers from the inadequate fishing boat. Some, however, drowned during the transfer.

But worse was to be discovered: 29 poor souls are known to have been asphyxiated by fumes in the hold, which they were prevented from leaving by the people traffickers and the 581 survivors who arrived at Messina on Sunday are saying that more than 60 people were killed at random by the traffickers; they were allegedly kicked, stabbed and their bodies thrown into the sea. It is estimated that the boat could have been carrying up to 800 people and that there are 180 dead but neither figure can be confirmed.

It has also been revealed that the people traffickers were operating a two-tier fare system, with migrants of Arab origin paying  $1,000 - $2,000 each for the journey and those of African origin paying $250 - $500.

Five men have now been arrested by Sicilian police on suspicion of mass murder.

The world watches Gaza, the world watches Ukraine and the world watches the little prince but no one outside Italy, it seems, is watching the Mediterranean.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Leafing through some British magazines yesterday, I realised it had been years since I'd made a summer pudding, so I decided to put that to rights and give the dessert a Sicilian touch by using mirtilli [whortleberries] and adding the rind and juice of an orange.  

My trusty pudding basin is bigger than the one needed for this recipe so I was expecting a right mess as I turned the pudding out but it was OK!

As the recipe is quite simple and people who like cooking can often follow instructions in the language they are learning, I've just put it on my blog for English students and you can see it here.

If you try it, I hope you enjoy this slightly Sicilian version of summer pudding!

Saturday, July 19, 2014


When Aida, directed by Enrico Castiglione, opened at the Greek Theatre in Siracusa last Saturday, the production received a ten-minute standing ovation. There is also a performance tonight and next Saturday, so let's take a peek:

Teatro greco, Siracusa, luglio 2014
Aida - Marcia trionfale  


"Non importa dove si nasce se si combatte per le stesse idee e si crede nelle stesse cose."
"It doesn't matter where we come from if we fight for the same ideas and believe in the same things."
- Judge Paolo Borsellino

Twenty-two years ago today the antimafia Judge Paolo Borsellino was killed, along with five members of his escort, by a bomb as he rang the doorbell of his mother's apartment in Palermo. Sicily does not forget.

Strage di via D'Amelio, 19.7 92

Judge Paolo Borsellino
Agostino Catalano
Walter Eddie Cosina
Vincenzo Li Muli
Emanuela Loi
Claudio Traina

Friday, July 18, 2014


Every Italian man's favourite diva, Sophia Loren, will be 80 on 20th September and she has decided to celebrate early!

Tomorrow, as part of the Napa Valley Festival del Sole, Michael Chiarello and Modican chef Piero Selvaggio, owner of the Valentino restaurant in Santa Monica, will cook for Sophia and 400 guests at the Far Niente vineyard. Robert Redford will be Master of Ceremonies. Sophia's son Carlo Ponti Jr. will conduct the LA Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra in their debut concert and they will play the themes from some of Sophia's films.

The tomatoes, olives and capers used in the dishes will be from Sicily and the olive oil from Ragusa. Modica plays its part too, for there will be a croccantino of Bonajuto chocolate for dessert.

Congratulations, Sophia and, as you've always said you owe everything to spaghetti and we know, thank goodness, that you are not one of those skinny stars who are afraid to enjoy their food, buon appetito!

Sophia Loren receiving an honorary Oscar in 1991

Thursday, July 17, 2014


As soon as I saw dried goji berries in the supermarket here, I knew I wanted to use them with chicken and this is what I came up with:

12 chicken escalopes, pounded very thinly. [In Italy just tell the butcher you want breast slices for involtini.]
12 thin slices pancetta
400 gr risotto rice
juice and rind of 1 lemon
0.25 litre white wine
1 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
50 gr dried goji berries
100 gr pinenuts
basil leaves
cinnamon, preferably freshly ground from a cinnamon mill
seasalt and black pepper

First, make the risotto: Heat 3 tablesp olive oil in a wide pan, add the onion and garlic and cook, strirring, over a low flame until soft but not brown. Pour the white wine and lemon juice into a measuring jug and make up to 1 litre with water. Add about 100 gr of the rice to the pan and stir around, then add the rest of the rice and about a quarter of the liquid, stirring. When the rice has absorbed it, add another quarter and repeat the process, until you have all the liquid in the pan. Add the berries, pinenuts, 3 - 4 twists of cinnamon from a mill or 1 teasp powdered cinnamon, the lemon rind, seasoning and a few torn basil leaves.  Turn the heat down and let the risotto cook for about 15 mins., stiriring occasionally. When it tastes right, take it off the heat and let it cool for up to 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Lay the pancetta slices on a chopping board or a couple of large plates and put a chicken slice on top of each one. Spread some of the risotto - about a dessertspoon for each one -  along the slices, then roll them up in the pancetta.  You won't need to secure them with anything - they will hold. Lightly oil a large, Pyrex-style roasting dish and place the involtini in it. Cook in the oven for 30 mins.

I served these with roasted datterini tomatoes which I had sprinkled with herbs, seasoning, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

You can freeze any leftover risotto mixture for the next time!

Serves 6.

Buon appetito.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Hi, folks.

It's Simi here!

I've just had my summer haircut and I'm driving the Italian dogs wild - especially that ole black poodle!

But I couldn't spend all day parading up and down for them. I had serious things to do!

My mummy has gone all curly-wurly. What do you think?

I think she looks almost as cool as me!

Well, see you soon, fans.  Be good and have a waggie summer!


Simi xx woof!

Monday, July 14, 2014


As many of you know, the language, culture and literature of France have also played a big part in my life so I always commemorate Bastille Day on this blog.  And who better to sing today than the great Monsieur Aznavour and one of my favourite Italian singers, Laura Pausini? After all, it's nearly August!

Charles Aznavour et Laura Pausini - Paris au mois d'août

Also, because I'm a sentimental old fool and it's a long time since I saw Paris, here's Dino

Dean Martin - The Last Time I Saw Paris

Bonne fête de la Bastille à tout le monde!

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Let's hear from the palermitano baritone Nicola Alaimo, who tonight sings Raimbaud in Le Comte Ory at La Scala:

Nicola Alaimo - Di Provenza, il mare, il suol [La Traviata]: Muti

Friday, July 11, 2014


Two claps of thunder, five minutes of rain, a pause for brilliant sunshine then another clap of thunder and three more minutes of rain - that was enough to cause chaos in Modica Bassa yesterday morning.  The "storm" sent everybody scurrying back into town from the sea for the duration and, being modicani, those who usually travel on their motorbikes abandoned them for their cars. No one, naturally, considered catching a bus.

This would have caused a traffic jam in the old town anyway, but with the closure for maintenance work of the Ponte Guerrieri, one of the main arteries into the city and the highest road bridge in Europe until the French spoilt it by building a higher one a few years ago, it was a disaster.

Now the Mayor has promised that the bridge will reopen in September, which is rather strange as the maintenance contract runs until the end of December, so no one's betting on it.

Meanwhile, how about bus lanes and an efficient bus service with a revolutionary commitment to taking people where they actually want to go?

Ponte Guerrieri, Modica

Thursday, July 10, 2014


There is, as Tim Parks writes in Italian Ways, an Italian fantasy about English usage and the proof is in the execrable attempts at translation which can be seen on notices and in advertisements everywhere in this lovely land. The modicani, however, have taken this art to new heights and I have finally identified the habit as a disease called Modican Englishitis.  

Modican Englishitis first manifests itself in a stubborn refusal to imitate correct pronunciation, so that if an English teacher corrects a student who prononces guitar as gweetar, with the stress on the first syllable, the student will listen politely, nod, say, "Ah, gweetar" and happily continue with the erroneous pronunciation.

As the disease progresses, sufferers will insist on pronouncing all past simple tense - ed endings as a separate syllable [finish-èd] and are particularly resistant to the final -s on any English word. I used to think that this refusal to pronounce the final -s came about because foreign nouns which are used in Italian don't have plural forms but now I've come to the conclusion that it is just bloody-mindedness. Patients are perfectly capable of pronouncing the final - s, for where there is not one you can be sure they will add it!  

In Modica you will be invited to use "slots" [but not slot] machines, eat your dinner in the chicken rather than the kitchen and visit the say-ah [sea] to "have a bath". This last is presumably because you don't have a bathroom in the "eighth century" house you have purchased [a mistranslation of ottocento - the nineteenth century]. 

You may not understand a word of the English used in Modica, but never let it be said that life is dool hair [dull here]!

Saying "goodbye" if you have Modican Englishitis

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


The saddest news I have to report tonight is that, when the migrant boat involved in last week's tragedy was finally brought to Pozzallo, 45, not 27 or 30, bodies were found, jammed into the hold.  Four men have beern arrested by Sicilian police on suspicion of people trafficking.  Last Wednesday the front page of La Sicilia carried the headline "Mare Mortum".

On Sunday night around 100 migrants, including women and children, arrived on Ispica beach. It was the usual story: an inadequate boat carrying them had managed to elude patrols, brought them within sight of the beach, forced them into the water and then made a fast getaway.  Let us hope that no one drowned.

It is estimated that 2,600 migrants were saved by the Italian Navy and other Mare Nostrum operatives over the weekend. Premier Renzi has again said that the operation must continue but with EU support:

"It is not possible, in 2014, to let a ship full of children sink because we don't know whose jurisdiction it is in.  We save them."

The week has seen several protests in Sicily by both residents and migrants: The inhabitants of Siculiana [Agrigento] protested against the sheer numbers of migrants arriving in their small town but things seem to have calmed down for the moment now that the Mayor has had a meeting with Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who listened to her concerns. Mr Alfano promised that the number of arrivals in the town would be carefully regulated and gave assurances regarding public health. He also said that the EU at last appears to be realising that Italy, and especially Sicily, cannot take sole responsibility for the migrants after they have been rescued.

Yesterday in Caltagirone, where 110 unaccompanied migrant minors have been living in overcrowded and quite insanitary conditions, the situation exploded. The young migrants destroyed furniture and broke glass in their centre, then set up street blocks nearby. Who can blame them? They say they cannot maintain personal hygiene in these conditions, that they do not have enough drinking water [temperatures in Sicily are reaching 40 C now ] and that their meals are served cold. They also say they do not have enough clothing and are not given any spending money - to which, as asylum seekers, they are entitled - or phone cards. They only want to be listened to but at the moment have no access to anyone who might understand their problems.

As I write, Sicily waits: a Libyan politician said last week that at least 3 million migrants are preparing to leave Libya in an attempt to reach Italian shores during the summer.

Saturday, July 05, 2014


At no. 12 in the Italian singles chart this week is this pleasant song from Francesco Renga:

Francesco Renga - Il mio giorno più bello del mondo

Friday, July 04, 2014


I am re-posting this because there is still time to sign up for these courses!

At London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale we are very happy to be able to announce that, in partnership with Vacanze Craunari, we are offering Italian courses this summer:

Italian for English Speakers
€450,00 per person

Course dates:
31 August - 7 September
7 September - 14 September

Price includes:
7 nights in a shared apartment
12-hour Italian course
7 breakfasts

Services available upon payment of a supplement [must be pre-booked]:
Airport or port transfers

If you are already in Modica or have planned your trip and would like to learn Italian, London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale also has the following summer offers:


Summer offers – courses from €160!

8-hour and 12-hour courses
July, August or September, 2 or 3 hours per week
Tailored to your needs
Minimum:  group of 2

36-hour course
July, August and September
Tailored to your needs
Pay for 2 months and get one month FREE!!
Minimum:  group of 2

Individual courses can also be arranged.

Call Pat at the Centre now!
[0039] 0932 905642  /  +39 366 119 6467



Wednesday, July 02, 2014


It had been a long time since the postwoman brought me something pleasant so imagine my delight today when a completely unexpected package arrived from Britain. It contained goodies from my friend Carol King, who last week visited Wales for the first time:

The coloured card shows three very woolly sheep and says, "Rush hour in Abergavenny".  Below it are three fridge magnets - Cardiff Castle, the cutest dragon and a "Patricia" magnet with a picture of a daffodil.  The other cards have the text of the Lord's Prayer in Welsh and in Italian. Perhaps now my students will believe me when I tell them that the Welsh language is completely different from English! The slate beermat says, "Happiness is having Welsh friends."  Happiness is also having friends like Carol!

I loved the television series Call the Midwife so I was very happy to receive this book as well. I can't wait to read it!

Thank you, Carol.


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