This is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine yesterday. It's an upsetting story and I cannot stop thinking about it. What desperate loneliness this woman must have felt:
In an incident which has shocked all of Italy, but particularly the South, where family ties are strongest, a thirty-year-old woman drowned her two children in the sea at Torre di Manfria, Gela [Sicily] on Friday: just after midday Vanessa Lo Porto drove to the sea with the two boys, aged nine and two.
In stunningly beautiful surroundings she walked into the sea with them and let them go, then, according to some reports, tried to drown herself. According to these reports, her instinct for life took over and she managed to return to the beach. What is certain is that she walked back to her car and called the police, who maintain that she did not try to drown herself.
The body of the older child – who was autistic - was found immediately but that of his brother was recovered on Saturday morning.
Lo Porto was taken to hospital and is under sedation. She had been separated from her husband for some months and one theory is that she was suffering from depression because of this. Recently she had been given the news that her younger son was also autistic.
On 16th April she had left a positive status update on facebook, writing,
“When you cannot go back, you must think about the best possible way to move forward. You cannot choose how you feel, but you can always do something to ensure you feel as well as possible.”
A latter-day Medea or a desperate woman in the darkest depths of depression?
The investigation continues and the funerals of the two boys will take place today.
I'd bought some thin pork chops and wasn't sure what to do with them. I'd also found some agretti - a type of cress, which I've shown you before here - and was wondering what to do with that. I had some oranges, honey, sage and white wine. This is what I came up with:
Pork chops with oranges and agretti
Crush a clove of garlic and brown it for a minute in 3 tablesp olive oil in a wide pan. Add 4 thin pork chops and cook for 3 - 4 minutes on each side. Lift the chops out and put them on a plate. Now add a little white wine to the pan - about 5 fl oz, I suppose - and deglaze. Add the juice of an orange, a tablesp of honey - orange-flavoured is nice - let it all bubble up and then put the chops back in. Grate the rind of another orange over them, then segment the orange and add these pieces to the pan. Season and add some sage leaves and agretti if you have some. Serve immediately with salad.
Every now and then you come across a cookery book with recipes that you just know will work. Some instinct seems to tell you that this book is for you. I found such a book in the supermarket the other day. It contains recipes from Cotto e mangiato, a cookery series which is incorporated into a lunchtime news peogramme every day.
Last weekend I decided to try the chicken cooked in salt. My butcher suggested I use two halves of a hollowed-out chicken rather than a crushed one, so that's what I did, with excellent results. This video of the recipe from Italia 1 is in Italian but you'll be able to follow it even if you don't speak the language at all. Benedetta Parodi sprinkles a little water over the salt-covered chicken before putting it in the oven at 200 C for 1 hour 40 minutes.
It seems a long time since I sat down and tentatively wrote my first post and so much has happened since then. Each of us who moves to a new country must find our own salvation, it seems to me and blogging was mine. Even someone like me who is fluent in the language and who has many friends in their new land can be lonely at times and my blog alleviated that loneliness. What is more, it gave this basically lazy soul a little discipline, for every day I had a fixed appointment with writing. My blog has, indirectly, brought me paid work, it has taught me a lot about technology and it has been, and remains, fun. But most importantly of all it has made me many friends all over the world and tonight I want to thank all of you who read us. Won't you join me in a coppa di frutta over at the Altro Posto?
I love buying fruit of different sizes and shapes, so lemons that look like apples and little lemons are a delight to me:
Now the fruit lorries are teeming with nespole [medlars or loquats] and some of these look so imperfect that they would not be sold in the UK. There's nothing wrong with the taste, however, and after the medlars we will have nectarines, peaches and all the abundance of summer.
Making the most of what the season has to offer and then being ready for the next crop is a good way to live and somehow helps you to make peace with time.
I just want to let all my fans know I'm better and it was nice of everyone to ask about me. If you look closely at this pic of me in my favourite chair you can just see the sore place on my cheek where the nasty insect bit me.
I scratched it a lot at first but I stopped when mummy said we might have to get one of those plastic collar things. A girl doesn't want to look silly! The vetty-man gave me some antibiotics and I didn't bite him this time.
Here I am with mummy. I help her write her articles, you know.
And here's a song my mummy plays me when we have cuddle-time. It's Mister "Jones the Song" from where we used to live.
Well, who’d have thought it? Admittedly, Federico Fellini was well known as a ladies’ man but feminist academic Germaine Greer does not immediately spring to mind when one imagines his partners. And yet why not? Perhaps it was inevitable that two of the most unconventional people of their time should have been attracted to each other.
Writing in yesterday’s Guardian, Greer recalls meeting Fellini in 1975, when someone suggested her for a part in Casanova. It was fifteen years after La Dolce Vita and five years after the publication of The Female Eunuch. Greer, then aged 36, arrived at Cinecittà perspiring in the summer heat. She was wearing a flimsy dress and no underwear. Fellini at 55 was fascinated and asked her to read the script with a view to playing Madame Chatelet .
The two began to discuss the script and Fellini went to see Greer at her Italian home, packing his pyjamas in an overnight bag. They continued to talk about the script and Fellini, already suffering from a heart condition, made his own supper of a plain risotto. They went to bed but throughout the night Fellini made calls to his wife, the actress Giulietta Masina.
Days later Fellini gave Greer a present of electric light for her tiny house, sending his own workmen around to do the wiring. They did not see one another often, largely because of Greer’s work commitments, but they continued to discuss his films and Greer seems to have acted as a sounding board for the director. She has never forgotten him and calls him “a many-sided genius”.
'Tis the season to be melancholy and that's how I felt when I saw a man for whom I have feelings - he doesn't know about this - strolling in the April sunshine with his new love today. I decided to go and buy something I didn't need but, it being 1 pm, only the newsagent's was open. So now I have yet another baking tin, coutesy of the magazine with which it came "free" [if you paid an extra 7 euros].
The moral of this tale is that you can be a fool at any age.
But at least you can bang a baking tin about and make a lot of satisfying noise!
Here's what I did with the small green tomatoes I found the other day: First I sliced them thinly, then put them in a bowl with some cut-up sundried tomatoes [not the ones in oil] chopped mint, sprigs of thyme, crushed garlic, seasalt, black pepper and a little sugar. I chucked some balsamic vinegar over the lot and left them in the fridge. I drizzled some olive oil over before serving.
.... from my old friends at the Altro Posto bar when I popped in for some water today:
The Altro Posto was the bar where I became a "regular" when I first arrived here. The staff made me feel at home and I'll always be grateful to them for that. Recently I wrote about this experience here.
This is a pork recipe I invented one evening when I wanted to cook something new, but quickly.
Thin slices of lonza [loin] or pork escalopes
fresh herbs of your choice
a few pink peppercorns, some chilli flakes and coarse seasalt
orange slices to garnish
Put the herbs - I used fresh thyme, sage and rosemary - in a pestle and mortar with the peppercorns and other seasoning and whack them all round a bit. Put the herb mixture on a plate and quicly pass the pork slices through it, one by one, on both sides. Heat a little olive oil - no more than 1 tablesp - on a griddle pan and cook the pork slices. They'll only take a minute or so on each side.
Put on a serving plate, garnish and serve immediately.
I served this with a salad of rocket and oranges which needs only olive oil.
Pastieri and Cassata
Last night I was wondering what to have for supper when the doorbell rang and it was my student Salvo the postman bearing gifts of food! His wife had made me some meat pastieri and a traditional cassata.
Many of you have come to know my friend Antonio Lonardo and his work through this blog, so I thought you might enjoy this interview with him which was published in Italy Magazine last week.
The Modican poet Antonio Lonardo lives in an apartment full of light under the town’s famous Guerrieri Bridge. I first met him at the launch of his collection, “Desiderio di Luce” on a January evening in 2009. After the presentation, I asked Antonio if I could take some photographs and publish an extract from one of his poems on my blog, with my own translation. He not only agreed but the next day rang me to ask if I would be interested in translating a new collection.
Thus began a project and a friendship and now I call Antonio “My poet”. In February I had the privilege of travelling with him to Buggiano [Tuscany] where he received a prize for his poem “Esistenziale Itinerario” and I spoke about the translation.
Today I would like to introduce all of you to “the poet of the bridge” or “my poet” so I interviewed him for Italy Magazine:
Patti Chiari: Antonio, we met in the autumn of our lives and I don’t know much about your youth. Can you tell us about it?
Antonio: I was born in Avellino [Campania] on 3rd September 1943. It was a difficult birth and I was a weak child, the seventh in my family. I try to express how this felt in my poem “Analogiche Differenze” which I wrote for my sisters:
Ero fragile pianta di vetro
in una brughiera di spine,
smussate solo da campane a festa;
le pareti del mio cuore,
trapassate da circoli di fosforo,
battevano in sintonia con i vostri.
I was a fragile plant of glass
in a moorland of thorns
blunted only by feast-day bells;
the walls of my heart,
pierced by phosphorus circles,
beat in harmony with yours.
PC: Did the war affect you?
Antonio: Yes, there were many battles in my area and I saw soldiers all the time. My family had been deeply and personally affected by the First World War because my uncle had been killed in battle only twenty days after that war broke out. My grandfather, who was a remote figure to me, never stopped grieving and my grandmother never got over the shock and died in 1923. In my poem “Nonno Celestino”, dedicated to my grandfather, I imagine the town like a trench on the day of his own funeral:
Sembrava una trincea,
scavata nella neve,
tra le case del paese
e gli alberi della strada,
il percorso funebre,
di morte terribilmente avvenuta
nel vallo contro il nemico.
It was like a trench,
dug in the snow,
among the houses in the village
and the trees in the street,
the funeral journey,
of a death cruelly penetrating
the ditch against the enemy.
PC: What was your first job?
Antonio: As a young man I did various jobs in the countryside and then I went to Milan. I became a secretary in a middle school and then I went to University in Salerno [Campania] and afterwards trained as a teacher.
PC: Where did you teach before coming to Modica?
Antonio: I taught Italian literature in upper schools in Benevento [Campania] and Salerno.
PC: When did you start to write poetry?
Antonio: In 1977 after my fiancée, Edvige, died at the age of thirty following a bungled operation. Writing poetry helped me.
PC: Did you publish your poetry?
Antonio: No, I distributed copies to family and friends, particularly Edvige’s family. I still have a good relationship with them and we keep in touch.
PC: When did you meet your wife, Carla?
Antonio: I met her in Bergamo through friends. I remember the date - 5th March 1981. We started going out and we got married after 13 months.
PC: That’s quick by Italian standards! Carla’s been a source of inspiration, hasn’t she?
Antonio: Oh, yes, always. I talk about the day I met her in “Quel giorno”:
di un giorno,
con il sole
il domani s’attendeva radioso.
In the words
of a single day,
with the sun
on my back,
the horizon alight with hope,
a brilliant tomorrow was promised.
PC: I love that poem. Did you come to Modica because of Carla?
Antonio: Yes, she’s from here.
PC: What else inspires you?
Antonio: My studies, particularly of the classics, family, friends, particular emotions and world news. I like to think that my poems are the story of a life lived and I try to impart a sense of history.
PC: You wrote a poem about Pope John Paul 11, didn’t you?
Antonio: Yes, “Outsider”. I wanted to express all aspects of this complex man and it was difficult. Then one Sunday afternoon I felt like writing and I put all the verses from my drafts in order. Each verse expresses a different aspect of the man:
ha attraversato i deserti
dei cuori induriti,
scavalcando i muri,
caduti con le ideologie.
coming from the East,
you crossed the deserts
of hardened hearts,
climbing over walls
felled with their ideologies.
PC: I know you won a prize for the poem. Which one was it?
Antonio: The Premio Pompeii in 2007. I’m very proud of it.
PC: How many poetry prizes have you won altogether?
Antonio: Fifty-three in the last three and a half years. Eleven of them are for my collection, “Desiderio di Luce”.
PC: I think you’re soon going to have to move house to find room for all these prizes, Antonio! Tell us about your daughter, Lilli.
Antonio: We adopted Lilli from Romania in 1995. She was thirteen years old and illiterate. She had never been to school. Slowly and patiently, we taught her to read and write. I wrote about it in “Metamorfosi”:
Era una pangea
il suo linguaggio:
di un mondo sconosciuto,
riservato ad eletti.
It was a Pangea
the concise synthesis
of an unknown world,
the mysterious labrynth,
an Edenic space
reserved for the élite.
PC: And now Lilli is grown-up and has a child of her own…
Antonio: Yes, my nineteen-month-old grandson. He is a joy to me and I don’t have much time for writing poems with him around!
PC: When did you decide to have your poems translated into English?
Antonio: I’d thought about it for a long time and then I met you! It’s been a great experience and it makes me happy to know that people are reading my poems on the other side of the world. And now a former pupil of mine may translate them into Arabic.
PC: Of all the poems you’ve written, what are your favourites?
Antonio: The personal ones, such as “Nonno Celestino” and “Analogiche Differenze”. And “Outsider”.