Thursday, September 30, 2010


Here is my pick of last week's Italy Magazine articles:

On September 20th we explored the reason why there is a via XX Settembre in every Italian town, then we headed to a town near Turin, the first capital of united Italy, to find out why a mysterious character from  French history is remembered there every year:  the reason is that the Man in the Iron Mask spent some of his long years of imprisonment  at Pinerolo, the "most French town in Italy".

A news story which impressed me was this one about the Comune of Milan's efforts to spot and ban anorexic models from Fashion Week.  Let us hope that these young women also receive the help and support they need.  The saddest story of the week was the loss of the great actress and comedian Sandra Mondaini just five months after her husband Raimondo Vianello's passing but for her, it seems, death came as a friend.  If you thought that denim jeans were invented in France it is time to think again and the whackiest story of the week has to be this one.  Finally, in the news section, if you've ever been at a loss as to how to use up those euro notes when leaving Italy here is the answer.

For my Patti Chiari column, I wrote about carob and included a traditional recipe.  Take a look to find out why carob is the gold of Sicily.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


It's still hot outside in the daytime and I am sitting here typing at 6 pm with all windows and balcony doors open. However, there is a sudden drop in temperature from about 7pm.

The Italian women have effortlessly effected the cambio di stagione, the change to autumn clothing, and, as always, have all managed to achieve this on the same day, as if there is some invisible, inaudible signal.  This year I got it right because today I donned autumnal garb too!

Here are four things I love about the cambio di stagione:  citrus fruit, prickly pears, my duvet and my jam-jams!

Simi agrees about the duvet!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The Giro d'Italia cycling race has been on my mind since yesterday, when I wrote an article for Italy Magazine about an exhibition in Rome which commemorates the great champion, Fausto Coppi.

Today the Sicilian papers are excitedly reporting that the 2011 Giro will include a Sicilian stage but no one is quite sure where:  at first it was thought that the cyclists would race from Marsala to Cefalù but this has now been ruled out because the Mayor of Marsala says his town cannot afford to host the stage.  Most people now think that the competitors will race from Milazzo to the Rifugio Sapienza at Nicolosi, Etna and that Sunday 15th May will be the great day. The Rifugio is 1,900 metres above sea level.

The year 2011, of course, marks the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, so it is fitting that the Giro should visit as many parts of Italy as possible and that in Sicily the cyclists will land at Marsala, as Garibaldi and the Thousand did.

What is certain is that the Giro d'Italia 2011 will begin in Turin, the first capital of the newly united Italy, on 7th May and end in Milan on 29th May.  The routes will be confirmed in Milan on 23rd October.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Donnafugata Castle, Ragusa, Sicily

I reach out a hand to a computer image and I stroke the hair of the man in the picture, just as, long ago, I did in real life.  

This man hurt me a lot some years before I left for Sicily and not a word had passed between us since that time. He was not, it is important to say, the reason for my departure, nor did he hasten it.  But the void where his warmth used to be made me sadder when I left.

Caerphilly Castle, Wales
Of course I have thought of him during the ensuing years but I forbade myself the melancholy indulgence of looking at the photos and resisted the temptation to google him, thus saving myself further pain. And I worked at building a life here, a task which is never easy in another country, however much you love it.

I must admit that I did think he would contact me one day and, reader, I prepared the speech.  You'll know the one if you have ever been disappointed in love:  it kind of begins, "We have both moved on now" and ends, "It is better that way."  But as my sixtieth birthday came and went and I celebrated my fifth year in Sicily, I decided that I had been wrong and that my little old heart was safe.

And then, two weeks ago...... the contact.  The speech I made, reader, was not the one I had planned, for I searched my little old heart and was surprised by what I found there.  This speech was rather Italian in its directness and was much more succinct than the prepared one.  It went like this:

"Get on the bloody plane and come and love me!"

I fear I am lost, reader.  Watch this space!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


My friend Marcello has been absent from this blog for over a year because he has been working in the north of Italy, where his wife, Silvia, still is.  But he's been visiting his elderly parents for a few days and we met for coffee on Friday.  For newer readers, Marcello is the man whose English consists of lines from Beatles songs. He is always changing his job and I can't keep up.  Despite what Marcello says, Silvia continues to adore him.

Me: Ciao, Marcello, come stai?
Marcello: I OK but you know it ain't easy. You know how hard it can be, haha!
Me: What? Having a barrow in the market place?
Marcello: Haha! No, now I Mr City Policeman sitting...
Me: Where? In a jar by the door?
Marcello: No, it's just a rumour, haha!
Me: How's Silvia?
Marcello: She changes from day to day.
Me: Tell me why.
Marcello.  She said that living with me was bringing her down.
Me: And what did you say?
Marcello: Oh, I just sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine.
[Waitress suddenly appears with two ice creams.]
Me: Where did that come from?
Marcello: She came in through the bathroom window, haha!
Me:  You're going to lose that girl.
Marcello: Ah, you speaking words of wisdom, haha!
Me: I'll let it be.
Marcello. Well, I meeting a man from the motor trade.  Ciao!
Me: Ciao, Marcello. Say hello to Silvia.
Marcello. I tell her things we said today, haha!

myspace backgrounds images

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010


A humdinger of amarena, pistacchio and chocolate from Bar Chimera to finish the season.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Here is my pick of last week's Italy Magazine articles:

First of all, I would love to attend the Pizza Chef Championship in Calabria next week, especially as the chefs are going to judge the judges! In the same article, you can find out about a gathering of traditional accordionists and a very special mushroom festival.

Our blog of the week was Livorno Daily Photo.  I enjoyed interviewing Giacomo, who certainly has an eye for the unusual!

Of the news stories, I think the whackiest was this, but I've a horrible feeling that the idea will catch on.  The Virtues of Love exhibition in Florence is one I would like to get to and I wish I could have been in Rome for this.  Of course, there had to be an "only in Italy" story and it was this one.  Does your company pay "overall time"?

For my personal column I wrote about "Bold Britons and Red Earth".  Take a look to find out about the day the world turned yellow!

Happy reading.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


When I first came across this recipe, I decided that the editors of Cucina Moderna magazine had been reading Nigella.  I've adapted the recipe slightly, so will give it here:

Put 1 [if you are in Italy] or 2 [if you are in the UK] skinless, boneless chicken breasts in a bowl.  [If you are in the UK each half of the breast is sold as a whole "breast" whereas in Italy if you ask for one breast you will get the two halves.]  Add 2 roughly chopped onions and 2 chopped garlic cloves plus about 2 teasp brown sugar, coarse seasalt and black pepper to taste.  Add about 100 ml light coke and 2 tablsp soya sauce.  Leave in the fridge overnight.  Just over an hour before you want to serve, take the chicken out and dry it on kitchen paper, then brown it on all sides in 3 tablesp olive oil.  Dilute 1 tablesp of cornflour with 3 - 4 of water, mix and add to the marinade.  Chuck the marinade over the chicken and cook, covered, over a low flame for about 1 hour.   I decided the dish needed pinenuts so I threw in a handful of these at this point, too.  Add a little water if the mixture seems to be drying while cooking.  Take the chicken out, slice it and place on a serving plate.  Pour the marinade over it and garnish with basil leaves.

I've been wanting to imitate the potatoes cooked with capers that they serve at the Sapori Perduti ever since I tried them there, so to go with the chicken dish, here is my version:

Line a roasting dish with baking paper and brush with oil.  Cut potatoes into chunks - I refuse, as many of you know, to peel them - and put them in the dish with 2 bay leaves, seasalt, black pepper and some sprigs of thyme.  Add a handful of capers which have been preserved in salt, rinsed and drained.  Sprinkle some more olive oil over and cook at 200 C for 50 mins., then 10 mins at 180 C.

I must say these were good!

Buon appetito!

Monday, September 20, 2010


On the day that Rome celebrates 140 years as the political capital of Italy, the nation's sweetheart celebrates her 76th birthday.

When Sofia Loren walked on to the Miss Italy stage last week, she looked every bit as glamorous as any of the young contestants and could have taught many of them a thing or two about poise and charm.  So no apologies for reposting Al Bano's serenade to a fabulous lady:

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Image: Wikipedia

In April I reported for Italy Magazine on this tragic story, in which a mother from Gela drowned her two autistic sons.

After investigation, 31-year-old Vanessa Lo Porto has been released from house arrest and the only constraint on her freedom is that she will never be allowed to live in Gela because of the sensibilities of her former husband and his family.

On that terrible day in April signora Lo Porto had recently lost her job, her marriage had broken up, she was caring for an autistic son and had just received the news that her younger son was also autistic.  When she walked into the sea with her boys, says the court, she was not mentally capable of intending or wishing to murder them.  In her confused and depressed state of mind, she could think only of saving them from lives of misery such as she was enduring herself.

It is my belief that the full consequences of depression are still not widely understood and my heart goes out to this poor woman.

Judge not that ye be not judged.

Friday, September 17, 2010


The mystery of what really happened when the crew of a Libyan patrol boat fired on a Sicilian fishing boat in the Gulf of Sirte on Sunday continues as an enquiry gets under way:  The captain of the fishing boat, Gaspare Marrone, insists that his vessel was pursued by the Libyan boat as it fled the scene and that the Libyan crew continued to fire to kill.   

Italian officials, probably in an attempt to play down the incident, are saying that the fishing boat was not pursued and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has accused the Italian crew of fishing illegally in Libyan waters.  Captain Marrone insists that they were in international waters and were not fishing at the time.  

The Libyans signalled to the boat to stop, then fired first into the air, then into the sea and finally at the hull of the boat.  Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has suggested that the Libyans mistook the boat for a vessel carrying illegal immigrants but Captain Marrone clearly thinks this claim is ridiculous: he says he identified the boat as Italian to the Libyan captain and that it would have been impossible to have mistaken his 36-metre vessel for anything other than a fishing boat.

The fishing boat is now in port where it will undergo ballistic examinations.

To me the strangest aspect of this episode is that there were Italian military observers or technical advisers on board the Libyan boat:  what did they do or feel when the crew started firing on their fellow countrymen?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


This is my pick of last week's Italy Magazine articles:

Our blog of the week was and I enjoyed talking to blog author and cook Carmelita Caruana.

If you have ever dreamed of wine flowing from a fountain, there is a place in Lazio where this actually happens!

If you are in London, you may like to know about a very special exhibition there to celebrate the Papal visit.  In this article you can also read about the Ninian tartan which the Pope wore in Scotland today.  This was also the week in which Giorgio Armani was named International Designer of the Year by GQ Magazine and Gucci announced a new cinema award for women.  Personally I am glad that the outmoded Miss Italia contest is over and with it, all the speculation about this.  If I were in Tuscany right now, I would love to attend this exhibition on the life of Mìichelangelo and this one on the history of wine.

For my personal Patti Chiari column I wrote about traditional Sicilian carts.  If you've been to Sicily, you will have seen them at tourist spots and you may even have bought a replica as a souvenir.  But do you know how they came to be so richly decorated?  Take a look at the article to find out.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I've always wanted to make one of these - a sort of sweet, grape bread - so at the weekend I did, only I used red instead of black grapes as red grapes were what I had.

The recipe is in this month's Alice Cucina and is very simple:  just flour, yeast, grapes, sugar, olive oil and salt.  And I do like doughs that you don't have to roll out!  If you really have the pazienza or are feeding people who cannot tolerate the seeds, you could halve the grapes and deseed them.  In olden days Italian women would have sat outside in groups to do this while exchanging the gossip of the day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


This is my report on the incident for today's Italy Magazine:
A Sicilian fishing boat was shot at for fifteen minutes by a Libyan patrol boat in the Mediterranean on Sunday night.
La Sicilia Online reports that the Libyan vessel appears to have been one of six presented to the Libyan government by Italy as part of a joint agreement on combatting illegal immigration from Libya into Italy.
There was at least one Italian border official on board as an observer, possibly with other members of Italy's Finance Police. Under the agreement between the two countries, Italian military sometimes board the Libyan patrol boats as observers or technical advisers.
The fishing boat, the Ariete, was thirty miles off the Libyan coast in the Gulf of Sirte, waters which Tripoli, contrary to International Maritime Law, regards as exclusively Libyan territory, when the Libyan patrol boat signalled to it to stop. The Sicilian crew were not fishing at the time. Captain Gaspare Marrone, aware that Libyan patrol vessels sometimes seize Sicilian boats in the area, decided to speed ahead.
Captain Marrone said that his crew of ten threw themselves onto the deck and only when they saw the coast of Lampedusa at dawn did they feel safe. Riddled with bullets, the Ariete reached Lampedusa later yesterday morning.
Italy has begun an investigation into the incident.
Update:  Libya has issued an apology this evening.

Monday, September 13, 2010


This probably does not look very beautiful here, in the best shot I could get of it, but from one of the balconies I can see this lit-up section of the original, traditional wall of a restored house.  It gives me great pleasure to look at it every evening:

Sunday, September 12, 2010


At Bar Chimera in Modica Bassa serving an ice cream is an art form:

Black cherry and coconut.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Books for Cooks is a place of pilgrimage for me when I'm in London and was one of my stops on that sentimental journey I allowed myself in the capital before leaving Britain for Sicily five years ago. 

Yesterday I made their Chocolate Pear Cake, from Books for Cooks 6, for Rosa's birthday.  The pears are in the base, in case you're wondering.  I decorated the cake with the pink icing sugar you can find here and I think that next time I make it, I'll dollop a few slices of caramelised pears on top as well.

I'm sure you'll all join me in sending good wishes to Rosa, who is shortly to become a [very young] grandmother.



Luca Carboni - Settembre

Friday, September 10, 2010


This post forms part of Bloggers Unite World Suicide Prevention Day action.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and when I mentioned this on facebook earlier, a friend of mine made a good point about the rights of terminally ill people to end their lives if they wish.  Anyone who has watched a loved one suffer will understand his point and I have personal experience of helplessly sitting at a hospital bedside and wishing I could end it.  But the whole issue is fraught with difficulties and euthanasia is not what I want to concentrate on here.

Without wishing to belittle that terrible dilemma, the people I have been thinking about today are those who feel so alone and or so low that they cannot see a way or a reason to go on living.  If you have never been in this position you are very, very lucky and what I think is not understood is that it can be a seemingly small issue which finally literally pushes someone over the edge.  This is nowhere better illustrated than in a French film called Mina Tannenbaum:  Martine Dugowson's film is a tale of two Jewish girls who grow up together in Paris.  They are drawn to each other because they feel they are outsiders but their adult lives take them in very different directions.  At the end of the film Mina, feeling alone and despised, makes a desperate call to her childhood friend, who does not answer.  Mina then commits suicide.

For most of us, life centres around three areas:  our relationships, job and money.  And most of us can cope if  we have difficulties in one of these areas.  If, however, two or even three of these important areas of our lives are going badly and on top of this we feel alone, then we can become desperate.  Let me say something about that word "alone" because you can be alone without being lonely, just as you can be lonely in a crowd. So I would define "alone" in this context as feeling that no one will understand you.

Someone who has made a mistake in their life knows they have been stupid and what they need is understanding, not judgement.  We, their friends,  are sometimes guilty of not providing that understanding either because we genuinely cannot imagine the other person's position or because we view their life as rosy - something that is very easy to do:  to the single person the support of a marriage seems wonderful while to the married the "freedom" that they perceive the single person has is attractive.  So the married person may not understand that when she caresses her husband in front of her single friend, she could not cause more hurt if she physically twisted a knife into her body; or that if she calls her from a crowded house on a bank holiday, she makes her feel lonely rather than alone, thus upsetting a delicate balance.  Meanwhile it is impossible for the single person to comprehend that her married friend is longing for a day to herself!

But, since we are not mind readers and cannot totally understand another person's vulnerabilities, what are we to do?  This is going to sound contradictory in view of the example I have just given about the phone call, but I would say,  "Follow your instincts".  The writer Françoise Sagan has this to say on the issue:

"With a little imagination you can put yourself in another's position and think, 'He looked a bit strange tonight.  Perhaps I should give him a ring.'  You may have rung him just in time to to stop him taking an overdose of sleeping pills .  It's just as likely that he was in a good mood and your call disturbed him, so you look foolish.... Being imaginative is more important than never making a fool of yourself...  If you don't have imagination you're lost. But it's a virtue that's becoming extremely rare, especially in its higher form: spontaneity."

My facebook friend joked about World Suicide Prevention Day, saying, "OK, I won't kill myself till Monday".  But this is exactly the point.  If someone can be persuaded to wait, to talk, to realise that there is a tomorrow, they may decide to go on living.  And that is what today is all about.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Here is my personal pick of last week's Italy Magazine articles:

For my Patti Chiari column I wrote about our lovely Castello di Donnafugata in Ragusa Province.  This is not the Donnafugata mentioned in Il Gattopardo or the one in Marlene de Blasi's book!

Our blog of the week was Napoli Unplugged.  Do take a look at it because I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Our final summer romantic film set in Italy had to be a golden oldie so we looked at September Affair, a weepie with an improbable plot but great actors and a real tear-jerker of a theme song.

Italians, it seems, are rebelling against paying for supplementary services in hotels and, like me, many of them find minibar items to be overpriced.  Let's all rebel together!  In my opinion you can never have enough cookery books and here is one that I am determined to add to my collection, especially as the proceeds will go to the L'Aquila Earthquake Relief Fund.  My Dad [who was not religious] always said that if you wished to worship God, it made sense to do it among the most beautiful of His creations so I would love to see this tree cathedral near Bergamo. Finally, in the news section, we have two police tales:  the first made me chuckle and I loved this heartwarming story of a life saved by the swift actions of a blogger and the Catania police.  Let us hope that the young man concerned is receiving the help and support he needs now. 

I shall be participating in the Bloggers Unite World Suicide Prevention Day event tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


On Saturday I made this casserole of pork, peppers, potatoes and plums.  The recipe comes from the September Italian edition of La Cucina Italiana.  I decided I wanted to make it with golden plums and it turned out very well:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Our local rosticceria has reopened after a month's holiday and it is so good to catch the aroma of freshly made arancini wafting along the street again.
Look what a nice trayful of focacce, arancini, traditional soft, Modican pizza and pasticcio you can get for €7.80 - just right to share with a friend for supper:


A twitter message from the wonderful Women's Library in London last week reminded me of the time I held, in their reading room, a volume which may have been Mary Wollstonecraft's own copy of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  I also spent some happy hours in that room reading Simone de Beauvoir's Letters to Nelson Algren.

There is something miraculous about holding any book - an experience which I hope future generations will not entirely abandon for the ebook - but when the book is a fine, hardback volume that pleasure is doubled.

Last week this tome, La Nascita di Roma [The Birth of Rome] was available at just €2.90 plus the price of one of a range of newspapers and magazines.  It is such a joy to hold and to look at and I am so looking forward to reading it when I have time.

I shall not be able to afford the other volumes in this series, which will be offered at a still reasonable but more realistic price. All the more reason to make the most of this one!

Monday, September 06, 2010


It was great to meet my new friend Caryn, from Connecticut, and her husband and mother , whose parents were from Sicily, for lunch at the Osteria dei Sapori Perduti yesterday. Caryn found this blog and then searched for me on facebook.

We had the house antipasti

which included arancini, focacce, bruschette [above] and caponata [below]:

These were followed by the local sweet ravioli:

Then Caryn and her husband had chicken scaloppine

while Caryn's mother had pork spezzatino:

These came with potatoes cooked in the oven with capers:

I had traditional coniglio stemperato [ rabbit braised with capers, olives, garlic, celery and carrots]. Yes, there are potatoes in there, too.

For dessert, we had cannoli, because you just have to when you visit Sicily.  It would have been churlish of me not to join in, wouldn't it?

Our friend the singing accordionist was there:

Look closely at Caryn's brooch, which she wore especially for me!

Do visit Modica again, Caryn and family!  Cincin!


We are leaving Italy this evening to visit the France of the existentialists:

A Dangerous LiaisonA Dangerous Liaison by Carole Seymour-Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"What did you do in the war, Sartre?"

Two years ago when I was in hospital I reread de Beauvoir's "Prime of Life" and it occurred to me that she and Sartre had rather an easy war. Now Carole Seymour-Jones, in this double biography, explodes the myth that the couple were prominent in the Resistance and we learn that they did very little indeed. It was Albert Camus who put himself in danger by publishing clandestinely, while Sartre and de Beauvoir attended only one committee meeting of the underground newspaper "Combat". What is more incriminating is that Sartre wrote nothing against the laws of Vichy France and the famous articles he is supposed to have written for "Combat" were actually penned by de Beauvoir.

Resistance and collaboration are difficult subjects and, since none of us knows what we would do under occupation, perhaps the golden couple of existentialism cannot be blamed for what they did not do.

More shocking for a whole generation of women, perhaps, is de Beauvoir's bisexuality and her abuse of her position as a teacher when she seduced female students. Her compliance in Sartre's affairs - the two had a pact whereby they were both free to take other lovers as long as they told each other - is well known. In acting as procuress for her "intellectual partner" and making friends with his lovers, she was, after all, following a tradition set by many a "maîtresse en titre" but we are talking about the "mother of feminism" here!

I do not have a problem with Sartre's womanising or de Beauvoir's acceptance of it but I do have a problem with the fact that the greatest "anti-bourgeois" of his time took the very bourgeois step of setting his women up financially and that de Beauvoir did not rail against this.

The second major point on which the couple can legitimately be criticised is, of course, their tardiness in condemning the post-war actions of Stalin: fêted by the Russians, they fell into every trap set for them: protagonists of their time, perhaps, but startlingly naive.

I had never understood de Beauvoir's relationship with her adopted daughter, Sylvie Le Bon but much is clarified here. It seems that the adoption was contrived mainly so that Le Bon could become de Beauvoir's literary executor, a decision which de Beauvoir' s sister understood.

Interestingly, Le Bon says that de Beauvoir never had an abortion, though of course the writer famously signed the "Manifesto of the 343" stating that she had. The extent to which de Beauvoir was pilloried after the publication of "The Second Sex" shocks even today.

All in all, then, a fascinating and timely biography of a couple who changed the thinking not only of their own generation but of generations to come. De Beauvoir emerges as less likeable than before but I admire her none the less: her feminism was based not upon ranting or hatred of men but upon intellectual rigour and that leaves her forever enthroned as "the mother of feminism". De Beauvoir once said of Sartre that he was "the writer who never lets you down". For me, it is de Beauvoir herself who never disappoints and continues to sustain me today as she did forty years ago.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010


Hazelnut and mandarin:

English International School

The English International School, Modica has a new blog.  We'll be adding information, grammar and vocabulary explanations, exercises and news as the school year gets under way.  Do take a look.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Wales and Italy meet in this delightful clip:

Katherine Jenkins e Mattio Rossi - Con te partirò

Friday, September 03, 2010


The weather has broken and there is thunder as I write.  It is, of course, Persephone and her mother ensuring that Sicily remains fertile. OK, she's supposed to come in the spring but I believe she comes in autumn as well.

I realised today that in one matter one I remain resolutely British and it is this:  I cannot adopt the Italian habit of just waiting for the rain to stop before venturing out, for I remain convinced that if it rains, it's going to rain all day. Thus out I "boldly go" and I was the only fool walking around at 12.30 pm when our magnificent drainage system caused a minor flood.  I swore at every driver in both Italian and English as I was mercilessly splashed on my way to the supermarket.  [I can never understand why drivers can't slow down in the rain in any country.  What do you all have against pedestrians who are having a harder battle than you with the rain?]

On to Raffaele's where the carpets have been put back on the floor.  It isn't cold but it is, after all, September and some of the bars are already clearing away their ice cream.

The first fichi d'India have appeared and soon they will be abundant, like this:

I miss that first chill in the air that you get in Britain and I miss autumn leaves.  But I love being able to open the windows and balcony doors all day even in December and January and I don't miss dangerous, icy pavements!

Andrea Bocelli - Les Feuilles Mortes

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Casa Natale di Luigi Pirandello

Here is my personal pick of last week's Italy Magazine articles:

Let's kick off with a story that Simi liked, about the dog lifeguards that patrol Italy's beaches.  She wants to learn to jump from a helicopter!  Still at the sea, how would you feel if you went bathing and found a Roman cargo boat

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni caused much outrage last week when he promised that Italy would be even tougher than the French on the Roma.  ["Roma" is a term often used by the Italian media and politicians to refer to Romanians as well as to the nomadic peoples of Europe.]  The issue is still being hotly debated.

I decided I would like to see this festival but no way would I take part!

For my personal Patti Chiari column, I continued the story of how books brought me to Sicily.

I hope you enjoy these stories.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Just over a year ago, before Italy "shut down" for the summer, I showed some women students Jenny Joseph's poem Warning.  I wanted to leave them with something pleasant, they were linguistically ready to read such a work and I think that women from all cultures can relate to the poem.  Warning was voted Britain's favourite post-war poem  in a 1996 BBC poll. 

It's always nice when students remember a cultural insight you have given them so I was delighted when, just before this year's recess, a student from the same class brought me an article about the poem from DLa Repubblica delle Donne, a Saturday supplement for the newspaper's women readers.  The article's author laments the fact that there is no Red Hat Society in Italy and wonders why.

I think the answer is quite simple:  you will have no trouble getting an Italian woman to wear a red hat, but you will never, ever get her to wear a purple dress with it.


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