Saturday, September 30, 2006


From one of the supermarkets where, as an experiment this morning, they were giving out generous tasting portions of this type of food - and doing a roaring trade in it as a result, I must say. From the back, you can see mini arancine [filled rice balls], calzonette, plain savoury pastries and crocchette di patate.

Friday, September 29, 2006


This is the season when you really do gain from being here. True, we don't get "golden autumn" but the past two days have been beautiful: hot, though not unpleasantly so and with gentle breezes. Last night I was able to sit up here with the balcony doors open until about 11pm. There was a fantastic new moon, too, and if you've been reading this blog all along, you'll know that that brings out the romantic in me. Today it was warm enough to sit outside again at the Altro Posto, without needing a jacket or jumper.

The clothes that hardly get worn here are my light rain jackets and long, summer-weight raincoat from Britain: when it rains, usually an umbrella is enough and if it pours, it is usually in winter, when I've got a heavier coat on anyway.


I haven't read any more about inappropriate T-shirts but I see that some English so-called "football fans" have surpassed themselves yet again, by carrying out unprecedented acts of violence in the lovely, historic centre of Palermo. I know it's only a minority of fans who do this but the question the Sicilian press is asking is, "Why?"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Chicken breast with mozzarella and ham - at the Altro Posto, of course.


It's refreshing to see the autumn ranges in.
Very high, wedged shoes again.
Gladstone bags in all sorts of patterns.
Still lots of jewels and motifs on bags. [I saw a dream of a black one with white cameo motifs stitched onto it today. If I don't buy it till tomorrow, I'll have been a good girl, won't I?! - That's how my financial logic goes.]
Lots of suede accessories. [I always ruined suede boots and shoes in the rain in Britain. Perhaps I'll have more success with the material here.]

An aside: whoever is doing Cherie's make-up this week, will they please come to Modica and do mine?! The Italian press is as keen as the British media to know whether she did or did not call Gordy a liar!


And now, for Ellee, with whom I have been corresponding about the coincidence of the patron saint of this town being the very same St George as the patron saint of England, here is Modica's statue of San Giorgio. There is a lovely picture of his cathedral here.


"Dashing away with a smoothing iron"
I see that, in Spain, a country where the women are reputed to iron everything as diligently and thoroughly as they do here in Sicily, a dryer that will do the ironing for you has been invented. Put me on the list for one of those!
By the end of this week, I have calculated, it should be cool enough to put the duvet back on the bed and then - whoopee! - no more ironing of sheets till next summer!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Sicilian proverb:
Un sittembri càudu e asciuttu maturari fa ogni fruttu
= "A hot, dry September ripens every fruit."
And a hot, dry September is what we have mostly, fortunately, had. However, tonight we are in for the severe weather that has affected the Italian mainland: it is raining, the Scirocco is blowing and it is looking very dark and inhospitable out there. [Even Simone is not too keen on going for a walk right now!] So I'd better turn off the computer before we get thunder and lightning. [I've got a torch in each room in case the electricity goes off!]


So simple, yet so cool and delicious!


"Little things please little minds"
I have just bought some nutmeg and nestling in the neck of the jar is this dinky little grater. I do like simple ideas that make life easier!

Sunday, September 24, 2006


After the meal we came back to Modica and went up to San Giorgio where a son et lumière was taking place. It was based on Italo Calvino's Le Città Invisibili. San Giorgio was beautifully lit for the occasion, there was medieval music playing and there was a graceful dancer on the steps. Every now and then a sort of will-o'-the-wisp lighting effect was projected onto the side wall of the church.

It was a perfect cool, breezy, starlit Sicilian evening. Giovanna and I ambled through the old, narrow streets, looking up at the Baroque balconies bathed in moonlight. The heady perfume of jasmine was all around us.

Later I sat on the wall near San Giorgio, watching the dancing with the candles glowing on the steps and the soft lights of Modica Alta on the hill above me. And I thought, "Yes, when I am in some ghastly old folks' home, propped up in a high-backed chair with a rug over my knees, staring into space and dribbling away, I shall smile to myself: for I will have the memory of this jasmine-scented Mediterranean night to hold in my heart."


Pesto Pizza
Adventurous and hedonistic.You live for new experiences and tastesAnd you're not the type to have your pizza the same way twiceIf they can put it on pizza, you're up for trying it!


Tu pur pensosa, Lidia, la tessera
al secco taglio dài de la guardia,
e al tempo incalzante i begli anni
dài, gl'istanti gioiti e i ricordi.
"You, Lydia, thoughtful too, give your ticket up for the dry clipping of the ticket collector, and give up your beautiful years, the moments you have enjoyed, to fleeting time."
- From Alla stazione in una mattina d'autunno by Giosuè Carducci, a poet who caused me much misery in my student days but whom I have come to appreciate.
Writing in the Guardian last week, Matthew Fort describes a wonderful meal he had in the restaurant in the converted old station of Ficuzza, in the Palermo area. Well, Ragusa Ibla is not to be outdone as it has its very own restaurant in its former station, too and that is where I went last night with Marco and family.
We had finally fixed a date for me to treat them all to pizza to celebrate [three months late] my year here. In Italy, as I've written before, you order a whole pizza each, not one to share between you. Last night I had an agrolce [pictured first] of rucola [rocket], bresaola [air-dried, salted beef], parmesan and orange. Below you can see what the others had. Very nice gin and tonics there, too!

Saturday, September 23, 2006


[Sorry the pics aren't nice and centred, as I like them, but this is the only way I could get them on tonight.]

Though I say it myself I do make a good mushroom risotto so here is the recipe for you:

2 tablesp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf , dried or fresh
10 oz arborio or other risotto rice - short-grain, at any rate
12 oz sliced mushrooms [mix the types for an interesting result]
rind and juice of 1 lemon, unwaxed if possible
1 pint good chicken or vegetable stock or just hot water [I use the latter]some dried oregano, seasalt and freshly ground black pepper [or ground red pepper, which Sicilians prefer for health reasons]
freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan about 2 inches deep.
Add the garlic, onion and bay leaf. Fry gently for about 3 minutes.
Add the rice and fry for a further 2 minutes or so, stirring all the time.
Stir in the mushrooms, oregano and lemon rind.
Add the lemon juice and about a third of the stock or water.
Stir again, put a lid on the pan and simmer till the liquid is nearly absorbed.
Add the next third of the liquid, stir and let simmer again.
Then likewise for the last third of the liquid.
Stir and season to taste.
To serve, fish out the bay leaf and sprinkle the parmesan over. [Some people like to this whilst the pan is still on the hob. It's up to you.]

This is not authentic but if, as I so often am, you are in need of a little spiced comfort food, you can add some fresh, sliced chilli pepper as I have done here.

You can also add other herbs, such as chopped parsley, but I don't think it's necessary.

This is going to be anathema to Italians but the dish freezes well, provided you cool it quickly. Thaw thoroughly, then reheat in a 150 C oven for 45 - 50 minutes. [You may need to add more water.]

Risotto is served a little "wetter" in Italy than we would expect in the UK. Some British people have told me that they cannot get the right texture when making it: well, it sounds obvious but make sure you are using the right kind of rice; otherwise the whole enterprise is doomed to failure. Make sure that you are using the right sort of pan, too [see above]. Other than that, to me it is perfectly simple: when it comes to adding the liquid, add the first third, stir, turn down the heat, cover, then go away and have a drink. Come back and the liquid will have absorbed. Chuck in the next third of liquid and do the same again, and again with the last third. By the time the risotto is ready, a wonderful smell will permeate your living space and you will be feeling nice and mellow. So put on some Italian music, light a candle and enjoy!

Friday, September 22, 2006


Strawberry, pistacchio and lemon.


This is the Altro Posto's well-done steak. I am used to the thin cut now and love it!


In Italy toothpicks usually appear on the table along with the salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. [In the first picture they are in the centre at the front.]

Italians have a great technique - one which I have almost mastered - of hiding their mouths with their hands while they use them. I find this very sensible [though I was horrified at the habit when I first came to Italy!] as I have gappy teeth and hate having to go to the bathroom all the time to perform the de-clogging task and, in Britain, having to remember to put some cocktail sticks in my make-up bag in the first place.

Last year I bought this cute little toothpick holder for my own dining table here.


Look closely at the shutter at the top of the escalator: 2pm and [nearly] everything is closed. I can understand it in the full heat of summer, but not in other seasons.

That I want to live in Italy I have no doubt, but, city woman that I am, I sometimes think I would be better off in the north or at least in a bigger city here. But I couldn't afford to live in either and I wouldn't have the wonderful friends I have here.

I think these feelings are entirely normal: as an ex-pat., some days you are on top of the world whilst on others you are really pissed off [American readers: in British English that means "fed up", not "angry"] at things you knew about in the first place.


- "English basil" on sale in a Sicilian supermarket this morning. [I didn't have my camera at the time.]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


On September 8th I mentioned an article that had appeared in L'Espresso* about immigrant agricultural workers - many of them illegal - being treated like slaves on the mainland. The incredibly brave journalist, Fabrizio Gatti, had worked among them in order to expose the scandal. [If you missed that post, there is an English version of the article here. Be warned; it is shocking and upsetting.] Today I am able to tell you that, according to an article in La Repubblica*, there have been some arrests with regard to this appalling situation.
*Links to the particular stories will not work.


More dentistry today, this time a session with the hygienist. Last week I wrote that the filling cost less than it would have in the UK. The hygiene treatment cost rather more, I thought. This is what it's like, financially, when you relocate: swings and roundabouts.


The machines are working again today. However, the experiences of the past two days have made me realise that I do need to open an Italian current account. Raffaele, the ever helpful and kind hairdresser, whom I'd told about the problem [what woman does not confide in her hairdresser?] took me to his bank and introduced me this morning, thinking that that might speed the process up a little.

To open an account I needed my passport, as you would expect, my codice fiscale [Italian national insurance] card, and my permesso di soggiorno or CARTA CEE [proof of residency in Italy]. The latter is the document that you are not supposed to need as an EU citizen but in effect you can do nothing without it. Even these weren't enough, though: I needed a certificate of residence for the town as well as the country. So a mad dash to the office in Via Risorgimento to obtain this. [I knew where it was as I had also needed one of these certificates to register with a doctor. No, you can't just photocopy it; you need a different one for each purpose.] "Ci vuole un bollo", I am told. This is a stamp for the document that you have to get from the tobacconist's - I had needed one for the gas contract last year, too - and this time it cost 14.62 euros. Once I had got it and returned they issued the document, adorning it with the stamp and rubber-stamping it several times so that it looked very pretty in the end. What a profit the State must be making from all these bolli! [And the town gets 52 c for issuing the certificate.] Then back to the bank with it and I appear to have half-opened an account. I have to go back tomorrow.

These "residency" certificates do not, of course, exist in Britain, so it all seems incredibly long-winded and bureaucratic to us. [ See also my post, "The Bureaucratic Trail" of June 13th.]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


"Good morning, lady Mary", says the clerk proudly in the bank where I pay the rent. [Mary is my second name so of course appears on my passport which, this being Italy, I have to show every time I carry out this transaction.]


One newspaper reports that there were 6,000 protesters, another that there were 10,000. Whichever is the case, a lot of Sicilians travelled to Rome today to make their feelings felt about the government's scrapping of the Messina Bridge Project. [The government says it prefers to concentrate on the infrastructure.]


Italy, as you will have read, is now on high security alert and I understand the need for this, with Rome having been threatened. I didn't expect it to affect my banking arrangements, though!

Yesterday I couldn't understand why the "link" [atm] machines weren't working, in several banks. Yes, they sometimes go down for an hour or two but not all day, everywhere. Finally I managed to complete one transaction before the machine at that bank went down too. Today the same thing happened again and I did the rounds of the banks before finding one which at least had the courtesy to display a notice telling you why: "We are sorry but for security reasons no transactions can be carried out using international or microchipped cards." I don't know whether the thinking is that if they can't get any money the terrorists can't do anything or whether it is thought that the microchip could trigger an explosion. Perhaps someone out there could explain it to me? But whatever the reason, COME ON, ITALY, YOU CAN'T TELL ALL FOREIGNERS, INCLUDING THOUSANDS OF TOURISTS IN THE COUNTRY, THAT THEY CAN'T ACCESS THEIR OWN MONEY! If all the tourists decide, "I wouldn't go back to Italy because I couldn't withdraw money / use my credit card" what will that do to the economy?

OK, I should have opened an Italian bank account by now but this is such a bureaucratic process that lots of British people who have settled here manage without doing so and you are even advised against it in some of the books giving advice on moving to Italy. Bank charges here are also high compared to the UK and that puts people off too. I did, finally, find a bank still taking international cards this morning but it's a worrying situation.

Later, at least one of the supermarkets had put away all their baskets and there were new notices telling you to use a trolley. It may be nothing to do with security, of course, or maybe they think you are less likely to blow the place up if you use a trolley as you will want your trolley deposit euro back?

Saturday, September 16, 2006


No ice cream today but here is the Altro Posto's tiramisù.


This is the quince paste which is made in moulds here. Sliced, with toast, it makes a fine breakfast. Linda and Chiara serve it cut into cubes, with cheese, on cocktail sticks as a pre-dinner nibble. I have learnt from experience that it is a tricky item to bring back from your hols as it melts easily!


I have never seen this fruit before. I gather they are called azeroles or Neapolitan medlars in English. They have an appley taste.


Today I found these lovely, large mushrooms and tiny, hot chilli peppers.


And now, especially for Laugh More Love More, who has requested it, here is a recipe for Limoncello:

There are as many ways of making this liqueur as there are people making it, and these include most Sicilian women and a good proportion of the populations of Capri and Sorrento. The method is broadly the same but the quantities of sugar to liquid vary from region to region and person to person.

In Italy you can buy 95% proof pure alcohol and that is what Italians use. You can't buy that in the UK - I don't know about the USA - so I used to use vodka. This makes the drink stronger so you need to be careful when serving.

In the ingredients lists below I have not converted the metric measures as maths isn't my strong point and I gather an American pint is different from a British one. I can't do American cup measures either!

These are the quantities I use:
6 - 9 lemons, depending on size, unwaxed if possible
375 gr sugar
500 ml still mineral water
75 cl bottle pure alcohol or vodka

These are the quantities my friend Chiara uses:
lemons as above
750 gr sugar
1 litre still mineral water
half litre pure alcohol or vodka

Carefully wash and dry the lemons.
Peel them, making sure no white pith clings to the peel.
Put the peel in a wide jar, pour in the alcohol, cover and leave for 2 - 3 weeks.
At the end of that period, dissolve the sugar in the water to make a syrup.
When the syrup is cool, add it to the lemon mixture.
Strain* the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin and pour into sterilised bottle[s].
Leave for at least 2 weeks, 4 if you can, before serving.
The bottle[s] should be put in the freezer before serving.

* Chiara says she doesn't always bother to strain hers and it is delicious!

In Italy Limoncello is drunk to round off a meal. I like to serve it from these cute little glasses designed especially for the purpose that I bought here. Cincin!

Do other readers have their own Limoncello recipes? Lettori italiani, se avete altre ricette per il Limoncello, mi piacerebbe pubblicarle qui!

Should you feel inspired to make a refreshing lemon-based Sicilian dessert as well, see my post "GEL" of 19.6.06.


Lots of layers for autumn.
Lots of navy blue.
Jagged, artistically frayed hems.
Lacy camisole tops worn over blouses - a nice, Boho look if you are young and slim enough to carry it off.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I have just read of the death of the Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci. In my opinion she was a great interviewer and her work influenced me a lot during the eighties and beyond. She was in New York on 9/11 and that experience may have clouded her judgement somewhat; yet she has said what others have feared to say with regard to the threat we face. I return to her novel Un Uomo ["A Man"] [1979] a lot and also to Lettera a un Bambino Mai Nato ["Letter to a Child Never Born"] [1975] .


I learn from the front page of Il Giornale di Sicilia today that some idiotic West Ham fans were wearing T- shirts emblazoned with the words, "West Ham v The Mafia" at their club's UEFA match against Palermo last night. The Regional President, Cuffaro, has said that this "offends Sicily and all Sicilians". Quite right, too, and I am offended on their behalf.

If England were playing cricket against India or Pakistan and the fans had T- shirts proclaiming "England v Al- Qaida" there would be hell to pay and I'm sure the Race Relations people would soon have something to say about it.
See also my post "A T-shirt Storm" of 14.7.06.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


.. made of marzipan! I took the first photo through a shop window some years ago in, I think, Acireale. In Sicily marzipan or pasta reale [which is made by hand] is crafted into all sorts of shapes, the most famous being frutti di Martorana, named for the convent in Palermo where the nuns first made them. [The convent no longer exists, but the lovely church of Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio, of which it was a part, does.] Frutti di Martorana play an important part in the November festival of I Morti [All Souls] so they are beginning to reappear in the shops in abundance now.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


- Not me this time! I know I showed you last time Simone went to the grooming parlour but I think she looks so pretty with her Sicilian haircut that I couldn't resist putting her on.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I note that the BBC News site has a picture story about the Spanish Guardia Civil patrolling the Canaries coastline in search of boats carrying illegal would-be immigrants. I've remarked before that the Spanish situation gets much more international media coverage than the situation here in Italy.


"The rain is falling"
I take the title from Gianni Morandi's 1969 version of The Turtles' hit, "Eleanor, gee". [Am I the only sad fool who remembers that and / or has actually kept the Italian 45 rpm?]
Anyway, this is to show you that it does rain in Modica sometimes - and how! As you see, the drainage isn't brilliant.


Here is the Altro Posto's bistecca alla milanese - ie., steak coated in breadcrumbs.

Monday, September 11, 2006


OK, I have been wondering whether to write about today's anniversary at all and have left it till the last possible moment to do so. This is because others write about it better than me and because it is outside the scope of this blog.

However, I do want to say that the most appropriate article I've read here today is a video-story by Antonio Ferrari in Corriere della Sera: it is in three sections, "Dove eravamo - Where we Were", being the one that I find most touching. [The link will take you to the newspaper, not the article, but if you read Italian, I'm sure you will find it.]

My political opinion about all this is for another space. For now, let's just remember that today is about personal loss. And in that I reach out to all who were bereaved on that terrible day.

Do check out Ballpoint Wren's post today, if you haven't already done so.


I know this sounds stupid but dentists, in any country, scare me silly. However, a few weeks ago I lost a filling and by the end of last week even I realised that it could not be left any longer. I am happy to report that I have just had a filling, with no prior injection and no pain whatsoever. It cost about half what I would expect to pay in the UK.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


"Always remember to look up from time to time in this part of Sicily", counselled Irma on my first visit. If you don't, you miss Baroque balcony details such as these in Modica, Scicli and Rosolini respectively. So I lift my eyes and what I see lifts my heart.


I am full of cold today and, very unusually for me, do not feel like preparing and cooking anything. So I have got these appetising-looking spiedini of pork, chicken, Italian sausage and pancetta from the butcher. I like spiedini with rice but they are also good with polenta [yellow corn meal] which is how they are often served in northern Italy.

Friday, September 08, 2006


[I'll bet you thought I forgot the ice cream!] Here we have melon and torrone. Torrone is the rock-hard nougat they make here [a real tooth-breaker]. As an ice cream flavour, it is delicious.


For every frustration here [with the possible exception of the post office!] there is a compensating kindness. I've mentioned that one of the frustrations is not being able to simply call a taxi when you need one: well, next week I am going to need a taxi to take Simone the dog to the grooming parlour. [It is on a dangerous, pavementless road.] I asked Raffaele the hairdresser [who knows everybody] if he had the number of a reliable taxi firm this morning and he immediately said that one of his staff would take us and pick us up. Kindnesses like that are very cheering indeed.


There has been a new development with regard to immigration on the island, according to an article [not available online] in La Sicilia today: North African agricultural workers in the Ragusa province are finding that they are no longer needed as workers from eastern Europe can be hired for less. Many of the North Africans have been here for years and have integrated but, like southern Italians before them half a century ago, are leaving for northern Italy where they hope to find work in restaurants or in the construction industry. In my opinion it would be a loss to Sicily if this settled section of the north African population were to leave en masse; they have publicly said that they are too busy earning a living and trying to integrate to go around manifesting hatred of westerners and this must have a stabilising influence.

On a related matter, a shocking article in L'Espresso tells of foreign agricultural workers on the mainland being treated like slaves. Thanks to Momoblog for drawing my attention to this. You can find an English version of the article here. Sadly I am not surprised at this, having read about the situation in Spain in Jason Webster's excellent Andalus.
Meanwhile, as I seem to report nearly every Friday, boatloads of desperate humanity continue to arrive on Lampedusa on these nights of calmer seas and bright moons. If you have not read my previous posts on this, I urge you to visit this link.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


It is 29th June, 1993 and my mother lies, delirious, in a Cardiff hospital. I can make little or no sense of many of her utterings whilst others seem to have some basis in fact. Suddenly, very quietly, she says, "I'm going, I'm going." "Where are you going, Mum?" I ask. "I'm going , I'm going a place called Syracuse." So somewhere in that troubled and confused brain was a memory of my telling her about my first visit to Syracuse in Sicily.

After that, I'd often sit by her bed and tell her again about the clear, blue waters of the harbour at Syracuse. Whether she understood or not I had no way of knowing but it did seem to have a calming effect.

And that is why, back in Sicily that Christmas, I walked along the lovely pathway next to the harbour and had a little talk to Mum [who had died at the end of August]. I recited Shakespeare's Sonnet XXIX for her, as I had at her deathbed and her funeral and I said my real "goodbye" to her there.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I'll be honest and admit that I can't think what to write about today but it occurs to me that you might like to know how my relationship with Sicily, and Modica in particular, began. I wrote the following in 2002 when I was trying to get the diaries of my Sicilian trips in order:


It is almost exactly ten years since my first visit to Sicily, and the last thing I expected to do there was to fall in love. But fall in love I did, with the island, its cuisine and, of course, its people.

As I sit here writing this with "Irma's special pen" [a gift from her at Christmas 1995] I recall how it all began, in the unlikely surroundings of an inner-city comprehensive school in Cardiff. We were planning an Italian course as part of a year 12 [sixth form] business project and a list of Italian schools looking for British exchange partners had just come in. I had scanned the list and I still do not know what made me decide to make a tentative call to a school in the Ragusa province of Sicily.

"Le passo la professoressa Churchill". [It is common in Italian to address professional people by their job title.] And on came this singing, lilting voice! Prof.ssa Churchill turned out to be an Englishwoman who had married a Sicilian and been settled on the island for many years. I can hear her now: "Oh, it's lovely here. Don't believe all the bad things you've read about Sicily. We're just a couple of hours from Syracuse." Syracuse - a romantic-sounding name recalled vaguely from long-ago history lessons, conjuring up visions of the Greeks and countless invaders. I had no idea, then, that la prof.ssa Churchill would become one of my closest friends or that I would bid a figurative farewell to my mother in the magical harbour of Syracuse.

For with that first phone call I had begun to forge so many links: with the Istituto which would, indeed, participate in two exchanges with Cardiff; with Modica, the little town which seems, at first glance, to have been almost accidentally carved out of the rocks and which I hope will one day become my home; and with the colleagues who became friends, sharing with me their homes and their recipes during fourteen visits to date and nursing me through the aftermath of my mother's death.

I think of them now as I open a kitchen cupboard to reveal the jar of olives I have marinated alla Concetta, or as I pass a finger over the glaze of the cotagnata [quince paste] mould on the dresser. I remember where and when I obtained and watched the preparation of each recipe as I browse through my notebooks, coming across "Linda Churchill's Parmigiana", "Gina's Modican Pizza" or "Irma's Aubergine Starter". Here is the olive recipe:

600 gr dry black olives
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 orange
grated peel and juice of half a lemon
some fennel seeds
olive oil

Put the olives in a bowl and add the orange peel, cut into fine strips with a zester. Add the grated lemon rind, the garlic and fennel seeds. Pour over olive oil to cover the mixture well, add the lemon juice, mix and let marinate for an hour before serving. [I add a few crystals of seasalt.] This keeps well in a jar, provided you remember to top up the oil every time you take some olives out.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


And, just to prove to you that Modica does have a modern shopping centre - we've even got malls and stuff - here are parts of it.


It is very hot again today, so to cheer myself up after realising that the season of total body depilation is not yet over, I have been to the sales. [Well, a girl can't resist temptation forever, you know!] I must say, when they have a sale here they really have it; in Britain they would rather throw the goods away then sell them at the knock-down prices they do here.

For those of you who are interested:
sandals - €13
bag - €14

Oh, and before the fashion police get me, I am not going to wear those shoes with that bag!

Monday, September 04, 2006


[This is going to be a girlie post, so you fellas might want to stop reading now!]

Back in the days when, eternal optimist that I was, I attempted to teach French in UK secondary schools [my students being convinced that I had personally invented the language in order to make their lives difficult] I would start off the youngest classes by asking, "Now, what do you know about France?" I'd get, "It ain't in Britain, is it?"; "They make smelly cheese"; "They got the leaning tower of pizza " [nice try, kid, but geography and vocabulary a little off the mark]; and "My Dad says they're all w*****s". But by far the most common response was, "The women don't shave their armpits, do they?" Indeed, one class was so obsessed by this topic that I fear I imparted no French, no French culture and no eagerness to visit our Gallic neighbours all year; in July, as in the previous September, all those kids wanted to know about was the shaving habits of the women.

Here in Italy the problem besets me: with regard to legs and bikini area , particularly legs , there is no question - wax! But when it comes to the underarms, there seems to be no norm; some do and some don't. I was told as a teenager that continental men find the unshaven armpit sexy and you do see women with great tufts of the black stuff going around in their sleeveless dresses. I have also read that it is unhealthy to shave this area. The only near-convention that I observe appears to be that, in general, younger women do and older women don't. There's a feminist issue too, of course, but I'll leave that bit for now.

So what do I do? I've come to a compromise: underarms - shave [less hassle, no allergic reaction that way and no one gives a toss in Italy how clear you are there]; everywhere else - wax - upper lip and jawline included. [The beauticians here, as in the UK, don't know why I worry about facial hair as what little I have is very blond. But when you've been a menopausal teacher in a UK school, have caught the light on your face and had some 11-year-old shout out that you "need a shave", you are apt to become over-sensitive about the matter.]

What do women in other parts of the world do? How many of us truthfully enjoy summer, always fearing the tiniest fraction of regrowth of a hair in the wrong place? And why is nature so unfair to women in this affair anyway? Tell me what you think. Me, I herald the autumn with relief!


"Only" ten minutes to post two parcels to the UK this morning, followed by a fifty-minute wait in the other queue to pay a bill as just the one bancoposta counter was open yet again today. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THEM IN THERE?! And what kind of transcations can people be carrying out that take fifteeen to twenty minutes to complete? When I did get to the counter, the clerk decided it was time for her to have a chat with the colleague next to her. OK, it was only for a moment or two, but when you have been waiting that long, you would like some attention! [Such rudeness is not typical here, I must add.] Come on, staff, you have clients who have been waiting fifty minutes and you can't be bothered to look them in the eye and say, "Buongiorno"?! When, oh, when, are you going to take that training trip to Cardiff Hayes Post Office, Wales, UK?!

Saturday, September 02, 2006


All week there has been great excitement in nearby Ragusa due to the presence there of the actress Susan Sarandon. She has Ragusan roots and the city has fêted her and bestowed upon her honorary citizenship. She has announced that she will return and I'm sure she will. One young man of my acquaintance met her on Thursday and is still bowled over!


September and you can tell it's autumn as Rafffaele the hairdresser has got his rugs back out, even though the temperature is still around 33 C [91 F]!

Soon the ice creams will disappear from the bars and restaurants: it is as if a great machine comes along and sweeps them all away at once, just as the Scirocco wind sweeps away the summer.

But here is a new combination which I tried at the Altro Posto yesterday - green apple [an experiment of theirs of which they are justly proud] and melon ice cream. Excellent.


In the post Pane e Formaggio of 26th July I showed you the pecorino cheese seasoned with red pepper. Here is the black pepper version. Neither tastes anything like the harder pecorino which we get in Britain. Pecorino can be used in cooking and grated into pasta like parmigiano.

A lot of Italians now buy their parmesan or other pasta cheese ready grated. The salumerie will do it for you or you can pick it up in the supermarket, the date and time of grating being carefully stamped on the container so you know it has been freshly done.


Some weeks ago [14th July] I showed you the mini pesche tabacchiere from Etna, named for their snuffbox shape. Here are their larger sisters!


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