Saturday, February 27, 2010


A cheery song from Sanremo 2010. I like the drag act backing group, too.

Arisa - Malamorenò

Friday, February 26, 2010


The cause of single people is one close to my heart, for our contribution to society is rarely recognised and we do not feature on any government's list of priorities. I was therefore delighted to be able to write this article for Italy Magazine this week. Viva signor Lo Pilato!

The structure of the family is changing in Italy, albeit at a slower rate in the South. Between 1995 and 2000 the divorce rate soared by 74% and the number of separations by 57%. 200, 000 more people were living alone in Italy in 2000 than in 1995. According to Istat [the Italian Statistics Office] there were 5 million single people living in Italy in 2008, plus 2 million who were divorced, separated or widowed.

Now single people in Italy want their own ministry: this is the idea of Joe Lo Pilato, an agriturismo owner from Avellino, near Naples. Mr Pilato says that single people are discriminated against in every sector of life and especially when it comes to salaries, paying taxes and finding a home or job.

Mr Pilato has formed the “Sindacato dell’amore” or “Love Union” and it already has around 30,000 supporters in the Campania Region alone. The aim of the Union is to help all single people, whether they are alone by choice or not. Mr Lo Pilato has drafted a “Singles Charter” which he will soon present to the country’s political leaders. Among its demands are travel discounts and refuges for single mothers who find themselves in difficulty. Mr Lo Pilato also thinks that the government should help single people to meet others.

Mr Lo Pilato says that the movement had a helpline until recently but it has been closed down through lack of funding. The movement finances itself and is not linked to any political party.

The first “Singles Day” is scheduled to take place in Naples on 24th July.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I was fascinated to see this piece of sfilato - Sicilian drawn thread embroidery - in a friend's house today. It was worked by nuns.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


This is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine yesterday:
Italy’s newest aircraft carrier the Cavour, launched in 2004 but not fully operational until last year, arrived in Haitian waters on 1st February. It forms part of “Operation White Crane”, Italy’s relief effort in Haiti.

At first the ship could not dock at Port-au-Prince because of earthquake damage there so the land element of its personnel disembarked, with equipment, in the Dominican Republic and trekked overland to Haiti.

When Italian military and medical personnel first arrived in Haiti on 14th January, they decided that a carrier was needed and the Cavour, the new flagship of the Italian Navy, set sail from Muggiano, near La Spezia, on 19th January. On the way it picked up a Brazilian military and medical team.

The Cavour was carrying 200 soldiers, its own crew of 540 personnel, 6 naval helicopters, cranes, bulldozers and other specialised equipment for earthquake work. Most importantly for the Haitians, the ship has two state of the art operating theatres and was carrying a field hospital, 135,000 tons of supplies from the World Food Programme and 77 tons of supplies from the Italian Red Cross.

The carrier is also equipped with a hyperbaric chamber, which is similar to the pressurised cabin that divers use. The chamber has already been used to treat patients with wounds that have become infected in the dusty and unhygienic conditions onshore and the Captain, Gianluigi Reversi, told Reuters yesterday that as a consequence of the treatment, several of the patients have been spared amputation procedures.

The carrier’s personnel have also set up onshore hospitals and helped in clearing and rebuilding work. They are working alongside personnel from the US carrier, Comfort.

Next week the Cavour will offer operations to Haitian children with facial deformities as part of Operation Smile. There is already a baby on board as the ship’s medical personnel are treating the three-month-old girl’s mother. Captain Reversi says his men are happy to feel that they are really helping people in need.

Not everyone is pleased about the ship’s deployment to Haiti, however, for she costs around 200, 000 euros [$271, 895 or £175,546] per day to operate.

Do you think the Italian government was right to send the Cavour to Haiti?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Last Monday I attended my second party in two days, this time a meeting of the "foreign legion" of women from other lands living in Modica and Ragusa. It's just an excuse for a get-together, really and there are many more foreign women than this living here. But any meeting of cultures in a friendly spirit has to be a good thing and at these gatherings ideas are exchanged, new contacts are made and people who were perhaps feeling lonely learn that others have gone through that "culture shock" phase and are on hand to help.

Here are some of us. [I can't stop wearing my "Marilyn" jumper because it is so soft and warm!]

I forgot to charge my camera and also left my phone at home but here's a sample of the many cakes on offer. They were hard to resist so I didn't.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Let's hear it for Antonella Clerici, who looked fabulous throughout the Sanremo Festival, which she presented. She is curvy and looks like a woman, not a stick insect.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

And here is the winning song:

Valerio Scanu - Per tutte le volte che

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Some more presents to show you, then I'll stop droning on about my birthday.

There were lots of lovely cards

and this one was hand-made by Annie. Isn't she clever?

But what's all this that fell out of it? Birthday confetti!

There was this very appropriate card from Sally

and this one from Liz:

In case you can't manage to read it, it says, "Now she had reached 60 and recalling her doctor's advice to eat more fruit, she popped off to put some cherries in her gin." A wise woman.

There was another flower, on this beautiful Limoges dish from my friends Roberta and Roberto

and some memories of Wales from a close friend there - with more confetti!

Another close friend from Cardiff sent me this lovely necklace

and some British chocolate! [A girl has to be international when it comes to chocolate.]

This lovely jewellery is from my hairdresser, Raffaele [who came to the party early to do my hair] and the salon staff:

A group of Modican friends joined together to get me a classy outfit and Irma took me to choose it last Saturday. The trousers are in plain black velvet:

There was luxurious bubble bath and body lotion from my student Catia,

these pretty French bowls from my student Daniela

and this picture to brighten up my sitting room from Rosa and family:

Cathy my boss paid for the party and made a lot of people happy.

But the greatest gift of all is friendship.


I am watching the last night of Sanremo as I write and this is an article of mine about the 2010 Festival that was published in Italy Magazine on Thursday:

The 2010 Festival di Sanremo – the sixtieth edition - has been very eventful and, at the time of writing, there are still three evenings to go.

Controversy began last year when Emanuele Filiberto, Prince of Venice and Piedmont, or, to give him his Italian title, Emanuele Filiberto Di Savoia, announced that he was going to take part. His family, by all accounts, were not overjoyed.

Then, before the Festival had even started, the singer Morgan was banned from appearing because he admitted, in a magazine interview, that he had taken crack. The Chairman of Rai Uno said that the decision had been taken because Sanremo is “a product for families and young people.” There have been many protests from Morgan’s fans.

However, everybody cheered up late on Tuesday when Susan Boyle arrived on stage. Her fans in Italy had been campaigning for months to bring her to Sanremo. Miss Boyle sang her signature song, “I Dreamed a Dream” and received a standing ovation. Earlier, at rehearsal, she had received an ovation from the orchestra, too.

Another event that pleased everybody was the appearance at the Festival on Wednesday of one of Italy’s greatest fans, Queen Rania of Jordan. The Queen, wearing Giorgio Armani Privé, was interviewed by Antonella Clerici about how she met the King and her daily life and was then asked for a recipe. Queen Rania presented the campaign 1GOAL, for the education of children in underdeveloped countries, at the Festival.

Emanuele Filiberto performed a song he had composed himself, “Italia Amore Mio”, with Pupo and Luca Canonici on Wednesday and was eliminated in the first round. His parents then said that, had he managed to reach the final, they would have travelled to Italy to support him. [Male members of the House of Savoy have only been allowed to set foot on Italian soil since 2002.] The Prince is in good company, as Toto Cutugno was also eliminated, along with Nino D’Angelo who had sung in dialect. [Dialect was allowed this year for the first time.]

Of course, anyone who is anyone – or who thinks they are - wants to be seen at Sanremo, so Patrizia D’Addario, the escort who has written a book about Mr Berlusconi, was not to be left out, arriving on Monday to promote her single, “All You Want”. She will not, however, be allowed to do so on the Festival stage.

Susan Boyle at Sanremo 2010 - I Dreamed a Dream


Not one of the songs in the competition, but I liked Elisa's version of Canzone Per Te at Sanremo on Thursday night:

Elisa - Canzone per te

Friday, February 19, 2010


I can hardly believe it's nearly a week since the event. I'm still feeling very moved by all the good wishes and I've still got pics to show you but everybody dived into the food before I could take any of that!

I decided to play fifties and sixties music and I used some of my vinyl covers as decorations. The thing on the right is supposed to be a sort of collage of key figures of my youth and those crepe paper efforts are meant to be discs, just in case you were wondering:

Here I am with "my poet", Antonio Lonardo, who presented me with a poem he'd written specially.

The poem reads:


Nel salto delle cascate
si purificano i rivoli
e l'acqua corre alla foce
chiara, come alla sorgente.


In cascading waterfalls
streams are purified
and the clear water runs to the river mouth
as it does to the spring.

[My translation.]

I shall treasure this and am going to frame it.

I had been delighted to receive another poem, through the post, from my good friend Sileno Lavorini, who organises the Buggiano Poetry Competition.

It reads:

Sono solo 30 x 2 Patricia
e quando a 30 x 3 sarai,
avrai la stessa gioventù di ora
perché la tua vita tradurrai.

It's only 30 x 2 Patricia
and when you reach 30 x 3,
you'll be as young as you are now
because you will translate your life.

I'm going to frame that, too. Hey, two published Italian poets wrote verses just for me! How lucky can a girl get?

By the way, I found the Marilyn Monroe jumper at Modica Market - where else?

Now I'm opening presents and, as you see, I have a willing helper. Irma is standing behind us. This gift is an elegant black purse by Valentino from my student Salvo the postman and his wife.

Here I'm modelling this lovely bag, a gift from my student Lucia and her family. Lucia [a different Lucia to the one I usually mention] is standing behind me having a drink, with her husband. Salvo, who is a very interesting man, is behind me on the right:

Showing off perfume and shower gel, from my friend Vanessa. I have had some luxurious baths since my birthday! My student Cristiano is on my right.

Cristiano has given me a beautiful photo frame:

Here I am with my wonderful friends:

I'm going to show you more presies tomorrow.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Rosa and I were cooking for the party on Saturday when the doorbell rang and, to my great surprise and delight, these beautiful flowers arrived from jmb in Canada!

[I am all scruffy in my cooking clothes.]

Here they are again:

On Sunday morning I was cooking when these fabulous tulips arrived from the Italy Magazine gang

along with this one for Simi, who was very waggy indeed:

I'd just started cooking again when these pretty pastel tulips were delivered from my Modican friends Marco, Giovanna, Giancarla and Laura:

By 2pm it was panic stations and I sent an SOS to Linda, who immediately came to help with the preparations, bringing these spring lovelies:

And at 6pm, when the party began, kind Lucia brought these gorgeous yellow roses:

So I now have a very cheerful sitting room and I want to sit in it all the time as it's like being in a profumeria. Thank you to all my thoughtful friends.

I think the florists of Modica had a good day too!

Sunday, February 14, 2010


As promised, I now bestow upon you the accumulated wisdom of 60 years and it is this:

Ladies, ONLY WEIGH WHEN YOU ARE THIN. This way you'll save yourself a lifetime of misery.

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myspace layouts

And just in case you gentlemen feel left out, here's my advice to you:

DON'T SAY IT IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO DO IT! That goes as much for calling a woman as for those jobs around the house and I'm sure you can all think of other occasions....

Saturday, February 13, 2010


A very self-indulgent one :

Karen Morrow - I'm Still Here from Sondheim's Follies

Shirley Maclaine sings it in Postcards from the Edge

Friday, February 12, 2010


The Carnival season is in full swing in Italy so, leaving Sicily for the moment, let's take a look at what is happening in the Serenissima. This is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine on Monday:

The Venice Carnival 2010 officially opened with the flight of an angel in Saint Mark’s Square on Sunday, watched by 75,000 people.

This year it was the turn of Bianca Brandolini D’Adda, a member of the Agnelli [Fiat] family, to swing on a harness from the top of the famous Campanile [bell tower] into the Square. Wearing gold wings and a dress of layers of tulle representing feathers, Miss Brandolini D’Adda said she had been so excited that she had not felt the cold. She admitted to having been a little frightened at first, but said her support team had been very reassuring. When she came down she said she would be happy to take the “flight” again straightaway.

On Saturday the actor Ferruccio Soleri opened the theatrical proceedings by giving his famous interpretation of Harlequin in Goldoni’s “Arlecchino servitore di due padroni” [Harlequin, Servant of Two Masters”].This is just one of the 290 shows featuring over 300 artists which will take place over the ten days of the Carnival. There are, of course, traditional processions and balls, some of which are attended by heads of state and celebrities but there are also many street events. Part of the pleasure of Carnival is to just wander around and marvel at the costumes, performances and people you will see.

This year’s Carnival is called Sensation – 6 sensi per 6 sestieri [6 Senses for 6 Districts] and its events are focused on the theme of the senses:
The Cannaregio district will focus on taste and will host cookery lessons while its restaurants will offer seasonal and local specialities.
The Castello district is concentrating on touch and is organising journeys in the dark, the inspiration of the Milan Blind Institute.
The Dorsoduro district is hosting musical events to focus on hearing and visitors to the Santa Croce district will be treated to the aromas of spices and chocolate as it celebrates the sense of smell. San Polo celebrates the “joy of the eyes” by organising cartoons, games and puppet shows for children.

Last but certainly not least, that “sixth sense” of ours will be celebrated by the San Marco district with its traditional, spectacular events and less traditional ones such as the Drag Queen Beauty Pageant which will take place on February 12th.

There is certainly something for everybody at the Venice Carnival 2010. For more information please visit:


I love chiacchiere, the thin biscuits made during the Carnival season, especially if they are drizzled with chocolate, like the ones atop this selection

or homemade like these, which were sent in to the School by a student's mum today:

Chiacchierare is the verb "to gossip" and the biscuits are so named either because their shape resembles that of old women's tongues or, more likely, because of the "psst" sound they make when the pastry is dropped into the hot oil.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Well, here is the post some of you have been awaiting for the past [almost] four years! Why have I got around to it now? Because a new commenter of mine, Andrew Scott, who has an interesting blog, asked me a few weeks ago whether it is true that Sicily is entirely controlled by the Mafia and I decided that he deserves an answer:

First of all, let me make it clear that I am talking about Sicilian Mafia here, not Calabrian 'Ndrangheta or Neopolitan Camorra. I cannot tell you that the Sicilian Mafia does not exist because of course it does. Nor can I tell you that it is not extremely nasty, for we all know that it is. I am no apologist for the organisation but I will say that there are criminal organisations in all countries. The trouble is that in Sicily every crime is attributed to the Mafia.

The Mafia differs from other crime associations in its "swearing in" and so-called "family" structure. But surely every nation's criminal organisations reflect or mock the society that allows them to flourish?

Does the Mafia impinge upon the everyday life of ordinary, hardworking Sicilians, then? Indirectly, in some areas of Sicily, probably yes, in that it can affect the type of politicians who gain power and thereby the kind of services the populations of certain comuni receive. But politicians in a number of countries not so far from Italy also have unorthodox ways of acquiring funding, power and influence.

Whilst we are talking politics, let us not forget just who helped reestablish the Mafia's power after World War II, for it wasn't the Sicilians and it wasn't the Italian government. Whether accidentally or not, the Allied liberators of Sicily handed the Mafia local power on a plate and this has been well documented.

In Midnight in Sicily, published in 1996, Peter Robb describes a Palermo which falls silent at night, its citizens just melting into the shadows, for

"Nobody wanted to be a witness. You might as well be the victim."

Things are very different now, however, and Palermo is lively and happy at night, just like other Italian centres of art and culture. The Mafia was for a long time an attitude of mind, existing because it was allowed to, but this mentality is changing. These changes were prompted by two events above all others: the sickening murders of the anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and later Paolo Borsellino in 1992.

In 1997 the director Roberta Torre made Tano da Morire, a film which makes fun of the Mafia. Such a project in Italy would have been unthinkable during the previous decade. Confindustria, the Italian Employers' Federation, has threatened to expel members who pay the pizzo - the word comes from Arabic jizia - or protection money, to the Mafia and shops stocking only "pizzo free" goods have sprung up in cities like Catania. Small steps, you may think, but they are significant.

Modica is in the Province of Ragusa, which is known as the safest in Sicily and it is said that no one pays the pizzo in this area. Indeed, there is said to be no Mafia activity at all in the Province. All I can tell you is that people live normal, happy, family lives here and that I have never felt threatened in any way.

Sicily is not the Mafia, any more than the London of the 1960s was the Kray brothers. The Mafia is entwined in the island's history, yet it is but a thread in a rich and complex tapestry.

Simm'a Mafia from Tano da Morire

Sunday, February 07, 2010


I've been collecting tiny stamps [in addition to points] for a couple of months now in the supermarket and was finally able to claim this pretty porcelain salad bowl:

So I just had to make my favourite chicken, artichoke and pepper salad:


Better late than never.

I thought I'd combine "Sabato Musicale" and "60 Inglorious Years" with a look at three fabulous older women.

First of all, there is nothing like this dame...
Dame Judi Dench - Folies Bergère - the Nine trailer

... or this one: Dame Shirley Bassey - Get the Party Started

And, batting for Italy... who else?
Sofia Loren - Guarda la Luna from Nine

Friday, February 05, 2010


Valentine's decoration in the Via Sacro Cuore.

I was having a good morning till I went into the bank. I hate the places at the best of times and at the worst of times they really scare me! Today I was not happy to be told that it is going to take them ten working days to clear a cheque and I was feeling very disgruntled by the time I'd acquired some heavy shopping and was on my way to work.

Then a dear elderly chap whom I often see and who has always greeted me effusively, though I don't know his name and I'm sure he doesn't know mine, insisted on carrying my shopping bag down the street to the school, although he was really headed in the other direction. My mood and the day suddenly became sunny.

A little kindness really can help in more ways than we can imagine.


This is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine on Wednesday:

Now, hands up all those readers who are guilty of editing their holiday snaps, for surely we all do it these days? Who does not “improve” their photos a little with a digital editor before pressing the “share” button? “And where’s the harm in that?” you may ask. Well, the trouble is that we are not all the Prime Minister of Italy so our photos are not going to be scrutinised by millions of people, including experts in photography and lighting.

The photos in a book about Mr Berlusconi which went on sale last week have undergone just such close examination and the verdict is that they have been rather clumsily adjusted. The book, entitled Noi amiamo Silvio [We Love Silvio] is, according to its publisher and editor, Alberto Peruzzo, a testimony to Mr Berlusconi’s commitment to his work in the national and international spheres. The Premier is pictured among flag-waving supporters and with other world leaders.

One photograph in particular drew the attention of Vacon Sartirani, a graphic designer from Bergamo, Corriere della Sera reports. Mr Sartirani bought the book out of professional curiosity, having heard much criticism of the editing and graphics. When he turned to the image in question, of Mr Berlusconi with supporters in Milan’s Piazza del Duomo, two things immediately struck him: the first was the caption, which wrongly dates the photo to 2008 when it was actually taken in 1998 and the other was that the crowd has been “cloned”, for if you look carefully you can see exactly the same people in each half of the image. Mr Berlusconi is holding some flowers, which, seen through a magnifying glass, are obviously drawn. Mr Sartirani scanned the photo and sent it to the San Precario blog, whose readers have been having a very jolly time finding other inconsistencies in it.

Mr Sartirani says that in other photos in the book Mr Berlusconi’s features have been lit in a totally different way from those of bystanders. Although this is normal practice with pictures of the rich and famous, here it has been badly done, he adds.

Mr Peruzzo, the editor, shrugs his shoulders in the face of all this criticism and declares himself to be merely a politically neutral friend of Mr Berlusconi. He admits that he showed a draft of the book to the Premier, who suggested some changes, before ordering the print run of 70,000 copies. Mr Peruzzo remains convinced that the book will be a success. So, the moral of the story is: we need to be careful with those Photoshop retouches. We don’t want to end up on the Photoshop disasters site, do we?

Do you retouch your digital photos?
Do you think digital retouching is deception?

Personal note - 5.5.10
As soon as I saw the picture, I realised I had seen it before and I knew where: it is on the dust jacket of Tobias Jones's hugely interesting and entertaining book, The Dark Heart of Italy, published in 2003. You can't see whether the crowd is cloned on the cover but you can see that the flowers are drawn. Moreover, this does prove that the photograph could not have been taken in 2008.


Most of you will know that it is very unusual for me not to post for a couple of days. I've been having some computer problems as well as some life ones. Even though the laptop is working, not having a backup machine throws me into a panic. Sorry about late replies to comments, lack of blog-visiting, etc.

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myspace layout

Monday, February 01, 2010


This is an article of mine published in Italy Magazine today. I have to confess I swear like a trooper.

Italy’s highest court, the Cassazione, ruled on Thursday that Italians cannot use the equivalent of the f-word to their neighbours. In doing so, the Court amended a ruling it famously made in 2007, when it declared that the word had entered common language and therefore its use was no longer a crime. On that occasion the defendant was a councillor from Abruzzo who had used the word during a meeting with the Mayor of his town.

A later ruling from the Court in 2007 stipulated that bosses cannot accuse their employees of “doing f… all”. Then, in 2008 it ruled – probably in empathy - that mayors can use the word when frustrated with contractors. Later the Court decided that bosses cannot use the word at all to reprimand staff but that staff are justified in saying, “Who the f… do you think you are?” to a boss when reprimanded, Ansa reports.

When it comes to neighbours, however, honour enters the fray, according to judges who last week heard the case of an Ancona man who had used the word in a parking dispute with a neighbour. They ruled that if the word is used to a neighbour, it is a slur on his or her honour and that citizens must treat their neighbours with respect so that living near to one another remains possible.

Honour remains an important concept in Italy.

What’s your view on swearing? Are there rules where you are?

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