Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In Italy the regional election results promise us more of Mr Berlusconi, part of Nero's Palace has collapsed in rain and in the South we are all going to be swept away by a tsunami.  What is more, British expats living here will not even be able to cheer themselves up by watching a bit of blood and gore in the TV series "Casualty" as they await  Armageddon for, as I wrote here, Sky Italia removed the popular BBC Entertainment channel from its platform on 1st March.

Sky Italia, however, reckoned without the "spirit of the blitz" and the facebook group, "Bring Back BBC Entertainment" now has over 1,000 members who do not rest on their laurels but bombard Sky Italia with mail, emails and phone calls every day.  Sky continue to claim that they were unable to reach an agreement on contract renewal with the BBC but, from correspondence members of the group have received from the BBC, it is quite clear which company is at fault!  When Sky decided to add an Italian poker channel to its Italy platform group members were, to say the least, unimpressed.

Sky Italia quite simply does not wish to invest in quality programmes and assumes its subscribers are content with sport, sport and more sport, unpopular films and nonsense channels like the poker one.  The company clearly does not listen to its customers and deserves to lose business, which it seems to be doing fast.  I have been waiting for a promised phone call from Sky since the beginning of the month.

The BBC, on the other hand, has listened to its clientèle and is trying to find another platform for its entertainment programmes in Italy.  Meanwhile, in response to requests from members of the facebook group and others, it has made the popular series "Eastenders" available on the internet.  This is a great victory for the facebook group and I am happy for the "Eastenders" fans.  My own addiction, however, is to the hospital dramas "Casualty" and "Holby City" so please, BBC, make these available on the internet too!

We are, of course, aware that there are other ways of receiving BBC programmes in Italy but they all cost money and I feel that I have paid Sky enough and have a contract with them which runs until September.  I took the Sky package five years ago on the understanding that BBC Entertainment was part of it and I intend to fight on until I get it back.

If you are on facebook, do join the "Bring Back BBC Entertainment" group and help us fight an uncaring company which is totally unconcerned with quality.

A little of what I'm missing....

Monday, March 29, 2010


I'm nursing a sore throat so will leave the Italian regional elections to sort themselves out tonight.  Meanwhile, I thought you might like this article of mine published in Italy Magazine last week:

A 36-year-old metal worker from Ghana has named his son, born in 2005, after Silvio Berlusconi, Adnkronos reports. Anthony Boahene, who has lived in Italy for eight years, says he is not very political but admires the Prime Minister “as a person” and likes his style. He also says that he understands Mr Berlusconi’s tough line on immigration.

The five-year-old boy was brought from Africa to Modena [Emilia-Romagna] by his father in February and Mr Boahene registered the child’s name as Silvio Berlusconi Boahene as a gesture of gratitude for his own “permission to stay” in Italy.

Little Silvio is proud of his name though his teacher, it seems, is less so, having declared that the child will be known simply as “Silvio” at school. The Prime Minister has no greater fan than his namesake, who not only supports Milan but adores Mr Berlusconi’s electoral campaign broadcasts on TV. He even believes that Silvio the politician is really his grandfather, says his father proudly.

Mr Boahene wants his son to study politics to prepare for his eventual life as President of Ghana or Italy. There’s nothing like confidence in the future!

Would you name a child after a politician?

Sunday, March 28, 2010


She has been there all week, the palm lady, sitting at the side of the road, deftly weaving fronds into objects of beauty.  She sets up her stall long before the morning rush hour begins, and she is still there as everyone hurries home for lunch.  She carries on braiding and plaiting, adorning her  finished palms with ribbons of all colours, through the silent siesta hours and as the shutters go up again for the evening reopening.  As darkness defeats her, she stops, but she is there again the following morning, bright and early.  On Sunday she continues her dexterous craft and only when the bells for the last Mass of this Palm Sunday morning have sounded does she pack up her wares for another year.  I hope she is having a rest.


In 45 minutes the clocks officially go forward in Italy and my digi-watches will be showing the right time!  Some of you may remember I bought these in the summer:

Well, I can't read the stupid, tiny white print on black paper that masquerades as "instructions" so I have no idea how to adjust them.  But in 45 minutes they'll all be accurate! Isn't that clever of them and doesn't everything come to a girl with "pazienza"? My inability to read the print has nothing to do with my age, of course....


Well, it's still Saturday in the UK, the USA and lots of other places in the world!

This week it has to be Mina, Italy's first lady of pop, who celebrated her seventieth birthday on Thursday.  Here's my article about her for Italy Magazine:

Mina, Italy’s Queen of Pop, is seventy years old today. The event is being celebrated in the music world everywhere and Mina has already received birthday wishes from Barbara Streisand, Quincy Jones and Lisa Minelli, Ansa reports.

In Italy there are TV and radio specials, including a documentary on Rai Storica, “La Tigre di Cremona”, to be broadcast tomorrow at 09.20 and 18.20. Mina’s albums from 1994 – 2009 are to be reissued on vinyl and there is an album of previously unpublished photos here.

Anna Maria Mazzini was born in Busto Arsizio [Lombardy] in 1940. Later the family moved to Cremona. She first sang publicly in club whilst on holiday in 1958 and after that she started performing rock and roll with various bands. She soon refined her style and became known for her versatility. She dominated the Italian pop scene throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Her personal life was not conventional, however, and she was banned from Rai in 1963 because of her relationship with a married man. Rai also banned several of her songs, which dealt with contemporary issues such as religion and sex. But love songs, which Mina performed dramatically, were the most popular with her public. Her ballad “Grande, grande, grande” was performed all over the world and was a hit for the British singer Shirley Bassey.

Mina has not performed in public since 1978 but she has never stopped singing: she releases an album every year and in 2009 her version of “Nessun Dorma” was the theme song of the Sanremo Song Festival. This unconventional version was criticised by many in Italy. Do listen and let us know what you think:

To date, 98 of Mina’s albums and 70 of her singles have been listed in the Italian charts. Her son, Massimiliano Pani, tells Ansa that the diva is very unsentimental, having once thrown away a telegram from Sir Paul McCartney. The famous blue dress she wore to sing “Le mille bolle blu” at Sanremo also went in the bin. Mr Pani puts this down this to his mother’s refusal to take herself too seriously and her determination to look to the future.

Italy Magazine wishes you “tanti auguri”, Mina.

Who is your favourite Italian singer?
What’s your favourite Italian pop song?

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Easter pastries at Raffaele the hairdresser's today.

Now for some fun with these guys

and with Dolly:


From a rant to something that makes me happy - well, several things that make me happy, actually.  First of all, I am delighted to have received the "Happy Award" from my friend fullet in Catalonia.  Thank you, fullet.

Now I have to pass the award on to the authors of ten blogs that make me happy.  Only ten? There are lots of blogs that make me happy, but, since I must limit the number I mention here, I'm going to award some of the Italian bloggers.  I'm about to cheat and pass the award on to eleven wonderful blogs about Italy, though!

1.  Romancing Italy
2.  Ciao Amalfi
3.  Bella Baita View
4.  Rubber Slippers in Italy
5.  Holly Berry's World
6.  Bell'Avventura
7.  Gatto 999
8.  lost in Sicilia
9.  loveSicily
10. italy tutto - top blogs on italy
11. A Welshie in Italy

Visit any of these blogs for a great read!


It is rare to meet with discourtesy when dealing with staff in shops or public service offices in Italy.  The Post Office may be slow and the Water Office inefficient, but nobody in either office is rude.  In Modica's Lidl, however, finding myself without a euro in change for the stupid trolley deposit, I just had the following exchange:

Me to cashier:  Excuse me, could you change these 2 fifty centesimi for a euro for the trolley?
Cashier:  No, there aren't any euros.  [Not , "I'm so sorry, signora, but I don't have any change.]
Me:  Well, can you suggest something?
Cashier:  What can I do, if I haven't got any, I haven't got any!
Me: Well, can you call someone?
Cashier:  Who can I call, signora?
Why didn't I say, "the bloody manager"?!
By now, I'm extremely angry as a male customer is just standing by agreeing with the cashier.
Cashier:  Take a couple of carrier-bags and put your purchases in those, signora.
Me:  I can't carry everything round the store!
Cashier: Oh, there are some customers outside, now.  Ask them, signora.

So I go outside and change my centesimi-pieces there.  I think there are two factors at play here, the first being that there is still enough of the Brit in me to remember service in British supermarkets, a sector with so much competition that staff will do anything to retain customers [except for Marks & Spencer, who are extraordinarily stingy with carrier bags].  The second is that Italians always prefer to ask anyone other than a member of staff or an official for help.  

OK, now I'm armed with a trolley and I complete my purchases. I go to the check-out and it's the same guy again:

Cashier [pointing to the end of the counter]:  Put the trolley there and put everything in it.
I avoid saluting and clicking my heels to attention and follow orders. I put a few things in a carrier before putting them in the trolley.
Cashier: In the trolley first, signora.
Now at last I lose my temper:
Me:  I'm not stealing things, you know.  Why are you being so rude to me this afternoon?
This brings cringing apologies, which I accept.

I did think of ringing Lidl HQ as soon as I got home and possibly losing the young man his job, but I seem to have become Sicilian enough not to do that.  A rant here will suffice.

One thing everyone who deals with the public in their job should learn is this:  A little discourtesy can ruin someone's day, just as a little courtesy can make it.


A proverbs quiz for Friday night and these are all about old age, a subject much on my mind lately.  Just match the proverbs 1 - 6 with their meanings a - f:

1.  A li vecchi cci màancanu li forzi e ci criscinu li pititti.

2.  Cui vecchiu voli campari, a bon'ura voli accuminzari.

3.  La vecchia 'un voli jocu, voli pani, vinu e focu.

4.  Lu dimoniu sapi assai pirché è vecchio.

5.  'Na vota si gabba la vecchia; appressu vota vi chiuj la porta.

6.  Lignu vecchiu megghiu adduma ma cchiù prestu si consuma.

myspace layouts

a.  The devil knows a lot because he's old.

b.  Old wood burns better but turns to ashes quicker.

c.  The old have less strength and a bigger appetite.

d.  An old lady doesn't want games.  She wants bread, wine and a fire.

e.  You can only swindle an old lady once;  after that she'll close the door in your face.

f.  If you want to live into old age you have to get up early.

Highlight below this line for answers:
1c, 2f, 3d, 4a, 5e, 6b.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Traditional cart selling nuts, dried chestnuts and pumpkin seeds in Modica Bassa on Sunday evening.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Most of you know that I am not religious.  However, I do believe that there are some very special people in this world and that some things are inexplicable.  If it is faith that explains them, who am I to argue?  This is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine on Monday:

An Italian girl who died in 1989 at the age of eighteen is to be beatified on the 25th September this year. Beatification is an important step in the process towards sainthood and allows the person to be honoured by a particular group or in a particular region.

The Venerable Chiara “Luce” Badano was born in 1971 to Ruggero Badano, a truck driver, and his wife Maria Teresa Caviglia in Sassello [Liguria]. The family was hard-working and pious and Chiara was an open, friendly child who always cared about others, particularly the elderly.

When Chiara was nine years old, she joined the Focolare Movement, which works for unity between faiths. Though profoundly religious, Chiara was not “perfect”: she was strong-willed and, when she became a teenager, like teenagers all over the world, she argued with her parents about matters like what time she should be in at night. There were tears, too, when she failed some school exams. Chiara enjoyed walking, tennis, swimming, dancing and singing. Her original ambition was to become an air hostess but later she felt that her destiny was to become a missionary.

One day, when she was playing tennis, she experienced pain in her shoulder. Her doctor did not think it was anything serious and neither did Chiara. But the pain refused to go away and Chiara was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma at the age of 17.

At first she displayed a positive attitude, believing that she had a good chance of beating the disease because she was young. However, the cancer spread quickly and Chiara was admitted to hospital many times, undergoing painful surgery.

Eventually she accepted that she would die but this did not stop her helping others while she was in hospital. Of her need to rest, she said,

“I’ll have time to rest later.”

She corresponded regularly with Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement, and it was Lubich who gave Chiara the name of “Luce” [“Light”].

As Chiara’s hair fell out after chemotherapy, she said,

“For you, Jesus”

and when she lost the use of her legs she declared that she would rather go to heaven than walk.

Chiara’s friends visited her in hospital but soon realised that it was they who needed her and not the other way round. Chiara gave them courage and did the same for her doctors. She gave all her savings to a friend who was about to leave on a mission to Africa and said,

“I have nothing left but my heart and with that I can always love”.

She refused morphine for pain relief as it affected her lucidity and she offered her suffering to Christ, whom she referred to as her “bridegroom”. Convinced that she was going to Jesus, her last words, on 7th October 1989 were,

“Be happy because I am happy”.

With her mother Chiara had planned her funeral as a “wedding ceremony”. Two thousand people attended and she had asked them not to cry. Chiara’s tomb is now a place of pilgrimage.

Chiara “Luce” Badano will be the first member of the Focolare Movement to be beatified. Last year Pope Benedict approved a decree attributing the healing of a young boy with meningitis to her intercession.

Do you have a favourite saint?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I am writing this post on behalf of .

Do you feel inspired to visit Sicily after reading some of my blog posts? I hope so and now I am going to introduce you to a tour operator who can help you. My new friends, Boris, a Sicilian living in Barcelona, and Marta, who was born in that lovely city, run a small travel company called ShineSicily and I think you will love their informative, user-friendly website, which has fabulous photos of Sicily.

As its name suggests, the company specialises in tours to Sicily but also organises trips to Sardinia, another breathtakingly beautiful island. Boris tells me that they don't have an English version of their web pages about Sardinia yet, but it is coming and, of course, Boris and Marta will help you if you contact them with a view to visiting Sardinia.

"What is different about ShineSicily's tours?" you will be wondering by now. The fact that it is a specialist tour operator means that you can expect tailor made holidays planned by people who have an in-depth knowledge of the locations they deal with, but this is not unique in the travel business. What I think singles ShineSicily out as a tour operator with a difference is that Boris and Marta personally select the hotels and services they use. They go to meet the owner of a hotel or restaurant, have a leisurely coffee on the premises and get to know him or her, slowly, as is the Sicilian way. And they remember their first impressions and how they felt, for that is probably how their clients are going to feel, too.

But Boris and Marta do not just add the name of a service provider to their list and leave it at that: They build up a relationship, continue their visits and take note of changes, always with the needs of their clients in mind. The service providers become a sort of " extended family " and they, together with Boris and Marta, are always on hand to give clients advice and personal tips.

You can choose from itineraries called Authentic Sicily, Rural Sicily , Charming Sicily or a tour to the Aeolian Islands and the company can help you whether you are looking for an organised tour or wish to travel independently.

ShineSicily keeps its prices competitive by operating online only. In this way, says Boris, the company can offer you "efficiency, personal service, rapidity and technological innovation". If you are interested in one of their tours, just contact the company by email or phone for a personal tour proposal. Oh, and while you're over at their site, do check out the "interesting facts" it gives about Sicily. I've learnt a lot myself by looking through some of these and now I'm off to read some more.....
Telephone: There is a Skype link on the site.
Fixed UK telephone line: 0044 20 71930139
Barcelona office: 0034 93 51 47 831

Click here to see an example personalised tour proposal and here to see customer feedback.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


To honour this day, here is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine on Thursday:

Alda Merini - A Gift of Love

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Alda Merini, who died on 1st November last year, was one of Italy’s best loved poets and now her four daughters have created a new website in memory of their mother, who would have been 79 on March 21st.

The website is extremely user-friendly and even if you do not know much Italian, you’ll be able to enjoy photos and paintings of Merini, videos, poems, aphorisms, publication lists and the Tuscan singer Giovanni Nuti singing the poem “L’albatros”.

Merini’s daughters, Emanuela, Barbara, Flavia and Simona tell the story of their mother with touching candour and write of their own pain and confusion at being separated from her during Merini’s long periods of depression. Merini in fact advised them not to admit to being the daughters of “that madwoman”. Although their relationship with their mother was complicated and often sad, Merini’s daughters show their love for her with this gift.

March 21st is also, appropriately, World Poetry Day and this year in Milan the event will be dedicated to Merini. A plaque will be unveiled at Merini’s home at via Ripe di Porta Ticinese 47 at 15.30 on Sunday. The plaque will read,

“Ad Alda Merini. Nell’intimità dei misteri del mondo.” [“To Alda Merini. In communion with the mysteries of the world.”]

At 16.00 on Sunday at Santa Maria delle Grazie al Naviglio the actress Valentina Cortese will read from Merini’s “Magnificat, un incontro con Maria”. At 21.00 there will be a recital of Merini’s poems at the Teatro Dal Verme.Entrance is free but booking is advised via

The new Alda Merini site is still being developed and its creators intend to add an interactive section and a newsletter to which readers can subscribe.

Also in honour of the day, I am happy to be able to publish a new Antonio Lonardo poem here:


Ha voluto guidare,
sempre, la propria vita
nei tortuosi meandri
dell’incerta quotidianità
nella ricerca della luce.

Ha inseguito i numerosi
segreti, perennemente vibrati
dalla misteriosa clessidra
e ne ha scoperto il percorso
diventato luminoso.

Ha combattuto la paura,
appostata negli appuntiti
angoli d’inattese difficoltà
ed ha seguito il volo dei gabbiani,
scortati da amici delfini.

…Fino all’ultimo orizzonte…


He always wanted to steer
his own life
in the tortuous labyrinths
of daily doubt
in search of light.

He pursued abundant
secrets, endlessly rippling
in the mysterious hourglass
and he found
a luminous journey.

He fought fear,
as it waited on the jagged
corners of unlooked-for hardship
and he followed the flight of gulls
guided by their friends the dolphins.

... As far as the last horizon...

[My translation]

Thank you, Antonio and Happy World Poetry Day!

You can read other posts about World Poetry Day by clicking here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


The beautiful little town of Scicli, a 15-minute drive from Modica, is a community in shock following an horrific crime which took place there on Wednesday - Thursday night: A 53-year-old woman doctor was on duty in the town as that night's guardia medica [emergency doctor] and was alone in the old palazzo where the emergency surgery is located. The building has no video entry system. At around 8.30 pm two North African men arrived at the premises and asked for medicines, which the doctor gave them. The men left but in the early hours one of them returned and rang the doorbell. The doctor saw his silhouette through the glass door and only opened it a fraction in order to talk to him. The man then forced the door open, attacked the doctor violently, raped her and broke her leg. Before fleeing he took the 200 euros that she had in her handbag.

The doctor was admitted to hospital first in Scicli and then in Modica. She was discharged on Thursday evening.

We are all appalled in this normally safe Province of Ragusa as, indeed, are people all over Italy. The Imam of Scicli has called the attack "a crime against man and god" and I can only echo those words. On Wednesday 24th March there will be a torchlight procession in Scicli to show solidarity with the doctor and her family and to say "No" to every form of violence.

I would like to offer this in place of "sabato musicale" tonight. Dottoressa, siamo con Lei. We are with you.

Zucchero e Pavarotti - Va, pensiero

Friday, March 19, 2010


To start the weekend on a lighter note, here is a short article of mine that was published in Italy Magazine yesterday:

Fifty or so town hall officials in Rome decided to protest against the slow bureaucratic process of the city’s 2010 budget by pulling their trousers down on Monday.

They carried banners saying that the city’s Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, of Mr Berlusconi’s Pdl Party, had “reduced them to their underwear”. Other banners criticised the abandoned state of parks and public gardens and blamed the number of homeless people in Rome on the current administration.

The workers suspect that the budget is being delayed because it contains unpopular taxes. They are concerned because no new projects can begin without the release of the 2010 budget funds.

Quite why the officials thought their “show a leg” protest would be effective is anyone’s guess. But hey, it got the photographers round!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I've been following the Denise Pipitone case since I arrived in Sicily in 2005. This week the case has taken a new turn. This is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine today:

How Denise Pipitone might look today.

The 2004 disappearance of Denise Pipitone in Sicily was so strange that she has been dubbed “Italy’s Madeleine McCann”.

On 1st September 2004 Denise, then aged four, was playing outside her house in Mazara del Vallo [Trapani] while her mother was preparing lunch. She was last seen at 11.45 am. By noon there was no trace of her.

On 18th October 2004 a bank security guard saw a child who resembled Denise in Milan. The child was with a group of people who appeared to be travellers or Roma. The guard called the police but the group left before they arrived. The guard took a videoclip with his cellphone and in it the child speaks to a woman in the group in Italian. Denise’s mother, Piera Maggio, told the press that she believed the child was her daughter and a police analysis of the clip found physical resemblances to Denise but it was not possible to confirm the child’s identity.

Since then, as in the Madeleine McCann case, there have been many unconfirmed “sightings”, most notably of a child found on Kos in 2008. However, DNA tests confirmed that the woman looking after that child was her biological mother.

Piera Maggio has never given up her efforts to find Denise and she was largely responsible for the passing of a law making the abduction of a minor without demanding a ransom a crime in Italy and for an amendment imposing more severe penalties.

Now, however, the case has taken on an upsetting and sinister twist: Denise’s 22-year-old stepsister, Jessica Pulizzi, has been indicted on charges of complicity in kidnapping and her trial began, in her absence because of illness, yesterday. Jessica’s mother, the first wife of Piero Pulizzi, is also under investigation. The hypothesis is that Jessica Pulizzi abducted Denise in order to avenge Piera Maggio, the woman she blamed for the break-up of her parents’ marriage. Pulizzi’s former boyfriend is also being tried for giving false statements to the prosecutor.

Meanwhile Piera Maggio’s agony continues.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Besides creating recipes, I love adapting recipes and making them "my own". I love it even more when I hear that someone has adapted a recipe of mine! My friend Kathy of The Garden Cat Cottage has done just that with my chicken and aubergine recipe and she is so clever that she has made this video of the process:

I think it's a great idea to make this in a crock pot [slow cooker] and I'm going to add zucchini next time I make it. Aren't Kathy's dogs cute, too?

Monday, March 15, 2010


This little plot outside a shop near my home is carefully tended by the ladies of the shop, so they were, unsurprisingly, angry when someone started to dig up the flowers at night. A week or so ago this notice appeared. I'm sorry the writing, which has weathered a few storms over the past few days, isn't clear in the photo. It reads,

Don't steal the flowers - thief!

And then, in a typically Sicilian gesture of tolerance, the ladies have added,

If you ask us for some, we'll give them to you.

In another nearby shop, a recently vacated furniture store, one bed, with bedclothes, has been left in the middle of the ground floor. And there someone sleeps every night, very cosily tucked in so that you can only see his woollen hat on the pillow, clothes neatly folded over the one chair that has also been left behind, in full view of anyone who cares to glance at the shop's window. [He is still there at 10 am.] How he gets in, I don't know, for there is no sign of any forcing of the door. The owner, who has not moved far away, must know about his nocturnal visitor by now, for news travels fast in small towns and I can only suppose that, in another gesture of tolerance, he has decided to turn a blind eye. I have neither the heart nor the wish to invade the sleeping man's privacy by taking a photo for he probably gets little of it. He is doing no one any harm and "There but for the grace of God go I...."

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I am not "singing in the rain" like Ernie Wise here, but feel more like Eric Morecambe at the end of the clip:

When it rains in Modica, it really rains and, because of a drainage system which can only be described as "unique", you need your wellies to cross the road! It's all Persephone's fault, of course...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Logo of the facebook group.

For those of you who have not read my previous post on this, here is an article of mine which was published in Italy Magazine yesterday:

On Monday 1st March thousands of British ex-pats living in Italy tried to tune in to Sky Italia’s channel 138 to find, instead of their favourite programme on the BBC Entertainment [formerly BBC Prime] channel, a notice from Sky informing them that the channel was no longer available.

The international news channel
BBC World was still broadcasting on Sky Italia, but of BBC Entertainment, which screens soap operas, drama series, British comedy and documentaries, there was not a trace. The British ex-pat community was in despair.Would they never know who killed Archie, a character in the London-based series “Eastenders”? Who would get the ward sister’s job in the long-running hospital drama, “Casualty”? And gone from their lives was their weekly hour of nostalgia as they settled down with a cup of tea to watch “Coast”, a journey around the entire British coastline.

But soon despair turned to anger and, being British, the ex-pats’ anger turned into action: now they are bombarding Sky Italia with phone calls, emails and faxes and a 550-strong group, “Bring back BBC Entertainment on Sky Italia” has been formed on facebook. Group founder Carlo Castiglia writes:

“Like most of the British ex-pats when we subscribed to Sky Italia, we did it because BBC Entertainment was part of the Sky channels. As most of you have noticed from the 1st March BBC Entertainment is no longer part of the Sky platform! Without informing any of us they just took the channel off the platform. It’s disgraceful the way Sky are treating us.”

Sky Italia are sending out standard emails to members of the group and others who contact them. These say that Sky have not renewed their contract with BBC Entertainment and point out the other channels offered by Sky. This does not appease the British ex-pats, who say that they will cancel their Sky subscriptions en masse. Carlo Castiglia has been contacted by the BBC, who, in a courteous response to his email, say that they are aware of the facebook group and appreciate their support of BBC Entertainment. They state that, when the contract came up for renewal, they were unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with Sky.

You may wonder why British ex-pats who have lived in Italy for many years still wish to watch BBC Entertainment. These are people who love Italy and have embraced its culture. But when it comes to television, Italian channels with their endless quizzes, reality shows and dreadful soap operas have little to offer them. BBC Entertainment was, for many, a link with “home” and, whatever criticisms one may level at the BBC, one has to admit that, compared to many other broadcasters, the quality of its drama and documentary output is high.

The facebook group fights on and a side-benefit of its existence is that friendships are being formed among its members, who have this message for Sky Italia:

“We shall never surrender”.
[End of article.]

This is the standard reply I received from Sky Italia to my own enquiry as to why the channel had been removed:

Gentile Cliente,
abbiamo ricevuto la sua e-mail e siamo sinceramente dispiaciuti per il suo disappunto. In merito alla sua richiesta, le comunichiamo che l’accordo tra SKY e BBC Entertainment per i diritti di trasmissione del canale non è stato rinnovato.
Il nostro impegno per offrirle emozioni continua con nuovi programmi condotti dai personaggi più amati dal pubblico, i film più attesi in anteprima assoluta,le ultime stagioni delle sue serie tv preferite, le partite del grande calcio italiano e internazionale e gli straordinari eventi sportivi in diretta, come le Olimpiadi Invernali Vancouver 2010 e i Mondiali di Calcio FIFA Sud Africa 2010.
Certi che continuerà a seguirci con lo stesso interesse, le porgiamo
Un cordiale saluto,

Servizio Clienti SKY

Dear Client,

We have received your email and we are sincerely sorry about your disappointment. With regard to your request, we inform you that the agreement between SKY and BBC Entertainment regarding transmission rights for the channel has not been renewed.
Our commitment to offering you exciting viewing continues with new programmes presented by much-loved television personalities, premières of the most eagerly awaited films, the latest episodes of your favourite TV series, plus important live Italian and international football matches and extraordinary sporting events such as the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, 2010.

We are sure that you will continue to follow us with the same interest.

Yours faithfully,
SKY Customer Services

[My translation]

Needless to say, I wasn't impressed by this and I wrote back:

Vi ringrazio della Vostra risposta.

Tuttavia, il problema e' che non voglio "nuovi programmi condotti dai personaggi piu' amati dal pubblico, i film piu' attesi in anteprima assoluta,le ultime stagioni delle sue serie tv preferite, le partite del grande calcio italiano e internazionale e gli straordinari eventi sportivi in diretta, come le Olimpiadi Invernali Vancouver 2010 e i Mondiali di Calcio FIFA Sud Africa 2010". Non amo la maggior parte dei personaggi piu' amati dal pubblico, non ho il tempo di guardare i film, le ultime stagioni delle mie serie preferite sono trasmesse sul BBC Entertainment e odio tutto lo sport. Per farla breve, voglio solo il canale BBC Entertainment!

Ho letto che lo Sky ha perso 65,000 abbonamenti nel 2009. Nel 2010 ne perderete ancora di piu'!

Distinti saluti

Thank you for your reply.

However, the problem is that I do not want "new programmes presented by much-loved television personalities, premières of the most eagerly awaited films, the latest episodes of your favourite TV series, plus important live Italian and international football matches and extraordinary sporting events such as the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa." I do not love the majority of much-loved television personalities, I don't have time to watch films, the latest episodes of my favourite TV series are broadcast on BBC Entertainment and I hate all sport. In brief, I only want BBC Entertainment!
I have read that Sky lost 65,000 subscribers in 2009. You will lose even more in 2010.

Yours faithfully,

[My translation]

On Monday I received an email from Sky Italia saying they were going to contact me by phone and I am hourly expecting the call....

To end this update, here's a little ditty I wrote on Saturday:

There once was a group of ex-pats
let down by some corporate pratts.
They bombarded Sky
with "Why, why, oh why
have you taken the Beeb off our sats?"

Said Sky, "We've got films and football",
The Brits said, "That won't do at all,
By Archie we're haunted
'Eastenders' we wanted,
We really cannot believe your gall."

"Where's Holby? Where's Del-boy? Where's 'Coast'?
Just wait till you open your post!
We're getting quite ranty
'cos we want our Auntie*
and all you can do, Sky, is boast!"

"We're each of us cancelling our sub
and everyone's joining our club.
We're holding a dem,
inviting HM
and then we are off down the pub."

"Sky, we are issuing writs
'cos you are a right bunch of shits.
We'll make such a din,
we'll never give in
Don't think you can tangle with Brits!"

* British people often refer to the BBC as "Auntie".

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


On Sunday, suffering from a bad cold and in a dismal and rainy Sicily, I was delighted to be invited to lunch by my friends Marco and Giovanna.

To start, Giovanna had prepared riso al forno, which was just what I needed. [You'll find the recipe further down]:

Then there were cotolette di vitello

with polpette di patate and orange salad [not shown]:

For dessert, she had prepared crespelle di riso, flavoured with honey:

And, having felt too poorly to make a cake, I took along a tray of pastries from a local pasticceria:

Don't you like the "coffee cup" one? Even the tiny cup is made of chocolate:

Giovanna's recipe for Riso al forno
To serve 6 people generously, boil 1 kg rice until just al dente and drain it. Make a ragù using 1 kg minced veal or beef, olive oil, onion and celery. Fry the ingredients till browned and then add a little wine and let it evaporate. Add the contents of 2 bottles of passata and 250 gr grated grana padano or caciovavallo cheese. Season and mix well. Spread some ragù in a baking dish and spread half the rice on top. Then add some ricotta, mozzarella, salame and a little béchamel or, as Giovanna puts it, "egg, peas, whatever you have". Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of rice. Cook for 30 mins at 200 C.

Buon appetito!

Monday, March 08, 2010


Image: Wikimedia Commons.

On International Women's Day I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate, on my blog, a wonderful Italian woman that some of you may not have heard about.

She is Rita Levi Montalcini and she is nearly 101 years old. Rita Levi Montalcini is a Cavaliere di Gran Croce, an Italian Life Senator and a Nobel laureate for her work with Stanley Cohen on nerve growth factor. She is the oldest living Nobel laureate.

Born in Turin to a Sephardic Jewish family, Rita Levi Montalcini decided early on that she wanted to go to medical school. She overcame her father's opposition, which was based on a traditional view of a woman's role, and graduated from the Turin Medical School in 1936 - just in time to be barred from her professional work by the Mussolini government.

Undaunted, she set up a laboratory in her home and in 1943 she fled, with her family, to Florence, where she set up a second laboratory. She returned to Turin in 1945 and was invited to work at the Washington University in St Louis, where she was made a full Professor in 1958. She returned to work in Rome in 1961. She continues to be academically active and to publish her works.

In 2009 she told a Times interviewer that she had never married because she had not wanted to be "dominated" in the way that her mother was and that she puts her longevity down to getting up at 5 am, working hard to keep her brain active and eating only one meal a day, at lunchtime.

Rita Levi Montalcini, I salute your intelligence, your integrity and your beauty.

Rita Levi Montalcini fell and broke her femur two weeks ago. I am sure you will join me in wishing her a speedy recovery.

Sunday, March 07, 2010


First thing yesterday morning - "first thing" to this owl being about 11 am - the fruitseller who calls me bambina waved while I was out with Simi. I waved back to signal that he could bring me some of his goods and he crossed the road to ask what I wanted. Five minutes later, he had delivered these plus a crate of oranges for juicing:

Next stop was the deli where Mr B cut some speck into cubes for me:

Lunchtime and I'm in Raffaele the hairdresser's, for he doesn't close on Friday or Saturday lunchtimes. He had put a tray of dolci out in honour of International Women's Day on Monday. Take a close look at the yellow and white cakes on the right. The yellow decoration has been made to look like mimose as these are a symbol of International Women's Day in Italy. I thought they were real at first.

Hair done and I walk down to one of the larger supermarkets to buy treats for Simi. The cashier informs me that it's the last day for collecting points so I have to choose a "gift". I chose this stoneware casserole and luckily, it was in stock. I am rather pleased with myself as it's the first time in nearly five years that I've managed to redeem any points from that particular supermarket, which I don't use often. Now what shall I make in the casserole and where am I going to store it?

It's 4pm by now and most of the smaller shops have reopened. On the way back I call into my local bookshop , where they have managed to get for me Riprendetevi la faccia ["Reclaim your Face"] by Barbara Alberti. Alberti's thesis is that western women are not allowed to age any more, such is the pressure on us to have plastic surgery or other invasive treatments. She calls plastic surgery "the western woman's burqa". I am very much looking forward to reading this book.

5pm and two students arrive for a private lesson. By 6pm we are done and the long, Italian evening has begun. Simi and I have more walks, eat, then flop down in front of the BBC-less TV.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Sometimes I feel sorry for Italy, as it often does things for the best of reasons but it backfires. Here are two articles of mine published in Italy Magazine this week which illustrate this fact:

Any time, any place, anywhere

Italy’s Supreme Court, the Cassazione, has decided that motorists who need to “fare pipi” should no longer exercise their willpower until they reach a service station or a bar but may relieve themselves anywhere, even in public view. An uncomfortable motorist in need of a toilet, ruled the Judges, is a potentially dangerous motorist.

The ruling follows a 2006 case in which a desperate motorist left his car on the hard shoulder of a motorway in order to find somewhere where he might decently do the deed. The driver of the car behind him crashed into the stationary vehicle and was killed. A Rome court last year found the first driver not guilty of murder but the widow of the dead motorist subsequently sued for damages.

Motorists all over Italy are not, however, celebrating in the streets with cries of, “What a relief!” They are, instead, asking themselves why such a case had to be taken to the Cassazione when all that is needed is the common sense to use motorway facilities before the need becomes urgent.

Do you think this was a matter for the Supreme Court?
Do you agree with the ruling?

Talk show hosts in despair

Italy’s many talk show hosts and TV anchormen are in despair following a decision by RAI to ban political talk shows until after the regional elections at the end of March. This is because Italy has an equal media access rule for all legal political parties, guaranteeing them equal air time. In the past, some shows have not respected the time rule.

Last week, RAI chiefs received a directive from their legal office giving them the choice of: suspending shows with political content during the run-up to the elections and replacing them by party political broadcasts on a rotation basis; screening the shows but structuring them like party political broadcasts, making sure that all entitled parties are represented for exactly the same amount of time; or screening the shows, “provided no politicians are involved or, if they are, that they do not talk about political matters.”

RAI, presumably scratching its collective head over how they could broadcast a political show with no politics, yesterday opted to suspend the shows. The ban will now be extended to Italy’s privately owned TV channels.

Do you agree with RAI’s decision?


In honour of this. Congratulations, Andrea Bocelli!

Andrea Bocelli - La Voce del Silenzio

Friday, March 05, 2010


My "quickest-ever lemon cake" became a "St David's Day quickest-ever lemon cake" this week as I took one over to Raffaele the hairdresser. I have become a fan of the coloured, flavoured icing sugar we can now get in Italy. I used orange icing sugar to decorate the cake.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


I adapted this recipe from a magazine:

4 drumsticks and 4 chicken thighs, bone in
2 aubergines
olive oil
4 slices pancetta, rind removed and cut into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
about 5 fl oz white wine
a bottle of passata or homemade tomato sauce
1 tablesp 'strattu [tomato paste]
2 tablesp chopped parsley
coarse seasalt, freshly ground black pepper

Cut the aubergines into fairly thick chunks, then fry them in oil in a deep pan or wok. [Don't bother salting them first as they will be more difficult to fry.] Drain them with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper on a plate. Now in a clean, wide pan or wok, fry the chopped garlic and pancetta in about 3 tablesp olive oil. Throw in the chicken joints and brown them on all sides. Chuck the wine over them and let it evaporate. Add the passata, 'strattu, aubergines and seasoning. Stir well, cover the pan and leave to simmer for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if necessary. Add the parsley and cook for another 10 minutes.

Buon appetito.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


In youth, I had a very quick temper which often shamed me in personal relationships despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that I had a job, then as now, which requires infinite patience. Now it is rare for me to lose my temper on a personal level, though I am still angered by war, injustice, hunger, poverty, racism and the "big things" of life.

Tonight, however, I am furious on my own behalf and this post constitutes a rant at the cause: the decision-makers at Sky Italia, who have, without a word of warning, taken BBC Entertainment off their platform. There I was on Monday evening, settling down for my "treat of the week" - two hours of "Holby City" - but when I keyed the channel number in there was a notice from Sky saying that from 1st March BBC Entertainment was unavailable. There was no explanation or advice offered.

Most of you know that I'm an Italian graduate and am fluent in the language, so I do watch Italian TV, though I would rather listen to BBC Radio 4 than watch anything. But "Holby City" and "Casualty" are my little bits of Britain and I look - I mean looked - forward to them. Selina's love life, Charlie's childcare problems, Connie the man-eating medical director and Chrissie, the matron who's anybody's after a martini, are the stuff of which quite pleasant dreams are made. But now because of Sky Italia's actions - or maybe non-actions - I won't know who is sleeping in whose bed in any of the hospital departments from one week to the next. [You didn't think the medical staff had time for the patients in these programmes, did you?] Come on Sky Italia, these are serious matters!

There are , apparently, other cards which you can buy to receive BBC Entertainment in Italy but I'm hanged if I'm going to shell out more when Sky is already so expensive! Oh, no, I am going to keep on and on at Sky until the channel is restored to our screens and, if the facebook group "Bring Back BBC Entertainment on Sky Italia" is anything to go by, a lot of other ex-pat Brits in Italy are ready to do the same.

Not that BBC Entertainment - formerly BBC Prime - is a perfect channel, for it is far from that. It sometimes screens soap opera episodes in the wrong order so you get completely muddled [the sensation is a bit like being drunk] it goes in for Saturday night "stacks", so that you get about three hours of episodes of one programme - this is just lazy scheduling - and it shows repeats of comedies from thirty years ago time and time again. I have to admit, though, that these are funnier than a lot of the comedy that is churned out today and the familiar faces give you a sort of cosy, nostalgic feeling. The channel also angered a lot of viewers a couple of years ago when it announced a decision to broadcast even more rubbish "reality" and "lifestyle" shows. So it was far from perfect but it was, after all, dear old "Auntie" BBC and we put up with it stoically, as Brits do. And now we want it back! It's quite simple, Sky Italia: we have the right to grumble about it but you don't have the right to take it away.

All any of us can get out of Sky is that it "has not renewed its contract" with the BBC and the BBC is confirming that. Is it a coincidence that the Berlusconi government has cut advertising time on Sky or that the BBC announced massive cuts yesterday? Or could it be that Sky's bureaucratic procedures cannot cope with the channel's change of name? Your guess is as good as mine. But Sky had better get its act together or it will find itself losing many of the British clients who keep it in business.

In revenge, here are some Skyisms for you. Sky News, I have to say, is often first on the scene and when it is good it is very, very good. But most of the time it is mediocre and sometimes it is terrible.

On Saturday, for instance, we had pictures of people standing on a Hawaiian beach waiting for the tsunami, digital cameras at the ready [as if the tsunami was going to stop and say "cheese"] while a female news presenter several times described waves which were "crashing in" as we all gazed at a remarkably calm sea. Sky newsreaders can rarely hide their disappointment when a disaster fails to happen and this one was no exception.

Then there was the time when a weathergirl was called in to fill a Saturday afternoon slot by describing what happens in a flood:
"It's like a teacup that overflows", she explained as if she were Einstein.
Well, thank you, Sky, I would never have figured that out!

When Madeleine McCann disappeared nearly every Sky News reporter got a beano out to Portugal. Even the excellent Kay Burley was despatched to an almost empty beach to interview British holidaymakers. Why the task needed someone of Burley's standing was never explained.

But by far the most common occurence on Sky News is some political row or other which somehow always breaks out late at night or on weekends. On those occasions a hapless political reporter, usually poor old Peter Spencer, has to stand, in snow, fog or torrential rain, outside a Downing Street where nothing is happening or outside a Parliament where nothing is happening. Do they think their viewers have no imagination at all? Is this what I pay my 500 euros a year for?

No, it is not, Sky. I pay it to receive foreign channels that I would not otherwise be able to receive. If you cannot restore BBC Entertainment you will lose my subscription and many others and I wouldn't have thought that you could afford this in these desperate times. So what have you got to say for yourselves, Sky Italia?

Da: Patricia Eggleton No. cliente: ********
A: Sky Italia
Oggetto: Canale 138 - BBC Entertainment
Modica, 3 marzo 2010

Spett. Ditta Sky Italia

sono spiacente di notare che, dal 1 marzo 2010, il canale BBC Entertainment non è più disponibile sulla piattaforma Sky e Vi prego di informarmi dei Vostri motivi per la situazione.

Questo canale è importante per molte persone anglofone che abitano in Italia e lo Sky è in grado di perdere i loro abbonamenti. C'è già un gruppo molto attivo sul facebook.

Vi prego di riconsiderare la Vostra decisione.

Mi auguro di sentirVi presto.

Distinti saluti

Patricia Eggleton

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010


For Welsh people everywhere, for all who wish they were Welsh and for all with a song in their heart:

David Alexander - My Wales

And Simi says:

You could be right, Simi.

Katherine Jenkins - Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau


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