Friday, July 30, 2010


"Acqua e zapudda fannu cipudda" - "Water and hoeing produce onions".

- Sicilian proverb

It must have taken a lot of both to produce this enormous specimen from the "onion town" of Giarratana.  I put a "normal"-sized onion beside it and photographed it in a basket with other oniony things to give you a better idea of its size:

I wonder how much I'll cry when I peel it?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I found this recipe in July's Alice Cucina, where Gerry Scotti is pictured going into raptures over it.  My serving dish is not as elegant as the one that Scotti is holding and I didn't cut twirly bits of the melon as a garnish but my, the taste was good!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


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

If you are a physically energetic person and, unlike me, are fond of the countryside - like, perhaps, my friend Sally - and are also an Italofile, there are some new trails in the Dolomites that might interest you.  If, like me, you are a city person you might prefer this exhibition and these other summer events in Milan.

American reader Nick Calvano told me the wonderful story of how he found his Italian relatives via the internet.  Part 2 of the story is coming in the mag later this week so do stay tuned.

Clooney and Canalis kept us all guessing again - will they or won't they and will it be this week?  Come on, George - do a Sarkozy! Finally I gave up and went in search of a nice animal story. Ahhhh....

For my Patti Chiari column, I explained what happens when I tell visitors from the UK that we are going to tour the syphilis museum.  Read the article to find out!

Happy reading.


I just cannot resist the mandarin flavour and it comes in little portions so you don't even have to feel guilty!

Monday, July 26, 2010


I find it very easy to be silly - in fact, I've almost made a career of it - so I was delighted when the Man in a Shed announced the second annual Bloggers' Silly Week.  What's the point of it?  To report silly things and to be silly!

To kick off, I have to say that I am not one to get particularly worked up about environmental issues but this packaging of a magazine strikes me as not only wasteful but extremely silly.  In Italy, nearly all magazines come like this and Italian "Vanity Fair" is the worst offender, for it has the tightest plastic wrapping and there is usually nothing extra inside it but a facsimile of the cover.  Strangely enough, if I buy a magazine I want to read it, not spend half an hour hacking it free.  But perhaps that is silly of me.

Friday, July 23, 2010


How about .... cinnamon and coffee?


I found this over at Liz's blog.  You paste something you have written into the thingamy and it tells you who you write like.  I just had to have a go so I pasted in part of a blog post and here is the result:

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

H P Lovecraft? Well, Wiki does say he wrote weird fiction...

Then Simi wanted a go so we pasted in her latest blog post:

Liz, who apparently writes like Cory Doctorow too, will be thrilled to know she writes like Simi!  Like Liz, we didn't know who Cory Doctorow was either - no offence, Cory - so we looked him up.  I always knew Simi was an intellectual.

Finally I pasted in part of one of my Italy Magazine articles and I'm sure my colleagues there will be pleased to know this:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


From mini-peaches to these maxi-nectarines from Emilia-Romagna:

Only three would fit into my largest bowl!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


This veal polpettone [which is a kind of meat loaf] from a recipe in this month's La Cucina Italiana, turned out a bit crumbly but it did not, as I thought it might, fall apart.  Again, I can't reproduce the copyright recipe but I can tell you that it contains minced veal, breadcrumbs, grated grana cheese and lots of basil.  The zucchini, which were cooked with it, should really have been cubed but I declined to spend the evening doing that and opted for the processor instead.  I liked the simple way of preparing the cherry tomatoes to accompany the dish:  just spread the tomatoes on oiled baking paper on a baking tray, prick them with a fork, drizzle with lemon juice, season with seasalt and cook them for about half an hour in a hot oven.

Actually the polpettone tasted good hot, too but it is just the dish for a sweltering day.


My friend Anne in Oxfordshire is very creative and she has designed this lovely award for her friends and commenters, of whom I am proud to be one.  Anne has a very pretty blog and she takes great photos of her travels, so do go and have a look if you don't know her blog already.

Anne and I have never met but blogging brought us together and we often chat on Messenger.  Anne is always there for me, worries about me if I don't post for a couple of days and phones me when I'm down.  Thanks for the award and thank you for being such a good friend, Anne.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


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

The magazine is running a summer series about romantic films set in Italy and we feature a "golden oldie" and a newer film on alternate weeks.  Last week was "golden oldie" week and I had the pleasure of being able to write about one of my own all-time favourites, Roman Holiday - the one in which Audrey Hepburn famously gets her hair cut "all off" by an initially reluctant Roman hairdresser and in which Gregory Peck falls for her but remains the perfect gentleman.  [Sigh - where did they all go?]

For "blog of the week" we featured When I Was Your Age - A Memoir, Rosaria D'Ambrosio Williams's blog about her journey, as a young woman,  from Italy to America and the people she left behind.  Regular commenters here will know Rosaria as "lakeviewer".

One of the first Italian cookbooks I ever bought was Valentina Harris's Italian Regional Cookery and I still use it often so I was delighted when Valentina shared her delicious recipe for peaches in white wine with ice cream with Italy Magazine's readers.  I'll definitely be making this soon!

For my "Patti Chiari" column I had fun putting together some of the idioms and turns of phrase in Sicilian dialect that I have learned since coming to live here.  I hope you enjoy them, too.

Since starting to write for the mag, I've done a lot of research into the tragic Meredith Kercher case and have become interested in it.  On Friday I summarised Amanda Knox's Oggi interview for our readers.

I've always been interested in the Medici so this was one of my favourite news stories of the week and this tale of a "wild goose chase" has to be the other.

Happy reading.


This is an article of mine published in Italy Magazine today.  I am reproducing it in full here because I am outraged and it will be "old news" by the time I do next week's round-up of this week's stories. I would like to ask my sparring partner James and his anti-feminist friends how they can claim that feminism was never necessary when a twenty-first century, western leader can make a remark such as the one described here:

During a visit to the private Università Telematica Ecampus in Novedrate [Lombardy] yesterday Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi insulted Democratic Party President Rosy Bindi for the umpteenth time. Referring to some female students, who had been invited by email, Mr Berlusconi said,

“Here are some beautiful girls who have graduated with maximum marks and they don’t look like Rosy Bindi”.

Later signora Bindi issued the following statement:

“I congratulate the students who have graduated. As for the Prime Minister’s remarks, I will only note, sadly, that among the many signs that his rule is coming to an end we now have this repeatedly wearing evidence of his vulgarity.”

Last night Mr Berlusconi denied that he had said anything vulgar, adding,

“I said that to enter politics it is not necessary to look like Rosy Bindi. I didn’t say whether it was better to or not. Of course we’d all prefer [women politicians] to look like the Madonna”.

Last year Mr Berlusconi told Rosy Bindi, on live television, that she was “more beautiful than intelligent”, causing nearly 100,000 Italian women to sign a petition declaring that the Premier’s sexism was an insult to both women and democracy.

What would you have replied if you were Rosy Bindi?

Monday, July 19, 2010


The rain we get in Sicily is not particularly soft but Matthias Claudius's words will do today.  It rarely rains in eastern Sicily in July and this afternoon's was the first rain we have seen since the beginning of May.  I have been a typical Brit, amusing my neighbours by standing under the refreshing drops on the balcony.

Sometimes I am homesick for the rain and even for a grey sky [not too much of either, though! ]  What I'll never get used to is rain coming from a cloudless, bright sky.  There is, after all, something quite comforting about a dreary, British sky promising rain and my beloved compatriots' reaction to it - that "Here we go again but we're all in this together", spirit-of-the-blitz attitude that sends us all scurrying home to put the fire on in the middle of summer.  Somehow I can never take rain  falling from a sunny sky seriously.  What's the point of rain if it doesn't make you cold and miserable into the bargain?  I expect a proper performance from my rain.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Rosa, arriving yesterday morning and finding the "no water" situation, insisted I go home with her.  And there, while I showered, she set out a delicious, red-themed lunch.  Well, I don't think she intentionally gave it a colour scheme but I thought it was very effective.  There was pasta with this year's tomato sauce, an Albanian condiment of tomatoes, minced veal, onions and peppers, veal in tomato sauce and anguria.

Grazie, Rosa!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Hi, folks.  Simi here!

I bet you didn't know I knew Latin, did you?

My mummy's been grumpy today because the water ran out this morning and the water man didn't come till 8pm!  After I barked at his lorry I decided to check the situation out:

Then I let my mummy get in the bath and she calmed down.

See you soon, fans.  Happy Sunday!




More of Monsieur Aznavour tonight - my homage as I couldn't be in Venice for his concert last night, where I gather there were some frustrating accoustic problems.  You're still the sexiest Frenchman, Charles!  Let's hear his Italian version of "She":

Friday, July 16, 2010


A supper of homemade scacce [focacce] in the refreshing coolness of a friend's garden last night.  There was also Sicilian salted pecorino cheese, grana cheese, home-produced sundried tomatoes, salad and good pane arabo.

Then there was sumptuous homemade apricot ice cream to finish


Melon and chocolate down in Modica Bassa on Wednesday evening.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


This is a day to celebrate that other great country which has so influenced my life and I wish I could be in Venice on Friday to see my idol, Charles Aznavour.  I'm sure he'll be singing this:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


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

If you're heading for Tuscany this summer, you may like to read about three great events taking place there.

Bought an iPad?  Now you need this

And what would you have done if you'd seen this?  Be honest, now!

I've yawned through more "motivational" staff training days than I care to remember so for me the funniest story of the week was this one.

For my personal "Patti Chiari" column, I wrote about my favourite Sicilian proverbs - some of which have appeared on this blog in quizzes - and what they tell us about life in Sicily.

Finally, if you want to make a quick and delicious salad, I suggest you pop over to the mag and have a look at my friend Katia's panzanella recipe. I made this last night and it was fantastic:

Monday, July 12, 2010


It's nice to be able to report a new Sicilian initiative and this time the island seems to be responding to what tourists want:  from September this year tourists will be able to download audio guides free of charge from the website listentosicily and use them on their iPods, Mp3 players, cellphones or other interactive audio technology as they travel from place to place.

The idea is the inspiration of the independent Catania publishing house Villaggio Maori Edizioni S.A.S and is being developed in partnership with the Provincia Regionale di Ragusa, the Comune of Ragusa and the Comune of Modica.  The first audio guides to be launched will be to Ragusa Ibla, Modica and Scicli, followed by guides to the whole of eastern Sicily.

The audio guides will be available in Italian, English, French, German and Spanish and will suggest innovative itineraries such as gastronomic tours as well as traditional cultural itineraries.

Well done, Villaggio Maori and Ragusa Province!


This is my take on a pair of recipes in this month's Good Housekeeping.  The recipes are for "harissa lamb with bulgur wheat" but, as you cannot get anything resembling a British lamb chop here and I've never been able to find bulgur wheat, I changed them quite a bit.

Instead of bulger wheat, I used couscous, as I do when making tabbouleh, and I decided that I wanted to serve the salad cold.  Here's what I did:

Cover 8 oz couscous with cold water. let it absorb, then repeat the process.  Then let the couscous chill in a serving bowl in the fridge.  Meanwhile, chop a couple of tomatoes - you can skin and deseed them if you like, but I didn't.  Add them to the couscous.  Chop two or three fresh apricots - again, you can skin them if you want - and add these, too.  In a processor chop a good handful of mint leaves, a red pepper and a small onion and add these to the couscous mixture.  Now mix everything well, season the salad and add 6 tablesp olive oil, the juice of a lemon and a little dried oregano.  Mix again and put the salad back in the fridge to chill for at least an hour.

I asked the butcher to cut a kilo of  bone-in lamb as thickly as he could.  I rubbed the lamb on both sides with some harissa, which is available here.  I'm not telling you how much to use as that depends on how hot you like your spicy food.  I like mine good and hot!  Then I heated 4 tablesp olive oil in a pan, chucked in some cumin seeds and then cooked the lamb in the oil for about 12 minutes, turning often. 

As soon as the lamb was ready, I served it with the salad, a combination which worked well.

These quantities would serve 4.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Like millions of my compatriots, I watched Sky's Raoul Moat coverage on Friday night as if it were entertainment. For non-British readers, Raoul Moat was a released prisoner who last week allegedly shot and seriously injured his former girlfriend, murdered her boyfriend and shot and seriously injured a police officer. Armed, he then went on the run, allegedly communicating to the police threats against police and public alike. All this took place in and around the Northumbria town of Rothbury, where the climax of the drama unfolded on Friday night as hundreds of armed police cornered their prey.

Now to the coverage: As usual, we were treated to Sky journalists interviewing each other. In the dull moments, of which there were few, the fillers of conjecture were staggering in their banality: "The police officers in that car looked pretty important", said one reporter of a vehicle which had passed so fast that no one could have seen anything. Chief crime correspondent Martin Brunt, as usual, got to stand outside the police station, presumably to demonstrate his importance. Meanwhile, his colleagues proceeded to interview anybody and everybody, whether they had seen anything or not. I kept waiting for them to interview a dog.

For a population that had been told to stay indoors because of the danger, there seemed to be a lot of people out and about, all with tales to tell of how they had seen this or that while "going for a walk along the river". This makes you proud to be British: an armed criminal is on the loose, the town is full of police armed to the teeth, you can't move in the streets for ballistic vehicles brought in from Northern Ireland and these people calmly go for a walk along the river. No wonder we won the war....

There were the inevitable "Hello, Mum, I'm on the teley" moments too, as some young men gathered just beyond the police cordon and behind the journalists jumped up and down and waved. A few yards away a man - an ex-convict who has allegedly threatened them, an alleged murderer but a man nonetheless - is holding a gun to his head and these guys think it's play time? Proud to be a Brit again...

Of the sad ending I will say little, except was it really necessary to play what were presumably a man's final shouts of agony again and again?

The next day Brunt was still there. outside the police station, as if he hadn't moved all night. This time Brunt was the voice of reason for, less than twenty-four hours after the stand-off, everyone had started indulging in another favourite British pastime - criticising the police.

Yesterday the coverage continued with Anna Botting - you know it's serious stuff when Anna Botting's there - reporting from the centre of Rothbury in the rain. How come Anna can stand in a torrential downpour and not get her hair wet? What's the secret, Anna?

"How did he look? Contemplative? I don't want to put words in your mouth", said Botting innocently as she interviewed yet another "eye witness". Botting's disappointment as she failed to elicit the word "suicidal" from her hapless interviewee was palpable.

"Did the police search there?" she asked another. This interviewee probably had as much idea as I do about where the police did or did not search, yet Botting kept on. There's going to be an ENQUIRY, Anna. Oh, sorry, Anna knows that, for her next utterance was, "And the rain will be part of the enquiry". For one glorious moment I thought she was going to say that God would be interrogated as to why it rained but then she added that what she meant was that the rain might have been the last straw for the fugitive.

What have Sky got against their reporter Lisa Dowd? Poor Lisa didn't even get a beano out to Portugal during the Madeleine McCann coverage. Instead, she had to stay in drizzly old Britain and look at the flowers and teddies. And yesterday there she was again, reporting on the flowers left for Moat. [Yes, you read that right. The British left flowers for the alleged murderer.] I think I'll start a campaign - "A Beano Abroad for Lisa". Do you want to join?

But what's this? Tonight we have heard from Lisa again, this time interviewing Moat's brother - an emotive interview which in my view should not have taken place, or not at this juncture anyway. This is Sky at its worst.

What does the Italian press make of all this? The incident has been reported but not in great detail and some surprise has been expressed at how much of the drama was broadcast on live television. My Italian friends, one of whom is a policeman, continue to be amazed at the fact that the British police are not armed as a matter of course. I tell them that on that count I really am proud to be British.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Another refreshing coppa di frutta at the Altro Posto.  Every time I ask for one of these I start wondering if it will ever arrive, then when it does I am stunned by the prettiness of it.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Today I've got little, round pears and pesche tabbacchiere - the snuffbox-shaped peaches that I show you every year, because every year they surprise me again with their delicate flavour.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Sandi Toksvig, writing in Good Housekeeping - to which I have a subscription - has delighted me by praising the Victorian bathing machine.  Yes, indeed, those were the days, when you could become half submerged in the water without having to "walk the plank" from the beach to the sea.  Not that anyone gives  a sixty-year-old woman a second glance in Italy, where all enjoy frolicking in the sea, but British self-consciousness does not die easily or lessen with age.

I know, too, that swimming is the best exercise for someone like me and swimming is something I can do.  But my real reason for not going to the beach a lot is the same as my reason for not going to the pool - I couldn't  cope with the aftermath on a regular basis.  I mean, even after a shower and change, there is the whole makeup to be redone, after-sun to be spread all over and then I need the hairdresser!


That's what it's like sometimes in my street.  Everyone agrees that a narrow side street is a stupid place to put a post office, especially as there are no parking spaces and Italians drive everywhere.  Nevertheless, people continue to park, do u-turns and generally abuse the little street and this is what happened to the barrier post in our courtyard on Monday.   The other side's just as bad.  A bit of a mess, don't you think?


Do pop over to Sicily Guide to read about the Sicilian Festival of Unfinished Public Works.  Yes, there's a museum of them!  Thanks, Sicily Guide, for the best laugh I've had in ages.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Here's a selection of my Italy Magazine articles from last week:

In one of the quirkiest news stories I've covered, you can read about an audacious Welsh company and its plans for the Italian market.

If you are interested in art, here you can read about some unusual art exhibitions or, if you prefer ancient art, about some newly opened Etruscan tombs in Lazio.

Finally, for my personal Patti Chiari column I describe the summer sounds of Sicily.

Happy reading.


Friday marked the seventieth anniversary of the Arandora Star tragedy and I am proud to say that, in my home town of Cardiff, South Wales, a memorial was unveiled to the 53 Welsh Italians who died.  This is my article, published in Italy Magazine yesterday, on this event and its background:

Last Friday July 2nd marked the seventieth anniversary of the Arandora Star tragedy and in Cardiff, Wales, UK a memorial to the 53 Welsh Italians who died in the disaster was unveiled.

When Italy declared war on Britain and France on June 10th 1940, Churchill ordered the internment of Italian males in Britain. These man were respectable businessmen, café owners and workers who had made their lives in Britain. Some had become British citizens and, ironically, many had sons who were in the British forces fighting fascism.

The men were rounded up violently by the British police and no consideration was given to their families. George Hill from Swansea, South Wales, writes, of his grandfather’s arrest:

“Can you imagine... being woken up in the middle of the night by banging on the door - children sound asleep - woken by the noise of banging and raised hostile voices. Still sleepy, opening the door to aggressive policemen who force their way into your home, telling you they were here to arrest your husband: purely for being Italian....?”

The men were taken away and many were interned on the Isle of Man, where they were treated inhumanely by their guards. On July 1st 1940 some of the men were put aboard the Arandora Star, a converted cruise liner bound for prison camps in Canada. She sailed, packed with 1,864 people, 734 of whom were Italian internees, from Liverpool. The ship displayed no Red Cross flag to mark her as a vessel carrying civilians and her battleship grey colour made her look like a troop carrier.

On July 2nd 1940 she was torpedoed: 805 people died, 486 of them Italians.

George Hill continues:

“My grandmother was not told where they were taking my grandfather. The next thing she heard of her husband, after that fateful night, was that he had been drowned on the Arandora Star….. What strong women those left behind became, having to be mother and father to their children. They had no choice of course.”

The Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales has received donations from all over the world and on Friday morning a special Mass took place at the unveiling ceremony at the Metropolitan Cathedral of St David in Cardiff.

Bruna Chezzi, secretary of the Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales, told the BBC:

"For the first time in nearly 70 years, families affected by this tragedy of war, which is partly a tragedy linked to immigration, have felt confident enough to share their memories and sufferance with the public, without being ashamed or afraid of misjudgement. Thanks to members of the Fund Committee, it was possible, by showing genuine interest and understanding, and in some cases, sharing similar experiences, to collect precious memories and insights that would have been lost, otherwise, in a few years’ time.”

Italy Magazine is thinking of Arandora Star victims and their families at this time.

Saturday, July 03, 2010



Riccardo Del Turco - Luglio


The banana flavour has arrived at Bar Fargione and, served here with the pistacchio flavour, very refreshing it is, too.

By the way, my erstwhile haunt the Edicolè Bar has closed - that's what you get for not stocking ice cream, in my opinion!


View My Stats