Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This is for my Mum, who died seventeen years ago today.  As I grow old myself, I look back and am constantly amazed at the physical energy she had when she was older than I am now.  Dad and I, who knew mental energy better, didn't understand the extent to which her determination to push herself physically was an expression of love. But I understand that now and I wish I could tell her. I also wish I could say, "Bloody hell,  I'm sixty, Mum and I need you."

For almost two years after Mum's death, music of any kind would make me cry and I tried to avoid it. Then one day when I was working at home this track was played on the radio and I sobbed as I had never sobbed before. After that, music became a solace for me again. I think a lot of women remember their mothers when they hear this song and for me, it says it all:

For Violet Rosamund Eggleton, 19.10.1917 - 31.8.1993 -  the wind beneath my wings.

Monday, August 30, 2010


This is another recipe that I've adapted from a magazine and, even if I say so myself, it turned out to be delicious. The brown rice is probably sacrilege but it does give the dish an excellent colour. I know you are supposed to cook the rice in oil in a separate pan first but it was just too hot to have another flame on!

You need:

olive oil
4 skinless chicken breasts if you are in the UK, where the halves are sold separately or 2 skinless chicken breasts if you are in Italy, where the 2 halves are sold as 1 breast [if you see what I mean].  The breasts should be cut into large pieces.
1 rabbit, jointed
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper, cut into wide strips
2 fresh bay leaves
1 chorizo sausage, cut into pieces [or a  long, dried Italian sausage]
500 gr brown rice
1 large can tomato pulp
1 litre chicken or other light stock
300 gr peas
500 gr green beans, topped & tailed
2 sachets powdered saffron [sold in sachets in Italy - about half a teasp per sachet, I guess.]
coarse seasalt, black pepper.

To serve 6 people very generously, heat 5 tablesp olive oil in a deep, wide pan or wok.  Add the chicken and rabbit pieces and brown on all sides.  Lift the meat out with a slotted spoon and put on a plate. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until softened.  Now add the peppers and cook till they are softened, too [about 10 mins.] Add the bay leaves to the pan with the sausage and toss everything around a bit.  Now put in the rice and stir it around a bit, too. Put the meat back in with the tomato pulp, about three-quarters of the stock, the beans and peas. Stir well and season with paprika, the saffron, salt and pepper.  Put the lid on and cook for about an hour, checking now and again. If the dish appears too dry, add the rest of the stock.

Serve straight from the pan.  It was so hot here the day after I made this that I had some cold - and it was surprisingly good.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Riprendetevi la facciaRiprendetevi la faccia by Barbara Alberti

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The novelist, journalist and screenwriter Barbara Alberti was shocked when a female politician who had obviously had a facelift and other invasive "anti-ageing" treatments appeared on Italian television to launch a campaign which would "liberate" Muslim women from the obligation to wear the veil. What scandalised Alberti was the politician's total lack of self-irony and she takes, as her thesis for this book, the idea that plastic surgery is the "western woman's burqa".

Using examples from history, literature, the lives of the famous, her own life and letters from her readers, Alberti demonstrates that women in the West are being denied a fundamental human right - the right to age naturally.

For me, one of the saddest episodes in the book is the true story of a woman of fifty-four who agrees to a meeting with the man she loved at eighteen. The two meet, go to a hotel and the man roughly makes love to her. In the morning she wakes up in his arms and he is looking at her. Then he, who is eight years her senior, says,

"It's the first time I've had an old woman in my bed".

The cruelty of this man is unbelieveable and I cried as I thought of the woman making preparations and going to buy herself beautiful lingerie with a heart full of hope. Reading such an account, a woman d'un certain âge is likely to feel that she has only two choices: if she has the means, to undergo all the age-defying treatments on offer, even at the risk of her life, or to give up the idea of love and companionship with a man forever.

But surely there must be another way? Can we not be who we are? Yes, we can, says Alberti and we must:

"Cambiate età ogni giorno. Siate nonne a quindici anni, fidanzate a ottanta. Ma non siate mai quello che gli altri vogliono."
"Change your age every day. Be grandmothers at fifteen or fiancées at eighty. But never be what others want you to be."

I found this a fascinating and thought-provoking book, as subversive as de Beauvoir's The Coming of Age. It is not yet available in English but, sisters, I urge you to demand an English edition!

The Coming of Age

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I was delighted to be able to report this week that one of my favourite composers, Ennio Morricone, will receive the Polar Music Prize in Stockholm on Monday.

I do love Chi Mai, which was the theme for Le Professionel  but also for a largely forgotten 1981 TV series, The Life and Times of David Lloyd George.

Friday, August 27, 2010


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

If you are going to be in Abruzzo between tomorrow and 5th September, there is a fascinating, traditional festival in Lanciano.

Still in Abruzzo, Nick Calvano told us the touching story of how he traced more members of his family in Vasto.

Then we went to Tuscany for our summer film, Stealing Beauty.  Staying with film, a famous friend of Italy is shortly to return.

I had to laugh at this story, though I don't suppose I would have been amused had I been one of the passengers! One of the saddest stories of the week was this tale of our times and it was also the week in which Italy said goodbye to former President Cossiga.

For my personal Patti Chiari column, I wrote about how books led me, in a way, to Sicily.  This is to be continued.

I hope you enjoy these stories.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


How lovely the Mediterranean looked yesterday, with the hot sun bouncing glints of silver on the waves.  I spent a pleasant few hours at Sampieri with Irma and we bumped into Gina and another friend in the middle of the water! 

This is how the beach looked at precisely 1 pm when everyone disappeared for their time-honoured pranzo:

Andrea Bocelli - MARENARIELLO lyrics
Oi' ne', fa priesto viene!
nun me fa spanteca'!
Ca pure 'a rezza vene
ca a mmare sto a mena'!

Stienneme sti braccelle,
aiutame a tira'...
ca stu marenariello
te vo' sem'abbraccia'!

Vicino 'o mare,
facimmo ammore,
a ccore a ccore
pe' ce spassa'...
So marenare
e tiro 'a rezza,
pe' la priezza,
stongo a muri'!

Vide che sbatte l'onne
comme stu core cca'...
de lacreme te nfonne
ca 'o faie 'nnammura'.

E vide pure e stelle
tu faie 'nnammura'...
ca stu marenariello
tu faie suspira'.

Vicino 'o mare,
facimmo ammore,
a ccore a ccore
pe' ce spassa'...
So marenare
e tiro 'a rezza,
pe' la priezza,
stongo a muri'!

Burbler | Andrea Bocelli - MARENARIELLO lyrics

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


This kind of pedicure, in which the garra rufa or "doctor fish" eats the dead skin off your feet, is becoming fashionable in Italy.  I'll stick to my human beautician, thanks!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


My student Salvo the postman returned from his holiday in France on Sunday and brought me this pretty magnifying glass, with which I am delighted:

I might even be able to adjust my Plastichic watches to CEST!  I haven't been able to do it before as the instructions look like this:

I was just going to wait till the clocks go back again to have the "right" time.

Oh, and I'll be able to read the instructions on toilet fresheners, too!

It turns out that Salvo the postman had been a little apprehensive about going to France , as "They say the food is bad" but he was pleasantly surprised.  He did not, however, eat pasta there as it's "too short".

Finché si vive, s'impara - You live and learn.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Some of the despicable people traffickers who charge would-be illegal immigrants thousands of pounds for a journey to Italy have changed their tactics during the summer:  in attempts to trick the Coast Guard, they have been using yachts and other, luxurious-looking vessels to carry what I call their "boatloads of sorrow" rather than the small, inadequate craft of previous journeys.

On Thursday night a yacht carrying 51 men, 36 women and 35 children, of whom 10 were under the age of 2, stopped 50 metres from the shore between Riace and Camini in Reggio Calabria.  The "captain"  swam ashore, extended a rope and proceeded to transfer his passengers from the yacht on to Italian soil in a dinghy which he had hidden there. 

The passengers, who were Iraqi and Afghan Kurds,  had  paid €  3,000 - € 5,000 each for the voyage and have been transferred to a detention centre in Riace.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


What a feast my friend Gina prepared for her friends on Friday evening!  We spent a lovely, convivial evening on her terrace by the sea and, after the feast, the women listened to the men discussing traditional jam-making methods!  Without further ado, I'll let you enjoy the food pictures:

There were antipasti of prawn salad, bresaola salad, anchovy salad [I can't touch the fish dishes because of an allergy but I'm sure they were delicious] and an elegant cold omelette filled with mayonnaise and ham:

Then there were sausages wrapped in pancetta, a baccalà [salt-cod] flan [ a recipe which Gina had invented and it did look good] and baked, stuffed onions:

There were contorni of beans, peppers and aubergines:

For dessert, Gina had made gel al limone,

Chiara and her mother, who always make perfect sponges, had created this one, filled with marmalade

and I took along semifreddo di limone, otherwise known as Jennifer Paterson's "Suffolk Lemon Pudding" from her book, Seasonal Receipts:

To go with the semifreddo, I had made Liz's pineapple shortbread, which was a great success with my Sicilian friends.  Thanks for the recipe , Liz.

E grazie per la bella cena, Gina.


History: A NovelHistory: A Novel by Elsa Morante

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Monumental in scope, this is a story of ordinary people caught up in world-changing events. Little 'Useppe is born of an anonymous German father and an Italian mother during World War 11 and the novel is as much the story of wartime Italy as it the story of 'Useppe and the mother, half-brother, friends and dogs who love him.

The translation is excellent, except for one or two infelicitous renderings such as "lupini" [lupini beans] as "lupins". The character Davide's diatribe at the end does not work well in English, which is hardly the translator's fault, and is probably too long in any language.

Not a book to choose if you like a happy ending but a must if you want to learn more about life in wartime Italy.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 21, 2010


This is Giorgio the gecko, who has decided to take up residence in our flat.  He doesn't scare me unless he moves so I can just about live with his presence high up on the wall in the lounge but last night he got as far as the hall, which is too near the bedroom for my liking!

I know geckos are sweet [from a distance] and that they eat mosquitoes but I'd still be happier if he would go and live on the balcony.  I've tried talking to him and cajoling him but he just smiles at me and hides behind the bookshelves.  I don't want him to die or be killed by Simi - which is what would happen if he started exploring the floor - so if any of you have any ideas as to how I can get him to go outside [without having to handle him] I'd be very interested to hear them. 
One of my facebook friends suggested spraying him with water so that he'll lose his balance for long enough to fall to the floor and then catching him in a bowl.  But every time I get the spray bottle out he just giggles and disappears somewhere in my eighteenth century French literature section.  Talking of water, how is he managing whilst he's indoors? Is he surreptitiously drinking from Simi's bowl?

Perhaps he'll become an erudite gecko but if he would only go outside I'd happily provide him with a gecko armchair and enough reading matter to keep him happy for a while.....


Even the moon, we learn, has wrinkles.  Comforting though that notion may be, I remain an incurable romantic. Take it away, Renzo Arbore e l'Orchestra italiana, who are playing in Pozzallo tonight:

Thursday, August 19, 2010


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

First of all, if you fancy visiting another Italian Mediterranean island, from an armchair or for real, here are ten things to do in Sardinia.

While in Italy, you may want to have your hair done, so here is a guide to what to say at the hairdresser's. Talking of hairdressers, for my Patti Chiari column I interviewed the one and only Raffaele!

Our summer film was a golden oldie , The Battle of the Villa Fiorita, in which Maureen O'Hara was very wayward, but who could resist Rossano Brazzi?

Of the news stories, perhaps the most controversial was Vogue Italia's  running of fashion shots inspired by the Gulf oil disaster.  After the previous week's news of a brilliant surgeon who may leave Italy because of his frustration with the country's bureaucratic procedures, it was good to be able to write about an equally brilliant young doctor who is returning, with Harvard funding for his research.  I liked this tale of two towns at war over an eel and would love to see this exhibition.  Finally, the moral here seems to be, "If you're going to cheat on your lover, leave the dog out of it"!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


It is comforting to learn that I am not the only one finding the electricity bills a bit steep these days:  in Siracusa the Castle of Maniace, of which a photograph adorns this blog's header, has been plunged into darkness in the middle of the summer season of concerts and ballets for which it forms a backdrop because the Province's Cultural Department cannot afford to illuminate it.  This leaves audiences watching outdoor shows in a magnificent setting illuminated only by stage lights.

Sicilian politician Fabio Granata finds the situation so absurd that he has offered to switch the Castle lights on and off himself every evening but alas,  it is not only the money to pay an employee to do this that the Province lacks. According to Cultural Heritage Superintendant Mariella Muti her Department does not even have the funding to send out the daily post and  her staff are reduced to hand-delivering or faxing all communications. Central government cuts are to blame and signora Muti says that,  of 1 million euros needed to clean historic sites and monuments in the area, the Department has received only € 100,000.  With regard to the Castle,  the most she will be able to do for the organisers of the remaining seasonal concerts will be to switch on external  floodlights unless the Town Council of Siracusa comes to her aid.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Thank God there were no fatalities or injuries in yesterday's earthquake on the Aeolian Islands.  It must have been terrifying, all the same.  Here is my report for Italy Magazine this morning:

An earthquake which struck the Aeolian Islands at 14.54 yesterday caused no injuries but frightened many people, according to Italian media reports. The tremor, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, was felt most by bathers on the Valle Muria beach on Lipari, where rocks fell from a cliff into the sea. Some people, running into the sea to escape the falling rocks, were bitten by jellyfish.

Senate Speaker Renato Schifani was in his boat off Lipari when the tremor struck and he saw the falling rocks for himself. Some nearly hit the boat, he said.

A second, small tremor occurred at 21.40 but few people felt it. By that time, tourists and locals alike were out and about enjoying music and refreshments in the streets of Lipari. The rest of the night passed without incident.

Civil Protection Minister Guido Bertolaso lost no time in visiting the area this morning with the Prefect of Messina and the Mayor of Lipari. Mr Bertolaso said that some bathing restrictions on the island had not been observed and that bathers in those zones could have been in danger. Otherwise, he said, the situation is under control.

Geophysicist Enzo Boschi has said that there is no risk of tsunami and that the fall of rocks could have been caused by recent heavy rainfall.

The earthquake that struck Abruzzo in 2009 measured 5.8 on the Richter scale.

Update:  Another seismologist has said that there is a possibility of further, smaller tremors and another tremor of similar magnitude in the area.  Mr Bertolaso has said that it would be hypocritical to pretend that there is no risk, but that the Aeolian Islands will now be one of the best monitored locations in Italy.   He added that it is important for people visiting the area to respect such a beautiful and fragile place.

Monday, August 16, 2010


This recipe is a hybrid of one I saw in a magazine and the recipe for coniglio con peperonata in Il Cucchiaio d'Argento.  If you don't want to use rabbit, you can use skinless chicken joints.

Heat 5 tablesp olive oil in a wide pan and brown six rabbit joints on all sides.  Add a handful of fresh herbs - I used 2 fresh bay leaves, a couple of sage leaves, some sprigs of rosemary and thyme - 1 onion, roughly chopped and 3 or 4 red and yellow peppers, cut roughly into wide strips.  Let the peppers soften - about 15 mins - then add a few chilli flakes and some coarse seasalt. After a couple of minutes add half a glass of balsamic vinegar and half a glass of water.  Cover the pan and let the ingredients simmer for half an hour, turning once.  Then sprinkle over 2 teasp brown sugar, mix everything well and leave to simmer for another half an hour.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I love this film, in which Gianni Di Gregorio, as Gianni, a middle-aged man who lives with his mother, does a ferragosto deal with his apartment block administrator:  if Gianni will look after the administrator's mother for the ferragosto holiday, the administrator will forget about some of the maintenance fees owed by Gianni.  On the day, the administrator arrives not only with his mother, but also his aunt.  Gianni rises to the challenge but, exhausted, calls a doctor friend to give him a tranquilliser - and ends up looking after his friend's mother too!

It reminds me of this episode of the 1980s Richard Briers comedy series, Ever Decreasing Circles:

Ferragosto evening view, from my bedroom:

Saturday, August 14, 2010


It's a while since we had a water drama but of course, there had to be one on the day before the most strictly observed holiday of the year - ferragosto:

At about 3.30 this afternoon the water lorry arrived to refill the condominio's cistern.  The driver rang my bell as someone has to go down and sign for the load, though his arrival just as I'd put my weekly application of fake tan on my legs caused much cursing in every language I know.  I hastily donned a beach cover-up and went downstairs, only to find that some selfish person had parked their car right across our courtyard entrance so the lorry couldn't get in.  Despite frantic beeps from the driver and my neighbour's knocking on doors, no one appeared to claim the vehicle.

The lady from the fourth floor appeared on her balcony just as the driver was saying he would have to come back on Monday, so I shouted what he had said to her and she shouted it to the man opposite, who had interrupted his siesta to come out onto his own balcony.  He, in turn,  made that hands-in-the-air, hopeless gesture to my fourth floor neighbour, who then made it to her son, who was just returning from  his fruitless knocking on doors errand, he made it to me, I made it back to his mother and we all made it to the driver, who flung his own hands in the air and drove off.

Personally, I think he should have driven in and crushed the car.  Could it be that I am still suffering from a little Anglo-Saxon impatience? 

If the water runs out tonight, we face all day tomorrow without any - in 40 C.

Buon ferragosto!


Who hasn't longed for winter when remembering a lost love in summer?  Somehow it's easier to just cocoon yourself in winter.  Irene Grandi expresses the feeling perfectly:

Irene Grandi - Estate


Stracciatella and pistacchio.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Oh, pity the Mayor of Ragusa who is inadvertently going to cause much confusion among English-speaking visitors this summer:  The Mayor, in his wisdom, has declared a "dog free zone" along a 200-metre stretch of the spiaggia degli Americani down at the Marina di Ragusa, but he doesn't mean an area free of dogs;  he means the opposite - an area where dogs, provided they are on a leash and muzzled, will be tolerated on the beach.

English has the advantage of being a more economical languager than Italian, so I can understand why the phrase seemed attractive but please, Mr Mayor, check out the meaning!

Simi thinks the dogs will not have much fun if they have to be muzzled all the time and she'd rather stay at home!

myspace comments


Simi and I are delighted to have received this award from our friend Lucia over in Canada.  Lucia has Sicilian roots and I always think of her as an Italian!  I'm sure we are going to meet one day in Sicily.

Grazie, Lucia.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


We are coming up to the Ferragosto holiday on Sunday, an occasion taken more seriously than Christmas with regard to time off and, indeed, one cannot begrudge the hardworking Italians their annual break at the sea.  Already Modica is like a ghost town, even during the rush hours of 5 pm when everyone returns to work and 8pm when they leave.  This is an article of mine publishhed in Italy Magazine a few weeks ago:

Sounds of summer

The sound is still faint but it is definitely there and I have heard it, at dusk, for the past week. Yes, the cigali or cicadas are back and their chorus means that it is summer in Sicily. As the summer progresses, their song will become louder and louder, reaching a crescendo in the late evening,when you have to turn the volume on your television up to be able to hear it.

And when you hear the cigali in the day, you know the temperature has soared to forty degrees or more. At the moment, I can only hear them from my bedroom, which looks out onto countryside but soon I will hear them from the living room, the “town” side of the flat and from all my windows. Sometimes I just open my balcony doors and sit, mesmerised, by their song.

The opening of balcony doors is, in itself, quite a ritual during a Sicilian summer. In Britain, unused, as we are, to the sun, we fling open all our doors and windows at the merest sign of sunshine but here you must do the opposite: if you want to keep cool, you have to keep all your doors and windows firmly shut – and that means the shutters as well – between about 9 am and 7 pm. I admit that I don’t quite follow this rule, for I have to have enough light to read and write by, but mostly I have got used to living in a sort of penumbra in the daytime.

I always know when it is seven o’clock for you can hear everyone opening their shutters and doors for the evening. You can almost hear a collective sigh of relief, too, as the cooler air is welcomed.

This is when families sit on their balconies, chat to neighbours opposite sitting on theirs and enjoy watching the world go by. Later, much later, some of them will bring a plastic dining table out and slowly partake of a delicious supper, relaxing in the evening breeze.

Further down my street there is a row of small, municipal houses and each has a little terrace. Here the lady of the house will sit, often hidden by plants and washing so that I am quite surprised when those I know call to me as I pass. They sit there for hours, fanning themselves, not reading, not writing but just looking, at nothing in particular. The Sicilians’ ability to be still with their thoughts is something I have come to admire.

A couple of weeks from now, however, most of the balconies will be empty, for almost everyone has a house at the sea or in the country and if they don’t, they have a relative who does, so that is where they go to escape the heat of the city. Some will return in September but others will stay away until November.

In August, too, most shops and stores and even bars and restaurants will close for the two weeks around the 15th August holiday and the town will become very quiet. Food stores do not close, except for the 15th itself, but many do not reopen in the evening during August. This is a habit that still drives me mad because it is hard for an Anglo-Saxon to understand why a whole enterprise has to close and I am lost without my hairdresser! “Why can’t he just put in a manager?” I wail.

But “When in Sicily you must do as Sicilians do” and I don’t get as fraught about the situation as I used to.
So the sound I most associate with a Sicilian summer is not a sound at all: it is silence. It is quite pleasant in a way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


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

Our summer film was the romantic comedy Only You.  I just love Robert Downey Jr's nonchalant humour in this film.

Our blog of the week was that'sArte.com.  If you love ceramics, you'll love this blog!

If you want to visit small towns or villages in Italy you should take a look at this article.

For my personal Patti Chiari column I wrote about the gentle, unassuming Modican author Raffaele Giardina, who made his home in Britain.

And my favourite news story of the week was this one.  It's nice to know that there is still time for a little fun in the Camera dei Deputati!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Good evening and what are you doing here?  We should all be out looking for shooting stars tonight.  All over Italy young people are gathered on beaches doing just that whilst others are enjoying food and wine outside while they scan the skies.  Make a wish if you see a falling star!
Franco Simone - Notte di San Lorenzo

Monday, August 09, 2010


I found this recipe in a magazine at the hairdresser's.  Unfortunately I can remember neither the name of the magazine nor the chef but, as I've adapted it slightly, I will give the recipe here:

Cut 2 salad tomatoes into strips and marinate in a small bowl with the juice of 1 lemon [reserve the lemon halves] 6 basil leaves, 1 tablesp capers and 1 tablesp olive oil.  Roast a red pepper and peel it [or cheat and use one from a jar of grilled and skinned peppers].  Cut the pepper into strips, too. Cook 250 gr egg tagliatelle according to the instructions on the pack.  Meanwhile, use a teaspoon to get as much of the pulp out of the lemon halves as you can. Beat this well with a handful of chopped parsley and 2 tablesp olive oil. Now add this mixture and the pepper strips to the bowl of marinating ingredients and season with salt. When the pasta is ready drain it, reserving 1 tablesp of the water, put the pasta back in the pan and add all the other ingredients plus 2 tablesp oil. Stir over a low heat, then serve.  You can add some more basil leaves to decorate and either add some grated parmesan or caciocavallo cheese and some toasted breadcrumbs or let guests help themselves to these.

The chef wrote that the recipe is good cold, too and it is.  It's a fallacy that Italians don't eat pasta salad - they do.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


I have some troubles at the moment so I asked my little Libro delle Risposte ["Book of Answers"] if things would turn out well.  It fell open at the word Aspetta ["Wait"].  If I didn't know it had been translated from the English, I would have believed it had been written by a Sicilian!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010


My favourite amarena [black cherry] flavour but don't you just love the glass?

Thursday, August 05, 2010


This is an article of mine published in Italy Magazine yesterday.  I offer the whole of it here as it shows how frustrating some of Italy's bureaucratic procedures can be and not just over minor , day to day matters:

Two patients suffering from trachea cancer, a 31-year-old Czech woman and a 19-year-old British woman, received successful trachea [windpipe] transplants using their own stem cells in Italy during July. This is the first time such a procedure has been carried out in Italy but the technique was pioneered by a Swiss-born Italian doctor two years ago in Spain.

Dr Paolo Macchiarini headed the team of forty doctors and nurses during the ten-hour operations using donor windpipes which had been stripped of their cells and then injected with regenerated tissue from the noses and bone marrow of the two patients. The stem cells will take two to three months to grow but the tracheae are functional. The patients will not need anti-rejection drugs because the tracheae contain their own tissue.

In another first for Italy, the patients received radiation therapy during the operations in order to reduce the risk of recidivous tumours.

The British patient was able to speak three or four days after the operation, said a spokesman at the Careggi University Hospital in Florence. Both patients have now been discharged and the Czech patient is the mother of a five-month-old baby.

Dr Macchiarini told a press conference that the technique could, in the future, be used on other organs.

You would imagine, then, that all at the Careggi are happy and of course they are, with regard to the result of the surgery.  However, with regard to Dr Macchiarini, an enormous row, now dubbed “il giallo di Macchiarini” [“The Macchiarini Mystery”] by the media, has developed:  Dr Macchiarini [51] joined the   Careggi as Head of the Department of General Thoracic and Regenerative Surgery and Intrathoracic Biotransplantation earlier this year from the University of Barcelona, where he was Head of Thoracic Surgery.  According to his statement, he was offered both a clinical and a teaching post but the University post, which he had hoped would allow him to train talented young doctors in his techniques, has not materialised. He was also promised research funding from several sources but only the Region of Tuscany has so far kept its promise.

Dr Macchiairini is frustrated with Italian bureaucratic procedures in the academic world and says he does not understand why, after four meetings of the Academic Board at the Careggi, he has still not officially been offered the University post. The somewhat embarrassed President of the Careggi has said that certain procedures have to be followed in all Italian universities and the main stumbling block seems to be that Dr Macchiarini has not been a candidate in Italy’s complicated series of written competitions for academic posts. Dr Macchiarini sweeps this reasoning aside, saying that the University of London and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm only had to read his CV to offer him a post.

Now Dr Macchiarini has accepted an academic post at the Karolinska Institute, although he will not yet abandon his medical work at the Careggi. A new contract, which will allow him to work in both locations, is being drawn up by the Careggi.

The President of the Tuscan Region, Enrico Rossi, who was instrumental in persuading Dr Macchiarini to return to Italy, has expressed his disappointment at the fact that it will not be possible for Dr Macchiarini to establish a specialist medical school in Italy and his sincere hope that the “super surgeon” will not leave the Careggi entirely.

Do you sympathise with Dr Macchiarini or the University Board?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


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

Our featured "golden oldie" film was Three Coins in the Fountain.  It makes me cry every time and oh, that song!

Nick Calvano told us what happened when he went to see his newly-found Italian relatives.  I happen to know that there's another story from Nick coming so watch this space!

Our blog of the week was Marc Dalessio.  Marc is a painter based in Florence and if you love Italy, you'll love his paintings.

Of the news stories, I liked this one about a prank that fooled the art world and this one about D&G designing for the Chelsea football team.  OK, I especially liked the picture that went with that one!  And what woman could not be cheered by this?

For my Patti Chiari column I ruminated on the process of making preserves and liqueurs in Sicily.

If you've ever wondered how to ask for the ice cream flavour you want in Italian, this article is for you.

Finally, if you need a  cool summer dessert, why not make Gaetano Naclerio's melon cups with summer fruit? His secret ingredient - not secret any more, Gaetano -  is melon vodka and I'm definitely going to try this recipe.

Happy reading.

Monday, August 02, 2010


Those of you who also read Italy Magazine may remember my interview with Father Russell Ruffino, the "Shepherd of Orvieto", whose father was from Modica.

Russ and his wife Barbara were in Modica at the weekend and it was a real pleasure to meet them for a pasta lunch at the Osteria dei Sapori Perduti yesterday:

Russ had pasta with cauliflower and sausage

whilst Barbara had pasta with tomatoes and aubergine

and I had traditional sweet ravioli with a pork sauce:

Then it was gel al limone for dessert:

This traditional restaurant is excellent and has a delightful family atmosphere. In fact, the family were showing off their newborn granddaughter to customers as they arrived. As the menu is in dialect, they provide a booklet with photos of all the food. There are interesting artefacts on display, including this cradle hanging from the ceiling:

This musician translated his dialect songs into Italian for us and finished with a rendition of New York, New York for Russ and Barbara:

It was great to meet you, Russ and Barbara. Do come back to Modica!

Sunday, August 01, 2010


We must have a "Lucy" clip for Silly Week so to round it off, here's Simi the dog's choice.  She thinks this is a very intelligent dog with a very silly mummy and daddy!

I Love Lucy - Fred the Cairn Terrier


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