Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Fencer Giorgio Avola, known here as Il Conte, is the first Modican athlete to compete in the Olympic Games and, as you see from this poster, the whole town is behind him.

Giorgio, who specialises in foil, is a reserve for the team competitions which are to take place on August 5th.   If he gets a chance to compete, we wish him well and if he doesn't, I'm sure he will have had a fantastic experience in any case.  Il Conte is only 23 years old, so hopefully he will have other opportunities to fulfill his Olympic dream.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Location of Comiso Airport

Catania's Fontanarossa Airport has, as I've written previously, been enormously successful since its 2007 relocation and refurbishment - so successful, in fact, that it has to close "for a month" in November for runway maintenance.  The trouble is, no one really believes that it will only be for a month and, although Sigonella [a NATO and Italian Air Force base near Catania], Palermo and even Reggio Calabria have been suggested as temporary alternatives, what this side of Sicily needs is for the long-promised Comiso  Airport to open in Ragusa Province.

Comiso is a former military airport where conversion work to commercial status was completed in 2008.  So why, you may ask, has it not opened yet?  Ah,well, you see, this is Sicily and you have to understand that the signing of contracts and then their legal processing can take a very long time.  Ask anyone here when the airport will open and you will probably be met with a resigned smile.

One person who is fed up with all this is Mpa [Movimento per le Autonomie] Councillor Gianni Cirnigliaro from Vittoria.  Mr Cirnigliaro has been on hunger strike in front of the airport entrance since last Monday, drinking only water and sugarless coffee and sleeping in a camper van.  He is being supported by his colleague Angelo Giacchi, who is not on hunger strike but is taking as little food as possible.  Yesterday Mr Cirnigliaro's blood pressure dropped dramatically and he was taken to hospital but he has vowed not to give up his protest.

Some have accused Mr Cirnigliaro of staging the protest to raise his political profile but he says that he is taking action because he really believes that the opening of Comiso Airport would help enormously in the economic redevelopment of the area.  Asked by a Corriere di Ragusa reporter if he intended to die for this cause, he replied that he had every intention of staying alive because he wants to fly from the airport.  Sicily Scene wishes him well.

Update: About five minutes ago, Il Giornale di Ragusa reported that Mr Cirnigliaro has suspended his hunger strike after Giovanna Cagliostro, the Prefect of Ragusa, expressed concerns about his health but also told him that she had received assurances from Ministry of Transport Officials that another meeting between the interested parties will take place within the week to resolve the remaining sticking points.  I do not want to be a cynic but I anticipate more resigned smiles tomorrow.....

Sunday, July 29, 2012


The temperature in Sicily is soaring yet again, so cool food is called for.  I invented this salad thi morning:

Sunday Salad

You will need one chicken breast as they are sold in Italy or two as they are sold in the UK, cut into bocconcini or bite-sized pieces. [The butcher did this for me.]  Put the contents of a jar of red pesto - here we can get fiery red pesto containing red chilli pepper - into a bowl and about 250 gr pane grattugiato or fresh, fine breadcrumbs into another.  Dip the pieces of chicken first into the pesto, then roll them in the breadcrumbs.  Put them on a plate.  

Now put 4 tablesp olive oil in a wok or deep pan with as many of the chicken pieces as will fit comfortably in one layer. Put the pan on the hob at medium heat and cook the chicken pieces, turning occasionally, until coloured on all sides. [The object is not to deep-fry them, just to cook them nicely.] Some of the breadcrumbs will fall off but it doesn't matter.  Lift the pieces out with a slotted spoon as they are done and put them on kitchen paper on a plate.  You will probably have to add a little more oil to do the rest - I found I needed to do it in three batches, adding another 2 tablesp oil for both the second and third batches.  When they are all done, leave them to cool and refrigerate them as soon as they are cool enough.

When you are ready to assemble the salad, put the following ingredients in a large bowl:  the chicken pieces, some bocconcini of mozzarella [halved if large] several grilled aubergines  [I made life easy for myself and used frozen ones, thawed and cut in half ] 20 - 30 datterini tomatoes or the smallest cherry tomatoes you can find and some torn leaves of fresh basil and mint.  

Make a dressing by mixing 4 tablesp olive oil, 1 tablesp honey, 1 tablesp balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.

Toss the salad in the dressing and serve.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


After last night's Olympian [in every sense] extravaganza, I thought you might enjoy something a little gentler.  Here is the Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lititsa and my excuse, if one is needed, for featuring her on this blog is that she is to appear at the Teatro Greco in Taormina tomorrow evening:

Valentina Lititsa
 Paganini - Liszt: La Campanella

Friday, July 27, 2012


As many of you know, I am a night, rather than a morning, person and even 10 am is "dawn" to me.  Because of this, I am not normally in the supermarket early enough to get a loaf of pane condito but today I managed it and it was worth the effort!

This one is "seasoned" with olives, herbs, cheese and, of course, olive oil.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Duomo di San Giorgio, Modica

There is no lovelier church in Modica than San Giorgio and here it is decked out for my young friend Giulia's wedding:

And she's here!  I'm not normally one for weddings but I've known Giulia since she was eight years old and found myself crying as she walked up the aisle with her proud dad:

An hour and a half later, the happy couple are wed:

Now, ladies, I'm sure you want to see the back detail of that beautiful dress:

And here's the other important dress of the day!  You wouldn't normally wear black to a wedding in Britain but here full evening regalia is called for:

I acquire myself an escort::

You may be interested to know that here, the bride and groom do not travel ahead of their guests to the reception and greet them there.  It is the other way round:  the newlyweds go off to have more photos taken, often at a location some distance away, while the guests sort of amble along to the reception location and wait there. [Some even go home in between!] Thus, although in this case the church ceremony had begun at 5.30 pm., the  celebration meal began at 10 pm.  As you can imagine, when the sposi do arrive, it is to much applause and cheering.

I wasn't fast enough to get shots of all the antipasti, which were served buffet-style, but here are some of them:

Of course, there were arancini:

Guests were asked in advance whether they would prefer the fish or the meat menu.  I don't eat fish but will show you both options in the following photographs:

Delizie del Mediterraneo - Mediterranean medley

Piatto di salumi

Risotto all'astice - lobster risotto

Risotto ai funghi - mushroom risotto

Trofie lido mare - trofie pasta with seafood

Trofie alla verdura - trofie pasta with vegetables

The ricciola [greater amberjack] fish is expertly cut.

Ricciola al profumo di finocchietto - greater amberjack flavoured with fennel

Filetto di manzo - fillet steak

Sorbetto al limone

Time for the wedding cake, Sicilian style:

Finally, there were bomboniere [wedding favours] for all the guests. The pretty little package contains white sugared almonds:

Grazie per l'invito, Giulia e Simone.  I'm sure you will all join me in wishing Giulia and Simone a long and happy life together. Cincin!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Under measures agreed by the Italian government last week, the administrative map of Italy will, by 2014, look very different from the one we see today and the main casualties of this reorganisation are many of the country's provinces.  

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Italian administrative system, the country is divided into 20 regions, five of which, including Sicily, have special statutes which give them a greater degree of autonomy. The regions are subdivided into provinces, made up of various comuni or town councils. The main responsibilities of the provincial tier of government have hitherto been local planning, policing, fire services and transport [the health service being administrated at regional level] but under the new measures provincial government will only be responsible for environmental planning, transport and road systems.

Any proposed change to the number or responsibilities of the provinces has always been deeply controversial and of course there are a lot of vested interests here.  There are those who worry about the possibility of government becoming too "big" and impersonal, just as there are those who worry about what happens when it is too "small" and there are also many who believe that the entire provincial tier of government is wasteful and useless.

A desire on the part of central governmment to reform the system is not new and the last government had also proposed sweeping changes.  The Monti government, with its spending review, has decided that change there must be and that it must take place in what, for Italy, is a remarkably short time scale.

It has been agreed that a province must have a minimum of 350,000 inhabitants and cover a minimum area of 2,500 sq. kilometres. The population requirement was at first set at 300,000 and for this reason it was thought that Ragusa, with 308,103 inhabitants, would be saved.  Then the goalposts were moved.  The area requirement, though, has gone down rather than up - it was originally 3,000 sq. kilometres - and this change has saved the mainland provinces of Bergamo and Pavia [ Lombardy], Vicenza [Veneto] Modena [Emilia-Romagna] and Lecce [Puglia] among others.  Sicily will lose five of its nine provinces, namely Caltanissetta, Enna, Ragusa, Siracusa and Trapani.  Palermo, Agrigento, Catania and Messina remain and Ragusa will be incorporated into the Province of Catania.

Sicily, as a region with special statute, has six months to "prepare" but in yet another of those Italian omissions which may or may not be just an oversight, no one has any idea what sanctions will be applied by central government if the region fails to do so.

Ten mainland "metropolitan areas" will become new provinces called "metropolitan cities" by 1st January 2014 and these are: Rome, Turin, Milan, Venice, Genova, Bologna, Firenze, Bari, Napoli and Reggio Calabria.

In its wisdom the govenment has decided to leave local festivals and saints' days that constitute a local holiday alone so the "new" and bigger provincial administrations will not be able to order town councils to cut these holidays.  This is not a concession made out of a "live and let live" attitude but a carefully researched austerity measure:  quite simply, not enough money would be saved by doing otherwise.

In all, 64 of Italy's 107 provinces are scheduled to disappear in order to "make Italy more efficient and give it a more modern administrative system".

Hmm.....  "Pazienza... vediamo"  ["Patience - we shall see"] as the Sicilians say.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Today Italy remembers anti-Mafia Judge Paolo Borsellino, killed as he was going to visit his mother in via D'Amelio, Palermo on 19th July 1992 and the five members of his escort who also died.

Rai Uno:  Paolo Borsellino - I 57 giorni [scena finale] 

In the above video clip, Luca Zingaretti plays Judge Borsellino in the last minutes of his life.  The next day, Judge Borsellino's daughter, Lucia, insists on taking a viva voce university examination even though the examiners are of course ready to excuse her.

Strage di via D'Amelio, 19.7 92

Judge Paolo Borsellino
Agostino Catalano
Walter Eddie Cosina
Vincenzo Li Muli
Emanuela Loi
Claudio Traina

"E normale che esista la paura, in ogni uomo. L'importante è che sia accompagnata dal coraggio."
" It is normal for every man to feel fear. The important thing is to also have courage." 

- Judge Paolo Borsellino

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


A couple of weeks ago I had some bought pasta sfoglia [puff pastry] left after I'd made my "beauty parlour dessert" to take to a barbecue in the Ragusan hills.  This is the idea I came up with to use it:

Mashed potato parcels

Mash some potatoes with butter, a little nutmeg, a tablesp of grated ragusano or Parmesan cheese  and stir in some cumin seeds.

Next, line a baking tray with foil and then baking paper and lay the puff pastry on it. Cut the pastry into squares.

Sprinkle a little pane grattugiato [fine fresh breadcrumbs, which we can buy in packets in Italy] on each square and then dollop about a teasp of the potato mixture on each one.  Draw up the corners of each square to form little parcels, press the edges together as best you can and then brush the parcels with beaten egg.

Bake at 180 C for 20 mins.  Serve warm rather than hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with a few more cumin seeds.

I thought you would like to see the rest of the barbecue food:

Spring rolls made by a Japanese friend.

Where there's my friend Roberta, there are yummy sausage rolls!

There were quiches

and several varieties of rice salad

plus a colourful couscous salad.

There were grilled aubergines.

Focaccia is always good but when it's hot and made by Grazia,
you know it's going to be extra-good!

There was also piping hot pane condito.

It wouldn't be a Sicilian party without chicken cotolette

and a barbecue means that there will be Sicilian sausages.
These were flavoured with red wine and fennel.

Now for the dolci:

There were several crostate

along with this delicious concoction.

There was cheesecake

and, of course, tiramisù.

You've got to be quick if you're photographing food at a
Sicilian party and this choux pastry creation
 was half-gone before I managed it!

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you -  my "mashed potato parcels" were popular!


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