Saturday, September 29, 2012


On the day when the Welsh flag flies in Modica's Via Sacro Cuore, I think we should combine the two cultures by featuring a Welshwoman singing an Italian song:

Katherine Jenkins - Se si perde un amore

The Union Jack and Welsh and Italian flags signal the opening of the new  English Matters  school in Modica.  I am proud to be associated with the school and I'll be telling you a lot more about it soon!

Friday, September 28, 2012


"Do we need authorisation to do this?" I naively asked a colleague regarding a project today.

"Yes, we'll get it after - don't be daft!" came the reply.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


We're back with the Italian media tonight as I had to laugh at today's headlines in the foreign news sections of most of the newspapers here:  Reporting British Prime Minister David Cameron's shaming, and now famous, responses to British history questions posed to him by David Letterman last night, ANSA, La Repubblica and Il Messaggero all have "Cameron bocciato in storia" ["Cameron failed in history"] while Corriere della Sera contents itself with calling poor Dave an ignorante.

I must admit I didn't know who composed Rule Britannia either but I did know it wasn't Elgar and there were other questions that few of Mr Cameron's compatriots could have answered correctly.  That, however, does not make it all right and I groaned when Mr Cameron, displaying a typically British disregard for the existence of languages other than English together with a shocking lack of awareness of basic etymology, was unable to tell his host the meaning of Magna Carta. I can only exclaim, as an Italian might, "Vergogna!" ["Shame!"]

So now we all know what an Eton education does for you .....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Apart from the fact that impossibly slim models are wearing them, don't you just love the Sicilian-inspired fabrics of D&G's Milano Fashion Week Show, especially the puppets?  I'll take ALL the earrings, please, and that cute bag at 05.22 minutes, and the one at 07.18 and, and, and....  Meraviglioso!

Dolce e Gabbana, Spring - Summer 2013 Full Show, Milano Fashion Week via Fashion Channel

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Tonight I'm going to weigh in on the story that won't go away and yes, I have a copy of Chi - it's pronounced "kee", for any Sky presenters who may be reading - the Italian magazine that has published pictures of a topless Kate along with others that have been trumpeted as "even more intimate".  The magazine may have sold out in locations such as Milan and Bologna, but it was still on the newsstands here late on Saturday and in the newsagent's people were talking about but not, for the most part,  buying it.  That may say more about Sicilian spending habits than it does about the quality or otherwise of the publication in question.

Having purchased a copy [because I'm still too British to leaf through it and put it back on the shelf] I can tell you that the answer to the question, "What's all the fuss about?" is, "Very little":  The "intimate" pictures show nothing more than the couple applying sun lotion to each other's backs and a caress of the head, while the young woman sunbathes topless, just as millions of others do - except, of course, that this young woman is the future Queen of the United Kingdom and that is the editor's justification for publishing the pictures.

I have to say that I would have more respect for the editor if he simply admitted to publishing to sell more copies and it is worth pointing out that Chi is the magazine which published photographs of the dying Diana, Princess of Wales some years ago - a more serious lapse of taste with the potential to deeply wound a number of people, including the young man who features so prominently in the September 26th issue.

More interesting, for me, are several interviews in the same issue with key Italian media figures, one of whom, Clemente Minum, director of TG5 news, expresses views which are close to my own:  Mr Minum points out that members of the Windsor family enjoy many privileges, for which being a little more careful about what they say and do seems a small price to pay.

I would add this:  if the Windsors had ever known what it is like to need money - I mean really need it - they might understand that the temptation, for paparazzi and public alike, to photograph them in compromising situations is irresistible.

Back in 1962, the film producer Carlo Ponti who, as the husband of Sophia Loren, knew a thing or two about paparazzi, wrote this:

"Our privacy as a couple is always threatened, and consequently we move from country to country or across the ocean, from house to flat and back again, in the effort to safeguard it.  We don't hold others responsible for this lack of privacy. The fault, if any, lies in ourselves, or rather in our chosen profession."

Prince William of Wales did not choose to be a royal but his wife did.  She has plenty of advisers but an example is close at hand in her grandmother-in-law, the only head of state in the world who could have played the part of a "Bond girl" at the Olympics Opening Ceremony whilst retaining her dignity. Why? Because retaining her dignity is what she has been doing all her life.

Monday, September 24, 2012


When Mr Fargione sees me walking towards his bar in the morning, he not only makes sure the little bottle of Ace [orange, carrot and lemon juice] is chilled but puts the glass in the freezer as well:

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Here's a golden oldie from one of my favourite Italian singers, the one and only Gino Paoli.  Surely we have all felt like this - that there is only one person in the world and that is the beloved - when we have been in love?  Enjoy:

Gino Paoli - Che cosa c'è?

Friday, September 21, 2012


Switch on your television news programmes today and, I grant you, it is difficult to believe that it is Peace and Global Truce Day.  But it is and the fact that the Peace One Day site is, at present, overloaded is an indication of how much such an initiative is needed and just how many people all over the world are interested.

As an educator I am pleased that there are so many educational Peace One Day projects in progress in so many countries for I really do believe this:

"The highest result of education is tolerance."
- Helen Keller

And, to quote a man whose gentle likeness I pass every day:
"The pillars of true peace are justice and that form of love which is forgiveness."  
 - Pope John Paul 11, 2001

Statue of Pope John Paul II,

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Modican fencer and Olympic gold medallist Giorgio Avola, known in his home town as Il Conte, was among the 80 Italian Olympian and Paralympian athletes received by President Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale yesterday.

The President conferred the Order of Cavaliere di Gran Croce upon Coni [Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano] General Secretary and Head of  the Italian delegation to the London Olympics Raffaele Pagnozzi and upon fencer and six-time Olympic gold medallist and 2012 flagbearer Valentina Vezzali. During the ceremony Valentina Vezzali and Paralympian flagbearer Oscar De Pellegrin  returned the tricolore carried at the London Olympics Opening Ceremony to the President.

President Napolitano said,

"I warmly welcome Coni President Giovanni Petrucci's idea that our athletes are one of our best made in Italy products, helping Italy to become known and appreciated all over the world. They are the result of dedication and the contributions of so many people, in Italian provinces both large and small."

Speaking about the modernisation of sport in Italy and referring to the country's tendency to favour what we would call in Britain "jobs for the boys", Valentina Vezzali said,

"I'm not sure if Italy is ready to scrap [the old ways]. An inexperienced young person on their own gets nowhere. But sport is a meritocracy in which no one gives you anything."

Well said, Valentina!

The Italian Male Foil Fencing Team wins gold in London, 5.8.12.
Left to right: Valerio Aspromonte, Andrea Baldini, Andrea Cassarà , Giorgio Avola
Image: Conad Scherma Modica via facebook

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Bakewell Tart, Chicken Marengo, Chocolate Chip Cookies..... Many are the great recipes invented by accident and, as every cook knows, sometimes the substitution of an ingredient with what he or she has to hand makes the dish turn out even better, despite the momentary panic that the situation may have caused.

Thus it was on Sunday evening when I decided to make the cold stuffed peppers again [or you can eat them hot, if you prefer] and found I had no milk to soak the breadcrumbs in.  I don't keep milk in the house, you see, as I don't drink it and am allergic to it [except for a little as an ingredient].  What else did I have?  Wine, water, passata? The important thing when you lack an ingredient, I've discovered, is not to lose your nerve so I looked around, then hit on the obvious solution, given where I live:  I soaked the pane grattugiato in the juice of a lovely, Sicilian lemon and the dish turned out so much better that I am resolved to do this every time!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Image:  Wikipedia Italia

Today I am sorry to bring you news of an event which is being largely ignored by the mainstream media, even, inexplicably, in Italy:  Yesterday morning torrential rain hit the Aeolian Islands and in particular, the Island of Lipari, where latest estimates put the damage wreaked in just two hours at €30 million.

September is the rainy season in the islands and they had already seen far more rain than is usual during this period. In addition, on Lipari many water courses had, in the past decade, been filled in and turned into streets so when the rivers overflowed there was nowhere for the water to go except into buildings of all kinds.  And not only water - as cliffs crumbled, kilograms of pumice flowed into the streets of the Calandra  district of Canneto whilst at Annunziata, discarded household and other items that had been thrown along the coastline over a period of thirty years also literally poured into the streets.

The pupils of one middle school  [Saturday is a school day in Italy] were evacuated from the ground to the first floor and Marco Giorgianni, the Mayor of Lipari has ordered all schools on the island to be closed on Monday as a safety precaution.  

La Repubblica's Palermo edition reports that a load-bearing wall of Lipari Castle has been damaged and that, should it fall, there could be an even worse disaster as many families have their homes directly below it. There are also ancient tombs and other archaeological remains inside the castle's boundaries.

The Mayor has praised Civil Protection teams, police, firefighters, forest protection officials and others who rushed to the scenes of devastation to help.  He has also asked Premier Monti to declare a state of emergency on the island.

So far, mercifully, no loss of life has been reported and Blog Sicilia reports that many of the island's elderly residents attribute this to the protection of the island's patron saint, San Bartolomeo.

You can see a video of some of the damage here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Yesterday was "back to school" day for pupils in Sicily so, for all of them and all of you, here is an oldie from Antonello Venditti, in which he wonders what happened to a school friend:

Antonello Venditti - Compagno di scuola

Friday, September 14, 2012



I am moved to ask this question because, much as I love Sicily, there are times when I think I am getting old, going mad and losing my grip on the modern world all at the same time, so here goes:  if you were to see a crowd barrier on the edge of a pavement, would you walk inside it on the pavement or outside it on a busy road?

Seeing one such barrier on Catania's main shopping street, Via Etnea on Tuesday, I walked inside it, on the pavement and was promptly yelled at by a workman on some scaffolding above.  Now, as it is my habit to look where I am going instead of above my head when walking, I hadn't seen the scaffolding and neither had several other people walking in the same direction.  Asked by our literally highly-strung workman what I thought the crowd barrier was for, I was tempted to shout back that most people would imagine it was there to save them from death at the wheels of speeding vehicles on a dangerous corner but, as it's difficult to hold a discussion with someone four floors above you, I remembered my "de-escalation" classroom skills and walked on, reminding myself that some Sicilian situations are better left alone.

Image:  Wikipedia

Then I reflected that Italy as a whole is full of potentially embarassing pitfalls as there are all sorts of ludicrous rules dreamt up by local bureaucrats and which an innocent foreign tourist cannot possibly be expected to know about or, as in the Catania incident, nobody stops to think that what may be obvious to a local is not so to someone else. Many years ago, in the Laurentian Library in Florence, a custodian shouted at me for walking on the floor instead of the carpet.  Why had I done so? Because a Brit would automatically assume that it was the carpet that was being protected.  It was a mortifying incident for someone who respects libraries as much as I do and, as in Catania, all that was needed was a little imagination and a notice.  However, as grumpiness often seems to be on the job specification for museum and church wardens here as elsewhere in Europe, I see little hope of reform. 

Next time I go to Catania I might just have that argument with the workman....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I've always loved caponata and now this dish is set to become a real high-flyer when Luca Parmitano from Catania, who is to become the first Sicilian to journey into space, takes some with him on his International Space Station mission in May next year, reports the Palermo edition of La Repubblica.  

The recipe to be used is the brainchild of chef Filippo La Mantia and, as he uses neither garlic nor onions in his version, it was found to be very light when tested at Cape Canaveral three years ago. Thus this dish has been chosen to represent Sicilian cuisine on the mission.

Major Parmitano, who is currently training in Russia, will spend six months on the ISS after taking off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.  The mission logo, designed by Ilaria Sardella from San Giorgio Ionico near Taranto [Puglia], features an image of the earth in the colours of the Italian flag, reports La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno. Norberto Cioffi, an engineer from Pantigliate near Milan, came up with the mission's name which is, in homage to the Domenico Modugno song, Volare.

What other music could I post tonight?

Domenico Modugno - Nel blu dipinto di blu  [Volare]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Spotted in the Intimissimi window

Well, that's one way to learn the imperative of a phrasal verb....

Monday, September 10, 2012


I have to admit that I felt quite nostalgic this afternoon as I watched the Team GB Athletes' Parade through London. There was just something about the grey sky, the orderliness and organisation combined with evident joy that made it beautifully and delightfully British and the tears were streaming down my face.  I was three years old at the time of the present Queen's Coronation and, though a lot of my "memories" of it have probably been embroidered by what I have seen and read since, I have a very clear memory of an atmosphere of joy and hope. I imagine that people in my own country are experiencing similar emotions now.

Later a student of mine - who knew nothing of the Parade but perhaps a little telepathy was in operation all the same - had the lovely thought of making a cake for me and we had afternoon tea. That's one of the nicest things anyone has done for me and suddenly London didn't seem so far away after all.

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Image: Wikipedia Italia

Mystery continues to surround the case of a migrant boat which, according to its surviving passengers, sank off the Island of Lampione on Thursday night.  So far 56 survivors have been saved and helped by Italian and NATO authorities but, since no one knows how many passengers the boat was carrying, Coastguard, Naval and Finance Police crews have no idea how many people they are looking for in what has now become a recovery operation.  Yesterday a second body was found in the area but police cannot be sure that it is the body of one of the migrants on the boat.

Stranger still, no flotsam or items belonging to the passengers have been found in the area, which lends weight to the theory that the passengers may have been deliberately abandoned off the island, whilst the people traffickers who had brought them there sped back to Tunisia.  An enquiry by the Prosecutor's Office of the Province of Agrigento is underway.

On Friday Nicholas Beger, Director of Amnesty International's European Institutions Office, said,

"“The EU is failing these migrants – European countries must make concerted efforts to prevent deaths at sea by stepping up capacity and coordination for search and rescue operations.

While the number of migrants arriving at Lampedusa has ebbed since a peak during unrest across North Africa last year, this latest shipwreck shows that authorities need to remain vigilant and ready to assist large groups of people – potentially including many asylum-seekers and refugees – in vessels that are often overcrowded and unseaworthy.”

Image: Wikipedia Italia

La Repubblica's Palermo edition reports that another 81 migrants were rescued after an inadequate boat ran into trouble 35 miles off Lampedusa yesterday and that last night 11 Tunisians were saved off Pantelleria.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Something different this week as I wanted to bring you a song from Italy's charts. I won't inflict the hit of the summer, about a chick that finally gets run over by a tractor [I kid you not] upon you, so here is the song that is in second place, sung in Portuguese by Brazilian singer Gusttavo Lima.  Hope you've all got your dancing shoes on!

 Gusttavo Lima - Balada

Friday, September 07, 2012


Two weeks ago I wrote about Neil Armstrong, my memories of that wonderful night of the moon landing and the songs that bring it back to me. Sometimes, from Sicily, the moon seems so near that I feel I could touch it but, as I look out at its clear light, I wonder how many desperate people are on the sea, heading, by that same light, towards the shores of Europe only to be apprehended and turned back or, tragically, to lose their lives in the attempt to reach what they see as a continent of opportunity.

Image: Wikipedia Italia

Last night, as I stood gazing at the moon from the comfort of my flat, it happened again and so far 56 survivors have been found after a 10-metre boat carrying between 136 and 150 migrants capsized - or possibly not, as we shall see - off Lampione in the Isole Pelagie, 12 miles from Lampedusa.  One body has also been found and among the survivors there is one pregnant woman. Survivors say that six children were on board.

The alarm was raised at around 6pm last night via a call by satellite phone from one of the passengers to the Port Authority of Palermo.  The Italian Coastguard immediately despatched crews to the area and they were quickly joined by Finance Police vessels.  As I write, these vessels, along with helicopters and three NATO ships are still searching the area. Some privately owned boats have also joined the search.

Strangely, there is no trace so far of the migrant boat. The Italian authorities say that this could be because it sank quickly or because the people traffickers who arranged the journey had deliberately left their passengers to swim or die near Lampione, then turned the boat around and headed back to Tunisia in it.  Police say that the situation will become clear as the survivors' stories are verified.

Image: Wikipedia Italia

La Sicilia Online is now reporting that eight migrants were found on and near Marettimo Island in the Egadi [Aegadian] Archipelago after their boat capsized early this morning.

I'll be thinking of these poor, frightened souls as I watch the moon over Modica tonight. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Yesterday evening I was delighted to be able to cook for my friend and fellow-Modican-by-adoption Carol King, who is @LifeinSicily on twitter.

With the exception of the dessert, all the recipes for the dishes on the menu are my own and have been posted on this blog, so you will see links to them as you read the post:

To start with I made caponata, which you can serve at room temperature or cold.  This time I served it cold.  [Note:  I don't bother salting the aubergine prior to cooking any more.  I have finally come out on the "Don't" side of that culinary debate, having decided it's a waste of time.]

Caponata needs bread or something crunchy to go with it, so I made my Italianised Quesadillas:

Any Italian banquet requires pasta or rice, too, and, for a summer evening, I think this Herbed Risotto Cake is a good solution because it can be prepared in advance:

You slice it, just like a cake!

For the main course I prepared the Tamarind Chicken dish I invented a couple of weeks ago, served on dressed courgettes with datterini tomatoes which had been marinated in oil and lemon juice:

Raspberries are a rarity here, but eagle-eyed Carol had spotted a bar where the owners had just made a batch of raspberry ice cream, so she brought some along with lemon gelato too.  Delicious!

Then I brought out that old standby of mine which I call a lemon semifreddo but is really the much missed Jennifer Paterson's Suffolk Lemon Pudding from her book Seasonal Receipts.

It was good to see you, Carol.  Thanks for the company, the gelato and the laughs!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


"For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase"
- Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Sc. 4


These days, with freely available information from millions of sources only a click away and a "copy and paste" button to enable us to share it with whom we will, there is, justifiably, much discussion about copyright, intellectual property and attribution.  A young man from Milan has learnt about attribution the hard way and, if not exactly "proverbed", he and his fiancée are certainly experiencing [if not enjoying] their "fifteen minutes of fame".

The 38-year-old man had just arrived at Milano Centrale railway station after a seven-hour train journey and was longing to be reunited with his 23-year-old fiancée.  To tell her so, he sent her a text message, quoting some lines from Romeo and Juliet but without citing his source.  The young lady interpreted the message as a suicide note and immediately called the police, who rushed to the station, quickly identified our romantic hero  - who was calmly strolling along minding his own business - from his fiancée's description and surrounded him.  

It was soon apparent to the police that the young man was not in a melancholy frame of mind and he, although shocked, thanked and apologised to the police, then ran off to be with his fiancée and calm her.

We do not know exactly which lines he had used but I think we can guess, don't you?  In any case, the moral is clear: always cite your sources!

My source for this story is Corriere della Sera.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


It's September and Italians are leaving the sea and the countryside to make their way back to the cities, so let's have a last summer homage to the sea:

Luca Carboni - Mare, Mare


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