Saturday, August 31, 2013


This is the seventh song released on the internet by master-balladeer Claudio Baglioni as part of his Con Voi project. It is, as Italian music journalists have said, "a love song of a kind not written any more."  It is an autobiographical hymn to Baglioni's loves but in it he also remembers his mother, whom he lost recently, and his father, who died many years ago. In the song he thinks about being reunited with them "in another life".

Just as Baglioni dedicated the song to his mother, I in turn dedicate it to mine, who died 20 years ago today.

Claudio Baglioni - In un'altra vita

There is so much I'd like to tell my mum now:  what an idiot I've been, in so many ways, what a lovely dog I have, about my life in Sicily and about how, at last, I have learned something about ageing.  But most of all I would like to tell her, just once more, how very much I loved her.  See you in un'altra vita, mum.

Friday, August 30, 2013


I normally prefer gelato to granita but by the time my friend and I finally found a bar open in Polizzi Generosa a couple of weeks ago, we were gasping for anything thirst-quenching!  A granita of anguria [watermelon] for me and mandarin for my friend:

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Image: Wikimedia Commons

OK, own up: who's got a bidet? What do you think of them and do you use them? And who, among the Brits, does not have a friend who thinks these contraptions are for washing your feet?

Italians, of course, love their bidets and 97% of households have them.  Portugal and France are second and third in the European bidet-ownership table. 

Much indignation, therefore, was expressed yesterday when it was reported that Italy had received a €50,000 fine from the EU for not obeying a directive to remove bidets from public and private premises because the installations waste both water and space.  

I remember a student of mine being horrified, a few years ago, when I told her that the British do not have bidets installed in their bathrooms as a matter of course.  "How", she cried, "do you wash yourselves down there?!" "In the bath or the shower", I replied, causing her to sigh at this further proof of Anglo-Saxon ineptitude with regard to our private parts and I could see that she was beginning to worry about me.  "What if you need to do it quickly?" she continued. "You can't have a shower five times a day!" I said there were ways.

Given the amount and variety of "intimate" gels, wipes and deodorants on sale in Italy, you would never imagine that Italians used the bidet quite so often, but there you are:

Paisi ca vai, usanzi che trovi - Places you go to, customs that you find
Sicilian proverb

Popular politician and Mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi was reported to have said that the removal of the bidet was a first step to a Europe united by matters other than money and Lega Nord politician Roberto Calderoli  that Italy's Celts weren't worried because they could wash themselves in the [aptly named] Po. 

Alas, it was all a joke which began with an item on the satirical site AnsIapress but we enjoyed it while it lasted. I haven't seen my Sicilian friends so indignant since a set of traffic lights appeared at a busy Modican junction some years ago. The offending lights were regarded as an infringement of Modicans' civil liberties and, unlike the island's bidets, were soon removed.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Today the world waits:  with the USA, UK and France seemingly ready to launch missile strikes on Syria, the Italian government said yesterday that they will not allow Italian bases to be used in connection with this plan without UN agreement.  Even in this unlikely event, Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has added today, Italy will not automatically lend its support to any strikes. Meanwhile NAS Sigonella in Sicily is on standby.

I can only quote Churchill:

"To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war."

Quite what you do when one party refuses to "jaw-jaw" or, as it appears in this case, has crossed a humanitarian red line, no one has yet worked out, though a solution short of war ought not to be beyond our power in the 21st century.

"The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 

Pro patria mori",

wrote Wilfred Owen.  What worries me is that new lie of modern warfare, the idea that war, once unleashed, can somehow be contained and sanitised;  that civilians will not be hurt;  and that terrified people will not attempt to flee. War creates injuries, it creates widows and orphans and it creates refugees.

At dawn this morning a migrant boat containing 191 desperate souls, all of whom declared themsleves to be Syrian, was intercepted by the Italian Coast Guard 60 - 70 miles south of Siracusa.  Among the 51 women, 48 children and 92 men the coastguards found a newborn baby girl with part of her umbilical cord still attached.  She and her mother were immediately transferred to hospital, where both are said to be doing well.  

The baby girl, said the captain of the Siracusa Coast Guard, is "more proof that life always triumphs."  Let us hope so as the world continues to wait.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I wouldn't say there's exactly an autumn chill in the air, but it is a little cooler, Sicilians are beginning to return to the city and I am starting to want spezzatini. Last night I decided I wanted a spicy spezzatino, too, so I invented this chicken one:

Spezzatino di pollo di fine estate

Serves 4 generously

2 oz butter and 2 tablesp olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast [if you are in Italy] or 2 if you are in the UK [where each half is sold as "one breast"], cut into bite-sized pieces. [In Italy, just ask the butcher to cut it for spezzatino.]
1 dried red chilli pepper [or 2 very small ones]
4 plum tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
1 tablesp 'strattu or tomato concentrate
570 ml [1 pint] water
250 gr peeled aubergines in oil, drained. [People make a preserve of these here but we can buy them, too.]
3 peppers of different colours, sliced
500 gr potatoes [no need to peel unless you want to] sliced
seasalt and black pepper
2 teasp sugar

In a wide, high-sided pan, soften the onion in the butter and oil.  Add the chicken pieces and dried chilli pepper and cook, stirring, till the chicken is lightly browned on all sides. Add the tomatoes, aubergines, 'strattu, some seasoning and the water, stir everything and continue to cook for about 10 mins. Now add the peppers and potatoes, give everything a good stir, turn the heat down and continue to cook, with the lid on, for 45 mins. 

Heat the oven to 180C and, at the end of the 45 mins, take the chilli pepper out and transfer the mixture to a Pyrex-type roasting dish. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and put the dish in the oven for 20 mins. [Keep an eye on it during this time.]

Serve with a green salad.

Buon appetito.

Monday, August 26, 2013


A new term is about to begin and on Friday I finished creating a new website for London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale. Yes, I did it all by myself! Believe me, it wasn't easy but I have enough British stubbornness in me to not give up when I really want to do something.

Please do have a look and, if you are on facebook, some "likes" on the site itself would really help me. There's a button thingummy in the footer which should work. Thank you.

Thanks to James and other friends who helped me with the languages I don't speak for the motto. I won't use translation sites because, as the linguists among you will know, they are all crap!

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Another song called Estate, but this time it's about someone who hates summer!

Irene Grandi - Estate

Friday, August 23, 2013


Blackberry ice cream - the first time I've found it in Sicily - with amarena in Petralia Sottana on Sunday:

Thursday, August 22, 2013


On Sunday my friend Carol and I went on a trip to the Madonie Mountains in the hope of seeing some pretty little towns and breathing some fresh mountain air. We did both, although things did not go quite to plan!

Our first stop was Petralia Sottana or "Lower Petralia" [though I thought it was quite high enough at 1,039 metres above sea level!]  It is a very pleasant town and looked especially jolly on Sunday as there were ribbons everywhere in readiness for the Cordella dance, a sort of hymn to nature which is performed on the Sunday after Ferragosto. Petralia Sottana is part of the Madonie Geopark and points of geological interest are marked by fossil-like medallions on the streets.  It is possible to follow this "urban geological trail" right through the town. We visited the mostly 17th century Church of San Francesco and the Chiesa Madre dei Santi Pietro e Paolo. The "Mother Church" was built in its present form in the 17th century but its foundations were probably laid eight centuries before.

Next, we visited Petralia Soprana or "Upper Petralia" which, at 1,147 metres above sea level, is the highest town in the Madonie. I didn't think it was as pretty as Petralia Sottana but the views from it were stunning. I couldn't cope with the climb up to the churches so Carol took the photos of these for me and, as I waited below, I noticed that a small supermarket was open [which is more than you can say for Modican supermarkets on a normal Sunday]. Alas, this supermarket had no ice creams that did not come in family-sized tubs and, as no bar was open, there was no gelato consolation to be had in Petralia Soprana! [For this reason I will always prefer Petralia Sottana - not that I'm one to bear a grudge....]

After lunch we went on to nearby Polizzi Generosa for the Hazelnut Festival and, we were promised, bancarelle [stalls]. We arrived at three to find only about four bancarelle selling jewellery, shellcraft, hazelnuts and hazelnut ice cream - only the hazelnut ice cream was "arriving later", we were told. What else could we do but sit on some steps in the shade and chat until five o'clock [when the parade was due to begin]? We did just that but the presence of two blonde women, neither of whom were spring chickens, sitting on the steps seemed to generate a lot of excitement in the town's elderly males who all seemed to be out for an early passeggiata. We got the impression that not a lot goes on in Polizzi Generosa on Sundays!

We knew, of course, that "five o'clock" meant six at the earliest but at last the parade began and our hearts softened. There's nothing like the sight of Sicilian horses in their finery, drawing their brightly decorated carts, to cheer you up!

I hope you enjoy the slide show:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I think I'm in love with my rather jolly new pasta pan, with its own drainer, and "wok" for the sauce - courtesy of my supermarket points:

And it gives me an excuse to repost this:

Cerys Matthews - Sosban Fach

Monday, August 19, 2013


Today is World Humanitarian Day, when the United Nations remembers aid workers who have lost their lives whilst trying to help other people. This year the United Nations would like us all to answer a simple question:

"What do you think the world needs more of?"

You can find out how to answer the question publicly here and you can sponsor a word either by donating money or by using the word with twitter hashtags as explained in the link.  My word is "empathy".

This day also celebrates "the spirit which inspires humanitarian work around the globe" and I think that this spirit was demonstrated last Thursday [the Ferragosto holiday] in Sicily, when beachgoers formed a human chain to help 160 migrants, including several pregnant women and around 50 children, to reach the shore after their boat got into trouble near Morghella beach in Siracusa Province. You can see what happened in this video.

President Napolitano said that the beachgoers had brought honour to Italy because they had shown that Italians' sense of humanity and solidarity is stronger than any prejudice or fear.

Dionne Warwick - What the World Needs Now

Saturday, August 17, 2013


A big hit for Max Pezzali this summer and I love it!

Max Pezzali - L'universo tranne noi

Friday, August 16, 2013


When I heard that the Caffè Adamo in Modica Bassa were serving impanatigghe [or 'mpanatigghi] ice cream, in the interests of blog research I had to go and try some [with stracciatella thrown in for good measure]. It was excellent and really did taste of the Modican chocolate and beef pastries but I do think they might have plonked one of these on the top as decoration!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Some years ago, I pointed out how insulted Sicilians felt when some British football supporters whose team was about to play Palermo donned T-shirts emblazoned with what were supposed to be humorous "Mafia" slogans.  This kind of insult - and it is an insult to all decent Sicilians - has never really gone away but I had hoped that it was happening less often and that this blog, in a small way, might have contributed to changing people's perception of Sicily abroad.

Therefore I was sad to read this evening that Fabrizio Ferrandelli, a Member of Parliament and vice-president of the Sicilian Antimafia Commission, found himself faced with this kind of tasteless "joke" whilst on holiday in Copenhagen. Dining out last night, he and his wife were upset and angry to see a "pizza mafioso" - the fools in the restaurant cannot even get their grammar right, because it should be "mafiosa"- and a "pizza Al Capone".

To the restaurateurs concerned and anyone else who thinks that this is funny I would like to say the following:

1.  There is nothing funny about the Mafia and there never has been.
2.  Many Sicilians, and other Italians, have died fighting the organisation and others continue to risk their lives doing so every day.
3.  Sicilians who come up against this type of "humour" will be not only justifiably angry but also genuinely hurt and I will be angry and hurt on their behalf. 
4.  Here is a short history lesson for you.


The ungrammatical pizza seems to have disappeared from the restaurant's menu now but the "Al Capone" is still there.
Thanks to Alex for drawing my attention to the story on twitter.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The migrant boats continue to come but nothing could have prepared Catania for the tragedy which happened just 20 metres off the popular Plaia di Catania beach at dawn on Saturday. This time, the story made the world's headlines.

An old, wooden fishing boat had run aground and was carrying 120 migrants, including around 50 minors, one of whom was a seven-month-old baby. All were from Egypt or Syria. Panicking, some of the migrants jumped into the sea to try to swim to safety and six young men, aged 17 - 27, were drowned. The seventeen-year-old would have been eighteen on 25th August.  Italian coastguards managed to pull the others out of the water and brought the remaining passengers on the boat to safety.  

Two Egyptian youths, aged 16 and 17, have been arrested for aiding illegal immigration but three of the scafisti [people traffickers] had also thrown themselves into the sea and managed to escape.

It is thought that the boat had somehow sailed in the wrong direction as it is unusual for migrant boats to approach popular tourist beaches, even at night. Investigating police and coastguards think that the boat must have been towed for most of the way by a "mother ship" and the condition of the survivors backs this theory up: although tired and hungry, none of them, including the baby, showed signs of having endured a long sea voyage. The baby was admitted to hospital for a check-up but was later discharged and all the survivors are said to be in good health now. 

Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said on Sunday that there is no magic solution to situations like this as what we are witnessing is a desperate exodus of people fleeing poverty, war or both.

The Mayor of Catania has declared a day of mourning in the town tomorrow, when the funerals of the drowned men whose families have not requested their bodies will be held.

Monday, August 12, 2013


This morning I had to go to the hospital to have my eyes checked:  for some time now, although I can read a book or work on the computer even without my glasses, I've been experiencing some difficulty in reading the newsbar when I watch TV. I do have a very small television, I must admit, and those of you who are used to state-of-the-art sets might wonder how anyone could see the screen, let alone the newsbar! Anyway, a few weeks ago I went to the optician to check whether my glasses needed changing and he thought I should see an eye specialist in case I had the beginnings of cataracts. [I am well aware that age does not come alone but I had hoped for a few years' grace before the cataracts caught up with me and of course, it's only natural to wonder if it might be something more sinister.]

Well, today was appointment day and, after I had paid for my "ticket" - you have to pay for outpatient appointments in Italy even if, like me, you are covered by the health service -  off I confidently strode to the hospital's new wing, as that is where my appointment card told me to go. Silly me! I should have remembered that Sicilians always ask the nearest bystander for directions, even if they have satnav, written instructions in their hand or can see a clear signpost right in front of them. They just don't trust the written word. I shouldn't have been surprised, then, that I got to the ala nuova, only to be told that the eye clinic hadn't moved in yet and I would have to go back to the old wing. Off I went again and this time I asked for directions at the counter in the lobby. I was told I would have to go to the end of the very long ground floor corridor, "where there are people waiting" but, having reached the end of the corridor without finding any people waiting or an eye department, I asked the only member of staff there for help and was informed I'd missed the department and had to go half the way back again. [Yep - I sure needed an eye test!] This time I found the department but on the door was a sign saying it had moved to the second floor, so now I was in search of a lift. Every lift I came across was marked "staff only" or "guasto" [broken] but finally another member of staff directed me to a lift hidden in a corner. Upstairs there was only one corridor and I walked its length, meeting no one and finding no oculista but on the way back I did find a porter. "Oh, this is the new wing", said he "and you want the old one. You will have to retrace your steps." 

By now I'd walked about three miles, I should think, and I wanted to cry. I do have a knee problem and I can't just keep walking like I used to. Besides, this is a hospital and most people who go there are likely to be already ill, worried or stressed or all three, so why aren't there any clear signs or some people around to help? Some of you may remember that a few years ago I spent some time as an inpatient there, so I know that volunteers appear in the afternoons. Why not in the mornings, when there are outpatients?

Downstairs I made straight for the lobby where I knew there were public lifts and luckily I was deposited right outside the eye department. I sat down to wait and the next thing that happened was that a beggar came along. He seemed pretty harmless and was wheeling a toddler in a baby buggy but beggars should not be wandering around hospitals, where people are at their most vulnerable. I suppose a young man with a toddler looks normal enough, given that relatives can visit patients in the mornings to give them breakfast, but where was the hospital security?

As always, once you are in the hands of the medical personnel here, you are treated well and receive a very thorough examination. Everything is explained to you and if you ask questions, you will receive clear and honest answers. Yes, I do have the beginnings of cataracts but nothing will need to be done in the near future. I just need a check-up once a year for the time being.

Happy with that, I thanked the staff and made for the loo. I hadn't put my eye-war-paint on for obvious reasons and I wasn't leaving without it! But vanity, this morning, was very nearly my downfall for as I left the building, I realised that one of my earrings was missing. This must have happened as I was applying my eye makeup, I reasoned so I turned to go back and my knee chose that moment to give way under me. I somehow managed to stop myself falling, limpingly retraced my steps and in the loo....... no sign of my earring. There was no sign of it anywhere else, either and, having emptied out my bag just in case, I sadly resigned myself to its loss.

When a girl needs cheering up in Sicily there is usually gelato but it's THAT time of year again:

The whole of Italy has to go on holiday at the same time and most of the bars are shut, along with nearly everything else. Come to think of it, that could explain why there were no volunteers on duty this morning and why there were only two or three people waiting when I reached the department.

At lunchtime I came home, started to get ready to have a shower and, as I was taking my bra off, there was this welcome clink of something hard on the tiled floor. Yes, I found it - or it refound me! That's the third time I've found a piece of missing jewellery down there and to do so is one of the few advantages of being voluptuous. On one memorable occasion a pendant of mine travelled from Sicily to London in my bra......

Tutto è bene quel che finisce bene. So that was my Monday. How was yours and who remembers this?

The Mamas and the Papas - Monday Monday

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Friday, August 09, 2013


Visualizzazione ingrandita della mappa

Last Sunday a Liberian-registered oil tanker, the MT Salamis, rescued 102 Sudanese and Eritrean migrants from a boat off the Libyan coast and sailed towards Malta. The Maltese authorities, however, refused to let the migrants land and say that the captain ignored their orders to take them back into Libyan waters. The Maltese authorities contacted their Italian and Greek counterparts regarding the situation but are believed to have ignored pleas and, later, admonitions from the EU.

Thus it was that the migrants were stranded in the Mediterranean Sea from Sunday night until early on Wednesday morning, while intense negotiations regarding their fate were being held. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said that Malta had a humanitarian duty to allow the migrants to disembark as the priority was to save their lives. She also said that sending them back to Libya was contrary to international law. At last, Italian Premier Enrico Letta gave permission for the tanker to dock at Siracusa, where the Italian Red Cross was standing by. Mr Letta is said to understand that, because of the sheer number of migrant boats that have arrived at Maltese ports this summer, the island's reception facilities are at breaking point.

Among the migrants were four pregnant women and a five-month-old baby now known as "Sam", who has become the group's mascot. All are said to be doing well.

Commissioner Malmström has thanked Italy on behalf of the EU and tweeted that it would be great if all 28 EU countries would help in such situations. Francesco Rocca, the president of the Italian Red Cross, has said that there needs to be a European strategy so that such an impasse does not happen again. The International Organisation for Migration and UNHCR have also thanked Italy.

On a sadder note, 103 Somali migrants, including 29 women, one of whom is pregnant, were rescued by a fishing boat and the Italian Navy from a dinghy in the Sicilian Channel on Wednesday night. Two other migrants had died during the journey and their bodies had been thrown into the sea. One of these was a seven-year-old child and his shocked and distraught mother is among the survivors, who have been taken to Lampedusa. My thoughts are with this sad lady this weekend.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


And now onward to serious stuff: A friend of mine who is a beautician is learning English. She has been very kind to me lately so I thought I'd try to combine references to her job and her studies in yet another tipsy cake.  The thing that, admittedly, looks more like a candle is meant to be a lipstick and I used glacé cherries and chocolate sprinkles. [You can't get ready-rolled fondant icing here and it's too hot to make some!] The chocolate letters you can buy here are very handy  and you do get letters like k and w, which are not in the Italian alphabet, in the pack but only one or two of each. Thus it was that I didn't have a w left in my packet and if the one in the word "shadow" looks a little odd, that's because it's a euro sign!

Monday, August 05, 2013


When a twitter acquaintance asked me how people were reacting here to the Berlusconi verdict, I was publicly noncommittal but explained to her privately that I was being careful what I said as things might turn nasty. Following the verdict, you see, the well-meaning President Napolitano had worked everybody up by calling for calm and then Senator Sandro Bondi, who is the National Coordinator of Mr Berlusconi's Pdl Party, started talking about the risk of "civil war", a suggestion which I was relieved to see being treated with derision under the hashtag #guerracivile on twitter. President Napolitano called Mr Bondi's words "irresponsible".

For those of you who have not followed the proceedings or are still puzzled by the tax evasion verdict, Italy's highest appeal court upheld the conviction but Mr Berlusconi will only have to serve one year of a four-year prison sentence and gets a choice regarding whether to serve it under house arrest or on a kind of probation which may involve his participating in community service. The question of whether the former Premier will be barred from public office is to be considered by a lower appeal court yet again and this procedure will begin only in October. Mr Berlusconi remains free until the 15th of that month while he considers his position. All this appears quite potty to most people outside Italy and the world's media have already expressed their incredulity. To focus on these admittedly incomprehensible deliberations, however, is to miss the point, which is that, in a country which, although a democracy, still sets great store by who a person is or whom he knows and where money talks in ways long abandoned by Europe's remaining monarchies, it is momentous that the convictìon was upheld at all.

Meanwhile, here, a game of "We'll bring down your government if you don't reform the judiciary!" began and everyone thought this was only to be expected and a perfectly normal development. What astonished me about Mr Bondi's reaction was that he found it unacceptable that the leader of "Italy's most important party" should have his passport rescinded and be barred from public office but never seemed to find it unacceptable that this same leader's behaviour had led to serious allegations being made and had damaged Italy's image abroad.

At a pro-Berlusconi demonstration in Rome yesterday Mr Berlusconi again asserted his innocence but said that the government must continue with the economic reforms which his coalition has agreed to and that he did not want his party to be labelled "irresponsible". Thus there is a little calm - for now.

Personally I believe that the good sense of most Italians will prevail and as for the guerra civile, I wouldn't worry too much - we won't be having it before Ferragosto.

Saturday, August 03, 2013


Here's a song about picking your life up again after being disappointed in love from 2013 Sanremo winner Marco Mengoni:

Marco Mengoni - Pronto a correre


When my American friend Bev sent me a message this afternoon to suggest a pausa gelato, it was a delightful surprise. Although Bev and I are old blogging pals - some of you may remember her blog Romancing Italy - we had never met before and I didn't even know she was in Modica! Now here she was, on the trail of a certain Inspector Montalbano, with her beautiful dog Tala for company. As you see, special ice creams were called for:

Bev tells me she will soon be starting a new blog and I'll tell you here when she does.

Thanks for the gelato and the company, Bev and Tala.

Thursday, August 01, 2013


Hi, folks. Simi here!

I bet you've been all been waiting for a post from me!

This week I've been busy glamming up for summer but it's hard for a doggie- girl to get some shuteye round here after she's had her fur cut! I just doze off nicely and there's my mummy with her camera:

So I'll get the bed how I like it and try again.......

or maybe like this........

Hmmm - too much exertion. I think I'll go in the other room and stretch out on my longer bed.....

Of course, my real bed's the one mummy thinks is hers! Heehee!

Every time we go out that ole black poodle down the road starts whining for me.  What a dog's life he has - not like me!

Well, that's all for now, fans. Look after your humans and see you soon.


Simi  xx woof!


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