Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Here we go again!

Let's start with my event of the year, which was undoubtedly this:

For those of you who are interested, you can now easily access all my "adoption" posts from "My adoption posts" in the pages bar underneath the blog header photo.

My recipe of the year, from those I've invented myself, was this one:

These polpette came a close second:

My gadget of the year - well, more of an implement, really - is this €0,99 easy-ice-cream-scoop:

Of the books I've read this year, my favourite in Italian was this biography of the journalist Oriana Fallaci and my favourite in English has to be Edge of Eternity, which completes the Century Trilogy by my fellow-Cardiffian Ken Follett. More historical novels please, Ken!

My Scrooge of the year award goes to the Comune di Modica for scrapping the "single inhabitant" reduction when they introduced the hated new rubbish tax, the TARI, a few days before Christmas. Come on, Modica! There's no way I generate the same amount of rubbish as a family of five and I think I'm going to start a twitter campaign about this injustice.

Whilst we're being negative about poor old Modica, my most-read post of 2014 was, surprisingly,  this one, which attracted the attention of the local press. Sorry, Modica - I do love you, really.

On a more cheerful, seasonal note, the most original Christmas decoration award goes to Bar Cicara for their cork tree:

The Italian logic prize goes to the shopkeeper who, having discounted certain items by 50% and sold two to customer number one, then told customer number two - me - that the former had been "extravagant" as soon as she'd left the premises. I give up, Italy!

My favourite Italian TV programme of the year continues to be Masterchef Italia, which has just started its fourth series, closely followed by BakeOff Italia.  For those of you who missed it, here is the contestant who endeared herself to the entire nation by throwing her éclairs around the kitchen when they went wrong. Hasn't every cook been there?

I must show you my fun thing of the year:  it is this makeup box, a Christmas present from two of my youngest students and using it to update my all-important look is a very enjoyable way to pass the time!

My heroes of the year are the Italian Navy, Coast Guard and all who continue to risk their own lives and willingly give up their comfort at this time of year to save and help migrants and others, at sea and on land. Let us hope that there will be no more migrant tragedies in 2015, or tragedies like the two we have seen so far this week.

That brings me to my hopes for 2015:  as always, I hope for world peace, for peace in my own life, for more time with my precious Simi [now 16] and, this new year, for more time with my newfound sister.

Happy New Year to all of you and thank you for reading Sicily Scene!
Buon anno a tutti voi e grazie di aver letto la Sicily Scene!

Monday, December 29, 2014


Image:  unlibroèunlibro

It is not often that the Italian government is praised for a tax decision but tonight I join others in congratulating them on their decision to defy the EU and reduce VAT on ebooks from 22% to 4%, thus giving ebooks fiscal parity with conventional books. The change comes into force on January 1st.

The EU, for some inexplicable reason, does not regard ebooks as a "cultural product" and France and Luxembourg have already incurred its wrath by bringing in a similar change. Now Italy, too, could find itself at the European Court of Justice over the matter, but Culture Minister Dario Franceschini has said it is worth the risk in order to protect the cultural industry and the book market as a whole.

Marco Polilli, president of the Associazione Italiana Editori, which started the twitter campaign #unlibroèunlibro ["a book is a book"] has said that the decision is "a victory for the country and not just for the world of books..... it is a success for readers, for [hitherto] non-readers who will now be able to choose how they read and above all, a victory for common sense."

Well done, Italy!


Let us take a moment, in the midst of all the criticism and blame-laying, to commend the work of the Italian Navy and other rescuers in the Norman Atlantic ferry operation. Coordinated from the Italian naval ship the San Giorgio, rescuers worked through the night in atrocious conditions. The Marina Militare should also be thanked for tweeting regular updates, both in Italian and in accurate English. All passengers and crew have now been evacuated from the ferry and the Italian press is reporting ten dead. The number lost at sea is uncertain and the passenger lists are still being checked against the names of those known to have been rescued and those who have, sadly, died.

My thoughts tonight are with all affected, as I am sure yours are.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Hello, folks.

It's Simi here!

The duffle coat's back, you know, and this time round it's très chic - like me!  My mummy got me this one for my doggie-Xmas-cum-birthdoggieday present.  You should have seen the effect it had on that ole black poodle when he saw me in it!

Hope you all had a very Merry Xmas too, fans, with lots of chewey sticks. I did!

Be good - also like me - and Happy New Year!


Simi xx

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Presenting the winner of X Factor Italia 2014, Lorenzo Fragola from Catania:

Lorenzo Fragola - The Reason Why

Friday, December 26, 2014


Just take a look at the wonderful focacce my friends made for Christmas Eve!

There was also this pastella fritta [fried batter], which was delicious:

I took along my second Christmas cake of the season. [Thank you, Nigella.]

I had Christmas lunch with the same friends, and made this old favourite of mine:

A friend had made these crispelle, dripping with honey:

"For tomorrow we may diet."

Thursday, December 25, 2014


Andrea Bocelli - O Tannenbaum / Oh Albero / Oh, Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


This is yet another variation on using a whole piece of lonza [pork loin], cut in the Italian way. I thought it would be festive to try it with mostarda [Italian mustard fruits]. The most famous mostarda is, of course, made in Cremona and you may find it easier to find a jar in the UK than it is for me in Sicily! However, Lidl Italia do a good version.

For this recipe you need a 1 kg piece of lonza, flavoured with garlic and herbs and encased in butcher's netting. In Italy the butcher will aromatizzare the meat for you but you can do it yourself by making a few holes through the netting with a skewer and rubbing the meat with a mixture of a crushed clove of garlic and chopped, fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and sage.  Place the piece of lonza in a Pyrex-style dish and sprinkle a little saffron powder over the top - or the contents of a sachet of saffron if you are in Italy. Add about 0.25 litre of white wine and leave to marinate in a cool place for at least 2 hours.  Turn the lonza in the marinade once.

Heat the oven to 180 C . Grind some black pepper and sprinkle a little coarse seasalt over the top of the lonza and place the dish with the lonza and its marinade in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes, basting once.

About 5 minutes before the cooking time is up, place the juice and grated zest of 2 oranges in a small pan with 2 teasp. sugar, the contents of another sachet of saffron and 2 tablesp. liquid from a jar of mostarda. Bring to the boil, stirring, then simmer for 2 mins. Pour this mixture over the lonza and let it cook for another 5 mins.

Put the lonza on a board, carve it, then serve on a plate with some of the juice. Decorate it with some of the mostarda fruits. You only need some garlic or herb-roasted potatoes and a green salad to go with it.

Buon appetito.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


For my Simi, who was 16 yesterday - but she'll always be my baby!

Neil Sedaka - Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen

Friday, December 19, 2014


Making anything resembling a traditional British Christmas cake for Sicilians is a daunting and somewhat risky task, as they have a strange aversion to dried fruit. However, last night I made Nigella's Chocolate Fruit Cake for the London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale Christmas party this evening, and to my surprise and delight everyone ate it and seemed to enjoy it! [I used dried cranberries in place of the unobtainable currants and raisins and I think it's a good innovation.]

There were other elements to the spread, for which I would like to thank Bar Cicara:

I got a chignon for the occasion - well, a girl has to try at Christmas!

And we all sang along to this:

What with that and my explanation, both in class and in my new booklet, of the absolute necessity of wearing silly paper hats at Christmas dinner, I think I have successfully convinced the Sicilians that the British are mad!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


It's time for another bit of shameless self-promotion! This is my new booklet for London Town, Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale. It contains Christmas vocabulary, information about British Christmas and New Year traditions, a puzzle and a Christmas quiz:

Nel libretto troverete: un vocabolario natilizio inglese, informazioni sulle tradizioni natilizie britanniche, un gioco di parole nascoste e un quiz.  Chi s'iscrive avrà il libretto!

Monday, December 15, 2014


Christmas in Modica always really starts, for me, with our multilingual carol service. This year's event took place on Saturday evening and I am happy to be able to say that many communities and languages were represented. Some songs and readings were religious whilst others were not, but all meant something special to their readers or singers at this time of year, which is just as it should be. Let's have a look:

Vive le vent - a French version of Jingle Bells

The British, American and Canadian contingent give their Joy to the World

A German carol is performed

A reading in Arabic

A reading in Bulgarian

A reading in Malagasy

 Yours truly reads Christ Climbed Down by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Gino, our loyal accompanist

 Poetry in Persian is read

 Time for a Spanish carol

There was food from all the countries represented and I made and took along these chocolate crunchy thingamies, a version of "Rocky road", I suppose. The recipe is in the November edition of Good Housekeeping UK and they are very easy to make!

Sicilian sfinci sit alongside Lebanese food and British mince pies - an indication of the international flavour [in every sense] of the evening.

I would like to thank the indefatigable Mr Douglas Ponton for getting us all organised, for conducting and for all his hard work.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014


In September I reported that Sicily was at risk of losing one of its most beloved fictional characters, il commissario Montalbano [Inspector Montalbano]. This was because the company that films the popular television series felt frustrated at what it perceived as a lack of support from the Sicilian region.  Given that "Montalbano tourism" had generated millions of euros for the island over 15 years, the dissatisfaction of the company's executives was understandable.

Happily, the situation now seems to have been resolved, as under an agreement signed last week between the production company and the Mayor of Ragusa the town has committed itself to supporting the productions. In addition, each council in Ragusa Province will have a representative who will liaise with the production company to offer both practical and logistical help. 

But what's this? In the same week, Sicily was warned that it is at risk of losing the UNESCO World Heritage Site status of some of its attractions due to poor maintenance or poor or non-existent infrastructure. Sometimes I want to scream in exasperation at the lack of planning, foresight and even common sense that could allow this to happen. Come on, Sicily! You've saved the inspector - now save his island.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I was really cheered up by these frog sculptures on the façade of Modica's Garibaldi Theatre and I wish I had some on my balcony!

The sculptures, in recyclable plastic, are a Cracking Art Group project and proceeds from their sale will go towards the restoration of the theatre's stage.

Monday, December 08, 2014


Over the past few days, Modica has once again come into its own as the chocolate capital of Sicily with its ChocoModica festival. It's not as big or as international as the Eurochocolate or Chocobarocco festivals used to be, is well organised nonetheless and actually, I found it calmer and more enjoyable. Mind you, I left at 7:00 pm and, as the last shuttle bus to Modica Bassa is scheduled for 1:00  am., I imagine things are livening up down there about now!

There were several exhibitions about chocolate-making and its history to attend, and no end of chocolate objects to gaze at or purchase:

You could decorate your tree with chocolate objects. "What balls!" says the label and yes, the expression does have the same naughty meaning in Italian!

Or maybe you fancy a chocolate silhouette or cameo?

Take your pick from these ideas for presents:

I thought this was cute

but my favourites were the chocolate caffettiere:

There was also chocolate-flavoured pasta. [I've tried this and found it good:  the chocolate taste is not overwhelming.]

I just had to have orange and chilli-pepper chocolate ice cream! Well, wouldn't you?

And finally, nothing to do with chocolate, but I like these Xmas angels that have popped up all over Modica. I could do with an angel right now.

A pleasant festival for everybody.  Well done, Modica!


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