Monday, December 26, 2016


This year, I am lucky enough to be spending Christmas with my sister, Jill and other members of the family with whom I was reunited two years ago.

Tonight I would like to tell you about a Christmas initiative from Norwich Cathedral which has helped me and, I am sure, many others: Outside the Cathedral is a "memory tree" and visitors have been invited to write the names of loved ones they miss at Christmas on star decorations.  Each visitor made a donation for each star they used and the staff hung them on the tree on their behalf.

Thus, in the city where my story began, stars hang for both my mums - the one I never knew and the one who brought me up - and also for the dad who gave me so much love.

Thank you, Norwich Cathedral.

You can find links to all my adoption posts here.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Here's an old favourite:

Biagio Antonacci - Sognami


This week I wanted to do something different with the pizzaiola steak cut and I decided that a pistacchio and mushroom sauce would do the trick.  In Italy, you just ask the butcher for pizzaiola steak and the cut most often used for this is round steak.  I asked for pizzaiola steak for four people.  I also wanted to incorporate cedro [citron] and this is what I did:

Bistecca in salsa di pistacchi

Cut one cedro in half.  Juice one half and marinate the steak pieces in it with a little dried oregano. Leave it in the fridge for a few hours.  [This will tenderise the meat further as well as adding flavour.] Slice the other half and grill the slices quickly, on both sides, in a little olive oil on a ridged griddle pan.  Set aside.

Drain the steak and pat dry with kitchen paper. Cook the pieces in 2 tblsp olive oil on a ridged griddle pan.  Do not overcook them! Place on kitchen paper as they are ready.  

Keep the steak warm in a dish in the oven while you make the sauce:  Soften a chopped white onion in 2 tblsp olive oil in a frying pan.  Do not allow it to brown.  When it is soft, add 200 gr sliced white mushrooms.  Cook for a few minutes, then add 200 ml panna di cucina if you are in Italy or single cream if you are not.  Keep stirring for a few minutes and season.  Do not let it boil.  Off the heat, add a generous sprinkling of farina di pistacchi  [pistacchio flour - very finely ground pistacchi].

Serve the steaks with the sauce and cedro slices.

Thursday, December 15, 2016


At the Dolceria Primavera in Modica:

Frutta di Martorana can be seen above left and right. I loved the chocolate Christmas trees.

Torrone and cobaita are shown with the liqueur, and various flavours of Modican chocolate are on the right.

There has to be panettone!

 And how nice to see a gingerbread man!

Saturday, December 10, 2016


This song of lost love, to which I can relate only too well, is no. 3 in the Italian charts:

Marco Mengoni - Sai che

Thursday, December 08, 2016


Cedro, cedro,
on the stall
is the biggest
of them all!

Well, this was the biggest cedro [citron] I had seen for a long time and it was on display outside a greengrocer's on this opening day of our annual ChocoModica festival.  I love cedri, both to eat, with seasalt and to cook with, so the sight of this one really cheered me up.

The chocolate festival, as you might expect, features lots of chocolate stalls, selling bars of all flavours, from banana to chilli to more traditional types and there were all kinds of chocolate products on sale, including liqueurs, cosmetics and even chocolate arancini [rice balls].  During the four days of the festival, there are also exhibitions, talks, tastings and demonstrations though I must say access is a problem to some of them and this needs attention.

You can watch chocolate sculptors and makers at work, though a finished chocolate sculpture would have been nice to see alongside those in production.  Perhaps that is to come.  I was fascinated by the fruit carving below but the highlight for me remains the cedro!

ChocoModica runs until 11th December and the full programme is here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


It was with great pleasure that I received a twitter message from Susan Van Allen last night, telling me that Sicily Scene again appears in the list of online resources for the regions of Italy in the wonderful and deservedly best-selling 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go.  This is the third edition of this much-needed guide and I suggest you all order your copies now! It would make a great Christmas present for any woman hoping or planning to travel to Italy and all the men I've shown it to are interested too.

Thank you for including Sicily Scene, Susan and thank you for a great read.

Sunday, December 04, 2016


All my recent posts have been about food and, at this time of year, why buck the trend? Here's how they make cupcakes at the Liolà:

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Thursday, December 01, 2016


You don't often get artigianale ice cream out of season in Modica, but this evening my friend Ignaziella and I enjoyed these at a local shopping centre.  I can honestly say the experience lit up my night!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


No visit to beautiful, architecturally homogeneous Noto is complete, in my opinion, without stopping off at the Caffè Sicilia to enjoy ice cream and cake with unusual but delicate and harmonious flavourings so it was good to see their creator, Corrado Assenza, welcoming the remaining contestants of Bakeoff Italia - Dolci in Forno to his city on TV on Friday.

The technical challenge for the contestants was to produce their own replicas of Corrado Assenza's dolce dell'estate which contains, among other ingredients, a tomato gelatine, nectarines in a special syrup, basil, oranges, hibiscus, black pepper, gin and vodka:

Photo: facebook

If you read Italian, you can find the recipe here .

I have usually been to Noto in summer so I can't say I've noticed the quality of its winds but, judging from this episode, they must be rather choosy, for they blew only on the hair of presenter Benedetta Parodi, ruffling it gently while the contestants, also in the open air, sweated profusely.

The television audience was treated to stunning views of Noto while the judges enjoyed slices of Corrado Assenza's creation on a terrace.

You can watch the Noto episode here until 31.1.17.

Now we are all waiting for the final this Friday and I for one will be glued to my TV. I might even try some of the recipes soon but not before I've asked ny hairdresser how to get my own special breeze blowing flatteringly through my locks whilst leaving everybody else alone!

Monday, November 28, 2016


A life event in the form of a broken boiler precluded further posting last week and, as I felt much in need of warmth, I invented this:

Spezzatino di autunno

1 kg pork cut for spezzatino or casserole  [in Italy, ask the butcher to cut the rind off]
3 zucchini
1 kg piece pumpkin
4 medium potatoes
6 small chillies [not the hottest!] or chilli flakes to taste
1 white onion
1 clove garlic
7 tablesp olive oil
sumac to taste,  coarse seasalt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sachets saffron
200 ml white wine
juice 2 oranges and grated zest of 1

Cut the pumpkin into manageable pieces and cut the peel off. Cut into chunks and cook in boiling, slightly salted water until soft but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.
Slice the zucchini - not too thinly - and cook in 2 tablesp oil until golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper.  [I know it sounds odd, putting fried zucchini in a stew but trust me on this.]
Chop the onion and garlic and soften in a large, wide pan. Add the pork pieces and cook, turning, until browned on all sides.
Now add the pumpkin, zucchini, white wine, orange juice, spices, seasoning and chillis.  Stir, then add the potatoes, sliced. [I don't peel them but you can if you wish.]
Leave to simmer, covered, for 50 mins - 1 hour. Stir now and then and add a little water if it seems too dry.  The pumpkin will go mushy but the dish will be all the more flavoursome for that.
Grate orange zest over to serve.

Certainly not Italian but makes good use of autumn ingredients here. Buon appetito.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers and friends. I hope you have a great day.

As you see, I've made some pumpkin pies and, though I say it myself, they're quite good!  [And yes, I have been lucky enough to taste pumpkin pie in the US.]  Now, the recipe I trust uses cream and milk in the filling but, as cream in America is thicker than the cream available here, a few years ago I experimented with mascarpone and, with a little [unwhipped] Italian whipping cream added, the pies turned out fine, so that's how I make them every year now.

I usually cook the pumpkin flesh down but this year I managed to find a can of pumpkin purée in Catania.

So here you have them - my slightly Italianised pumpkin pies:  

Buon Giorno del Ringraziamento!

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Here's a beautiful and powerful track from Tiziano Ferro - number three in the Italian singles chart:

  Tiziano Ferro - Potremmo ritornare

Thursday, November 17, 2016


Some of you may know that, while we weren't looking and as if the world doesn't have enough problems, a "Prosecco war" broke out this week, so I thought I'd tell you how this event is viewed from here:

First of all, it is a given in a country that is a firm member of the EU that free movement of people is part of the package. So when the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said that Brexit Britain wants to retain access to the European Single Market without subscribing to free movement of people, Carlo Calenda, the Italian Economic Development Minister, was aghast.

Mr Calenda told Mr Johnson that without free movement of people there would be nothing left to negotiate, to which Mr Johnson reportedly replied that Italy would give in on this rather than lose sales of Prosecco to the UK. An understandably annoyed Mr Calenda retorted that Britain would lose fish and chips exports but that the difference was that, whilst Italy might lose a little export buiness with one country, the UK stood to lose a lot more with 27 countries.

Later Mr Calenda remarked that it was "a bit offensive" of the British to assume that Italy is totally reliant on Prosecco exports and also said that the British government appears to be in chaos regarding Brexit policy.

This morning the Foreign Office issued the following statement, which is being taken as an apology here:

"The comments of the Foreign Secretary reflect the strength of the trading relationship between our two countries. We hope that this will remain strong despite British exit from the EU."

A British government source apparently told the BBC that Mr Johnson had not intended his comments as an insult but as part of a "constructive discussion".

The verdict in Italy is that the British are clearly off their [Prosecco-filled] trolley and, according to La Repubblica, that Mr Johnson is "not cut out for diplomacy".  Il Giornale, meanwhile, believes that the incident has pushed tragicomedy to its limits.

Prosecco, anyone?  Cincin!

Saturday, November 12, 2016


You'll excuse the detour from Italy this week, I'm sure, as I mark the passing of an icon of my youth - the great poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen:

Leonard Cohen - Dance Me to the End of Love

Thursday, November 10, 2016


So while you're Waiting for Godot, you might as well eat tiramisù!

Tiramisù at Cicara Caffeteria , Modica

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

AUTUMN TIDES, 2016 - 4

Over the past few days, whilst the tide of rhetoric across the Atlantic grew ever stronger and I, like most of you, was glued to my TV screen, autumn tides brought to Pozzallo two children who, having seen their mother die on a migrant boat, had watched over her body until the dinghy on which they were travelling from Libya split in two.

The 300 migrants on board were rescued by the Italian Navy and then transferred to a Save the Children ship.  The woman, who was probably from Mali, had been crushed to death while trying to protect her children from the same fate by shielding them with her body in the overcrowded prow of the boat. When the other migrants near the woman discovered that she was dead, a people trafficker tried to make them throw her body overboard but they refused. They told the two children, a girl aged nine and a boy aged six, that their mother was sleeping but they understood that she was dead.

These sad children are now in the care of nuns in Ragusa and what looks like a mobile phone number written on the girl's trousers may be the only hope of finding other family members. It is thought that they have an uncle somewhere in Europe.

The alleged people trafficker has been identified and arrested.

This is but one tragedy among so many, of course, but it is none the less shocking for that.

With regard to the historic events of the past 24 hours I have only the following to say:

On this day a great nation founded on migration chose a leader who wants to build a wall. Yet we are all migrants. Let us hope that humanity will prevail, both there and in the rest of the world.

All human progress has been made because someone, somewhere, had a dream.  Who are we to tell those who dream of a better life that they are wrong to do so?

Saturday, November 05, 2016


Released ahead of their new album, Le Migliori, out on 11th November, here are Adriano Celentano and Mina with Amami, Amami:

MinaCelentano - Amami, Amami

Friday, November 04, 2016


As thousands continue to die in the Mediterranean trying to flee war, working for peace is more important than ever.

Thank you, Mimi Lenox, for inspiring #blog4peace and for all that you do.


It is with great sorrow that I write, tonight, about yet another large-scale migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean. Although it is being reported internationally, events elsewhere are grabbing the headlines  and the deaths of at least 239 people on their tragic journey to what they hoped would be a life, if not a better one - for few of them would have been naive - have  received scant attention in the English language news bulletins I have watched today [Thursday].

As often happens in these cases, definite numbers are not, and may never be, available and details of what happened are being pieced together from what the survivors are able to tell their rescuers. What seems to have happened is as follows:

Two inadequate dinghies, one carrying 138 migrants and the other 140, left Libya in the early hours of Wednesday. The migrants knew that the boats were flimsy and would be overcrowded but were forced by people traffickers, who killed a man in front of them as a "lesson" in obedience - to embark. It wasn't long before the boats capsized in a rough sea about 25 miles off the Libyan coast. In a rescue operation involving five ships and coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard, 29 people were saved and taken to Lampedusa. Two were subsequently transferred to hospital in Palermo. So far 12 bodies, three of which are those of babies, have been recovered. Survivors think that the number of people missing could be 249.

If, as UNHCR estimates, the number is 239, that brings the death toll of migrants seeking safety in Europe this year to 4,220 - a staggering figure in a "civilised" world. Both the Mayor of Lampedusa, Giusy Nicolini, and UNHCR have today again called for safe corridors for migrants.

In other sad news today we learned that Fatim Jawara, the Gambian goalkeeper who played in the Women's Under 17 World Cup in Azerbaijan in 2012,  has died on a migrant crossing.  Her dream was to reach Europe and play for a major club here.  Instead, her body is thought to be among those of 97 migrants who died on the night of 27th October.  She was 19 years old.

Flavio di Giacomo of the IOM said today that people traffickers are telling migrants that Europe is training the Libyan Coast Guard to carry out rescue missions so that those saved can be taken back to Libya rather than European ports such as Lampedusa. This may explain the present rush to board the boats, whatever the risk.

On Thursday a further 766 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean in seven operations led by the Rome Coast Guard.

Monday, October 31, 2016


It was great meeting Sarah from White Almond Sicily , her husband Mike, their lovely dog Daisy and friend Teresa on Saturday.  Bertie thought so, too!

And what better to go with an aperitvo than an abundant, Modican  piatto of stuzzichini at the Cicara Caffetteria?

Daisy enjoyed the accompanying crisps and I'm sure she'll bring her mummy, daddy and friend back soon!

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Here's a favourite of mine: haven't we all felt, when dealing with unrequited love, that no one else is capable of understanding the loved one?

Irene Grandi - Sono come tu mi vuoi

Friday, October 28, 2016


With the eyes of the world very much on events in Calais this week, the plight of migrants attempting the Mediterranean crossing to reach Europe has once again been largely forgotten by the international media. Yet it goes on, changing weather conditions render it even more dangerous and someone, somewhere, it seems, always profits from tragedy.

On Wednesday - Thursday night 51 people died in the Sicilian Channel because, according to survivors, a rough sea had caused the inadequate dinghies they were travelling on to capsize. Of the 339 survivors brought to Augusta, 25 were women and 31 were unaccompanied minors. Some were taken to hospital with burns caused by leaking fuel and two suspected people traffickers have been arrested.

On Tuesday a Médecins sans Frontières boat saved 107 people from a dinghy off the Libyan coast but their operatives found the bodies of 29 people lying in a mixture of fuel and seawater on board. These poor souls had died from their burns, from suffocation or from drowning.

Calais is not the only place where there have been ugly scenes this week as residents of Goro [Ferrara] protested against the planned arrival at a hostel there of 12 migrants by setting up road blocks. [I should point out that many migrant hostels are overcrowded and short of resources in Italy.] As one of the women was pregnant, a decision was made to take the group elsewhere but Interior Minister Angelino Alfano was quick to point out that this incident is not representative of Italy. The country, he said, is characterised by the young people who go to the quayside at Lampedusa to help with new migrant arrivals or Dr Bartolo of Lampedusa [who works tirelessly for both the inhabitants of Lampedusa and the migrants who arrive there].

Prime Minister Renzi, meanwhile, has said that, though it is clear that Europe cannot open its doors to all, EU states that build walls to keep out migrants should expect no funding from Italy.  He said EU states should work together to solve the migration crisis rather than playing on hatred and intolerance.

Pope Francis, as usual, put it simply and succinctly but managed to show that he understands the reasons for hardening attitudes.  In St Peter's Square on Wednesday he said,

"Today, the context of economic crises unfortunately fosters the emergence of attitudes that are closed and unwelcoming. In some parts of the world, walls and barricades are being erected. Closure [of borders] is not a solution as it ends up encouraging trafficking. The only path towards a solution is that of solidarity.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016


As another night begins, I am sure that many of us are thinking of those affected by the earthquakes in Central Italy yesterday. We can only imagine the fear, following the quake of 24th August and there is devastating damage to buildings in those beautiful little towns.

The first, 5.4 quake struck at 19.10  Italian time on Wednesday and the second, a 5.9 quake, at 21.18. The epicentre of both was Visso [Macerato, Marche] but they were felt in Trentino, Friuli, Veneto, Rome and even Austria. Several buildings in Rome, including the Italian Foreign Office, were evacuated as a precaution and today it was reported that cracks had appeared in some. However, historic buildings such as the Colosseum have been declared undamaged and safe today.  All school buildings in Central Italy are being inspected.

In Amatrice - the town that was virtually wiped out in the 24th August quake - the last building standing in the centre, the four-storey palazzo rosso, succumbed to last night's quake.  

There have been at least 530 aftershocks and at 10.21 today there was a 4.4 quake at Castelsantangelo sul Nera [Macerata, Marche]. At 20.50 there was a 3.1 quake between the same town and Norcia.

Thankfully only four injured have been reported but sadly one elderly person died of a heart attack caused by the quake in Tolentino [Marche]. Reports last night that a child in Camerino [Macerata, Marche] was badly injured appear to have been unfounded. No one is thought to be trapped under the rubble but 2,000 - 3,000 people have been made homeless.

Premier Renzi, who visited the quake zone today, said in Camerino that Italy is stronger than any earthquake and urged Parliament to quickly pass the "earthquake decree" which would enable the necessary funds and resources to be provided more quickly in such cases.

I do hope that it will be some consolation to the people of Amatrice to know that Sicily has not forgotten them:  last Saturday the Rotary Club of Palazzolo Acreide "Valle dell'Anapo" organised an event called "I love Amatrice" to help those affected by the 24th August earthquake. In the town square, chefs gave their services free and cooked pasta all'Amatriciana and a range of pastries, using products donated by sponsors.  Wine was also donated and musicians happily gave their services free. A sum of €2,150 was raised to help the earthquake zones.  

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Just in case I forget to pop a writing implement in my bag today.....


I've always thought that most cooks are naturally helpful and unselfish, willing, as they are, to share their recipes at the drop of a cranberry and to give tips and encouragement to others. But last Friday, on Bakeoff Italia - Dolci in Forno, we saw a quite extraordinary example:

In this seventh episode of the fourth series, the contestants who had already been eliminated from the contest were invited back for a cookoff in which one of them could be reinstated. They had to make the ever-exacting Ernst Knam's seven-layered torta extreme and the twist was that the contestants still in the competition, not the show's resident judges - Knam, Clelia d'Onofrio and Antonio Lamberto Martino  - would do the  blind tasting. Then the two best cakes would undergo scrutiny from the resident judges. The cakes chosen were baked by contestants called Annalisa and Stefania but neither seemed very happy. After a few minutes, we learnt why; they both felt that there was another cake on the table which was better than theirs and that their peers had made a mistake in their tasting. Obviously, in pointing this out, they had sacrificed their own chances of being allowed back into the competition. Presenter Benedetta Parodi asked the resident judges to taste all the other cakes, which they did, and they agreed with Stefania and Annalisa that the best cake had been baked by a contestant called Bartolomeo.

How nice to see such altruism in a reality TV show!

You can watch the episode here until 31.1.17.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Let us remember Dario Fo, then, as I believe he would like to be remembered - as a kind human being full of joie de vivre:

Thursday, October 13, 2016


As a young Italian graduate, one of the voices that I felt spoke to my generation was that of Dario Fo - dramatist, theatre and film director, actor, writer, painter, political activist, Nobel Laureate [1997] and so much more - who died today at the age of 90.  I continued to read the work of Dario Fo and his wife, Franca Rame and it never failed to surprise me and make me think. As I've said before, the literature of the 20th century asked the questions but did not, usually, provide the answers and Dario Fo asked the questions that politicians, in particular, did not wish to hear.

A stationmaster's son from Sangiano [Varese, Lombardy], Dario Fo joined Mussolini's Repubblica Sociale Italiana army at 17, a fact that would haunt him in later life. When he did talk about it, he said that he had joined the only Italian army in which he could enlist so as not to be deported to Germany to work. There was also a theory that he joined to deflect suspicion from falling upon his family, who were partisans.

After studying at the Brera Academy in Milan, Dario Fo joined Rai as an actor and satirical scriptwriter. He and Franca Rame wrote sketches together but their material was so often criticised by the Italian equivalent of the British "establishment" that the couple abandoned television for the theatre, founding their own company. Fo's theatrical solo piece Mistero Buffo was famously declared blasphemous by the Vatican and became all the more renowned for that. Other internationally well-known pieces by Fo include Morte accidentale di un anarchico [Accidental Death of an Anarchist] and Non si paga! Non si paga! [Can't Pay, Won't Pay].

Two books by Dario Fo which I have enjoyed recently are La figlia del papa [a biography of Lucrezia Borgia] which I reviewed here and Dario e Dio, a long interview in which he expounds his ideas about God - or the lack of such a being.  I especially like a passage in which Fo says that the God of the Old Testament "demands tests of love that not even a Sicilian ... [would expect]."

To a man who never stopped fighting, questioning, campaigning, surprising and making us laugh, I would like to say, "Thank you".

Dario Fo died on the day it was announced that Bob Dylan is to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. I think he would have approved.

In this Apple advertisement from 1997, Dario Fo narrates and Bob Dylan makes an appearance among the innovative thinkers of the last century:  

Video courtesy of La Stampa

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


I am more often than not ashamed of my own country these days and am particularly so today regarding a gaffe involving my beloved Italy:

Online enrolment forms for certain schools in England and - I am sorry to say - Wales, ask parents to indicate their child's nationality. For Italians, however, there is not one code but four and they read as follows:

ITA     Italian
ITAA   Italian [Any Other]
ITAN   Italian [Napoletan]
ITAS   Italian [Sicilian]

Is this stigmatising the South or is it just ignorance?

The Italian Ambassador to the UK, Pasquale Terracciano, protested yesterday, pointing out that Italy has been unified since 1861 and today the Foreign Office has formally apologised to Italy, promising that the forms will be amended.

Whoever compiled the form seems not to know the English word denoting a person from Naples, either.

I would be interested to know what kind of schools were involved and if I find out, I will update this post.

Update: 13.10.16

It seems that these were state schools and that the forms were compiled by the British government. A government spokesperson has said that there was "an historic administrative error" in the language codes used. Are we to believe, then, that in the 21st century, the UK government is using pre-1861 language codes for an online form?

The first complaint is reported to have come from the city of Bradford.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Pesce d'aprile: Lo scherzo del destino che ci ha reso più fortiPesce d'aprile: Lo scherzo del destino che ci ha reso più forti by Daniela Spada
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The name Cesare Bocci is not a household one in English-speaking countries, but if I were to say "Mimì Augello" and post a picture of Cesare, many of you would recognise him as the actor who plays Montalbano's deputy.

It is often true that we can look at people, particularly celebrities, and think that everything must be fine in their lives but we usually have no idea what those lives are really like. Until I read an interview with Cesare Bocci and his partner Daniela Spada in an Italian TV listings magazine, I had no idea what they had been through in the last 16 years:

This part of their story begins in Rome on 1st April 2000. The day before, they had brought their newborn baby, Mia, home and today all is well until suddenly Daniela cries out that she has a terrible headache. Her condition worsens with terrifying speed and she is rushed to hospital, where the doctors are convinced that she is having a panic attack after a row with Cesare, who has to fight to get her seen by a neurologist. She has suffered a massive stroke. She lies in a coma for 20 days and when she wakes, her body has changed forever and , though she recognises Cesare as someone she loves, her memory is affected. Tragically, she cannot hold her baby daughter.

What follows is the story of Daniela's long road back, Cesare's unstinting support , the family and friends who in turn support him, his battles with hospital staff and bureaucracy alike and the bond that grows between him and his daughter. Cesare at last finds an Austrian doctor who treats Daniela as a human being first and a patient second and this proves to be the turning point. Slowly, and with great determination, Daniela is rehabilitated, not to her old life, but to a life which she can lead. There are still heartbreaking moments, such as those which describe the reactions of strangers to her disabilities or when she thinks of all the things she will never be able to do for her daughter. However,

"Never, never give up", she says, and Cesare says of her,

"Daniela taught me that, in difficult times, your uncertainties, fears and frustration can bury you or they can motivate you to start again."

Daniela Spada decided to think of sweet things so as not to think of her illness and became a cook and pastry chef. She now runs a cookery school, which she insists has the atmosphere of a welcoming family kitchen, in Rome.

This book is for anyone who has suffered, or been close to someone who has suffered, a stroke or other brain injury. It is also for everyone who has ever kept a long vigil at the bedside of a loved one, not knowing if they will wake up, or who has had to make a hospital corridor their home. It is, above all, a story of courage, determination and of course, love and so it is a book for all of us.

Note:  Pesce d'aprile = April fool

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 08, 2016


I've posted this song before, but not recently. As it's the eternal cry of that dangerous creature most single women will, at some point, meet, the bored married man, I thought it deserved another airing. Here are two versions  [the Italian one is implicit whereas the English is explicit] from the lovely Mr Buanne:

Patrizio Buanne - Amore scusami

Friday, October 07, 2016


I got the idea for serving fried courgette slices with mint and garlic from a TV programme but the other ingredients are my suggestions:

Fry courgette slices [not too thick, not too thin] in olive oil till golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper.

Put in a serving dish and sprinkle with plenty of chopped mint, a little parsley, a chopped garlic clove, chilli flakes to taste, salt [Himalayan pink salt works well] and the grated rind of a lemon.

A good side dish - buon appetito.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016


On Monday, the Day of Memory for Migrants, I wrote that over 6,000 had been saved in Italian-led operations in the Mediterranean on that day.  In the two days since, a further 11,000 desperate people have been saved in 72 operations coordinated by the Rome Coast Guard.  Sadly, 28 bodies were also recovered, 22 of them from an inadequate boat crammed with 1,000 migrants.

Some of the migrants were transferred to the Coast Guard ship Dattilo, on which three babies were safely born. All are said to be healthy.  

Today 1,020 of the rescued migrants were brought to Palermo but almost all will shortly be taken to centres in other regions. How awful it must be to make that perilous sea crossing in terrible conditions, then not even know if you will be allowed to stay in Europe as your fate is held totally in the hands of others. I am ashamed to say that migrants can now expect even less help from my own country, which has lurched dangerously to the right, and the mood has obviously hardened in several other European countries obsessed with building walls.

President of the Italian Senate Pietro Grasso said this week,

"Per ogni singola vita perduta, muore la nostra umanità - For every single life that is lost, our humanity dies."

Monday, October 03, 2016


On the third anniversary of this tragedy in the Mediterranean, at least 6,000 migrants have been saved by the Italian Coast Guard, Navy and ships belonging to international non-governmental organisations. The Coast Guard reports that there were 18 rescue operations involving 39 migrant boats. Sadly, nine bodies have also been recovered in the Sicilian Channel. On one dinghy a man was found dead and several migrants had burns and other wounds caused by leaking fuel. Two children and a woman with serious burns were rushed to hospital.

The surge of boats again heading for Italy from Libya is due to calmer weather conditions after a week or so of rough seas and no one expects them to stop coming. Laura Boldrini, the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, again asked the rest of the EU to take their share of responsibility for migrants, reminding these countries that they do not hesitate to take their share of incoming EU resources.  It is with little optimism that I express my hope that her words will be heeded this time.

To mark this Day of Memory for Migrants, Rai 3 tonight showed the film Fuocoammare, directed by Gianfranco Rosi. I wrote about this film some months ago but had not seen it before tonight. The director spent 18 months on Lampedusa, filming a migrant boat trying to reach Italy, the rescue and recovery operation,  the processing of the migrants once they reach the island and the daily life of the islanders, including that of ER medic Dr Pietro Bartoli. Prior to tonight's screening, Gianfranco Rosi told Panorama magazine that on Lampedusa he found a much more complex and multi-layered story than he had expected . He said,

"It is not a political film but we cannot let the Mediterranean be the tomb of people fleeing war, hunger and desperation...  It is useless to erect barriers as walls have been toppled throughout history...  People fleeing desperation and death have no choice."

Fuocoammare is to be Italy's entry for Best Picture in the 2017 Oscars but its nomination has given rise to controversy. Paolo Sorrentino, director of La Grande Bellezza, has raised an objection not because he doubts the film's merits but because he believes it should be entered in the documentary section. Others do not think the film is sufficiently commercial. I have an opionion but will leave those of you who intend to see it  - and I hope many of you do - to make up your own minds.  I will say that I couldn't speak for at least half an hour after watching it and twitter revealed that many Italians felt the same. It is my belief that the film should be compulsory viewing for all would-be builders of border walls.

I  would also like to say that I am very proud of Italy tonight and will close with a quote from Dr Bartolo:

"È dovere di ogni uomo che sia un uomo aiutare queste persone - It is the duty of every man who is a man to help these people."

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Here's another song about missing someone:

Laura Pausini - E mi manchi amore mio

Friday, September 30, 2016


This dish gets its name simply because it's the end of summer, which "hath all too short a date" and all that.  I like the fusion of 'strattu and herbes de Provence with ginger, which gives the dish a bit of a kick.

Here's what I did:

To serve four people generously, you need:

6 chicken drumsticks, skin on
1 chicken breast*, skinned and boned. cut into pieces
small pack unsmoked pancetta cubes [75 - 80 gr]
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
about 20 datterini tomatoes or very small cherry tomatoes
200 gr mushrooms, sliced
125 gr green beans, previously blanched and cut up
dried herbes de Provence [or use oregano and thyme]
fresh rosemary sprigs
good-sized knob of ginger
olive oil
seasalt and freshly ground black pepper
dash of white wine
1 tablesp 'strattu dissolved in hot water [tomato paste, not purée]

Smear a wide pan with olive oil and brown the chicken on all sides. add the onion and garlic and cook till soft, not browned.  Add the pancetta and rosemary sprigs and cook for about 2 mins more. Add the mushrooms, beans, tomatoes and 'strattu and stir well.  Bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer. Season and sprinkle in a good pinch of herbes de Provence.  Grate in the ginger.  Stir well, add a dash of white wine, cover and cook for c. 45 mins.

*One skinned and boned chicken breast if you are in Italy, where the two halves of the breast are sold as one or two breasts if you are in the UK, where each half is sold as one breast.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


It's always lovely when someone brings you a present from home and when you live so far away, I think the memories that these thoughtful gifts evoke can flood your mind - in a good way.

My maternal grandad was a Cornishman [though he spent most of his life in Wales] so when a friend brought me a Cornish pixie wall plaque the other day, I immediately thought of Grandpa and felt I could hear his soft,West of England tones as he told me the pixie-themed little brooches or ornaments he would bring me back from his annual holiday in Cornwall held magic powers.  Of course, Devon has pixies too and they are not to be outdone in the magic stakes! Mum, Dad and I used to head for Paignton every summer and I've had the pixie ornament from Dawlish Warren since I was about five.

Now that Mr Dawlish Pixie has some company, I'm convinced my luck is about to change!

Monday, September 26, 2016


It has been a particularly rainy day in Modica today and there have been floods in nearby Siracusa. Perhaps this is what has prompted more social media posts than usual marking the anniversary of the devastating flood that happened here on 26th September 1902, leaving 112 dead, heartbreaking damage to both public buildings and homes, crumbled bridges and a lower town that would be changed forever.  

It was in the early hours of that fateful day that the equivalent of six months' normal rainfall plummeted down on Modica and you can see the watermark on the building below.  [I'm sorry the plaque is not clear in the photo.]

After this event, the rivers that flowed into and through Modica were covered up. If you come to Modica, the first thing you'll probably do is take a stroll along the Corso Umberto I in Modica Bassa. You'll be walking where the river flowed until the beginning of the last century.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Let's hear from Mr Gino Paoli, who celebrated his 82nd birthday yesterday.

Haven't we all felt like this at the end of a love affair - that there will never be another?

Gino Paoli - Un altro amore

Friday, September 23, 2016


Suddenly, in Sicily, the roadside lorries teem with different kinds of fruit, most of which you can purchase by the crate. The little Etna apples, though, are not quite as abundant outside their local area but when you find them, you have a treasure.  Chestnuts are swept from outdoor tables into large bags and, if you buy fichi d'India [prickly pears] from the greengrocer or the supermarket, they will usually have had most of their thorns removed. Otherwise, handle with extreme care!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


As the UN focuses on migration this week, first at Monday's Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants and then during the General Debate of the 71st Session, one might have hoped for some collective action to offer a little hope to desperate people but I have to say, if I were a migrant seeking safety now, I would be more than disappointed.

Yesterday, while politicians measured their words and refugees continued to risk their lives on the high seas or to languish in camps, UNHCR announced that, as of that day, the number of migrants arriving on European shores since the beginning of 2016 had reached 300,000.  This is lower than the number of arrivals in the same period last year but more than in 2014.  Italy has seen virtually the same number of arrivals this year as last but more migrants are trying to stay in the country.

This is exactly what the Prime Minister of my own country wishes to see, for Mrs May made it quite clear, both in a speech on Monday and in her address to the General Assembly yesterday, that she believes that migrants should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, which is, of course, EU law under the Dublin Regulation.  But if that country is already saving thousands of lives in the Mediterranean and is being stretched to its limits to deal with the number of arrivals [and is doing so humanely]? What then, Mrs May? Our new Prime Minister seems to have no answer.  When she said yesterday that the UK was "committed to helping countries adapt to refugees' needs", I did not get the impression that she meant Italy and Greece, which bear the main burden of arrivals, but receiving countries bordering Syria. 

Few people would disagree with Mrs May's  affirmation that countries have the right to control their own borders or with what seems a genuine commitment to eradicating people trafficking and one of its consequences, which she rightly calls "modern slavery".  However, her strategy for doing so takes for granted that we are dealing with non-chaotic countries of departure, which we are not. I have yet to hear Mrs May or any other top-ranking politician praise Italy for its work in bringing people traffickers to justice. [A total of 148 alleged people traffickers have been arrested in the Province of Ragusa alone in 2016.]

The British Premier gave contradictory messages, on the one hand saying that there is nothing wrong with moving to seek a better life but on the other hand stating that governments need to distinguish between economic migrants and refugees more clearly and find "a better way of dealing with economic migration".  She did not say how they would do this and her speech was hardly reassuring, even to migrants-by-choice like myself, for strangely, in the middle of her address to the GA, came this:

"We must all commit to the return of our own nationals when they have no right to remain elsewhere."

This was surely a Brexit reference and if it was, it was inappropriate.  If this one sentence can make a legal migrant-by-choice uneasy, what impact would her other words have on someone desperately hoping to be granted asylum?

Meanwhile Mr Renzi, also on Monday, received the Global Citizen Award of the Atlantic Council from Mr Kerry and said,

"Italy saves lives in the Mediterranean becaue we can afford to lose some votes but we cannot afford to lose our humanity."

He also announced that Italy's humanitarian aid budget is to be increased by 30% and, with refreshing honesty, told journalists [outside the meeting] that there is no political will to solve the refugee crisis because the leaders of France and Germany have elections coming up and he himself could be swept away by the outcome of Italy's imminent referendum on constitutional reform. Nailed it, Mr Renzi!  

While the  politicians were arriving comfortably in their armoured cars, migrants were continuing to attempt the perilous Mediterranean journey in woefully overcrowded dinghies or even less seaworthy vessels. Here are just a few of the migration developments which have occurred while our politicians have been preparing or giving their speeches at the UN:

La Repubblica reported today that 128,479 migrants were saved in the Sicilian Channel between 1st January and 15th September and 958 of the boats which had been carrying them had come from Libya.  

At the weekend a 15-year-old became the youngest refugee to be killed trying to enter the UK illegally from Calais and on 6th September the body of a young male migrant who had entered France from Ventimiglia [where the French have closed the border] was found under a flyover on the French side.  No one knows what happened. 

This afternoon a  migrant boat sank off Rosetta in Egypt and so far 42 people are reported to have died. The Egyptian authorites have saved 155 people but no one knows how many were on board.

Need I go on?

There are, however, three positive outcomes from the UN sessions:  one is the summit held by President Obama at the UN yesterday, at which significant promises were made; another is that the International Organisation for Migration [IOM]  became, on Monday, formally linked to the UN as a "related organisation." This is important because it gives the UN a migration mandate. The third development is a promise to set in motion a Global Compact on safe migration upholding human rights. Let us hope that this is implemented soon.  Are we to see action or was it all much ado to bring about nothing?

You can read the full text of British Prime Minister Theresa May's address to the General Assembly of the UN here.

You can read the text of President Obama's speech at the 20th September Summit here.

Update: 22.9.16 at 14.41:

The latest estimate regarding the migrant boat which sank off Rosetta yesterday is that up to 600 people may have been on board. 163 migrants have now been rescued and 43 bodies have been recovered. The boat is now known to have been heading for Italy.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


This one, number 9 in the Italian charts, has kind of grown on me:

Max Gazzè - Ti sembra normale

Thursday, September 15, 2016


A big thank you to my friend Carol King for permission to use these photos of an extraordinary sight she witnessed on the Marina di Modica beach the other day. People were just sunbathing or swimming as usual when suddenly this exotic creature appeared and did not appear to be afraid of anyone.

As you can see, it was not fazed by the rope dividing different areas of the beach either and gamely clambered over it. By this time, I'm told, several people had called animal protection organisations so hopefully the wanderer was later checked over and pointed in the right direction  We think it had probably got lost or blown off course on the way to or from the nature reserve at Vendicari.


I cannot resist:

Manfred Mann - Pretty Flamingo

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I do not normally make rash promises but I think it is safe to say that this is my last Ferragosto -moaning post of the year.  [For those of you who are not regular readers, the period around the 15th August holiday drives me insane, because virtually every place I want to go to is closed, in some cases for weeks on end.]

It came to my attention that the Giornale di Sicilia is holding a photographic competition on the theme of "Summer in Sicily" and, had I taken the photo below this summer instead of a few years ago, I would have been tempted to enter it. The photo shows two bars and a rosticceria, all closed for at least two weeks [and one of them for a month]. That pretty well sums up the Ferragosto state of affairs, even in 2016.

However, it would have been very mean of me, wouldn't it?

For those of you who are interested, the competition is on Instagram and the closing date for photos is 21st September. The hashtags are:


A selection of the photos will be published in the 26th September edition of the Giornale di Sicilia and yes, I will be buying it, for I'm sure they will all be beautiful.

Monday, September 12, 2016


It has been lovely to welcome my friend the writer and editor Carol King back to Sicily and Sunday had to start with brioche and gelato!

Later there were antipasti, including some fine taralli biscuits from Calabria:

I also made my pizza estiva with grilled nectarines

and a semifreddo di marrons glacés. [This last is a Cucchiaio D'Argento recipe, not one of mine]:

Hope you come back soon too, Carol!

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Here's a pretty song from two favourites of mine:

Al Bano e Romina - Settembre

Friday, September 09, 2016


There I was at lunchtime, daydreaming as is my wont, when a UK number came up on my mobile. When I picked up, a familiar voice exclaimed,

"We're in Modica!"

The voice was that of my Cardiff hairdresser, Pete [originally from Partinico] and the "we" referred to his wife, Carla. I'd never thought I would see them here and it was great to catch up.  They'd seen most of the sights of Modica earlier and were impressed.  Come back soon, Pete and Carla!

Pete and me in Cardiff last November and in Modica today

And you know you're in Modica when the waitress says, 

"Yes, I'll be happy to take a photo but it'll look better if I do it when I've got the food on the table."

Wednesday, September 07, 2016


"What nice watches", I thought as I looked in Carpisa's window this evening - and then I saw the notice. The muddling up of "fun" and "funny" drives every English teacher to exasperation here, so I went into the shop and asked why the watches are labelled "funny". "Divertente", [enjoyable], chorused three shop assistants, looking at me as if I were mad. I explained the mistake but fear I was not believed.

Now, I can understand a small, independent shop in a small town getting it wrong but a national chain like Carpisa? Come on, guys, check your English!

From my booklet:  A-Z: English Language Tips For Italian Students

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


In Britain and around the world, if you are a BBC Radio 4 fan it cannot have escaped your notice that a domestic abuse story has been running on the radio programme The Archers for some time now, gripping [and often exasperating] many. This week is "trial week" in the story and, in order to express their support for the character Helen and other victims of domestic abuse, listeners have been invited to share photos of themselves drinking tea, using the hashtag #soldaritea , on twitter

I have never been a victim of domestic abuse but I do know a little of what it is like to have someone play with your mind and lead you to doubt your own sanity. Recently the offence of "controlling and coercive behaviour" has been added to the Statute Book in Britain and this should mean that sufferers like Helen in The Archers will have more recourse to justice.  

So, I raise my glass of iced tea with a dash of Sicilian granita to you and all who suffer the effects of this heinous crime, Helen:

Monday, September 05, 2016


Try a cheesecake ice cream, that is? Life's too short not to!


A bit late this week - or early, depending how you look at it.  Not an Italian song this week, but one which I've posted before and which means a lot to me. I think it contains advice I should follow this September!

Brothers Four - Try to Remember


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