Sunday, April 09, 2023



Above: cassatelle di ricotta and traditional lamb
pies, made by a friend's mother

Let's not forget it's doggy Easter too, so Bertie is enjoying partaking of these treats little by little. The "Canombella" is a word play on cane (dog), Colomba (the traditional dove-shaped Easter cake) and ciambella (a ring-shaped cake or bun) and the "Canova" on cane and uova (egg). Don't worry - the egg-shaped treat does not contain chocolate.

Buona Pasqua

Tuesday, April 04, 2023


Young people I talk to often ask what my favourite cities are and I always reply that in Italy, they are Agrigento and Florence because both literally took my breath away when I first saw them. I add that in the UK, London has to be on my list, for the simple reason that Dr Johnson was right and it has everything, while Cardiff has to feature because it is the city where I have lived longer than anywhere else, and Bath because it is so easily walkable and has homogenous stone which, like that of Noto (another Sicilian favourite) glows light amber in sunlight. But Agrigento lifts my heart, reminds me why I came to Italy and retells the story of Western European culture.

I was very pleased, therefore, to read last week that Agrigento has been chosen as Italian Capital of Culture 2025 for it is an honour it has long deserved. Gennaro Sangiuliano, Italy's Minister of Culture, said on Friday that the (cultural) wealth and interconnectedness of so many places, cities and villages in Italy are unique in the world and something that only Italy has, making the country a cultural superpower. Every town, even the smallest, he said, is a treasure trove. 

The Commission awarding the title was impressed by the fact that Agrigento included in its application the cultural importance of the island of Lampedusa and other towns in Agrigento Province, and stressed the importance of the relationship between the individual, his or her neighbours and nature. The concepts of welcome and access were also at the heart of the dossier.

Francesco Miccichè, the Mayor of Agrigento, said that Agrigento and Sicily had not really won because the real winner is Italy, and to have written and promoted this application in this historic political period, focussing on cultural exchange between peoples and the diverse ethnicities of the Mediterranean, was a great act of courage and sensitivity on behalf of the judges and all the institutions involved. He then issued an invitation to all the mayors who had participated in the competition to help create a tourist network from Aosta (in the Alps) all the way down to Agrigento, uniting all of them by being Italian.

As a lover of Agrigento, I feel very proud of her myself and I have written before on this blog about how I think its Sagra del mandorlo in fiore (Almond Blossom Festival) unites young people in particular and of how, on my first visit to Sicily, I managed to find and visit the birthplace of the writer Luigi Pirandello, which you, too, may like to do if you are interested in literature and find yourself in Agrigento. The city itself is also welcoming and pleasant, and you should not miss an opportunity to visit the 13th century church of Santa Maria dei Greci (built on the site of a Greek temple, hence the name).

However, Agrigento's main attraction for tourists is, of course, its Valle dei Templi and it really does have to be seen to be believed (in a good way). The last time I was there was on a sunny spring day in 2018 and it looked, as it always has, glorious.

The Culture Minister also said that from 2024 there will be, in addition to an Italian Capital of Culture and an Italian Capital of Books, an Italian Capital of Contemporary Art and a European Capital of the Mediterranean.


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