A Time to Die – the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily

The history books about Sicily have little to say about the time of the Spanish rule. I find this strange, because the Spanish changed Sicily more than any other conqueror. The way they wanted this island is the way it still is: the Sicilians just cannot seem to shake them off.   Some history books…

What are these Africans doing in Sicily?

What effect are all the African migrants having on Sicily these days? Three documentary makers and a great many blog readers have asked me about African immigrants in Sicily, and about “cultural fusion”. Until now I had seen literally no sign of any impact at all; it was as if they were all invisible. One…

The Garden of the Kolymbetra, Agrigento

Many people visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily and completely miss the luscious botanical garden called the Kolymbetra.   Originally, the Kolymbetra was an exquisite artificial lake, full of freshwater fish which were bred to eat, and a colony of swans. It was surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers, reflected in its…

The Cappella Palatina muqarnas

Originally posted on siquillya:
EDIT: I’ve made some scans and have adjusted the images as best as possible. Wish I could have copied these in glorious color, but sometimes you have to work with what you can get. On Thursday, I braved the holiday tourist crowds and took the train from Trenton to New York…

How the Africans brought Plumbing to Sicily: The Cefalù Laundry

The African immigrant crisis continues in Sicily and Lampedusa. At its peak the island of Lampedusa, which usually has 2,000 inhabitants and a plumbing infrastructure to fit, was also home to 5,000 refugees from Libya. The plumbing could not cope and people had no alternative but to use the beaches as toilets. The Lampedusan economy depends…

Saint Benedict: Black Celebrity Healer, Chef and possibly Lion Tamer

Saint Benedict, known as Benedetto il Moro or Benedict the Moor, was born to two black African slaves in Messina, Sicily in 1524. He was also variously called niger, which means black, and ethiops, which means Sub-Saharan African. If I know the Sicilians, they probably called him “Chinese” half the time, too – they’re pretty vague…

Solunto – One of the world’s first multicultural cities?

Ah, my legs hurt! What a long uphill hike that was! Solunto was a city close to Santa Flavia, on the north-western coast of Sicily. It was founded by Carthaginians (from the city that is now called Tunis) when they colonised Sicily in the 11th century B.C. That was an awfully long time ago to…

Are the Sicilians Africans or Europeans?

The Arabs and Normans ruled Sicily in medieval times, and left a legacy I see all around me in Sicily today. I see Arabs in the girls with big dark eyes and thick black hair, or in the little boys on the beach with nut brown skin. I see Normans too, in the fishermen with…

Brain Drain, Sicilian Talent, and the World’s Oldest University

Did you know the world’s oldest university was founded by a Sicilian? It’s in Cairo, and he actually founded the whole city, too. This shows the terrible problem of Brain Drain has existed in Sicily far longer than most people realise. To get a concept of how big an issue this is, consider that there…

Dancing in the Street with a Homeless Nigerian

I ended up dancing in the street with a Nigerian tramp yesterday. (Tramp means “homeless person”, in case you’re American.) How does a Sicilian Housewife end up acting so weird? Well, it started with some Christmas shopping. I find this activity traumatic, for three reasons. 1. Almost all toys in Sicily are made in China…