I wrote a few days ago about Villa Niscemi, once home to Fulco Di Verdura, the Sicilian duke whose memoir so enchanted me. As an adult he moved to New York and became a jeweller. His dazzling artistic legacy has Sicily in every jewel. First let’s look at this elephant: He was inspired by the iconic … More Sicily in Jewels: The precious legacy of Duke Fulco Di Verdura
What kind of Christmas would it be for a Sicilian family without playing riotous card games amid a heap of pistachio nut shells? Join in the tradition this year with some bargain stocking-filler gifts. The bestselling pocket edition This book gives very clear instructions for twelve Sicilian card games, with photographic illustrations. It is the … More Christmas stocking filler: A simple guide to classic Sicilian card games
One day strolling through Palermo – OK, staggering in the heat – I chanced to notice a pair of gates which felt very familiar. I had never seen them before, yet I knew them so well. I knew there was going to be a false river inside them inhabited by expensive imported ducks. So we … More Villa Niscemi, Palermo – the most lavish palace in all Sicily
One of the things that has made generations of English aristocrats fall in Love with Sicily over the centuries is the mutual passion for eccentrics. I don’t mean subtle characters, like one of my beloved uncles whose favourite food was broad bean and custard sandwiches. I mean flamboyant filthy rich people who could construct a … More Sicily’s marvellous mechanical dining table in the Palazzina Cinese
All the cathedrals across Europe were built in the space of about 200 years, at the height of the crusades. They look expensive, but they were actually money machines. Whilst there may have been an element of religious fervour to them, they were also a way of demonstrating power to potential enemies and the illiterate … More Cathedral Building… or was it Economy Building?
Noto was one of the earliest cities in Sicily, first built in the Bronze age by the Sikels, one of Sicily three indigenous tribes. By early Medieval times it was a bustling city, and one of the last Arab holdouts to finally succumb to the invasion of the Normans. It retained a multicultural population and … More The Baroque town of Noto, Sicily’s Ingenious City
We visited this lovely little museum near Siracusa a couple of years ago. It is in an old water mill, which the same family has conveted into a museum, after several generations of their family used it to mill flour. It is called the Museo Cavallo d’Ispica. They were clearly the kind of hoarders who … More The Museum of a Sicilian Water Mill at Cavallo d’Ispica
The Villa Romana Del Casale, in Piazza Armerina, is one of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. The villa was huge and would have been built and decorated at staggering expense. It was the manor house of a colossal agricultural estate, owned and run by an Italian aristocrat. Sicily was regarded as a terribly primitive province … More Ancient Romans in bikinis and mini-skirts at Casale
Palermo Cathedral was erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and the Norman King William II’s minister. One of his close relatives had Monreale cathedral built during an overlapping time period, and they were therefore regarded as competing with each other for glory. The Normans had … More Palermo Cathedral
Sicilian food is the original fusion cuisine, a unique mix of all of its diverse cultural heritages. The island has been at the heart of thirteen different empires over the last three millennia, and each one of them has left its mark on the Sicilian housewife’s kitchen cupboard. The Phoenicians The Phoenicians were traders and … More The History of Sicilian Cuisine in Thirteen Invasions
Whilst scoffing mango and strawberries with my nephew the other day, I found myself thinking of my friends in Sicily with pity. This is the season when they have pretty much no fruit, you see. Oranges fizzle out in February, and then there’s basically nothing till May. Fruit and veg in season The idea of only … More Do you only eat fruit in season, or forced in greenhouses?
Look at this lovely gift which arrived in the post today. It came from Hubby’s ex colleagues. It is the classic Sicilian Easter gift: a flock of Easter Lambs, all made from marzipan. Sicilians traditionally make marzipan (which is called martorana in Sicily) twice a year. Marzipan Easter Lambs They make it into lambs … More Happy Easter Sicilian Style! Buona Pasqua!
I have spent eleven years being irritated by an 18th century villa near my house, because it blocks the middle of what could be a perfect road running right behind Casa Nostra into the nearest town. Despite its fancy gates, Villa Sant’Isidoro looked like a derelict building from the outside. I assumed it would fall down … More The Villa of the Fashionista: Villa Sant’Isidoro in Aspra
There was a Jewish presence in Sicily for centuries, possibly from before the birth of Jesus. The Jews were the only outsiders who made their homes in Sicily and became part of her population without invading. They simply turned up, fitted in and made themselves indispensable. The Jews were the literate and educated members … More The Jewish Ghosts of Palermo