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
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 … More A Time to Die – the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily
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 … More The Garden of the Kolymbetra, Agrigento
I was excited last month to get a pressie from one of the leading experts in Sicilian genealogy. A novella, set in olden-days Sicily. The author, Angelo Coniglio, usually helps people people in America trace their Sicilian roots, and turn up a thousand or so relatives who all want to feed them more than their … More Why were Ten Percent of Sicilian Babies Abandoned?
I have made a slideshow of the excavated ancient Greek City of Akragas in the Province of Agrigento, Sicily. Nowadays it is called the Valley of the Temples, even though it is not in a valley. Founded as a Greek colony in the 7th century B.C., Agrigento became one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean … More The Valley of the temples, Agrigento, Sicily