What colour are Sicilians? This seems to be the most controversial and provocative question one could possibly ask in relation to Sicily. I receive a regular stream of distressed or outraged comments from people who cannot bear it when I mention that Sicilian skin spans a range of many tones. They are always Americans with Sicilian … More What do Sicilians Look Like? Let’s dig into the DNA
Do you have a son who used to be a lovely little child, but suddenly turned into a vile, stroppy teenager? In Brazil, that would get you worried that someone has cast the evil eye on him. Does your car or office equipment perplexingly need endless costly repairs? That would get an Indian sure the … More Ten ways to Protect against the Evil Eye – Would you dare try 9 or 10?
I first visited Siracusa two summers ago. The highlight of my trip was visiting the Medagliere (Numismatics Treasury) in the Archaeological Museum and getting to know its charming curator, Rosalba Riccioli. Blonde and vivacious, Rosalba’s passion for the 2,500-year-old gold coins and jewellery in her care – and the intriguing stories behind them – is … More A Priceless Hoard of Sicilian Treasure
The last, and ultimately the most powerful, of the superpowers of the ancient world was the Roman Empire. Why were they ultimately the winners in the power struggle? We have seen decades of power struggle between the USA and the USSR. They fought the cold war using technology and financing small wars around the globe, … More The Three Ancient Super-Powers: part 3, The Romans
On Wednesday I told you about the Phoenicians, the first Super-power of the ancient world and Sicily’s first colonists. Today, let’s see what the Greeks did for Sicily. The ancient Greeks: the second superpower The Greeks copied the Phoenicians by founding coastal colonies all over the Mediterranean from the 8th century B.C. onwards. We call … More The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 2, The Greeks
It may be hard to imagine, these days, that Sicily was once the cradle of European civilisation. Three super-powers battled for supremacy and Sicily was the centre of it all. Today, I’ll tell you about the Phoenicians, the earliest super-power and Sicily’s first colonists. Carthaginians and Phoenicians: the first empire The Phoenicians were the first … More The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 1, The Phoenicians
This is a tribute to the first Sicilian who stood up, shouted against the Mafia, and dared to make them objects of ridicule instead of fearful reverence. ***** 9 May is a day most Sicilians remember. On 9 May 1978 Peppino Impastato, a political activist who opposed the Mafia, was brutally killed. He was my age. … More 9 May – Ode to Peppino Impastato
I recently visited Palermo’s Archaeological Museum (called “Antonino Salinas”). Most of it is closed for restoration, but there was still plenty to enjoy. I sat for ten minutes serenely enjoying the sound of the fountain before exploring the part of the museum still open. Can you guess what this is? It’s a Roman … More Baths and Curses in Palermo’s Archaeological Museum
This is an 18th century villa near my home. It can be hired for weddings and other special events. I walked around it recently, as it hosted the exhibition about Sicilian Sulphur mines I blogged about. Whilst the sulphur miners in Sicily were living in slavery and abject poverty, the barons who owned the … More The Rich Man in his Villa Ramacca and the Poor Man at his Gate
Delicious juicy oranges and succulent lemons are one of the first things that spring to mind when most people think of Sicily. The other, unfortunately, is the Mafia, but few outsiders realise how closely they are connected. Citrus fruit trees were brought to Sicily by the Muslim invaders from North Africa in the 11th century … More Sour, Corrupt and dominated by the Mafia: The Citrus Industry in Sicily
There is not one manufacturing industry in the world that can work without sulphur. When the industrial revolution took place in the 19th century, 90% of all the sulphur in the world came from Sicily. These are Sicilian sulphur miners: Why are they working naked? It was 40 degrees centigrade above ground and down in … More Sulphur, Sicilians, and the Exodus to the USA
Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians from Tunisia and called Zyz. They divided the city into quarters, with one long road running south from the sea right through the heart of the city, and another running across it. These roads divided the city into four quarters or cantieri. The place where they intersect is still … More Where is the City of Zyz, and why was it Cut in Four pieces?
…Otherwise known as Pot Heads! I like the ambiguity in the phrase Moorish Heads. When the Moors invaded Sicily from North Africa in the 11th century, they built ceramics workshops all over the island and taught the Sicilians to make brightly coloured majolica, an art form which gradually spread throughout Sicily. One of the excavated … More The Moorish Heads of Sicily
When you say “Martial Arts,” most people think of Karate chops, Judo throws and the other unarmed combat techniques of the Far East. Yet it’s actually Italy and Greece which have the oldest martial arts traditions in the world. All they need is someone as cool as Bruce Lee to make them world famous! Here’s my … More Chivalrous Knights and Cloaked Assassins: Italy’s Five Martial Arts