How to have a Happy Easter Sicilian Style! Buona Pasqua!

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…

The Villa of the Fashionista: Villa Sant’Isidoro in Aspra

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…

The Jewish Ghosts of Palermo

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…

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…

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…

Why were Ten Percent of Sicilian Babies Abandoned?

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…

The Valley of the temples, Agrigento, Sicily

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…

What do Sicilians Look Like? Let’s dig into the DNA

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…

A Priceless Hoard of Sicilian Treasure

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…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: part 3, The Romans

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,…

The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 2, The Greeks

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…