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…

9 May – Ode to Peppino Impastato

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….

Schools and Bridges Collapsing in Sicily: Thanks Mafia!

Here’s a photo of a road in Sicily which collapsed just ten days after it was built. It’s near Mezzojuso, 25 miles from Palermo. It cost more than Euros 200 million – at least, that’s what the taxpayer forked out for it. The actual materials and work, no doubt, cost far less. I don’t know if…

Sour, Corrupt and dominated by the Mafia: The Citrus Industry in Sicily

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…

A Scandalous Story about the Mafia, Extortion and Cake

Sicily’s Anti-Extortion spokesman is Arrested while Extorting 100k Euros In one of the most delicious news items ever reported since I’ve been living in Sicily, it turns out that one of the main men in charge of combating extortion in Sicily has just been arrested… for extortion. It was “Aggravated extortion,” in fact, which means…

So you’re Sicilian. Are you in the Mafia?

“Mummy, why are the baddies English?” my son asked me last week. He was watching “Rio”, a cartoon film about parrots in which the bad parrot, from the Brazilian jungle, inexplicably talks with a very posh English accent. “Well, it’s just one silly cartoon,” I reassured him. Then he listed all the English baddies he…

31 Mafiosi Arrested in my Town Yesterday

They arrested 31 mafiosi in my little town yesterday, and two of them were neighbours of mine. The newspapers are saying that this has practically demolished the Mafia in this town. Personally I am not so sure. Fighting the Mafia is like trying to eliminate cockroaches. You can stamp on a couple but there are…

My husband was nearly shot by the Mafia

This event happened when he was six years old, and he lived to tell the tale, obviously. The story startled me, though, as he was so blasé about the whole thing that he only got around to telling me about it last month, after eight years of marriage. He had been hanging about by the…

Can you smell that pong of broken glass? A really rubbishy blog post

My town has 56,339 inhabitants. This morning, when I opened the window, it smelt as if every single one of them had just farted. The noxious gases billowed in and tinged the kitchen air a mustardy pea green. The whiff was coming from the local sewage works, whose manager feels that complying with health and…

What have the Africans done for Sicily?

Africans are so often portrayed as the underdogs, nowadays, that we sometimes forget they conquered southern Europe twice and ruled it for centuries. The Sicilians don’t forget, though, for the Africans invented pasta as we know it, shaped their language and gave them the word Mafia, and brought them their citrus fruit trees, taught them…

21 Mafia arrests and 2 Mafia murders in my town last week

They arrested 21 Mafiosi in my little backwater of a town last week. All of them had been very high profile players in international organised crime. Along with the 21 arrests, the police also recovered 30 million Euros in cash, buildings, businesses, supermarkets, and other varied loot. The men had been engaged in drug trafficking,…