The Three Ancient Super-Powers: Part 1, The Phoenicians

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…

Loafing around in Sicily’s Gingerbread Village

The people of San Biagio Platani, a village in the Agrigento province of south-western Sicily, have celebrated Easter every year since the 1700’s by decorating their streets with arches and towers made of bread. The entire community spends three months turning the place into a gingerbread village… yet Hansel and Gretel never come!   For…

A Rough Start for the Rough Guide to Sicily

  So, what’s it like to earn your living by going on holiday? Jules Brown, author of The Rough Guide to Sicily, describes his very first hilarious trip to Sicily especially for my blog. He has written stacks of travel guides, but Sicily was his first and, he says, still his favourite  – despite how…

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…

Is Sicily the Most Geological Place on Earth?

I took my son to a special exhibition of minerals owned by a private collector recently. He said this one looked just like Superman’s home, so it must be kryptonite: I was inclined to agree, but actually the label said it’s a kind of quartz. Sicily has a stunningly amazing range of mineral deposits. It…

Sulphur, Sicilians, and the Exodus to the USA

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…

Where is the City of Zyz, and why was it Cut in Four pieces?

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…

How to Queue-hop in front of a Sicilian

If queue-hopping were an Olympic sport, the Sicilians would win gold every time. Yet recently I beat them at their own game. My son has a massive amount of blood tests. We always go to the same clinic, as the people who work there are my friends. One of the men looks exactly like Johnny…

How authentic an Italian are you?

Originally posted on Englishman in Italy:
I asked Mrs Sensible if I could pass for an Italian, not a chance she said, you don’t dress like an Italian, you don’t think like an Italian and even the Italian words you know, sound funny when you use them. To prove her wrong I have put together…

The Kind of Blogs that Make Money

Since I’m skint, and my part of Sicily has 49% unemployment, I’ve been researching how to make money from blogging. If this doesn’t work, my only option will be to work in one of Sicily’s 1,456,998 Chinese shops selling tiny polyester clothes which smell of mothballs. I’ve found out there are three types of blogs…

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…

How can Art bring the Dead back to Life?

We went to the southern Sicilian town of Favara a while back. The historic town centre looked like a slum in Chad, or perhaps the most bombed-out district of Damascus. There were wooden boards and scaffolding around the derelict houses, to make sure pieces of masonry didn’t land on the cars. There were hoardings to keep…

How to Annoy a Sicilian

Despite their reputation for having a volcanic temperament, Sicilians are actually a phlegmatic bunch. I’m endlessly amazed by what they’ll put up with. But, if you must, here are the Seven Secret ways to irritate a Sicilian from here to next Sunday. On Monday, make fun of his white vest. I once tried this on Hubby,…

Chivalrous Knights and Cloaked Assassins: Italy’s Five Martial Arts

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…

The Botanical Gardens of Palermo

Palermo has a 200-year-old botanical garden with a vast and stunning plant collection and a crazily cheap entrance fee. Obviously there are different flowers to see each month: this is the garden in August. These photos are all by my super-talented sister Susanna. Click on any photo to see a high resolution enlargement.   Have you voted…

Celtic Hair

My sister spent a year in Italy getting her hair persistently cut into a mullet. She went to a different salon every time and begged them for a “Little crash helmet” (caschetto), which is what Italians call a bob cut all one length. But apparently every hairstylist in Milan had signed a secret pact to…

Italy Magazine Blogger Awards: I’m in the Finals!

Ooh exciting! My dear friends, my blog is in the finals of the Italy Magazine “Best Living in Italy Blog.” If I win I might become rich and famous!  Blogger Awards 2015  I am also nominated for the “Best Living in Italy Single post” category, for my tips on how to handle Italian men (or ward them…

Francu, King of the Watermelons

A watermelon stall in Bagheria. That yellow sign, written hilariously in Sicilian, says: “Only one person in Bagheria sells watermelons which are red and sweet. They call him Francu, King of the watermelons.”    

A Dozen Safety Tips for a Holiday in Sicily

I have read articles in the UK travel press by journalists who, overwhelmed by their own intrepidity, actually visited Sicily and came back alive! They described their holidays as if they had toured Palestine with an Israeli flag draped over their backpack. You are 27 times more likely to get murdered in America than in…

Mazel Tov! The Sicilian Housewife goes to Israel!

Not really. I went to a “meeting” in the local council building to “discuss” the “promotion” of “tourism” in our town last night. All these “”””””” “”” ” ” “””  have a purpose and I promise to explain. Being an astute housewife, I realised very quickly that I had been lured there under false pretences…

The Vucciria by Renato Guttuso

This painting is called “The Vucciria” and is by Renato Guttuso. The original – which is absolutely huge – hangs in Palazzo Steri in Palermo – at various times the former seat of the Spanish Inquisition, palace, Moorish pottery factory, community food storage warehouse, government office and prison. It was painted in 1974 and Palermo University had…

Single Woman in Italy? The Sicilian Housewife’s Guide to Italian Men

I spent years travelling alone among the men of Italy. I wish I had known all these insider tips, which I’ve now learnt from my own Italian Hubby! Boundaries Italian men will do things that overstep “boundaries” in your culture. Their boundaries are different. One thing they will do, relentlessly, is chat you up in…

The Best and Worst of Sicily

Originally posted on secret sicily:
Veronica is the brain and pen behind Sicilian Godmother, where she writes about her life in Sicily as an English expat. When I asked her to write a guest post about things she loves and hates about Sicily, I didn’t expect to open such a big can of worms! Her initial draft was way…

The Cappella Palatina muqarnas

Originally posted on siquillya:
EDIT: I’ve made some scans and have adjusted the images as best as possible. Wish I could have copied these in glorious color, but sometimes you have to work with what you can get. On Thursday, I braved the holiday tourist crowds and took the train from Trenton to New York…

How the Africans brought Plumbing to Sicily: The Cefalù Laundry

The African immigrant crisis continues in Sicily and Lampedusa. At its peak the island of Lampedusa, which usually has 2,000 inhabitants and a plumbing infrastructure to fit, was also home to 5,000 refugees from Libya. The plumbing could not cope and people had no alternative but to use the beaches as toilets. The Lampedusan economy depends…

Snails for dinner, anyone?

The other day we stopped at the greengrocers – which is normally a roadside stall in Sicily – and my son started making a big fuss over this cage of snails. Most eight-year-olds would either want to play with them or, if particularly sensitive types, perhaps want to liberate them. Not my son. He wanted…

Fancy some nuts?

I photographed these traditional Sicilian market stalls during the village festival this summer. They sell all kinds of nuts, and a few typical sweets as well. The vendors travel around Sicily from village festival to village festival – there’s always one going on somewhere – livening the streets up and selling their healthy snacks. The…

Dear EU Taxpayer, did you know you are funding the Mafia?

Did you know the EU has given several billion Euros to the Sicilian Mafia over the last few years? Did you know the EU gives billions of Euros every year to keep corrupt Sicilian politicians in power? Did you know it systematically destroys enterprise and commerce? Read on to find out how. Have you ever…