Scala dei Turchi, beware the Instagram models on the white cliffs of Sicily!

Scala dei Turchi, which means the “Turkish staircase”, is on Sicily’s southern Realmonte coast in the Provincia di Agrigento. The Sicilians are a bit sketchy about foreign nationalities. The place used to see lots of pirate raids from North Africa, and since Arabs, Moroccans, Tunisians and other foreigners are basically the same thing, the Turks…

Sicily’s Valley of the temples, Agrigento

There’s a modern town called Agrigento on Sicily’s southern coast, but alongside it, in a fertile valley, lies an ancient Greek city also called Agrigento. These cities give their name to the Sicilian Province of Agrigento. Agrigento was founded around 582–580 BC by Greek colonists from nearby Gela, who named it “Akragas”. In its heyday,…

Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

I think you can tell the people at UNESCO were a bit overwhelmed with how much wonderful stuff there is in Sicily. When they were naming World Heritage Sites, they just lumped together nine towns all in one go, or an entire group of islands. Each part of these sites merits a listing in its…

Sicilian sea urchins

We were at My sister-in-law’s in Sciacca, on Sicily’s south coast, last summer when a friend turned up in swimming trunks, carrying a bucket. He had just come back from the beach with a ridiculously large quantity of sea urchins. Several bucketfulls, in fact. So he decided to give a bucket of them to us….

A trip to Sicily and it’s Rather Fishy

I wouldn’t normally share photos taken in a supermarket. In fact, I wouldn’t normally take photos in a supermarket. But Sicilian supermarkets are different. First I got distracted at the fish counter. Then I couldn’t decide which cheese to choose. Moving in closer didn’t help. By the time we got onto the salami I was…

A new book about Sicily, Earthquakes and Pasta for Dogs

I have just published a new book about living in Sicily. It includes all the usual adventures, among them the time we were in an earthquake, some thoughts on the Sicilian language and whether it will survive, and a debate on the fact that in Sicily you can buy really, I mean really really large…

Sicily in Jewels: The precious legacy of Duke Fulco Di Verdura

I wrote a few days ago about Villa Niscemi, once home to Fulco Di Verdura, the Sicilian duke whose memoir so enchanted me. As an adult he moved to New York and became a jeweller. His dazzling artistic legacy has Sicily in every jewel. First let’s look at this elephant: He was inspired by the iconic…

Christmas stocking filler: A simple guide to classic Sicilian card games

What kind of Christmas would it be for a Sicilian family without playing riotous card games amid a heap of pistachio nut shells? Join in the tradition this year with some bargain stocking-filler gifts. The bestselling pocket edition This book gives very clear instructions for twelve Sicilian card games, with photographic illustrations.  It is the…

Villa Niscemi, Palermo – the most lavish palace in all Sicily

One day strolling through Palermo – OK, staggering in the heat – I chanced to notice a pair of gates which felt very familiar. I had never seen them before, yet I knew them so well. I knew there was going to be a false river inside them inhabited by expensive imported ducks. So we…

My new book out now – THE GODMOTHER

THE GODMOTHER THE SICILIAN HOUSEWIFE DIARIES Volume 1 The journal of an English woman handling parenthood, the Mafia and a Sicilian mother-in-law, all at once. (And yes, that is myself on the cover.) ‘The Godmother’, the first book in the series, introduces the formidable mother-in-law and godmother to seven children who dominates family life. To…

Yes I speaking the English

I dropped in on an old friend, Mr. Cake, in his place of work recently. He owns and runs a cafe bar with his brother, which is always mouth-wateringly stocked with seasonal Sicilian pastries and delicacies, mainly baked by their elderly dad. As you can imagine, I enjoy dropping in on them very much. Since…

Sicilian Ceramics in Palermo

Last summer I dashed down to Sicily and wanted to purchase some gorgeous Sicilian majolica ceramic art for my new house. So I toddled off to “Tre Erre” in Palermo.   What to buy? An owl?   Something fruity?   Something fishy?   How about some heads?   Or even Medusa’s head?   In the…

Last minute Christmas Shopping?

I always leave Christmas shopping till the last minute. When I am in Sicily, it’s because the cafes subversively waft smells out to distract everyone into eating this lot: When I am in England, it’s because of this: In the end, I always resort to last-minute shopping online. So if you’re in the same boat,…

Reimagining Sicily – a new documentary (featuring me!)

I was very excited when Sicilian American film director Mark Spano asked if he could interview me for a documentary he was making, called Reimagining Sicily. I was particularly impressed when he managed to book nearby 17th century Villa Palagonia to do the filming; for this gorgeous villa is owned by 32 different people, none…

Cathedral Building… or was it Economy Building?

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…

The Sicilian Garden

This post isn’t anything too amazing; it’s just a few photos of my favourite plants in my garden in Sicily. OK, actually it is fairly amazing that I never killed them! There are strelizia from our neighbour’s garden, roses, pink bougainvillea, money plants and lots of other succulents taken as cuttings from friends’ gardens, aloes,…

A Festival in Noto

Every parish in Sicily has a festival once a year to celebrate the saint in whose honour the church is dedicated. We happened to be in Noto a good few years back during the festival at the Cathedral, which is dedicated to Saint Nicolas (Basilica Cattedrale di San Nicola). We began the day with the classic…

The Baroque town of Noto, Sicily’s Ingenious City

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…

The Museum of a Sicilian Water Mill at Cavallo d’Ispica

We visited this lovely little museum near Siracusa when we found it by pure chance. It is called the Museo Cavallo d’Ispica. It is in an old water mill, which the same family has converted into a museum, after several generations of their family used it to mill flour. They were clearly the kind of…

The Ear of Dionysus near Syracuse

These photos are of a remarkable rock formation called the Ear of Dionysus, just outside Siracusa in south-Eastern Sicily. It is named after a former dictator of the Greek-founded City, as apparently he was very paranoid about rivals and improsoned them all in this cave. He then sent envoys to eavesdrop on them, as the…

Merry Christmas the Sicilian way!

I am going to miss Sicilian Santa terribly this year. I shall just have to rely on Hubby to make sure there is pasta as well as turkey, that we play card games amid the debris of nutshells, and that something with tentacles somehow manages to creep onto the dining table! MERRY CHRISTMAS! BUON NATALE!…

A Nativity Play with a Difference

It’s that time of year again when I start thinking about nativity plays, and halos made of tinsel. When moving back here to England, I had hoped that English primary schools still followed that great tradition of making little children memorise passages from the bible, plus lots of Christmas carols, then make their parents laugh…

Ancient Romans in bikinis and mini-skirts at Casale

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…

Palermo Cathedral

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…

Ten things I loved doing in Sicily

We sneaked back to Sicily for a holiday a little while ago. Here’s a list of the best ten things I enjoyed doing again: UNO Laughing at my husband who had forgotten how to drive a manual car, and how to stay on the right-hand side of the road, and how to keep cool when…

The History of Sicilian Cuisine in Thirteen Invasions

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…

Sicilian Christmas Gift Ideas

That festive time of year is approaching, when Sicilians gather for intimate family dinners of 25 to 40 people, eat more than their body weight in food, and shout to relatives at the opposite end of the table about how good the fourth pasta course tastes.   It’s also, of course, the time when we…

Yes, this package of white powder is mine

Last week I received a summons from the local post office, informing me I must present myself at their offices within an appointed deadline. The card had rubber stamps and a signature and even a RED rubber stamp, which in Italy is downright scary. Our main post office is in the western wing of the…

Top Ten things to do in Sicily in Winter

Sicily isn’t usually the first place people think of going for holidays in winter, but my German friends pointed out to me it is actually a great choice. This isn’t just because you can often get winter sunshine, but also because there is lots going on, you can see the sights without the crowds, and…

Buying a House in Italy: Where have the original features gone?

Now that we are looking for a house to buy in England, Hubby is getting a lot of surprises about how English people do it. “Are you SURE they’ll leave the kitchen behind?” he asked me in the first house we viewed. “Yep, the whole lot,” I reassured him, “even the kitchen sink.” We went…

The Sadness of Sicilians in England

There’s often something forlorn about Italians in England, isn’t there? An air of pathos hangs around them, especially in summer when they are gradually realising that it really, truly isn’t going to stop raining, not today, not before the end of their holiday, not ever. They look tragi-comically out of place, what with their glowing…