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…

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…

Castelbuono, the Foodies’ Paradise in Sicily

I have blogged about Castelbuono before, but not recently, so I am doing it again! We took an English friend there last summer, and she took all these lovely photos. Thank you Adrienne! Castelbuono has a medieval castle with a very long ramp at the entrance and several arches to negotiate before you get there:…

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…

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…

Sicilian Housewife gives her Husband two Black Eyes

Hubby and I had just flopped blissfully into bed from parenting-induced exhaustion. When our kiddo has a cold, he makes sure the suffering is dished out fairly and evenly among all persons present. I believe some people can finish running a marathon with more energy than we had after a day of making lemon and honey,…

I Married a Pastafarian

I used to think Italians were Catholics but, since living here, I have found out they are devout Pastafarians.   If I make my Hubby go without eating pasta for an entire 24-hour period, he thinks he will die. He has been brainwashed since early childhood, you see. Forget vegetables! Italians are told that eating…

Caption Competition! Win a Free Book!!!

I have been delighted with all the enthusiastic feedback you lot have been giving me about my latest book. Do you want to know what my mother said about it? “That’s a very unflattering photo of you on the back cover.” “What do you mean, unflattering?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. “It makes you look…

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…

Camping like Tarzan

You may have noticed I’ve fallen quiet lately. This was partly because I hoped you’d miss my witty tales of derring do around Sicily so much you would decide to buy my hilarious novel to fill the void. It was mainly because the electricity keeps getting cut off. The electricity has been cut off 42…

Book Review: The Dangerously Truthful Diary of A Sicilian Housewife

Originally posted on Sicily Inside & Out:
I have been following Veronica Di Grigoli’s blog for a few years now, laughing along at the Sicilian Housewife’s  struggles and humorous confusion associated with day-to-day life in Sicily as an expat. Now the blog has become a wonderfully polished and hilarious laugh-out-loud-belly-laughing-thigh-slapping book and I cannot resist expressing…

Through Their Words and My Eyes

I “met” Karen La Rosa online when we both participated in a documentary about Sicily produced by Mark Spano. A fascinating and charming man himself, he raved about her insight, eloquence and passion for Sicily. When we started e-mailing, I realised everything he said about her was true. Karen lives in New York and runs…

Home at Last!

I’m glad to have survived the heart thing, but surviving that hospital was more miraculous really. It turned into a series of Fear Factor. DAY 1 – Meeting the contestants Smell rating: Gorgonzola You need to read From my Sicilian Hospital Bed if you haven’t read that yet.   There was no bidet or shower…

From my Sicilian Hospital Bed

You might think being in hospital isn’t very funny, but that’s just because you’ve never been in a Sicilian one. A heart condition…. or not? I came in yesterday because my heart was being naughty. Apparently I have ventricular tachycardia, which is the same arrhythmia that makes professional footballers drop dead right after winning an…

Daily Life in a Sicilian Fishing Village

The fishermen in my village usually go out in these boats.     Each village along the coastline has its own particular colour scheme. Our village uses orange, white and blue, but there are some fishermen who originally came from another village along the coast where they use green instead of blue.     I always…

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…

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…

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….

Baths and Curses in Palermo’s Archaeological Museum

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…

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…

The Rich Man in his Villa Ramacca and the Poor Man at his Gate

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…

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…

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…