Thursday, March 08, 2018


In Italy International Women's Day is widely celebrated and its symbol is the mimosa flower, because it is plentiful at this time of year. Mimosa bouquets are sold in the street, sprigs appear with your coffee in bars and pasticcerie make mimosa-themed cakes like these:

Almost exactly five years after the loss of the woman whose idea the mimosa symbol was, I thought I should repost what I wrote on the day of her death, 12th March 2013. Teresa Mattei has always been, and remains, one of my heroines:

Born in Genova in 1921, Teresa Mattei graduated in Philosophy from the University of Florence and became an antifascist campaigner. During the Second World War she was known as Partigiana Chicchi.  In 1946 she became the youngest woman member of the Assemblea Costituente, the parliamentary chamber charged with drawing up Italy's Constitution, a document which she defended throughout her life.

It was Teresa Mattei who had the idea of making the mimosa blossom the symbol of International Women's Day [8th March] for the simple reason that the flowers are in season in early March and can be obtained at little or no cost. 

Of the potential of women in politics she said,

"Women, in contrast to men, seek knowledge, cooperation and solidarity. They are the bearers of new life. They do not see society as being divided into classes but as a multitude of men and women with the same problems. Women can bring this new spirit into politics, but we have to create the structures that can allow this to happen."

Referring to the Second Prodi Government and its six women ministers, of whom only two had portfolios, she went on to say,

"These poor women can have no influence, because a minister without portfolio is unable to do what a minister with portfolio can, that is, to use a budget to put a plan into action. This is a very serious situation."

I think that first sentence is a metaphor for women's powerlessness all over the world.

Teresa Mattei died in Lari [Province of Pisa] today (12.3.13) at the age of 92.  I'm glad she saw this 8th March and, as she is laid to rest, the mimosa blooms for her all over Italy.

You are not forgotten, Teresita!

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Yes, I've had a long break from blogging, for health and other reasons but I've never let a St David's Day go by without posting and I will not do so now.  So HAPPY ST DAVID'S DAY, wherever you are!

Over at London Town Modica - Centro Linguistico Internazionale we've been celebrating as usual and even the Queen popped in:

Later we decided we needed more cake:

Whatever is going on in her life, a girl needs to keep on trying, so here are my St David's Day nails and top:

Bertie-Pierrine had a St David's Day haircut and is feeling very waggy:

And finally, some St David's Day music. I love this version of The Ash Grove:

Stay happy. Stay Welsh, even if you're not and stay kind!

Monday, December 25, 2017


Not Christmassy but ..... perfect:

Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli - Perfect Symphony

Buon Natale a tutti!

Monday, December 18, 2017


These are some of the lovely objects (not the photocopier!) my friend Ignaziella has made this year.  They are on display in her shop. Isn't she clever?


Hello and yes, I know, it's been a while again. This can be put down to trying to keep up with, and fight, Brexit and the fact that, with age, I am becoming rather grumpy. Or is it Brexit that's making me grumpy?  (Whatever your opinion on the matter, the impact is serious for expats.)

However, something that makes me less grumpy is our ChocoModica festival, which always begins on the 8th December holiday and signifies, for me, the beginning of the festivities. Here are some pictures to give you a flavour:

The torta di Savoia cake being finished below left, of which samples were offered to everyone, was the best I have ever tasted. The gentleman on the right seemed justifiably proud of his sculpture:

Lots of intricate work to admire and not only on chocolate:

How to choose which chocolate to buy? In the end I bought a slab of white chocolate topped with forest fruits because it is just.... well, you'll have to taste it to find out!  No trip to Modica Bassa is complete without calling in at the Latteria and Modican chocolate ice cream goes down a treat in the middle of winter. Only next time, turn the heating on, guys - please!

More chocolate sculpture work:

Sculptures of a different kind on display, made from clay and wood. Regular readers will recognise the Duomo di San Giorgio, Castello dei Conti and Teatro Garibaldi:

And finally, some more lovely crafts, among many others at the stalls which always accompany a Sicilian festival:

Well done again, Modica!

Monday, November 06, 2017


Well, I've had a bit of a blogging hiatus and I expect regular readers will be wondering how Bertie-Pierrine is. She's fine, thank you, but, like her mummy, she's not really keen on certain mornings:

The rest of the time, though, she's exceedingly waggy and can even do it to order:

She's an incredibly sociable dog and enjoyed herself immensely last night at the opening of my friend Tiziana's new premises for her very successful pet shop Le 4 Zampe. There were lots of both human and doggie friends there and you could hear excited barking and yapping all the way down our extremely long street! Doesn't Tiziana look glamorous?

Well done, Bertie-Pierrine for being a good girl at the party and lots of good wishes to Tiziana for her new shop.

Saturday, November 04, 2017


With thanks, as always, to the wonderful Mimi Lenox for her year-round work for this day.

Laura Pausini - Il mondo che vorrei

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Can there be anyone who doesn't like Baci Perugina? I often buy just one in the bar, to see, from the saying or proverb inside, if this will be the day that my life changes!

But now they are even more interesting for, in their first special edition, they come with the sayings or proverbs in nine Italian dialects (with translations into standard Italian). The dialects are:  Pugliese, Genoese, Milanese, Roman, Venetian, Piedmontese, Neapolitan, Sicilian (I am glad to say) and, of course, Perugian.  You can't see from the blue and silver wrapping which dialect is represented in your bacio and so far, in the mixed bag I bought, I have found four sayings in Sicilian dialect. I'll just have to keep eating baci to find more!

I'm sorry the example of a saying below isn't very clear, but you will get the idea:

"He who expresses himself well, crosses the sea."

According to a survey carried out by the Perugina company, millennials are very keen to learn the dialect of their own area and I applaud this delightful way of helping them.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


Every cook, I imagine, has a favourite chocolate refrigerator cake recipe and this one, which I came across a few weeks ago, has now become mine. I did add glacé cherries and I "Sicilianised" it by using three different flavours of Modican chocolate (lemon, Zibibbo wine and cinnamon last time). As it is the season, I also added six chopped sticks of the candied orange peel so lovingly made at home or by hand in the pasticcerie here. Go on, try it!

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Summer has officially ended and, whilst I am not a beachy person and rejoice in everything at last being open again, I will be sorry to see the end of the gelato season and of its companions cremolate and granite.

Left to right:  granita di mandarino; cremolata di gelsi (mulberry); granita di pesche e fichi d'India
(peaches and prickly pear, the latter being a late summer addition to the granita repertoire)

My favourite peaches,  pesche tabbacchierie, get larger and less sweet as August ends but then these delights appear:

Centre:  frutta di Martorana
Right: "cakes" of cotognata (quince paste)

Finally, I cannot let the summer end without sharing this with you:  the other day, a Sicilian friend said he had spotted a British man coming out of the B&B opposite his house. I asked how he had known the man was British.

"Because he was wearing sandals and socks", came the reply.
Embed from Getty Images

Monday, September 18, 2017


I'm sorry there's been a bit of a break - blame the relentless heat, even for Sicily, this summer and, quite posibly, ageing!

Anyway, what better way to kickstart the blog again than with music? This is fabulous and comes from the Celebrity Fight Night Concert with Andrea Bocelli in Rome last week, where millions were raised for the Andrea Bocelli Foundation and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre. 

I am sure you will join me in wishing the tenor well, as he was briefly hospitalised after a fall from his horse on Thursday.  He says he is fine and will travel to Jordan for a concert on Monday.

Andrea Bocelli and guests at Celebrity Fight Night 2017 - Imagine

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


I just thought I'd let you all know that true love is alive and well in Sicily:

I don't know why the sea turned pink in the second photo - perhaps it knows fuschia is my favourite colour!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


On the eve of the first anniversary of the horrific 24th August earthquake in Central Italy, it is sad indeed to be writing about another quake, this time on the Neapolitan island of Ischia. The quake, which struck on Monday, killed two women and 39 people have been injured, some seriously.

As always, when there is such a tragedy, there is also heroism and courage and the video of firemen rescuing a seven-month-old baby who had been trapped for seven hours went around the world. Who could watch it and not cry? Later the baby's brother, eight-year-old Mattias, was rescued and finally, after 16 hours, the third brother, 11-year-old Ciro, who had saved his siblings by pushing them under a bed. Firemen kept talking to Ciro throughout the rescue operation and at one point he asked a fireman, "Do you love me?" "Yes, I love you", came the reply. "Then come", said Ciro and come they did. Interviewed in hospital today, Ciro said he had thought he would die but that when he was pulled out and saw the light, knew that God exists. All three boys are said to be in a good condition and, though Ciro has a fractured foot, he hopes to be playing football again soon. His pregnant mother, who was in another room when the quake struck, is also well and his father is with them.

Meanwhile, today in Amatrice, the town which was literally half wiped out by last year's quake, a statue honouring a very special dog is being inaugurated. Camilla, a border collie working with the Ligurian Fire Brigade, died in the line of duty in June. In the days following the quake, she helped save dozens of people trapped in the rubble and Amatrice will never forget her. Her statue is also dedicated to all the search and rescue dogs who were deployed during that distressing time.

Let us think of all who have been affected by earthquakes and all - human or canine - who work to help them, wherever they are in the world, over the next few days.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


My friend Carol King, who has recently returned to Sicily, and I decided to celebrate Ferragosto a day late this year, so I kind of cooked her a little meal:

The antipasti included olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh datterini tomatoes, mini sausages, bresaola and Parma ham topped with Grana cheese shavings, marinated mushrooms and - I must tell you about this - watermelon with salted cucumber. My original intention was to chuck the cucumber - peeled, deseeded, chopped, salted, left then rinsed, drained and chilled - into the salad but at the last minute I thought it would be a nice addition to the dish of watermelon. Turns out I was right!  The seemingly small apples around the antipasti dishes are actually azzaroli or Neapolitan medlars, which are related to hawthorn. There are mini-pears as well and they are a fine partner for the cheese.

The main course was grilled chicken salad with grilled nectarines. (Yes, I have a thing for grilled nectarines!)   I marinated the chicken in culinary rosewater before grilling and seasoned it with sumac afterwards. I used the dressing I invented for this recipe. The other ingredients were grilled peppers and rocket leaves.

For dessert, I made strawberry tiramisù and Carol brought along the delicious sweet treats on the right.

Everything on this menu can be made in advance and all you have to do is make the antipasti look pretty and assemble the salad.


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