Tuesday, May 31, 2011


It is very rare for me to cheat at cooking but I must say that I'm impressed with Buitoni's saccoccio idea for chicken.  You just put a 1 kg chicken or six drumsticks in the bag with potatoes, if using, then add the flavouring from the pack.  Close the bag up, tie it - both bag and tie are in the pack -  and bung it in the oven for 50 minutes.

I can't make up my mind whether I like the herb or spicy flavour better!

How many of those of you who are in Italy have tried these?

Monday, May 30, 2011


Long ago, when I was a young and idealistic teacher, I unwittingly "inspired" an Italian friend to enter the teaching profession.  "And you continue to speak to me?!" I exclaim whenever she reminds me of this and I marvel even more at the fact that, thirty years later, she remains remarkably unscathed by her experiences at the chalk face.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of a primary school teacher from Palermo who tonight finds herself accused of "abuse of the means of correction" for reprimanding a pupil who had forged the signature of one of his parents on a note he took to school.  The teacher calmly explained to him that it is wrong to forge a signature and that adults who do so can be charged with a crime.  So traumatised was the child by this telling-off that his parents' lawyer is considering suing the hapless teacher for damages of €34,000. 

I don't think Doris had this kind of trouble, do you?

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Chocolate and strawberry, served artistically by the staff of Bar Cicara.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Because sometimes only a golden oldie will do:

Orietta Berti - Tu sei quello

Friday, May 27, 2011


The unveiling of a new statue of the Blessed Pope John Paul 11 outside Rome's Termini Station was a much heralded event which the citizens of the capital were looking forward to last week:  the likeness of the "people's Pope" would stand where millions of commuters and visitors could see it every day, near a station which had previously been dedicated to him.  The trouble is that the statue is not a likeness and nobody likes it!

The late Pope is depicted with his cloak open in what is supposed to represent a gesture of welcome but which, according to the Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, resembles an "open tent" or, at best, " a bell".   In the opinion of many others, it resembles nothing so much as a "bloody great hole".  What is more, the statue's critics also say that the face is unrecognisable as that of the Blessed John Paul 11 and red-faced Vatican officials have had to admit that the finished work is somewhat different from the draft they were shown by sculptor Oliviero Rainaldi.

Romans have been voting in a referendum about the statue and yesterday a commission of art experts began meeting to pass judgement upon it.  The Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, has promised to abide by the decision of the people.

Personally, I think Modica's memorial to this most beloved of Popes is much nicer:

What do you think?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I had fun making this pork polpettone at the weekend.  It contains red peppers, green olives and mozzarella and is flavoured with sweet paprika and basil leaves.  For those of you who are in Italy, the recipe is in the May edition of Cucina Moderna.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Warning:  This is an upsetting post.

Since Saturday evening the story of Elena, the Italian toddler who died because she was accidentally left in a car in the hot sun,  has gone around the world but for those of you who missed it, I will summarise it here:

On Wednesday morning Lucio Petrizzi, a veterinary surgeon and university lecturer from Teramo [Abruzzo], left home for work with his 22-month-old daughter, Elena, strapped into the back of his car.  He intended to drop her off at her nursery, as he does on every working morning.  However, Mr Petrizzi's mind was elsewhere and he drove straight to work, forgetting that Elena was still in the car.  He entered the university, sure that he had taken the child to nursery and so she remained in the car for five hours.  Tragically when Mr Petrizzi returned to the car briefly at around 11 am he did not register his daughter's presence and his memory was not jogged later when his partner called him to confirm which of them would collect Elena from nursery.  Mr Petrizzi only realised the terrible truth when he returned to the car at 1pm, but by this time little Elena was hardly breathing.

The emergency services were called and doctors in Ancona fought to save Elena until Saturday evening, when she was declared dead.  She had suffered a massive cerebral oedema.

Mr Petrizzi is said to be still in shock and his partner, Chiara Schirrini, who is eight months pregnant, has appeared on television to ask for understanding for him.  She said that in this day and age we all live such stressful lives that this kind of tragedy could have happened to any parent.   She added that Mr Petrizzi had been a wonderful father to Elena and that the two had adored each other.

Mr Petrizzi has been charged with manslaughter.

The only ray of hope in this story is that, in the midst of their own distress, Lucio Petrizzi and Chiara Schirrini thought of others, giving doctors permission to take Elena's organs for transplant:  her heart, liver and kidneys have been donated respectively to three children in other parts of Italy and the recipients are said to be doing well.  I pray that this knowledge brings the couple some comfort in the days and weeks to come.

Monday, May 23, 2011


The prize for the most elegant gelato I've eaten in the past few days goes to Bar Cicara, for the way they presented this cinnamon and lemon creation.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


English lessons [via yours truly] tea and even shortbread biscuits [from the local Lidl] were on offer at Raffaele the hairdresser's "English Day" yesterday.

For those of you who would like to know what to say at an Italian hairdresser's, here is a quick guide.  You can see some more vocabulary and try our "hairdressing word search" on the English International School, Modica blog.

What to say at the hairdresser’s – Cosa dire dal parrucchiere

I’d like to make an appointment, please – vorrei prendere un appuntamento

Monday – lunedì
Tuesday – martedì
Wednesday – mercoledì
Thursday – giovedì
Friday – venerdì
Saturday – sabato

at eleven o’clock – alle undici
at half past eleven – alle undici e mezza
at quarter to eleven – alle undici meno un quarto
at quarter past eleven – alle undici e un quarto

How much does it cost for …. ? -  Quanto costa per …. ?  [vedere la scheda di vocabulario]

How do you like your hair? – Come li asciughiamo?

Not too short – non troppo corti
Can you just trim the ends? – Può tagliare solo le punte?
With the fringe to the right / to the left  - con la frangia a destra / a sinistra
With the ends going under / up – con le punte sotto / insù

Can you do a comb-out, please? – Può fare la pettinata, per favore?

Thank you - grazie

Raffaele's salon is at:  yellow Parrucchiere,  via Sacro Cuore 6, 97015, Modica [RG].  
Tel: 0039 0932 906879.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011


Sicilian students returning to school in September will have a new subject on their timetables - Sicilian.  Under a law passed unanimously by the Regional Assembly today, schools will be able to teach the literature, history and dialect of the island as a separate subject from Italian language and literature, in an attempt to offer students a wider education and to make them more aware of their cultural heritage.

"We are proud of our culture and traditions, so I am happy about this law which will preserve our great historic and literary heritage and make learning about it an integral part of the education of new generations", said Regional Governor Raffaele Lombardo.

It is also hoped that the measure will offer new work opportunities to teachers who are on temporary contracts in the region.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


myspace layout images

Miniskirts are famously banned in Castellammare di Stabia [Napoli], in Sanremo [Liguria] you can't sit on a public bench if you are aged between 13 and 59 and in Eraclea [Veneto] you cannot build a sandcastle on the beach.  Italy has been much criticised for its plethora of seemingly petty and silly local laws over the past year so let us take our hats off to this lovely country when it introduces a new law which might actually improve the health of thousands:

Last week a law was passed which bans the use of sunbeds, sun lamps and tanning booths by minors, pregnant women and anyone who has ever suffered from cancer. It is estimated that at least 1.5 million Italian minors use a sunbed or lamp at least once a year, thus increasing their chances of developing skin cancer later in life by a worrying 41%. Other vulnerable groups, such as people who burned easily as children or who have very fair skin, will be monitored more carefully if they choose to use a solarium.  Under the new regulations, machines used in beauty salons for manicures, pedicures and for heating wax will also be subject to stricter controls.

The history of tanning is, of course, interesting and it seems to me that Victorian ladies, with their parasols and veiled hats, knew a thing or two about staying wrinkle-free.  I long ago decided that the only safe tan for me is one that comes out of a bottle and I only use it on my legs.  Yes, I know it looks incongruous if your legs are tanned while the rest of you is as white as a peace lilly but anyone brought up on Jackie Kennedy photographs is likely to yearn for tanned legs in summer. What about you?  Have you decided to tan or not to tan and if you tan, how do you do it?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Yes, there is more news about the history of that royal romance and remember, you read it on Sicily Scene first!  If you thought the couple kissed for the first time in the groves of academe at St Andrew's University in chilly old Scotland, or in that farmhouse on Anglesey in drizzly Wales, be prepared to have your mind changed because of course, it happened in sunny Sicily!

Mariano Bruno, the Mayor of Lipari, has announced that locals on Panarea, the smallest of the Aeolian Islands,  remember seeing the couple kiss in the grotta dell'amore of the island's Scoglio di Lisca Bianca back in 2006.  I think the chronology might be a little awry here but the good citizens of Panarea know who and what they saw.  Besides, they could hardly miss a royal yacht, could they?  It couldn't have been Britannia, as is claimed, for she was already in "retirement" by then but it must have been a very smart vessel indeed.

Image: http://corrieredelmezzogiorno.corriere.it/palermo//

Now the Scoglio di Lisca Bianca is to be renamed for Will and Kate and the Mayor is sending them an invitation to the renaming ceremony.  He says that the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was also fond of the spot and that the new name is in her honour too.

What I want to know is whether anyone has told the British bookmakers, who were taking bets on a divorce within ten years before the marriage ceremony had even taken place.  Nothing doing, gentlemen, for a kiss in the grotta dell'amore on Panarea Island seals a couple's love forever.

Monday, May 16, 2011


No one knows quite why some Italian towns began to celebrate the festival of Corpus Christi or Corpus Domini by creating carpets of flowers in their streets during the eighteenth century but my theory is that people were simply using what was on hand and free to create beauty in honour of the Lord.

The nearby city of Noto [Province of Siracusa] has been holding its 32nd infiorata over this weekend and I am ashamed to say that in the previous five years, something had always gone wrong to prevent my going there.  This year, however, I was determined to make it and set off with friends on Saturday afternoon. When we reached Noto there was a happy, party atmosphere and people walked in a well-ordered line along either side of the 122 x 4 metre flower-petal carpet, set out under Baroque balconies in the city's via Nicolaci.

This year's theme is "The Great Masters of Twentieth Century Italy" and, with no further ado, I'll let you enjoy the photographs.  [You will appreciate that I had to take some of these from awkward angles, as it is impossible to take shots from the centre of the street.  I did my best!]

"The Language of Italian Art"

" 'Strattu in Sicily"

"The Language of Love"

"Woman in White"

"Hector and Andromache at the Gates of Troy"

"Homage to Achille Funi"

"Hector and Andromache" 

"Homage to Modigliani"

"Liberty and Communication in Italy"

"Rita Levi-Montalcini: a Life Devoted to Science"

Part of "Homage to Giorgio de Chirico"

"The Twentieth Century:  Past, Present, Future!"


"The Hardness of My Heart"

"He is Crucified"

Looking down via Nicolaci

The honey-coloured Cathedral looked lovelier than ever in the evening sunlight and we went inside to admire the magnificent new frescoes by Russian artist Oleg Supereko. [The cupola had collapsed in 1996.]

No outing to Noto is complete without a visit to the Caffè Sicilia to partake of one of their superb ice creams and who were we to break with tradition?

First we ordered this amazing cake, containing layers of sponge so light I swear it was floating, pink grapefruit and candied red pepper.  Yes, that's right - candied red pepper.  You are just thinking how deliciously refreshing the grapefruit is when all of a sudden you get this after-taste of something just a little spicy and all I can say is that it was heavenly.  If you don't believe me, you'll just have to go there and try some for yourselves - everyone should, at least once!

Then we ordered cedro [citron fruit] ice cream and another flavoured with almonds and saffron. These were the most zingy ice creams I think I've tasted, even in Sicily.  And yes, that's an enormous cannolo you see in the background for, as my friend explained, you simply cannot visit the Caffè Sicilia without biting into a cannolo!

On my next visit to Noto I'm going back to try the bread and marmalade ice cream!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Italy returns to the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest tonight after an absence of 14 years.  This is its entry:

Raphael Gualazzi - Madness of Love

Now, who else remembers this one?

Gigliola Cinquetti - Non ho l'età

Update: The Italian song came second.  Viva l'Italia!


The Blue Flag Programme, which is run by the non-profit Foundation for Environmental Education [FEE] and, in Italy, the Consorzio nazionale per batterie esauste and Enel Sole, has announced its 2011 awards and I am happy to be able to report that six Sicilian beaches are among the 233 Italian locations which will be able to fly the famous flag this year. These are:

Lipari [Messina]
Fiumefreddo di Sicilia - Marina di Cottone [Catania]
Ispica [Ragusa]
Pozzallo [Ragusa]
Marina di Ragusa [Ragusa]
Menfi [Agrigento]

The two new entrants are Lipari and Ispica.  The Province of Ragusa, as you see, has done very well.

Blue flags are awarded to beaches in 41 countries in Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean and beauty, water quality, services, safety, child and disabled access and environmental awareness are all taken into account when nominations are being considered.

In Italy as a whole Liguria tops the table with 17 flagged beaches,  Tuscany and Marche are in joint second place with 16 each and Abruzzo is third with 14.  


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Note re. Comments
Apologies to all who left comments on this post. They disappeared when blogger went down on Friday and I haven't got them back yet!


Having written here about some rather embarrassing occurences in the run-up to the Strawberry Festival in Cassibile [Siracusa Province] I thought it was only fair to go there on Sunday and see for myself what the festa is like.  And I'm very glad I did, because it turned out to be a great event offering something for everybody, from games for the children to a photographic exhibition detailing the history of Sicily, along with stalls, music and a happy, relaxed atmosphere that got people spontaneously dancing as they wandered among the exhibits.

It wouldn't be a Sicilian festa, of course, without the sweet, fried dolci that everybody loves here, so there were strawberry sfincioni,

all kinds of zeppole [deep-fried, filled puffs made from a kind of choux pastry],

strawberry cannoli

and, as you would expect, some of the best strawberry ice cream I've ever tasted!

There was plenty of other food, too, to eat on the spot

or to take away and who could resist these enormous, gorgeously scarlet, sundried tomatoes?  Not me!

This strawberry cream liqueur looked good.  I can't wait to chuck some into my strawberry tiramisù:

There was even strawberry beer:

Naturally, there were strawberries of all shapes, sizes and shades, ready for you to purchase by the crate at excellent prices:

I wish I could have stayed for more music in the evening and the distribution to the crowd of slices of the maxi torta, a strawberry tart weighing 600 kilos.  Maybe next year....   Meanwhile, congratulations to the citizens of Cassibile on a very fine festa.


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