Selected Works

Nonfiction
A look at life in little-known mountain towns of the Sicilian hinterlands.
A true account of the last years of an ancient Sicilian giant bluefin tuna trap.






Tags

Out of Palermo

Villa Garibaldi

March 29, 2014

Tags: cast iron, horse hoof, lion, lamp post, palermo, villa garibaldi, piazza marina


These are not tree trunks, but shoots or branches the banyan tree sends down to the ground that then root. This is not even one -third the diameter of the tree. This one happens to be the largest banyan tree on the European continent.
Filippo Basile, one of Palermo's finest architects, designed this small, square park in the Liberty style. (more…)

Walk in the park

March 29, 2014

Tags: cast iron, horse hoof, lion, lamp post, palermo, villa garibaldi, piazza marina

Crazy lamp post base in Villa Garibaldi
I just realized my last eight posts were all about food and places to get it. I've been on a diet, so I'm obsessed, I guess you could say. So today I took a walk in the park. A guided tour of the Villa Garibaldi. The cast iron fence that surrounds it and the (more…)

The restaurant with moral standards

March 28, 2014

Tags: Antica Focacceria San Francesco, palermo, protection money, pizzo, Fabio, Vincenzo Conticello

The overflow crowd at lunchtime, Antica Focacceria San Francesco
The food is so good and the prices so reasonable that the crowd spills out the door a full hour before traditional Sicilian lunchtime. Not so bad, though, because across the piazza is the fabulous medieval ( 1300s) Basilica di San Francesco. To see what they serve, go to www.afsf.it for mouth-watering photos (more…)

Antica Focacceria San Francesco

March 28, 2014

Tags: food, traditional, sicilian, no pizzo, fabio, vincenzo, conticelli, cannoli, focaccie, caponata, pasta with fennel and sardines

Antica Focacceria San Francesco serves the best traditional Sicilian food at moderate prices.
I went to the focacceria today to ask fo an interview with Fabio Conticello, the brother of owner Vincenzo Conticello. Vincenzo, back in 2007, stood up in court and pointed the finger at the mafioso who came to the restaurant and demanded protection money. This was an unprecedented act of courage. Five Mafiosa went to (more…)

Sami

March 27, 2014

Tags: Sami, tunisia, palermo, sicily, bangla sonar, fast food, gorgeous

Look. I mean, really. This is Sami, from Tunisia.
I left thinking, now I know where the good-looking Sicilians get their good looks from.

Bangla Sonar, Via Maqueda 258, Palermo, Italy

March 27, 2014

Tags: bangla sonar, indian, ethnic, fast food, palermo, via maqueda, tunisino, tunisian, bangladesh, food, muslim, moslem

Two guys from Tunisia and Bangladesh serve bi-national fast food.
The largest foreign population of Palermo are the people from Bangladesh. Every time I walk home from the Teatro Massimo neighborhood, down Via Maqueda to the corner of Via Napoli, I pass this one fast food place, Bangla Sonar, that emits the most delicious aromas of spices unknown to me. It's a clean, well-lit (more…)

View from our table at Le Nespole

March 25, 2014

Tags: lunch, Le Nespole, Acitrezza, seashore, sicily, mediterranean, pranzo

View from our table at Le Nespole.
What a great spot. Mythic, and I am not kidding. Those rocks in the sea are the boulders that the Cyclops threw at Ulysses when he escaped from his cave.

Her lunch.

March 25, 2014

Tags: shrimp, spaghetti, Le Nespole

Spaghetti and scampi.
We sat at her favorite table at Le Nespole, her favorite restaurant. The staff never bother to bring her a menu because she orders the same dish every time, she loves this so much.

My lunch

March 25, 2014

Tags: swordfish, acitrezza, restaurant, Le Nespole

Swordfish rollatini
I had swordfish rollatini and grilled veggies.

Weekend with a friend in Catania

March 25, 2014

Tags: Palmina, Catania, lunch, Acitrezza, fine settimana, weekend

Palmina makes a toast to us.
Spent a weekend away with my friend Palmina in Catania. She runs her own language school, GIGA, and also works for various language-school associations and is VERY busy but carved out a weekend to spend with me. She took me to one of her favorite places, Acitrezza, on the Sicilian riviera, and we listened (more…)

Pietro Tramonte's street bookstore

March 18, 2014

Tags: Pietro Tramonte, books, Palermo, street, seller

The books are in no particular order. Great for browsing. He also sells old postcards, magazines, and maps
Pietro Tramonte, whose family is from Gibellina, runs a bookstore in an alley in a street parallel to Via Roma. The books go from floor to ceiling and now spill out into the alley in these shelves he covers with tarps at night to protect from weather and thieves. He is also a poet. (more…)

Incoronation balcony

March 17, 2014

Tags: palermo, sicily

The balcony where newly-crowned Norman kings of Sicily once greeted the public.
Norman kings were crowned in the cathedral but came out to exhibit themselves on this stone terrace behind the cathedral in Via Incoronazione.

Spires

March 15, 2014

Tags: spires, cathedral archbishop, palace, curia, palermo

Spires of the Palermo cathedral and the archbishop's palace.
A sunny Saturday.

Pizzo

March 13, 2014

Tags: pizzo, racket, protection money, mafia, addio pizzo, palermo


Pizzo is the Sicilian word for protection money, which most businesses in Palermo still pay monthly to the mob. (more…)

The favorite coffee pot

March 12, 2014

Tags: coffee, caffe`, palermo, casa, caffetiere

The favorite coffeepot.
This seems to be the favorite coffeepot of the house, despite the fact that its handle fell off, or melted off, and the plastic knob on the lid has melted into a sorry blob. Once a coffee pot is seasoned, no one wants to get rid of it. It takes a long time to break in a new one. (more…)

The morning view

March 12, 2014

Tags: view, panorama, palermo, morning

Morning view from Via Teatro Biondo looking toward Via Vittorio Emanuele.
Sunny this morning. First day without clouds on the mountain all March. This is our view from the kitchen balcony. Palermo is ringed by mountains except for the part bathed by the sea.

The Breast of Ballaro`

March 10, 2014

Tags: ballaro, church, dome, palermo, sicily

Beautiful majolica-covered church dome in Ballaro`
Prof. Carlo Di Franco, an anthropologist, author and president of the non-profit cultural association Palermo Dei Misteri, has been walking me around the four quarters of Palermo. Most recent trip was to Ballaro`, where he pointed out this beautiful, majolica tile-covered church cupola known locally and affectionately as the Breast of Ballaro`, although he named it in Sicilian.

crumbling inner city

March 9, 2014

Tags: palermo, abandoned, buildings, fall, crumble, pity, dangerous

This old abandoned palace in the Vucciria market crumbled shortly after I got here.
Two historic palazzi have crumbled from neglect in Palermo's city center since I got here early February, and more are ready to fall. I walked around the centro with a group wearing hardhats to raise consciousness about the frailty of these once stunning medieval, abandoned buildings.

I see dead people

March 7, 2014

Tags: catacombe, cappuccini, dead, palermo

capuchin catacombs
Some of my favorite mummies.

papier mache horse

March 5, 2014

Tags: cartapesta, cavallo, paier mache`, horse, rocking, I Morti, Day of the Dead, toy, children, traditional

Palermo children used to find these rocking horses in their shoes on Nov. 2, the Day of the Dead. They did not receive gifts on Christmas.
Papier mache miniature rocking horses were given to children on I Morti, the Day of the Dead. Artisans Nunzio Venuta and his wife, Marina Mancuso, still make these beautiful, traditional toys at their store cum workshop, Il Laboratorio in Via 4 Aprile just off Piazza Marina. Il Laboratorio first opened in 1991.

Smallest store in Europe

March 5, 2014

Tags: smallest, store, europe, quattro canti, palermo U' Pirtusu, the hole, jewelry, artisan, artist

Cristina Buccellato holds a meter stick wall to wall in Europe's smallest store, U` Pirtusu, near Palermo's Quattro Canti, the city center
Cristina Buccellatto, a jewelry maker, runs Europe's smallest store, a hole in the wall next to the Hotel Centrale just a few steps from the Quattro Canti, the intersection at the center of Old Palermo. The store is just over one meter wide and three meters deep. The name of the store is " U Pirtusu", Sicilian (more…)

Quick Links