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

Pope Francis opens free launderette for homeless and poor in Rome

April 12, 2017

Tags: Pope Francis, homeless, free launderette, rome, italy, kindness, dignity, clean clothes, blankets

From The Guardian:
Pope Francis has opened a free launderette in Rome in the latest of a series of initiatives aimed at poor people that has included help with housing, showers, haircuts, meals and medical care.

Six washing machines and dryers were donated to the facility in the city centre. Detergent, fabric softener and a number of irons have also been provided.

The Lavanderia di Papa Francesco (Pope Francis Laundry) intended to “restore dignity to many people who are our brothers and sisters”, the Vatican said. It is designed to serve “the poorest people, particularly the homeless, who will be able to wash, dry and iron their clothes and blankets”.

Palermo unanimously voted Italian Culture Capital for 2018

January 31, 2017

Tags: palermo, culture, capital, italy, 2018, sicily, italy

Palermo will be Italy's culture capital for the year 2018.

If Berlusconi is like Trump, what can America learn from Italy?

November 21, 2016

Tags: berlusconi, trump, politics, italy, usa

From The Guardian:
Among the political figures who congratulated Donald Trump on his surprise election victory was the politician to whom the billionaire real estate mogul and reality television star has most often been compared: Silvio Berlusconi.

The rightwing former Italian prime minister and billionaire media mogul, who was dogged by claims that he (more…)

September 8, 2016

Tags: bombs, church, destruction, rubble, world war two, Casa Professa, palermo, sicily, italy

This Sicilian Baroque church was rebuilt, like many others in Palermo. Its original name is Chiesa di Gesu`, or Church of Jesus, established by Jesuits.

Taking on the Mafia: AL Jazeera documentary about Palermo

September 1, 2016

Tags: palermo, mafia, justice, sicily, italy, al jazeera


Sicilian judge Antonino Di Matteo is one of the most threatened - and protected - men in Italy. As the chief prosecutor in Italy's "trial of the century", he has more than 20 bodyguards, ensuring his safety around the clock. On trial are 10 men who stand accused of being part of a conspiracy between the mafia and the state. Five of the defendants are mafia bosses and five are members of the political establishment.

Palermo's traffic worst in Italy

March 22, 2016

Tags: palermo, traffic, sicily, italy, worst, record, snarls, commuters, wait, stuc, pollution, south, cars, waste, time, stink, exhaust, fumes, anger, beep, horn

In a year every Palermo commuter spends 147 hours blocked in traffic, according to the TomTom Traffic Index and La Repubblica, which measures traffic flow in 295 cities in 38 countries for all of 2015. Palermo, where buses get stuck behind carriage horses, had the worst traffic snarls in Italy. Second worst traffic city in Italy is Rome. (more…)

Mass quantities of confiscated Mafia loot

November 23, 2015

Tags: confiscated, loot, mafia, law, judges, sicily, italy

3,000 companies, 12,000 properties and €2bn in bank deposits. Read all about it here in the Guardian in English. Now I have a better idea of the temptations that tantalized Judge Saguto, stripped of her duties and salary as Palermo's head minder of confiscated Mafia property. Click on the caption to read the Guardian's story.

Police video of extortionist at work

October 31, 2015

Tags: pizzo, protection money, clan, mob, mafia, payment, thug, police, spy, microphone, caught on tape, arrests, carabinieri, greengrocer, palermo, sicily, sicilia, italy, crime, collaborator, danger



The mafia charges monthly protection money even from traveling street vendors, like this guy who sells produce from his three-wheeled (more…)

Palermo has the largest Ficus macrophylla on the continent

October 22, 2015

Tags: Ficus macrophylla, palermo Villa Garibaldi, largest, Europe. record-holder, aerial roots, Orto Botanico, Botanic Garden, palermo, sicily, italy, europe, garden, tree, giant, loved, culture, history

Here it is: Ficus macrophylla at Garibaldi Park at Piazza Marina, near the sea
Its siblings in the Orto Botanico (Botanic Garden) are rivals for the title of largest Ficus macrophylla in Europe. I love their aerial roots, majestic girth and shade.

More migrants die crossing the Strait of Sicily

August 15, 2015

Tags: migrants, boats, rescue, sicily, italy, coast guard, immigration, boat people, arrival, save, help

If you have enough money to pay the traffickers, you can get a spot in the open air on the deck, and maybe even be allowed to wear a life jacket, which takes up precious, expensive room. Everybody else is relegated to the hold and diesel fumes -- locked in -- for the duration of the sea crossing. This usually means the hold is filled with women and children , who earn less and can pay less to the traffickers.
At least 40 African migrants died suffocated in the diesel fumes of the old fishing boat that traffickers used to take them to Sicily. 312 people were saved by the merchant marine ship, including women and children, according to a front page report in today's La Repubblica. Another 420 immigrant are expected to arive at the port of Augusta tomorrow. Some 2,300 African immigrants lost their lives at sea between Africa and Italy in 2015. (more…)

40,000 immigrants to Sicily this year, 4,000 arrived just this week.

July 19, 2015

Tags: immigrants, refugees, sicily, overcrowded, sent away, mediterranean, africa, sicily, italy, pushback laws, rejected, palermo, too much, too many

The most recent arrivals have been turned away and sent to Sardinia and Calabria because Sicilian immigrant "reception" centers, where immigrants are housed and fed while their fates are decided-- accepted as refugee or sent back to Africa -- are overcrowded and not up to the job of accepting or deferring waves of thousands of arrivals. (more…)

Mafia stronghold given to scouts today

June 23, 2015

Tags: altarello di baida, palermo, mafia, scouts, italy, confiscated, andreotti, matarella, assassination, collusion, state, mafia, pre-Riina

The first property Judge Giovanni Falcone confiscated from the mafia in 1980 will be given officially to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Italy today, although they have been camping and working here for years. The rual compound also contains a qanat and a sirocco room which I visited with Geologist Dr. Pietro Todaro. The (more…)

Latest wave of refugees saved

June 8, 2015

Tags: violence, migrants, immigrants, refugess, italy, sicily, africa, human traffickers, trafficking, death, murder, awful

860 refugees reached land at Palermo, another 548 at Trapani. Many are already looking for a ticket to nortern Europe. Over the weekend 5,851 people were saved from the Mediterraneaean Sea. According to souces in Rome the number of immigrants landing since the beginning of the year are ten percent more than in the same time period (more…)

2,000 migrants saved at sea, 3,000 more still at sea

June 6, 2015

Tags: migrants, boats, rescue, sicily, italy, coast guard, immigration, boat people, arrival, save, help

Since this morning 2,000 immigrants have been saved at sea by Italian naval vessels and the ship Moas Phoenix of the Mr. and Mrs Catrambone. (Catrambone is a wealthy Italian-American businessman based in Malta and his wife is from Calabria. The first time she saw a floating jacket in the Mediterranean from her yacht and (more…)

Thousands of refugees land in Sicily in the last 24 hours

May 31, 2015

Tags: syria, italy, sicily, pozzallo, immigration, flee, people, boats, rescue, Mediterranean, emergency

1,019 Syrians, Palestinians and Moroccans arrived at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily in the last 24 hours, according to La Repubblica. Doctors have found 300 cases of scabies, and five cases of measles. Four pregnant women were sent to the hospital and there was a boy with a traumatic injury to his neck.
The ship Peluso was (more…)

92-year-old Syrian refugee disembarks at August, Sicily

May 29, 2015

Tags: syria, italy, refugee, immigrant man, nonagenarian, saved, Mediterranean, escape, sicily, augusta

Abdel Fahim Taktak, a 92-year-old refugee from Syria survived eight days at sea and upon landing at Augusta, Sicily after rescue by Italian authorities was seen playing with his grandchildren. He was part of a group of 187 men, 38 women and 9 children who had taken off from the coast of Egypt and were rescued from their fishing (more…)

Beloved Liberty demeter to be restored

May 21, 2015

Tags: Demeter, bread, grain, mosaic, Liberty, art nouveau, Capo, palermo, sicily, italy, restoration, remove, donations, culture, popular

The oldest business sign in Palermo, a Liberty ( Art Nouveau) mosaic of the goddess Demeter, goddess of grain, which advertised the only recently defunct Panificio Morello, a bakery in the Capo street market, is beng removed from its site on the front of a derepit building and being taken to the Palazzo Aiutamicristo for (more…)

"Inhuman violence"; traffickers clubbed migrants to death

April 23, 2015

Tags: violence, migrants, immigrants, refugess, italy, sicily, africa, human traffickers, trafficking, death, murder, awful

Some of the survivors of the raft that sank 80 miles off the coast of Libya, killing 400 by drowning, said that their traffickers had beaten several of their fellow travelers to death with clubs because they did not obey. One man was beaten to death at the farm where the refugees are stockpiled until setting (more…)

650 immigrants land safely in Sicily

April 22, 2015

Tags: immigrants, clandestine, africa, palermo, sicily, italy, frontex, bossi-fini law

450 landed safely today at Augusta, Sicily and another 200 at Pozzallo, Sicily.

Mayor Leoluca Orlando: Europe Like Pontius Pilate

April 18, 2015

Tags: europe, wash hands, immigrants, emergency, migration, africa, sicily, italy, palermo, tragedy

Mayor Orlando says Europe has washed its hands of the tragedy and abandoned Sicily and Italy to its own devices when it comes to handling the huge continuing wave of refugees.
Three rescued Somalis, picked up by Maltese mercantile ship, arrived at Palermo and were hospitalized for health problems. Altogether 91 Somalis arrived at Palermo's (more…)

Vucciria: paving stones dug up for year

April 17, 2015

Tags: vucciria, palermo, sicilia, sicily, italy, marketplace, old neigborhood, centro storico, historic center

After the crumbling of several buildings in the neglected Vucciria, the city has finally decided to spend some time and money fixing the historic market site up. It will take a year, with a firm that "works very fast", to pull up the limestone paving stones, work on the light and telephone cables and (more…)

mafia wins one

March 23, 2015

Tags: mafia, pizzo, no pizzo, vucciria, palermo, sicily, siclia, italy, damage, threats, piss, urinate

From La Repubblica/Palermo edition of 22 March 2015.
A restaurant owner has given up and decided to move out of the Vucciria market area and night life hub of Palermo after a bonfire on the Eve of Saint Joseph's Feast (March 19) practically destroyed his business and put his customers and staff in danger. (more…)

29 Body Bags full of Cadavers of Refugees

February 10, 2015

Tags: immigration, africa, sicily, europe, frontex, boat, freeze, refugees, dead, froze, rescue, emergency, wave, europe, italy, sicily, sicilia

Twenty-nine people died of exposure to the cold on a rescue from the sea. They died while being rushed to Lampedusa, the Sicilian island closest to Africa. They were rescued from some of the worst conditions at sea, waves twenty feet high.

Update: here is the story in the NYT:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/ (more…)

Teatro Massimo live web-cam

January 21, 2015

Tags: teatro massimo, palermo, webcam, sicily, sicilia, italy

http://www.casateatromassimo.it/webcam/ctm_snap.jpg

Above is the link to the live web cam of the famous Teatro Massimo, on whose steps the last scene of the Godfather III was filmed. A new picture appears every minute.

Pietra Tara

January 19, 2015

Tags: bronze age, village, sferracavallo, palermo, sicily, sicilia, italy, discovery

Archeogeologist Dr. Francesca Mercadante and her husband, Dr. Pippo Locascio, of Partanna-Mondello, have dicovered an intact megalithic Bronze Age village within Palermo's northern city limits, on the littoral below the cliffs of Capo Gallo between the seaside villages of Sferracavallo and Mondello.

Columns in the archives.

January 15, 2015

Tags: palermo, archivio, archive, sicilia, sicily, italy, city, capital, region

Here is another view of the Palermo city archives.
Today a thumb drive could contain it all.

Inside the Palermo city archive

January 13, 2015

Tags: palermo, archivio, archive, sicilia, sicily, italy, city, capital, region

It's Dizzying.
The Palermo city archives off Via Maqueda is an experience in itself. It was designed like the inside of a cargo ship. It was recently spruced up and the staff offer guided tours of the collections. Thanks to Facebook group Palermo in Bianco e Nero for this photo. This shot is taken from the (more…)

Walled up Palermo

November 29, 2014

Tags: wall, palermo, bricks, cement blocks, palermo, capo, sicilia, sicily, italy

This used to be a second-floor French door with balcony overlooking the Capo market.
Much of Palermo's historic center, the largest in Europe, is walled up like this window in what used to be a lovely art deco building above the heads of the market merchants. Some such buildings house newly-arrived clandestine immigrants.

Sedie Volanti

November 20, 2014

Tags: flying chairs, sedie volanti, palermo, transportation, bearers, sicily, sicilia, italia, italy

Two Flying Chairs
Near the end of the Capo street market in the quarter behind the Palermo cathedral is a narrow lane called Street of the Flying Chairs where once these elegant travel booths were made. The cabs were carried on long poles on men's shoulders and seemed to fly above the crowds. Men and women of (more…)

Tomatoes

November 4, 2014

Tags: tomato, pomodoro, Ballaro`, market, Palermo, sicily, sicilia, italy, Italia

tomatoes
The tomatoes look just as good as the persimmons.

Persimmons

November 2, 2014

Tags: persimmon, market, ballaro`, street, palermo, sicily, italy, sicilia, italia, fruit, frutta, gente, people, buy, sell

Persimmons at Ballaro` market
I ate my first persimmon in Palermo. You cut off the top and eat he flesh with a small spoon. So sweet, one does not talk while eating them. Friends will bring over a basket of them for dessert. They look like frosted tomatoes.

The Cuticchio family

October 17, 2014

Tags: cuticchio, puppet, sicilian, palermo, sicilia, sicily, italia, italy, culture, family, figli d'arte

A multi-headed monster puppet representing the Cuticchio family of puppeteers
In the hundreds of episodes that make up one drama from the repertoire of the Siciilan puppet theater, there is one many-headed monster which appears only once onstage. This lifelike sculpture is a spoof on that monster, representing instead the now-deceased head of the Cuticchio family and his children, puppeteers all, growing from his head.

Nut and seed store

October 15, 2014

Tags: store, seeds, nuts, cereals, kalsa, palermo, sicily, sicilia, italia, italy, cereali, semi

Loved this storefront
I found this nut and seed store while wandering the back streets of La Kalsa, the central Palermo neighborhood directly across the street from my palace rooms in Via Vittorio Emmanuele. I just liked the way it looked.

Olives at the Ballaro` market

June 11, 2014

Tags: olives, green, street, market, ballaro`, palermo, sicily, sicilia, italy

Green olives, Ballaro` market
A bank of green olives for sale in the Ballaro` market street.

Mohammed makes my bouquet

April 12, 2014

Tags: vagabond, homeless, senza tetto, Mohammed, Mo, foro italico, seashore, camper, flowers, beach, wildflowers, bouquet, kindness, beauty, palermo, sicily, italy



I spent yesterday afternoon with Mohammed, a homeless Iranian architect, a vagabond by nature, a kind man who helps all the other homeless people less fortunate than he. He lives with three or four dogs, and visiting pigeons, cats, seagulls, lizards and human friends, in a camper by the sea, at the Foro Italico, (more…)

Tonnara Florio at Palermo

April 6, 2014

Tags: tonnara, florio, palermo, arenella, palermo dei misteri, Professor carlo di franco, seaside, tuna, tannin, sumac, mirto, leather, industry, sicily, sicilians, italy, windy



Guided visit today to the ex- Florio tonnara in Arenella, Palermo, conducted by the president of the non-profit association, La Palermo Dei Misteri, anthropologist and professor Carlo Di Franco, a man who can make the stones talk.
The tonnara had been there for three centuries when the Florio family ( the Sicilian Rockefellers, originally from (more…)

La Martorana, Arab-Norman church. Pix by AmoPalermo

April 3, 2014

Tags: Martorana, church, mosaics, gold, Byzantine, arab- norman, palermo, sicily, italy

Martorana lapis and gold stars ceiling
http://www.amopalermo.com/2013/01/la-martorana-restaurata-alcune-immagini.html

Link to wonderful photos of the interior of my favorite church in downtown Palermo, la Martorana, a Norman-Arab beauty with gold and lapis mosaics by Byzantine masters and inscriptions in Arabic on column capitals. Thanks to AmoPalermo blog for these photos. The church was most recently restored in November 2012.

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