Saturday, May 29, 2010

Garibaldi Day Reality Check

Though it's not observed regularly, today is "Garibaldi Day" in Palermo. It was 150 years ago that the general "liberated" the city. Well, "liberation" is certainly a misnomer in this case. Other Sicily sites (the ones published by Sicilian emigrés living in Britain, Australia or North America) may not offer anything more than the "official" view of the Risorgimento that their writers studied in Italian schools.

Unfortunately, that perspective is full of revisionist history, political spin and simple misinformation. Wouldn't you like real information for a change?

Read our article about Giuseppe Garibaldi and Sicily for a reality check. Accuracy is something you can expect from Best of Sicily. That's why we're here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Leopard

This month marks the 150th anniversary of Garibaldi's landings in Sicily as part of the national unification movement - and nobody in Sicily seems to care. Fact is often stranger than fiction, and the historical novel that provoked serious reconsideration of the unification war and its aftermath remains the bestselling Sicilian work of fiction half a century after its initial publication.

The Leopard is the story of an aristocratic family of Palermo beginning in 1860. Important themes abound within its pages, and it remains as fresh and readable today as it was over fifty years ago. It was published shortly after the death of its author, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, himself a Sicilian nobleman.

What's interesting is that this unique novel is still fairly popular. More than any other book, it has shaped the opinions of many Sicilians over the last five decades, challenging what - until the fall of the House of Savoy and the end of Fascism - was advocated by the Italian police state as the "official" view of Italian unification.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Medea at Tindari

Beginning May 22nd the drama foundation of Tindari's Teatro dei Due Mari (Two Seas Theatre) will be performing Medea by Euripides, and other Greek plays by Aeschylus, through June 6th.

This is a magnificent setting on a mountain overlooking Sicily's northern coast near Messina.

The shows start at 7 each evening and ticket information is available on their website (though this is published only in Italian) under Biglietti at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wild Asparagus

Sicily's wild asparagus is picked in April and May. This is one of the more esoteric delights of our island - artichokes and other vegetables are far better known and harvested in greater quantities.

But it shouldn't be overlooked.

Yes, it is elusive. You may have to venture into one of Sicily's street markets to find it. If you're just visiting, it may be that much more difficult to find a restaurant that includes wild asparagus on its menu. For the most part, this is something Sicilians make at home.

It's worth the effort. Our wild asparagus article talks about this rare treat.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Forever Young: Bamboccioni (big babies)

Today is Labour Day in Italy and most of Europe. Here in Italy most young people find their way into the work force only by wading into it very gradually, one tiny step at a time. Until they begin working full-time, and perhaps long afterward, Italians continue to live with their mothers and fathers.

Back in January, commenting on a bizarre Italian court decision forcing parents to support their thirtysomething son (who was still living with them) indefinitely, Renato Brunetta, a cabinet minister, remarked that perhaps all of Italy's "big babies" should be forced to leave home at 18. He was joking, but the problem of children relying upon their parents financially - and in many cases living with them - until they're 30 or 40, is a serious problem in Italy. The foreign press sometimes picks up on this, and the American news magazine TIME has written about mammismo (mamma's boys) in the past.

While American young people often begin working part-time jobs at 16, this concept is unknown among Italians who might receive weekly "allowances" (known as the paghetta in Italy) into their late twenties! What is amazing is how many of these "adult children" are poorly-motivated "perpetual students" taking eight or nine years to complete work on what is supposed to be a 4-year university degree. It's extremely distasteful to observe that, compared to their counterparts across the European Union, most Italian young people seem to take a very long time to grow up. One of our staffers even remarked that the social maturity of the "typical" Sicilian at 23 or 24 is more-or-less comparable to that of an American or Briton of 16 or 17. The lack of emotional or economic independence of young Italians is disturbing.

According to a statistic published some years ago, the combined annual incomes of Americans under the age of 19 eclipsed those of Italy's entire workforce.

Here in Sicily the problem is obviously social but (to a very real degree) also economic, complicated by high unemployment among young people. Marilu Romano touches on this in her article about Sicily in the current recession. It's not a pretty picture. There may not be an immediate danger of Italy following Greece - and now perhaps Portugal - into an economic abyss but our part of Italy is already there.