Saturday, June 25, 2011

Villas in Sicily

We'd like to talk about two things - Sicily villas and country resorts in Sicily (agriturismo).

Our page dedicated to villas in Sicily doesn't just have links to some good villa rental agencies, it offers tips on finding and renting a villa. What's important is that you find the villa you want at a decent price.

"Rural resorts" are essentially rural bed and breakfasts, which in Italy are called agriturismo. They're also known as guest farms.

Both are great ideas for your summer holiday in Sicily.

(Shown here is La Rosa dei Venti, an agriturismo near Enna.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Golf in Sicily

Next week will bring us the longest day of the year. It's almost summer, time to discover the beaches in Sicily and also the island's golf courses. Some of these courses are in truly magnificent settings.

Golfers, like sailors, are a hardy breed who will travel the world looking for a perfect place to pursue their sport. Courses have sprung up in some pretty exotic locations, and the slopes of Mount Etna offer a great setting. While you're here in Sicily, don't forget to visit the sights.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Economist Special Report: ITALY

This week's issue of The Economist (June 11-17 2011) includes a lengthy special report on Italy's economic, political and social situation - everything from unemployment and weak economic growth to nepotism and the brain drain. Some of these articles are available online.

Most of these topics have been covered, to one degree or another, in the Best of Sicily Magazine. In fact, they sum up the reasons why many intelligent Italians leave Italy. Despite the report's (zealous) focus on the current prime minister, most of these problems existed long before he entered the scene. The point is that his government(s) really hasn't done enough to address these problems.

The insightful report is highly recommended for anybody interested in Italian economic or social affairs.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Palazzo Trigona-Celestre

The Mantegnas' Palazzo Gangi gets more attention for its baroque Hall of Mirrors, where the ballroom scene of Visconti's film The Leopard was filmed. Starring Burt Lancaster and a young Claudia Cardinale, it is a memorable movie based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel about the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy after 1860.

But Palazzo Trigona-Celestre, a recently restored jewel in Palermo's Via Maqueda is a splendid aristocratic residence - now in public hands - that deserves its props. With Palazzo Butera (facing the shore in the Kalsa district), it is one of the largest such mansions built in 18th century Sicily.

Our article about the Celestre family of Santa Croce, part of our Historic Families series, explains how the Trigonas inherited both the palace and the Celestre titles - marquis of Santa Croce and baron of Alia. Frankly, the palace was probably worth more than the titles of nobility.

As you walk along Via Maqueda between the Quattro Canti and the train station, Palazzo Trigona-Celestre is hard to miss. It is sometimes open to the public for art exhibits, and worth a visit even if you're not interested in the art on display!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Republic Day June 2nd 2011

Re-instituted a decade ago, Republic Day - observed on June 2nd - commemorates establishment of the Italian Republic by popular referendum on June 2nd 1946. Held under Allied auspices during the Anglo-American occupation of Italy, this event marked the first time Italian women could vote. Though sanctioned (confirmed) by a high court, the referendum results were questionable, and not only because of the vote-rigging in many quarters. To abolish the monarchy required more than 50% of the total ballots cast in favor of a republic. In fact, there were 12,717,923 votes counted in favor of a republic, and 10,718,284 in favor of the monarchy. If, however, the 1,509,735 blank ballots were counted into the total, the republic would have obtained 47% of the vote, not the 50% plus 1 required by established law.

The existence of the Italian Republic is beyond question, but this year, as Italians celebrate 150 years of unification, it's important to remember that today's Italy is a successor state to the Kingdom of Italy ruled by the House of Savoy until 1946. It is not the same nation state that was established by a far more dubious referendum 150 years ago - in which the Savoys were confirmed by an incredible 99% of the voting population.

Historical nuance of this kind escapes most Italians, who will simply enjoy an extra holiday.