Friday, April 29, 2011

Sicilian Royals in London

Today Prince William of Wales weds Kate Middleton, beginning what will, in effect, be a holiday weekend in Britain. There'll be lots of parties.

When one thinks of Sicily's royalty it obviously isn't a reigning royal family that comes to mind but kings like Frederick II. However, Sicily's royal family, a branch of the House of Bourbon (whose other flourishing branches are those of France, Spain and Parma), will be represented by Carlo di Borbone of the Two Sicilies and his wife, Camilla.

As head of his dynasty, Prince Carlo is Duke of Castro. His family's Constantinian Order of Saint George undertakes charitable works here in Sicily and abroad. The organisation's church in Sicily is Palermo's splendid Magione, erected late in the 12th century and used for several centuries as a conventual church of the Teutonic Order.

In recent years the Two Sicilies dynasty, which ruled until Italian unification in 1860, is ever more frequently mentioned, not in connection with the restoration of a monarchy but as a cultural point of reference in times when Italian regionalism is evolving into a political and economic federalism.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The War Next Door (Part 8)

As the rebels and Libya's "official" government fight over Misurata, the Italian prime minister has announced, following a conversation with the president of the United States, that Italy will now send fighters to bomb specific targets in Libya.

Internally, this sparked protest from some leaders of the regionalist Northern League, an essential element in the current government's tenuous parliamentary majority. However, as part of NATO Italy has made its air bases available since the beginning of the conflict and also has a small aircraft carrier in the region.

Some of the background of Italy's position is mentioned in our article about the Libyan war, published in the May issue of the online magazine.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection & Liberation

In Italy, as in some other European countries, Easter Monday is a holiday, so banks and most stores are closed. In England it's a bank holiday. Of course Easter falls on a different Sunday each year - and this year most Orthodox celebrate it on the same Sunday as Catholics.

This year Pasquetta (as it's known in Italy) coincides with Italy's Liberation Day (always observed on April 25th), and public employees are complaining about the holiday that's been "stolen" from them. As May 1st (Labor Day) falls on a Sunday this year, they're doubly angry. In consolation, they got an extra holiday this year on March 17th, which marked 150 years of Italian unification

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sicily's Best Good Friday Passion Procession

For Good Friday (April 22nd) this year, our best suggestion for a Passion Procession is the one at Erice, a charming town full of stone medieval houses and streets, a castle, some splendid churches and even a few Phoenician walls that were already standing at the time of Christ.

It's scheduled to begin at 4 in the afternoon but get there at least an hour early. Better yet, have lunch at Erice (seafood couscous is a local specialty).

It's true that few of these processions are as good as they should be, but Erice's at least offers an appropriate setting and for that reason we consider it one of Sicily's better ones. And scenic Erice is always worth the trip.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Italians banned from royal wedding

On April 29th nobody from Italy's royal family, the House of Savoy, will be present at Britain's royal wedding. Instead, the Head of the House of the Two Sicilies will be attending. An academic issue, to be sure - Italy's monarchy, which swallowed up Sicily's in 1861, was abolished in 1946. But slightly significant (perhaps disappointing) in a year that finds Italy celebrating 150 years of unification initially achieved under Garibaldi and the Savoys. The men who would be king are Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy and (on the Sicilian-Neapolitan side) Carlo di Borbone, whose family ruled Sicily from 1734 until 1860.

Both princes are contested by envious cousins, and it is thought that the Savoys have been blacklisted from Westminster Abbey because of an incident in 2004 between Vittorio Emanuele and his cousin, Amedeo, who has advanced a rival claim to headship of the House of Savoy. (The two Savoys came to blows at a reception at the wedding of Prince Felipe of Spain.) Squabbles and vendettas are hardly unusual in Italian families, even royal ones, but our Savoys should learn to behave.

The disputes are all highly theoretical, as Italians are unlikely to restore the Savoy monarchy, which brought Fascism and death to so many - both in Italy and abroad. The last king of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily), Francis II, died in exile in 1894, survived by his queen, Maria Sofia, who lived until 1925.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Discounts on Sicily Tours this Autumn

Our commercial department informs me that for the next four weeks they're offering a discount on tours of Sicily this autumn, specifically those scheduled in October and November. Reserve before May 20th for substantial savings. Promotional messages aside, autumn is a great time to visit. It's warm but not hot, and there are - generally speaking - fewer "tourists" (large groups of visitors on super-low budgets) filling up the historical sights and sites. Think about it...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The War Next Door (Part 7)

Refugees arriving in Italy.Libya's civil war continues. The main army of "rebels" demanding free elections has suffered a few setbacks in their advance westward, but a handful of government ministers have fled the country or resigned.

Refugees continue to arrive in southern Italy by boat. Last night a boat capsized en route to Lampedusa, leaving at least a hundred refugees dead. But where are they coming from? Many are actually Tunisians claiming to be Libyans. Since our last post on this topic, the prime minister has transferred six thousand temporarily housed in Lampedusa to other locations in Italy. The Tunisians (?) don't want to stay in temporary camps, and around two thousand "escaped" the one at Manduria near Taranto. Italy's prime minister was in Tunisia yesterday (Monday) to address the question of illegal immigrants with that government's leaders, and an agreement was reached for Italy to assist Tunisia financially.

Apart from this, the situation here in Sicily is as "normal" as ever. The high tourism season has begun and Spring has arrived. Trapani (Birgi) airport, which handles some passenger flights (including many Ryanair arrivals), is almost back to normal.