Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'We Sicilians are Norman, Greek, Spanish ...' 17/01/10

There are rubbish collection problems again here. Piles of stinking plastic bags on top and on either side of the skips all over town. A weeks' worth of rubbish. They are every 100 metres or so, along some of the main squares in the centre, and there is one on the other side of the square outside our restaurant. Hope we don't get rats! Just to remind us we are in Sicily, which is not exactly Europe.

Last night started quiet. The only customer we had around 10pm was Gianni Moro, the harmonica player. He was laughing at how people now think it is cold (it was around 16 degrees during the day, and then at night the damp made it cold - bone cold but not snow cold.) I poured him a massive rum accidentally and was about to say something about it, but then thought oh well, it is just one and he is keeping us company. But when I was off seeing to other customers he asked mio marito for a second one, and then complained that it wasn’t as big as his first. Sneaky. I was distracted by his waxed eyebrows. They were like Audrey Hepburn’s or like fake rubber ones stuck on underneath his glasses. More manicured than mine. Hard to take one seriously when they are like that. But it is not an uncommon sight among Scilian men.

Since it is colder than usual now (I can’t say it is cold because to me it feels likes winter still hasn’t arrived) people keep asking for a smoking room. ‘Look there’s no one around, is it OK if we smoke?’ They always smile hopefully as if we’d be delighted. Apparently we are the only bar/restaurant in town where you cannot smoke inside. Everyone follows their own laws here.

We had a trumpeter playing with a dj which worked well, though it wasn’t as busy as usual because it was ‘cold’. The trumpeter said he was going to Spain soon to visit his (Sicilian) girlfriend. Are you worried she’ll go off with a Spaniard? I asked, testing his jealousy levels. He put down his beer for a second to think about it, but said ‘No, come on, the Spanish are brutti (ugly)!’ He said he had met lots of Erasmus students at gigs in Palermo and how they were really taken by Sicilians. ‘They like how different we are,’ he said. ‘Take me for instance, I am a Norman.’ (He stood up tall to show he wasn’t the typical short dark Sicilian. ‘Siamo normanni, greci (Greek)…’ he told me proudly. ‘You’re also Spanish, and Arab,’ I added. This is part of the Sicilian fascination. The castle at the end of my street was built by Frederick II of Swabia in 1239-40 on the site of what was once a Greek acropolis, and later an Arab-Norman citadel. It was under Aragon domination for a long period too. This history of invasion and foreign domination maybe explains the pride Sicilians have in their heritage and at the same time their distrust of foreigners, and even of each other. Greek myths abound: in Homer's Odyssey's Ulysses had trouble with the winds round the Aeolian Islands and Milazzo is the place where he ends up shipwrecked and meets the dangerous one-eyed Cyclops, Polyphemus. His cave is said to be built into the cliff face down dear the beach - it was turned into a disco in the 70s but had to be closed due to safety reasons ...

Mad Max and Diego, the depressed DJ, showed up. Not so depressed tonight since he was proposing they do a little aperitivo night for us on Sundays. I watched them dance around mio marito, getting more and more enthusiastic as they tried to convince him to give them the slot. Seeing them on the offchance is bad enough but a routine night would be too much. I left them with Giorgio, another regular, propping up the bar – the three stooges.



  1. Great blog, nicely written, my family is from Catania, and I own a coffee roasting company in Australia named after the town of Milazzo (Milazzo Coffee)... love the history and descriptions you give to Sicily.. very well done.. thks..from Charles.

  2. Thanks Charles - that's interesting that you called your coffee company after Milazzo. Hope you stay in touch to get the latest from Sicily ...