Thursday, February 21, 2013

An interesting corner in the Borgo

In my English class we were talking about the quality of life in Sicily and comparing it to life on a peaceful island off Japan, where life expectancy is long and the people are positive thinkers and never stressed. Some students ventured that Sicilians are often stressed and never happy. The fruit and vegetables and fish are great but some other things are not so great. I saw Marco Tullio Giordano's film "I Cento Passi" last night and needed something to make me smile. On my wanderings this morning this corner in the Borgo gave me hope!

Mount Etna is erupting

Mount Etna is erupting ... Che spettacolo

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pearl of the Mediterranean Sea

Listen to Pearl of the Sea, a song for Sicily I wrote with some DJ producers here in Sicily. "Forgotten world, once the pearl of the mediterranean sea."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The mafia doesn't exist...

The mafia killings I mention in my post from last week 'Polifemo's Cave, Ulysses' haunt' did not make national news, except for brief coverage on the day of the first killing. It is remarkable that no TV news report, and no national daily such as La Repubblica or Il Corriere make mention of mafia-related deaths. This is what lead to the furore surrounding Roberto Saviano (of Gomorra fame)when he dared to state on national radio that the 'Ndrangheta' - the Calabrian mafia - were in Milan and indeed had requested the 'pizzo' (protection money) for many big construction projects. Milan, land of the Lega Nord, could surely not be infiltrated by the mafia, said the government. But it was proved wrong a year later when the scandal of the 'pizzo' in Milan broke out. The mafia go where there is money, and there was a lot of money involved in the big construction projects in Milan. At a local level, works began to construct a seaside promenage complete with cycle path, pavement and palm trees along the 'ponente' side of Milazzo. But strangely, proceedings were called to a halt: mafia involvement, pizzo request. Mafia stories make national news when the Italian government is clearly involved. When the judges Borsellino and Falcone were killed in 1992 in Sicily, government representatives attended their funerals, only to be spat upon by the mourning and indignant crowds. Why are local mafia activities not reported on in national news? Some possible answers: Local mafia killings/threats/extortion activities are not of national concern. Their importance or influence is limited to the region in which they occur (Sicily, Calabria, Campania ...) and therefore not to be mentioned in national news. In that way, it can appear that the mafia does not exist. The government can make out that the mafia does not exist and therefore it need not spend resources on investigations. The mafia also prefer it like this, as they are free to get on with their business - which is not confined to the southern regions of Italy.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bella donna!

It's been a hard week. But amidst the daily trials and tribulations there were three undisputed moments of pleasure: on three separate occasions I was complimented on my beauty! Note: I am not so beautiful, I am just foreign. It was the unexpectedness of the compliment that made me extra-happy. The first was the female secretary in an office. She was registering my details and telling me I spoke good Italian and didn't have the typical English pronunciation (no, I'm Irish!)and then she looked me over and exclaimed, 'and to top it all off, you're bellissima!' Well, thank you very much. A few days later I was out for a walk - jogging bottoms, hoodie and cagoule because it looked like rain. A father and son were coming down the laneway and I think the son recognised me, he said hello. I was wondering whether to walk to the left past the son or to the right past the father. The father understood my predicament and said, 'Passa qui in mezzo, walk in between us! Complimenti signora, bellissima!' I was speechless. It must have been my cool shades. The last occasion was in a waiting room where I had left something behind. I went back in and the official who had been there earlier had disappeared. His mate called for him, saying, 'There is a bellissma donna who wants to talk to you ...' Well, you see. These are the moments that would not happen elsewhere that make living here a little bit easier ...

Polifemo's Cave - Ulysses' old haunt where Boss was hiding out

Along Milazzo's western riviera there is a huge cave dug out of the promontory rock on which the castle stands. It's a beautiful spot. Legend has it that this was Polifemo's cave where the one-eyed cyclops tried to kill Ulysses and his crew when they stopped by. The cave was used for storage by the military during WW2 and in the 70s and 80s it was transformed into a discothèque and wedding functions were held there. The houses nearby are mostly holiday homes but some people live there all year round - including the accomplice of Barcellona mafia boss Filippo Barresi. Barresi was hiding out in a house along Via Polifema. Apparently he would go jogging along the seafront at night and no one recognised him with his hat and glasses on. The police tracked him down last week but he has denied being the boss of Cosa Nostra in Barcellona and says he is a simple 'vivaista' - working in a nursery or garden centre. Hmmm... I was reading this in a café in the local tabloid, Gazzetta del Sud. You never find 'La Repubblica' or 'Il Corriere' in cafés in Sicily. I have learnt to do as the locals - to turn to Cronaca Messinese to get reports on local happenings - usually involving gloomy news about pollution from the refinery, uncollected rubbish overflowing on the streets or mafia. Some carabinieri came into the café along with other punters and each noted what I was reading - it was the only paper in the café and I was hogging it. No one ever talks mafia with me. You'd almost think it doesn't exist. But around Christmas time, in Barcellona, there were two old school style mafia shootings - one in a barber's, and one in a café. And last night, a 23 year old ‘shepherd’ was killed in the Barcellona Hinterland, as the Gazzetta del Sud calls it. He was in the mountains near the picturesque village of Montalbano and it appears his only crime was the fact that the Novara Boss was his godfather at baptism… He was out working in the fields and just about to return home at nightfall when they came and shot him in the face at close range.