One of my favourite bloggers, Veronica di Grigoli, writes with wit and passion about her adopted home of Sicily.
Her hugely enjoyable blog – The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife – is a joyous ode to that amazing island, and anyone planning on visiting (or living in) Sicily should definitely give it a read.
I love Veronica’s story, of how she ended up in Sicily in the first place. My route there was very different – as author of the first Rough Guide to Sicily – but there’s plenty in Veronica’s story, and on her blog, that I recognise about that fabulously intoxicating and infuriating island.
Here’s Veronica, in her own words, sharing how it all began.
Ten years ago I plucked up the courage to leave my family and friends in London, give up my career as a business consultant, sell my house, car and collection of Seventies’ disco albums and move to a fishing village in northern Sicily with a population of about four hundred peasants.
The fishermen row out to sea at night and, in the morning, sell octopus, squid, prawns, rock and cuttlefish right on the beach. The heart of the village is brightened up by the orange and blue paint of their little boats.
In summer, people bring a kitchen chair outside and sit on the pavement having ‘shoutversations’ with each other across the narrow streets, gesticulating through the laundry strung up from every lamppost. I am sometimes offered a guest chair to join them.
“Why on earth did you move here?” they ask, laughing at my crazy decision.
“It’s completely my husband’s fault,” I tell them. “It all started with a wedding.”
Fancy going to a Mafia wedding in Sicily?
“Fancy going to a Mafia wedding in Sicily?” my sister asked one rainy afternoon.
How could anyone say no to an invitation like that? I logged on to Europe’s rudest low-cost airline and bought a plane ticket before you could say ‘horse head’.
Her admission that they weren’t really in the Mafia didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I was far too excited about meeting men in sharp suits and dark sunglasses, and squidging on a church pew between magnificently rotund little women dressed in black.
The reality was sobering. The airport coach drove us past apartment blocks from which half the façade, along with several balconies, had fallen off. Sad laundry hung from washing lines outside the windows and tiny children played in the road outside.
Then, turning a corner brought us into a splendid boulevard of Baroque palaces, adorned with naked ladies in a buxom orgy of sculpted marble.
Following my sister’s insistent advice that there is no such thing as being ‘overdressed’ for a Sicilian wedding, I turned up at the church in a scarlet evening dress with diamante jewellery and a feather boa. I had forgotten that you have to cover your bare shoulders in Catholic churches. The Sicilian women had black lacy shawls, but I had to wind my feather boa around myself five times and stalk up the aisle like an ostrich.
After the service, white doves were released at the church door to represent the couple’s joyous future together. Fluttering rose petals filled the air. And a knot tightened in my stomach as I wondered for the millionth time when it would be my turn.
The reception was held in the gardens of a magnificent yet crumbling eighteenth-century villa, perfumed by jasmine and pink roses, as a string quartet played softly on the lawn. I sat opposite one of the groom’s three hundred handsome cousins – after a bit of a scuffle, as they all seemed to love my burlesque cabaret outfit.
I can honestly say that I started to fall in love with him immediately. It was his eyes that did it. They sparkled a warm, reddish brown and, when I looked into them, I saw so much kindness it almost made me cry. Despite my terribly rusty Italian I talked to him with an openness I had never managed before in my life.
The toasts to the bride and groom seemed like a dream. I was vaguely aware of the Sicilians following their ancient tradition of eating slightly more then their body weight in food before standing up to stampede the pudding buffet at high speed.
I took the plunge and became a full-time Sicilian Housewife
“After a year of flying to and fro to see my Latin lover, I took the plunge and became a full-time Sicilian Housewife”, I tell the old ladies, at the top of my voice. “And my life has been a marvellous adventure ever since, handling parenthood, the Mafia and a Sicilian mother-in-law, all at once.”
You can read all about it here, SicilianGodmother.com
Sicily images by Veronica Di Grigoli.