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Sunday, 31 August 2008

History of Sicily in one hundred seconds

This video is not only one of the funniest things about Sicily I have seen in a long time (which is really saying something as those who have driven in Palermo traffic can attest to) but it also provides a rich outline of one of the most diverse and ancient European civilisations - compacted into just 100 seconds! As the author, Turi Scandurra says, "blink and you may miss a whole century".

Script and Animation: Turi Scandurra
Screenplay: Nino Arcidiacono
Music: Peppe Gullotta

For those of you who want to know exactly what was said, here is the full transcript.

One hundred eighty millions years ago Tethys Ocean splits Pangaea
mountain ranges rise up among coral reeves
it’s hot
flora, fauna and dwarf elephants
the volcano Etna grows up by underwater eruptions
then five thousands years ago in Stentinello the first neolithic civilization
Sicanians get overpowered by Sicels
Pantalica is a necropolis for all the dead
phoenician sailors
sea urchins and swordfishes
here come the Greeks
Naxos and Syracuse
theaters carved in rocks or built on a hill like in Taormina
Polyphemus and mermaids
Archimedes and his burning mirrors
Scilla and Cariddi
first Punic War with Rome
Republic and Empire
corn and gladiators, then Vandals and Ostrogoths
Byzantines, Arabians and Muslims
tuna nets, orange and lemon trees
scimitars and sheiks
watering and architecture
ceramics and cassata cakes
Roger II and the Normans
heritage to Suebi
Frederick II and Poetry School
Ciullo d’Alcamo, the first parliament
Aragonese and Angevins
The Vespers when the French drove us mad
then peace of Caltabellotta
House of Hapsburg and Charles V
Bourbon dynasty
Garibaldi who got injuried
Piedmontese army Carabiniers
the Serval, puppetteers
unification of Italy
the Messina Earthquake
bandits and mafia
coppola and lupara
Giovanni Verga and Luigi Pirandello
emigration and First World War
allied landings, Lucky Luciano
the bandit Giuliano and laced coffee (Sicilian style)
Placido Rizzotto and Peppino Impastato
Tano Badalamenti and Marlon Brando as the godfather
Andreotti and the mafia
the disappearance of Mauro De Mauro
the strange case Mattei and a certain Sindona
lots of Christian Democracy and then Socialist Party
Pizza Connection
Falcone and the Maxi Trial
the Corleonesi and Totò Schillaci at World Cup
Buscetta and Dalla Chiesa
the mafia massacres of Capaci and via d’Amelio
money of Ciancimino, Totò Cuffaro and Raffaele Lombardo
the Strait Bridge and Franza ferryboats
and then, many things still have to happen
but in the end the island will be eaten by the sea.

Monday, 18 August 2008

South West on a Shoestring

Travelling on a budget?
No worries. Sicily is one of the few European destination where, if you know the right places, you can get a delicious meal for less than 20 euro and b&b accommodation on a picturesque rustic farm-house for just 30 euro.

Forget group tours: rent a car (possibly with GPS), drive around and explore this fantastic island in all your freedom.
If you are after great Greek temples and ruins, a stunning coastal drive and some serious wine tasting, head toward South West. You can sleep at the pretty Baglio Pocoroba near Segesta , This large archaeological zone, with its magnificent Doric temple, ranks as one of the best-preserved Greek architectural sites to be found anywhere! Tickets to the archaeological park cost less than 10 euro.
From Segesta you can drive along the scenic Strada del Sale (Salt Road) with the backdrop of the islets of Mozia, Isola Longa, Santa Maria and Isola della Schola, forming an archipelago inside the Stagnone, the largest lagoon in Sicily.
You can lunch or dine at the beautiful Duca di Castelmonte an 18th century Sicilian country house for 22 euro and sample delicious Sicilian produce. You can either spend the night at Duca di Castelmonte's for 40 euros including breakfast or reach Marsala for a very interesting guided tour of the famous cellar and some wine-tasting at the stunning and historic Cantine Florio, the place where the Marsala wine variety was first produced.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Sicilian Item of the Day: The Duke of Magic

With clients like Greta Garbo and Coco Chanel, Palermo born Fulco di Verdura was the most famous of Sicily's jewellery designers.

From ruby hearts wrapped with braided gold rope to scallop shells studded with precious stones.The exquisite creations of Fulco di Verdura (1898-1978) are noted for their glorious exuberance and refined glamour.

Ashley Rudd looked gorgeous in them in the movie, DeLovely. Katherine Hepburn wore them in The Philadelphia Story. They were favourites of many other movie stars, such as Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, and celebrities, such as the Duchess of Windsor, of whom the photographer, Horst, said that, "Verdura alone knew how to make her a Duchess." Often whimsical and playful, but still elegant, Fulco di Verdura's exquisite jewels made a huge impression on 'high society' in the 1930's.

Verdura was inspired by military themes, Byzantine themes and images from his beloved Sicily. He made jewellery in the shapes of pomegranates, eggplants and prickly pears (otherwise known as fichi d'india in Italian), and violet posies, for example. "I am more Sicilian than a prickly pear," he remarked!

He was called "The Duke of Magic", as Rainer Sigel writes for Solitaire Magazine

A contemporary Sicilian Jewellery designer that draw inspiration from Fulco di Verdura is Claudio Fiorentino.
An interesting book about Verdura's masteripeces can be found online here.