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Friday, 15 June 2007

Alberto Sordi's "Mafioso"

"Mafioso" was released in 1962. But if it wasn't for the telltale signs - the tailfin cars, the black-and-white cinematography, the Kennedy-era wardrobe - it could easily pass for a film made today.

Few films age more flawlessly than this one, in part, because its subject matter is something American cinema has been obsessed with since "The Godfather."

Alberto Lattuada's classic, made 10 years before Francis Ford Coppola's epic, is labeled a black comedy, and although audiences may not laugh more than a half-dozen times, they will be fascinated by this early, seemingly realistic glimpse at gangland sensibilities in Sicily.

Alberto Sordi gives a winsome but ultimately mournful central performance. Sordi is Antonio Badalamenti, a mid-level manager at a Milan car factory. He's got a great life: the respect of his co-workers, a nice car, a nice apartment, beautiful blonde wife Marta (Norma Bengell) and two adorable daughters.

His parents have never met his wife and girls, so he takes his ladies on a two-week vacation to rural Sicily, where he grew up. A co-worker, hearing of the trip, asks Antonio to deliver a package to a local man, Don Vincenzo. When Antonio agrees, his fate is sealed. He does not see this, so naive is he about the charms of his hometown.

And his town is charming, although backward regarding Marta's clothing and behaviors. The scenery is lovely, the climate flawless and the food delicious. But there are ominous signs. Many of Antonio's old acquaintances are dead, missing, in prison or shunned.

Antonio falls in with his old friends, one thing leads to another, and by the time Antonio realizes he is in too deep, it is too late. What happens after has to be seen to be believed; not even contemporary mobster movies have done anything like this.

"Mafioso" is being re-released nationwide by Rialto Pictures, which takes underappreciated foreign classics and brings them to a wider audience; last year it released "Army of Shadows."

"Mafioso" certainly deserves this release, but it's not surprising it did not travel well in 1964, when it was originally released in the United States. The pre-ratings system Hays Code usually frowned upon crime without consequence.

But Sordi shows in his face - which shifts from jocularity to horror to regret - that there are consequences to these crimes. They are buried inside his heart, which will regret forever going back to a town he loved and thought he knew.

WOMAD in Taormina

WOMAD stands for World of Music, Arts and Dance, expressing the central aim of the WOMAD festival - to bring together and to celebrate the many forms of music, arts and dance drawn from countries and cultures all over the world.
WOMAD was originally inspired by Peter Gabriel: "Pure enthusiasm for music from around the world led us to the idea of WOMAD in 1980 and thus to the first WOMAD festival in 1982. The festivals have always been wonderful and unique occasions and have succeeded in introducing an international audience to many talented artists.
This year WOMAD will be returning to the spectacular Teatro Greco on the Mediterranean hillsides of Taormina for three evenings of concerts this July 13-15, with a thrilling line-up of international artists.
The Teatro Antico is constructed within the spectacular ruins of a Greek amphitheatre overlooking Mount Etna and the bays below - a venue that's hard to beat for atmosphere and location.
The WOMAD 2007 program:

July 13th 2007 Gilberto Gil
July 14th 2007 Buena Vista Social Club
July 15th 2007 Robert Plant

Ryanair new potential destinations

After launching a new direct flight between Dublin and Trapani in February 2007, Ryanair is seriously interested in adding a new route to its Sicilian destinations: the new airport of Comiso (Ragusa province) in the south-east side of the island.
Ryanair was Europe's original low fares airline and is still Europe's largest low fares carrier and currently employs a team of 4,500 people, comprising over 25 different nationalities.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Fairytale's weddings

Sicily was one of Italy’s best-kept secrets.
Today it has turned to one of the hottest wedding destinations worldwide. And for good reason. Sicily is not only one of the most beautiful islands in the world, but it prides itself on having some of the most beautiful churches and ancient architecture you are likely to find anywhere. You will simply not believe your eyes when you see the gold gilded domed Byzantine Abby near the picturesque town of Palermo, where the ancient kings and queens of Sicily were once wed.
Sicily is extremely romantic: It was on this enchanting island that D.H. Lawrence wrote "Lady Chatterly's Lover," based on a real-life Sicilian love story, and it was to Sicily that Liz Taylor escaped with Richard Burton when they first fell in love (during the filming of "Cleopatra" in Rome).

Tying the knot in Sicily is easy and there are no residency requirements.

In order to get married, you and two witnesses must appear before the town clerk and declare your intention to get married.

A civil wedding is however recommended before having a religious or symbolic ceremony, as a Catholic religious ceremony is extremely difficult to arrange unless you have a civil ceremony first.
In general you will need the following paperwork (please note that the exact papers required vary somewhat depending on your country of residence). You will need to present your passport and a a birth certificate.
For residents of Canada and the United Kingdom, one of the most important documents is the Certificate of Non Impediment, meaning neither husband-nor-wife-to-be is currently married and there are no other reasons why the couple shouldn't be wed.
All paperwork must be translated into Italian by a certified translator and certain documents must have what is known as a Apostille Stamp from the Secretary of State in the state in which you live. Its always good to contact your Secretary of State’s office to find out how to obtain this stamp.
What young girl hasn’t dreamed of her fabulous wedding in an ornate, gilded, 14th century church or in an ancient palace where once lived a king and queen? And following her fairytale wedding, what bride-to-be hasn’t fantasised that she and her Prince Charming are whisked away by horse-drawn carriage to a dream-like castle where a fabulous reception is flawlessly laid out? In Sicily your dream can come true....

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Sicily among the safest regions in Italy

The Godfather, The Untouchables, The Sopranos. They all have one think in common: Mafia.

But do Mafia movies and television shows affect the image of Sicily and Sicilians? Hell, Yeah!

Isn't it a bit unfair that while far more potentially dangerous countries like Russia or Brazil enjoy the glory and fame of their emblematic Vodkas and hot Samba dancers, while Sicily is defamed by its Mafia stigma, mainly with thanks to the entertainment industry?

We have been living in both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and we can ensure you that it was far more dangerous than Palermo or even Mafia capital Corleone.

Yes, Mafia is still a plague, as it is Camorra in Campania, Ndrangheta in Sardegna as well as Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and gunfighting gangsters in South America. But when one happens to shake hands with a Columbian you are much less likely to say: "Oh really, Bogota?...drug dealers! Kidnappers!" Instead, when one shakes hands with a Sicilian, the same old song plays over and over again :" Oh really, Palermo?...Mafia!"

But believe it or not, despite the bad publicity, Sicily is among the safest regions in Italy!

According to the ISTAT (Italian Institute of Statistics), Sicily registered one of the lowest crime rates in the country in the past few years.

Crimes every 100,000 people:

Sicily 3,481

North-West 4,770

Turin 6,823

Bologna 7,223

Pickpocketing every 100,000 people:

Palermo 124

Center Italy 446

Italian average 287

Stolen cars, robbed stores and apartments:

Palermo 2,152

Milan 3,780

Bologna 4,485

Rimini and province 5,761

Numbers talk! Sicily is a safe destination. If you refrain from visiting Sicily because of safety concerns, keep in mind that there are more chances that something could happen to you in a big North American city. Unfortunately though, publicity for Sicily is still pretty bad. The images of The Godfather are well entrenched in peoples' minds all over the world!

May I suggest that next time you shake hands with a Sicilian you might consider to say :"Oh really, Palermo?...Damn good food there!"

Saturday, 9 June 2007

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Driving in Palermo (Part 2)

Following on from Part One of this series...

Rule # 6. Ready...Steady...Toot.

In a civilised world where gentlemen drink tea and eat cucumber sandwiches over a lively game of croquet, the idea of tooting one's car horn is seen as quite distasteful and downright boorish. In another world, that is equally civilised (in its own endearing way), the idea that one does not toot their horn is almost unheard of. In Sicily, the art of tooting has progressed to such an extent that has witnessed the development of the "pre-emptive toot". Yes; this is a toot that occurs, not in response to an alleged slight or wrongdoing on behalf of the opposing driver but on the belief that the opposing driver may be about to do something wrong. And nowhere is this more evident than at the busy traffic lights in an average Sicilian city. A mere split second before the light turns green one hears a chorus of tooting from the myriad of cars behind the first row. The drivers, of course, are rightfully assuming that the driver in the first row is either not paying attention to the changing traffic lights or has simply fallen asleep (as is often the case in the land of siestas), and in their civic duty to traffic order, these drivers take it upon themselves to warn the front row drivers, just in case they happened to have forgotten what a green traffic light actually means. The highest form of the pre-emptive toot that I have witnessed occurred in Messina when a large semi-trailer employed a pre-emptive toot strategy even though, when the traffic started moving, the truck's acceleration was so excruciatingly slow, that all those around it started tooting at it too. This, for clarification purposes, is called a "post-incident" toot.
As a postscript, if you think the Sicilian pre-emptive toot is extreme, may I advise you to travel to Malaysia where drivers refuse to drive their car and claim it doesn't work upon discovering that their horn is broken.

Rule # 7. Your life flashing before your eyes.

Upon overtaking another car, please ensure that you flash your lights incessantly at the car you are overtaking. Never mind that you are either blinding the unfortunate driver or sending him or her into an epileptic fit, without a series of high beam flashes there is simply no way in the world they can tell that you are about to overtake them.. You see, rear vision mirrors were never meant to be used to see what is behind. Oh no, on the contrary, they were produced to enable Sicilians to hang a plethora of rosary beads, fluffy dice, crucifixes, Padre Pio toys, and anything else that provides a bit of colour to their cars. The fact that they also obscure the view of oncoming traffic is an added bonus. What I love about this rule is the assumption that everyone on the road will inevitably sway into your lane just as you are overtaking them and no one will ever look behind. The scary thing is that they are right.

Part Three of this series can found here.