Summer for me is now officially over. I have finished University in London back on May 15th, which literally feels like ages ago, and will be starting my new Journalism course in Utrecht, Holland, next Monday! Just for the record, I have not been on holiday travelling around from the day after my last exam. I was working in Starbucks double my contracted hours for a whole month before heading to Stockholm. It was the best way to make some good money in order to afford the majority of my summer holidays! Thinking back at all I have done it feels crazy: Sweden, Norway, Rome, London, Iceland and eventually a super-relaxing week in a small Sicilian island called Marettimo.
And this is what my last Summer post is about.
My family and I were joined by Maddy, a very close friend of mine who is now studying acting in Montreal (Canada), and her family for the whole trip.
The island we were on is part of the “Egadi” archipelago just a few miles from the coast of Trapani, one of Sicily’s major cities on the western coast. There is just a small town on this island and the rest of it is uncontaminated. The highest peak of the mountain-island is just below 700m (3,000 feet) and the nature and landscapes look more north-African than mediterranean.
Sicily is the poorest region in the whole of Italy. Or, to put in more correctly, there is a small number of extremely wealthy people (those who are part of the famous italian “Mafia”) and a disproportionately large number of poor people, more than in any other part of the country. A map just published by Italian magazine L’Espresso shows that over 50% of the population of Sicily is at risk of poverty (compared to the 20% of people at risk in northern regions like Lombardia or Veneto, where respectively Milan and Venice are located). I did feel this difference just by traveling on sicilian roads. Sometimes it really felt like being in a North African country like Tunisia, rather than in a southern Italian region.
It is, however and beyond any doubt, one of the most beautiful and culturally rich regions of the country. And the traditions which have been preserved, starting from the local delicious mediterranean cuisine, are admirable. You rarely find a McDonald’s and not all major world chains have arrived there yet, and who knows if they ever will. It would be hard to imagine a Scilian (in Italian we say “Siciliano/a” to call the island’s inhabitants) ordering a “tall, skinny, extra hot, extra wet latte to take away” (or any kind of Italian, for the record); “un caffè, grazie” is what you’re more likely to hear in any typical Bar.
During the past week I have had delicious fish-based meals. Our residence (the only hotel on the island), organises a weekly serata dei pescatori (“evening of the fishermen”) when fishermen of the island cook delicious dishes and their own specialità della casa (“home specialities” is the closest transition to English). Last week they cooked starters and two delicious main meals, with local super delicious products.
There is one thing about Italian culture that I would like to specify in this context. In the italian culinary traditions, a meal is made up by two main dishes. In fact, we do not say “main course” like in English, but we have two words for each part of the meal: Il Primo e Il Secondo, which mean “the first and the second”. The first dish would usually involve pasta with some kind of sauce (we do not just eat pesto and bolognese and we hardly ever buy ready-made sauces from supermarkets) and as a second dish you would have meat or fish together with sides like vegetables; and eventually at the end of a typical Italian meal people would always eat seasonal fruit (maybe followed by a dessert). Every time I come back home I am reminded by how naturally healthy the Italian diet is. Nobody here counts the amount of carbs or proteins you ought to have as part of a meal, but just by following the everlasting culinary traditions, you end up having a balanced diet and a healthy life style. No wonder Italy is among the European countries with the lowest obesity rate (9,9% of Adults, compared to over 24% in the United Kingdom! – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11935525).
To be fair, I am sure many other countries have great traditions too when it comes to cusine, so I do not want to make it sound like Italians know it all when it comes to it. But when living in the UK, where the lack of a proper food tradition is quite obvious, you just happen to notice how relevant the food tradition is in every Italian’s life.
“Do you not miss the food?” is what I get typically asked by Italians when I tell them I moved to London. And when I specify that I have been working for a coffee chain for a whole year, the conversation would degenerate to: “… the coffee there! It is soooo watery and it always comes in those huge American sizes!”. Plus, I’d like to add, it is so very overpriced!!
Apart from all the food talk, the sicilian island offered great blue sea to swim in, together with fish and the damn jellyfish, which were always everywhere. But as the water was ridiculously clear, you just needed some googles and you could very easily avoid them. I am not going to deny though that swimming in the sea would be quite stressful at times, and that is when the residence’s pool would come in as the second, stress-free option.
The title of this post means “In the blue, painted of blue” and it is the title of an old Italian song, which probably many of you have heard at least once in your life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COrWcC5lfas). It is typically played at the beginning of any american movie set in Rome or in some other italian place.
My next post will be from my new home in Holland, where I am moving un just two days!