Category Archives: Sicilia

f l a m i n g o s

[ 23:05 monday 19 april – torre ventorello, sicilia ]

cross-legged in my tent on the edge of a small bay. sergio is lying next to me tapping out a message on his mobile phone. the area is a nature reserve which means camping is prohibited. we saw some wardens doing their rounds earlier and we’re eager not to attract their attention, so we haven’t got any lights on. in such circumstances the powerbook’s backlit keyboard is a great asset, making it possible to dim the screen and type without any light.

this place is fantastically beautiful. behind the curving white sand a series of pools and marshes overflows with plants and birds whose ecosystems have not been disturbed. shortly after we arrived this afternoon a flock of flamingos flew over. later on thousands of swallows swooped and dived around us as the sun set. further inland there’s a stand of tall eucalyptus trees surrounded by orange and lemon orchards. on the point of the bay, just beyond us, are the ruins of a rectangular fort (aroganese i think, from the eighteenth century) and the columns and chimney of a tonnara where freshly-caught tuna was offloaded from boats to be salted and packed.

the nearest streetlight is several miles away. the sea is very still, just a slow lapping of waves. the light this afternoon was golden and rich. my camera was busy.

the ventorello reserve is on the east side of the rolling plains which occupy the southern tip of sicily. to the south west there is the town of pachino, where we bought some groceries earlier. to the north rise the long ranges on which the towns of noto, rosselino and ispica are perched. the ancient cities on these sites were flattened by a big earthquake in the late seventeenth century so the baroque architects and town planners had a field day. likewise ragusa, spectacularly wrapped around a lump of rock.

this will be my fourth night in a tent on a beach since arriving in sicily a couple of weeks ago. the first was the day after i wrote my previous despatch, when gabriele guided me along a bumpy dirt track to the shore below torre salsa, far to the west near sciacca. this was an amazing place, absolutely unspoilt with nobody for miles. the second was last wednesday, on stromboli’s spiaggia lunga. i remember sleeping on the beach here back in august 2000, when i built a shelter from palm leaves and wedged some candles in the rocks. the third occasion was last night, which we spent on the long straight beach at marza, to the west of pozzalo, a tip we got from a barista in a caffe in ragusa. there was a strong wind blowing all night and the tent was bowing and shaking but it stood firm. this morning sergio and i emerged from the tent to find the beach stretching for several miles in each direction without a single person in sight. we both ran naked along the beach whooping with joy and splashing in the waves.

tomorrow morning we’ll drive back to milazzo, hand over the car and get a train to palermo. we’ll spend the night there before catching the plane early on wednesday morning. sitting here in this wonderful place with the gentle waves and the tent rustling in the breeze london seems a long long way away. by the miracle of bluetooth and gprs i can send this email right now, direct from the tent!

: c * *


h e a d i n g s o u t h

[ 20:15 wednesday 7 april – via castore e pollusa, selinunte, sicilia ]

sitting here on the rooftop with the bark of three or four dogs echoing across the fields, mingling with the warble of crickets and night birds. the moon has not yet risen so venus’ cold blaze commands the sky. to my right the floodlit columns of a two-and-a-half-thousand year-old greek temple stand out on the dark hillside. i cannot hear the sea but it is there below me.

the process of arriving in selinunte has been as beautiful as the place itself. forty-eight hours ago i was in london, mid-way through a tele-conference with some possible clients in america. my flight was at seven on tuesday the morning and i didn’t get any sleep on monday night. i was tying up loose ends with my work until about three in the morning, after which sergio and i wandered round the cab firms of shoreditch and bethnal green to book the friendliest. just after five we were collected and whisked to heathrow as the sky started lightening. at the airport i bumped into john and janie maclay (janie’s my third cousin i think) on their way to croatia. this was doubly improbably as i also bumped into john and janie the last time i was in heathrow, back in february when i was flying to vienna and they were on their way to morocco.

i like alitalia. the dark green upholstery reminds me of being in a forest and the staff resemble prison warders less than those of other airlines. italians make good fellow-passengers too. our flight was packed but when it emerged that a mother and two young children had been seated separately a cry of “c’e una mama con due bambini!” went up and everyone rearranged to give them a row together.

en route to palermo we had an hour to kill in rome. the sardegnian cashier in the airport’s self-service restaurant taught us some numbers in sardo dialect, to which sergio replied with the equivalent words in the trapani dialect. arriving at palermo airport i was too knackered to feel much excitement, even greeted by the hot sun and clear skies. having taken the bus into the stazione centrale we went straight to the gelateria da ciccio round the corner where we revived ourselves with some of their fabulous ice-cream. the mulberry ice-cream they produced last summer was one of the most impossibly good things i’ve ever tasted. i went back for three cupfuls in a row of the deep purple confection. mulberry (“gelsi”) is out of season at the moment so i’m counting the days until june or july when the trees are once again dripping with the dark red fruit.

after our ice-cream break sergio took the coach westwards to trapani to stay with his parents (where i’ll join him on friday) and i set to thinking about where i was going to go. gabriele was in the port at palermo working on his boat so i organised to meet him there and maybe spend the night at his flat before heading on. but encountering a coach that was about to leave for castelvetrano in the south i had a sudden impulse to get to selinunte straight away, so i jumped on board. the coach dropped me in castelvetrano about half past six. an old lady came up to me and started babbling away in pure dialect. i couldn’t understand a single word, which delighted me no end. it’s the first time i’ve met someone in sicily who doesn’t speak italian. only when she pressed a timetable for the airport coaches into my hand did i realise that she’d seen my backpack and assumed i was trying to get to that destination.

in the next ten minutes i garnered two pieces of information, neither of which was encouraging. first, the day’s final bus for selinunte (14 kilometres hence) had departed a couple of hours earlier. second, there wasn’t anywhere in castelventrano where i could spend the night. my impulsive decision to head south was not looking like a good choice. feeling crestfallen i wandered into the station bar and ordered a coffee. it was an unassuming place, selling newspapers and lottery tickets as well as drinks and pastries. i asked the girl running the bar if she had any ideas about what i could do. she said i should ask the owner, which i did.

the bar owner, michele, thumbed through the phone book and made some calls. i gathered he was trying to track down a place in selinunte called “il pescatore” but was having trouble getting its number. he spoke to a couple of other hotels in selinunte but didn’t like the sound of them. a detective from the local caribinieri called matteo came into the bar and soon joined the search. i felt pretty overwhelmed. i don’t know many places else in the world where a stranger could walk into a bar and be treated in this way.

half an hour later, after speaking with several friends, michele got the number for “il pescatore” and spoke to its proprietor, salvatore, who agreed to drive to castelvetrano to collect me. michele, matteo, valentina and i took each other’s photos, joked about the price of wine in restaurants and swapped addresses. if i needed any reminder of why i am so enraptured by sicily, and why living in london so depresses me, it had been convincingly provided.

on the way to selinunte salvatore told me about the village and how his family balances fishing with running their small pensione. when we arrived there the streets were completely silent and the air was fresh and clear. i was led up marble stairs to a spotlessly clean room overlooking a terrace. i had a shower then went out for a wander; down to the shore, around the port, everything silent. my heart was leaping with delight. i returned to my room and fell into a deep sleep.

that was yesterday. i spent the whole of today exploring the ancient city which covers 300 hectares of the neighbouring hillside, carpeted with daisies and mimosas and other spring flowers. late in the afternoon i found my way down to a deserted beach where i took my first delicious swim of the year. now i am sitting here writing waiting for gabriele to arrive from agrigento, where he had a meeting this afternoon. we’ll eat together and he’ll stay here at “il pescatore” for the night, then tomorrow we’re planning to head further east with my tent and see what we can find.

this is all wonderful

: c **

f e u d

[ 18:35 friday 28 september – scauri, isola di pantelleria ]

a departure from the usual commentary to bring you a rough translation of an article from tuesday’s edition of “il manifesto”, italy’s rather remarkable mass-circulation communist newspaper. if anyone can verify whether the alleged links between the bush and bin laden families are genuine,please let me know.

Bush and Bin Laden, Business Partners and Blood Brothers (the never-ending saga of relations between two families in which the Bin Ladens are to lose)

That old pirate Prescott Bush would certainly have been pleased by the extent to which his descendents have inherited his spirit. He who in 1918 raided the Apache cemetary to seize Geronimo’s skull as a trophy for his student society, the Skull and Bones. He who in the 1930s and early 40s trafficked with the Luftwaffe until three companies of which he was a major shareholder were sanctioned for violation of the Trading with the Enemy act. He who dined daily with Allen and Foster Dulles (head of the CIA at the time of JFK’s assasination) and who called upon the head of the Apache Nation for a ceremony to return Geronimo’s skull, which ended badly when he tried to hand over a different skull and deeply offended the Apache chief.

He was certainly happy with his first-born George Herbert, an oil man with little luck but as an agent of the CIA successful at climbing the greasy pole (he was nominated Director in 1976) despite the inglorious result of the Bay of Bigs landing in Cuba of which he was co-ordinator. He showed his Texan roots in oil and family, naming three ships that would make the landing Houston, Zapata (his first ill-fated oil company) and Barbara (his wife). He must have reflected on the strange liason between his son in the 1960s with an Arab constructor who from time to time came to Texas seeking to introduce himself into the local high society. But this Mohammad Bin Laden didn’t last long: falling with his aeroplane whilst crossing the skies above the oil wells that were giving him so little satisfaction. It was 1968 and the world was thinking of other things.

George W must initially have caused consternation. He was a donkey at school (averaging Cs, a whisker away from being kept down a year), he came last in the admission exam to enter the Air Force (just in time to avoid Vietnam), he was an assiduous companion of bottles of bourbon and ski-slopes of cocaine. But in the end even he launched himself into the oil business. In the mid 70s he founded Arbusto (“Bush” in Spanish) Energy, alongside business partners drawn from his Father’s friends (the CIA has many friends). His friend from school and military, James Bath, procured invesments on behalf of Khaled Bin Mafouz and Salem Bin Laden, eldest son of Mohammad and new head of the family. Mafouz was a notable figure. He was banker for the Saudi royal family and happy husband of a sister of Salem and Osama, head of Relief and Blessed Relief, the two Arab NGOs accused of being a cover for Osama’s organisation.

George was unlucky in business. Arbusto failed and became Bush Exploration then Spectrum 7. Inevitably it too went bankrupt. But Salem continued to support him generously and success seemed to smile upon him when Harken Energy bought out Spectrum paying its shareholders $600,000, supplemented by a consultancy contract worth $120,000 a year. In short he ended up with $1m in his pocket whilst Harken lost several. Then he won an offshore oil exploration contract in Bahrain, beating Amoco and Esso. It’s 1991, the Gulf War is about to explode, Daddy Bush is President and a local sheik Khalifa prefers not to take risks.

After all they’re old family friends. Khalifa, Bin Mafouz and Salem Bin Laden were on the board of BCCI when it was transferring immense sums of money for the Iran Contra affair. At the end of 1980 the Republicans had secretly met in Paris with moderate supporters of Khomeini to stall the release of American hostages in Tehran and thus screw up Jimmy Carter’s re-election hopes. Daddy George reached that summit at speed on board Salem Bin Laden’s jet.

George W is unlucky with his business partners. On the same jet in 1988 Salem meets his death (even he) whilst he crosses the sky over the oil wells of Texas. To many this seemed like an excessive co-incidence but the investigation was carefully handled. The conclusions, indeed, were never made public. In the meantime another protagonist from the Paris meeting, Amiram Nir (an agent of Mossad) dies in an air accident but no suspicions are raised: he crashes in Mexico, not in Texas.

Bad luck dogs even the journalists who concern themselves with Bush. Danny Casolaro was writing a book (“Untangling the Octopus”) picking apart the network of large and small scandals surrounding the Paternal Presidency. Before finishing it, though, he decides to commit suicide “like an imbecile”, as reported by Steve Mizrach. The same fate befalls James H Hatfield, 43 years old, who was able to publish “A Fortunate Son: George W Bush and the Making of an American President”. An unauthorised biography which in 1999 revealed how George had covered up his cocaine habit. By the law of poetic retribution he was found dead from an overdose in a hotel in Springdale, Arkansas on the 18th of July this year.

Now it’s Osama’s turn, of course. Only this time it’s not a business affair but a CIA operation. Maybe his other 52 brothers will soon have something to object to. But, as Prescott would say, in a World War there’s plenty of room to resolve disputes between old business partners.

(translation by SNERO)

: cH

p a n t e l l e r i a

[ 00:19 sunday 16 september – pietro novelli, from trapani to pantelleria ]

the afterdeck of a sturdy little ship. a windy night. an agitated sea. twenty minutes since we cast off from trapani at sicily’s western tip. the voyage to pantelleria usually five and a half hours. tonight perhaps a little longer.

the maestrale wind arrives, shifting gradually through the afternoon from north to north-west, strengthening a little. there was surf at capaci. gabriele and i were almost the only people in the water, plunging ourselves into the toiling spume.

for tonight’s passage i’ve taken a berth in one of the ship’s 18 tiny cabins. i adore sleeping in a vessel under way, preferably in a slightly lumpy sea.

sebastian and karen will have arrived on the island by air this afternoon. i’m looking forward to seeing them both again. sebastian is, of course, ecstatic at the prospect of meeting me at the port at quarter to six in the morning.

[ 18:50 tuesday 18 september – scauri, isola di pantelleria ]

impressions from two days. bouncing a fiat panda along miles of steep dirt track. neat terraces of vines, olives, capers, palm-nuts, squashes and figs cramming every conceivable inch of mountain, plain and cliff alike. swimming in perfectly clear water around lava outcrops. hitching a lift across the island with two non-english-speaking lads from trapini. sinking into three feet of soft mud in a wide turquoise crater-lake surrounded by sulphurous hot springs. landscapes peopled by squat tufa-built dwellings with inward-sloping walls and gently domed roofs. the chatter of the maestrale winds in the grass, delivering fresher air from france, switzerland, the alps. a house in the middle of a farm by the sea. extraordinary tranquility. being once again on an island with karen and sebastian.

[ 10:37 thursday 20 september ]

overnight the wind backs round to the south and drops to a whisper. this is the scirocco, bathing the island in hot, dry air from north africa.

: cH

a t t a c c o

[ 19:42 tuesday 11 september – ortegia, siracusa, sicilia ]

a table in a small bar in this unbelievably lovely town. a tv brings apocolyptic images from new york, the volume turned up high. the other three people don’t look like locals.

something appalling has happened but it feels distant and i am reluctant to know the details. i heard the news around half past four from a friend on stromboli. dad called a little later and craig phoned a few minutes ago.

the only people who will benefit from this are those who seek to augment the powers of the police, the military, the intelligence services. those whose goal is total surveillance of society. those who believe that the liberty of individuals is less important than the security of political and commercial establishments. those whose vision of society is one in which everyone experiences fear, all the time.

i am sad this is what came into my head, rather than sympathy for those who died, their families, their friends. tens of thousands of people will have been directly affected by this tragedy. but i fear that tens of millions will be oppressed by the responses which are to come.

the tv replays the collapsing tower, with a big caption: ATTACCO AGLI STATI UNITI. then we are shown the aeroplane flying into the tower and exploding. current affairs producers dream about footage like this. i feel sick.

pictures of jubilation in an islamic community somewhere. our fury as an audience must have a target, there must always be an enemy. the name of osama bin laden is uttered, a talisman for everything we fear in the world.

[ 17:56 wednesday 12 september – piazza duomo ]

ettore sottsass, the great designer, walks past and takes a seat at a nearby table. i want to tell him how much i admire his writing (i’m not crazy about his furniture). i wonder if designers get pissed off by this sort of thing?

siracusa is so beautiful it makes me laugh. ortegia is the ancient city, confined to an island in a large bay with two bridges connecting it to the mainland. it is a labyrinth of narrow streets, a palimpsest spanning greek austerity and baroque exuberance. i’ve been here for four days. tomorrow i leave for palermo, and then pantelleria.

a burst of applause from a crowd on the steps of the duomo in front of me. a freshly-wed couple emerges from inside. corks pop. a corpulent man in a shiny powder-blue suit and ill-judged pink sunglasses drives them off in a roofless mercedes.

unless i am mistaken the duomo has at its heart an original greek temple. the ancient columns are still exposed, though the gaps between them have been filled by walls. the interior is plain and awe-inspiring, with the usual pastel-hued pieties mercifully reserved to side chapels. the front is baroque. the piazza is an ellipse of diverse but harmonious structures.

my days alternate work with swimming off rocks just round the corner from where i am staying. it’s a productive rhythm.

since last writing i have been in catania, at the foot of mount etna, and in noto, on a hill near the southern tip of sicilia. catania is an exciting place. a small city, but full of energy and possibility. noto seems to have been built from scratch between 1700 and 1750, replacing a roman settlement a few kilometres away which was destroyed in an earthquake. it is probably the most perfect baroque theme-park in the world. every building is a perfect confection. it must have cost a fortune. it feels like there’s still a lot of money around. i didn’t like the atmosphere very much in fact. it reminded rather of erice, its perfectly-preserved mediaeval sister on a mountain above trapani, the other end of sicilia. something a bit too self-satisfied and ordered.

i’m sorry if what i wrote yesterday evening seems inappropriate. but it’s always been my habit to be honest in these despatches. there are things afoot in the world which we may discern only from their echoes.

here in siracusa people don’t seem too concerned about yesterday’s events. life goes on as usual and the snatches of conversation i overhear in streets and caffes are still dominated by food, football and love. today’s copy of “il manifesto”, italy’s snappily-designed and widely-read communist newspaper, had a cartoon on its front page depicting a panicky statue of liberty with the flame of her torch setting fire to her clothes. this seemed to me to be on the borderline of taste.

hehe! sottsass was a bit startled when i sprang on him. he shook my hand and allowed me to take his photo. he’s got a splendid jowly, unshockable face and a rakish plaited ponytail. he looks like a disgraceful old man.

on friday it’s my thirtieth birthday.

: cH

a r t h o u s

[ 18:07 Wednesday 5 September – Palermo, Sicilia ]

Sitting in a sleak and sparsely-populated coach, just departed from Stazione Centrale, on my way to Catania on the east coast. With splendid Sicilian perversity this is a faster way to make the journey than the train.

This afternoon I finally got my Italian email services working properly. I thought I was being very efficient by setting up an account before I left London, but of course it didn’t work. While I was in Ginostra there wasn’t much chance to rectify the situation.

Meanwhile my Motorola uber-telefonino developed severe personality problems as soon as it tasted the Palermo airwaves. Perhaps it remembers the traumas of last year? It now turns itself on and off at random and has completely lost its appetite for recharging. Yesterday I was quoted a ridiculous sum for repairing the wretched thing, with the ominous prediction that it might have to go off to Milan. About half an hour ago I acquired a device which should allow me to recharge the battery externally, which will at least allow me to continue using the thing. It’s a damn nuisance though. I should have stuck to Finnish engineering…

Castel di Tusa was a fabulous experience. Antonio Testi is a fully-fledged maverick, a large man in his forties with a deep voice and bone-dry humour. He inherited one of the largest construction firms in Italy but at his father’s death he refused to deal with the Mafia and instead devoted himself to contemporary art. Over the last decade he has commissioned a series of huge open-air projects in the north of Sicilia. Most of these have been undertaken without planning permission, which has resulted in a succession of complex legal proceedings with the Messina public prosecutor. On each occasion Antonio has secured support in Rome and succeeded in getting the law re-interpreted to his advantage.

He bought the hotel in Castel di Tusa ten years ago. It has forty rooms, fourteen of which have been created by major artists. This amounts to rather more than slapping some pictures on the wall. I spent the night in the room designed by Renato Curcio (who I am informed is a terrorist in the Brigata Rossa). The bedroom is completely empty except for a sweeping plaster installation incorporating panels in a variety of ancient scripts. I swoke to alpha and omega picked out in red above me. The bed sits in the middle of the room with a cover continuing the pattern. The bathroom is a kind of cave. Twisting a little iron figure causes water to trickle down the walls. Another lever activates a shower, splashing hot water off a rock ledge. The loo is cased in corroded steel.

The other rooms are equally dramatic. One has a massive cylindrical bedroom with a circular rotating bed. Turning a crank on the wall opens the ceiling to the stars. Another room consists entirely of triangles, inspired by the shape of Sicilia. You can probably see some pictures at, though I have not yet looked at the site.

Antonio’s next project focuses on a poverty-stricken area of Catania called Librino. He plans to invite world-famous photographers to work with residents of twenty massive tenement blocks and to cover one side of each building with giant portraits, rather in the manner of the Armani posters in Milano. By turning the neighbourhood into a public gallery in this way he believes the inhabitants will rediscover a sense of their own beauty, by which he means not just outward beauty. As a vision of regeneration I find this inspiring. I have offered my support. It was a slightly intimidating experience sitting on the roof of the hotel with Antonio and his associates on Sunday night as they interrogated me about my plans in the south of Italy. It is a frustrating disability that I am not yet able to converse in their language. But I hope I managed to avoid saying anything too offensive.

For the last couple of days I have been once more with Gabriele, which has been a great pleasure. Miraculously I survived this time in palermo with no theft. My computer has scarcely been out of my grasp.

This afternoon Gabriele introduced me to his friend Vincenzo di Leonardo, a hydraulic engineer who now wishes to devote himself to social projects. He wants to establish a scheme providing opportunities for disabled or miscreant youths to learn sustainable agricultural skills.

As I write we are driving through rolling hill-country. To my left a long concrete road bridge spans a valley. But it stands in curious isolation, with no road attached to either end. I keep coming across abstract pieces of civil engineering like this, which I fear are probably the result of Mafia financial logic.

Or perhaps the bridge is just another of Antonio’s projects.

: cH

m i l a z z o

[ 17:04 Sunday 2 September – Stazione di Milazzo, Sicilia ]

A table in the station cafe. This place looks to have been built in the seventies, somewhat out of town. It’s an impersonal echoey building. Grandiose spaces, lots of concrete and marble. The booth selling lottery tickets is closed. Beside me a display case contains Gillete razor blades, Garnier hair colourants, Imation camera films and tubes of Scotch glue. Almost everything is branded in English. A father and son face one another across the table football, both of them forced by corpulence to stand a little back from the levers as they play. Their unselfconscious grins, shouts and gestures relay the game’s progress.

I’ve been here an hour already. My desination is Castel di Tusa, some 60 miles west along the north coast of Sicilia. There isn’t a train until 19:02.

Yesterday morning I left Ginostra after a week living with Alice, Emmanuella, Maddelena, Margaritta, Nancy, Fyodor, Robin, Malcolm and Toni; none of whom I’d met before. People with strong personalities and open hearts. I was touched by their willingness to absorb me into their household. In the neighbouring house were Matteo and Nana, friends from London whom I hadn’t seen for three years. Small world.

On Wednesday night I climbed the volcano with Matteo, Nana and three friends of theirs. It’s a fairly tough ascent, a 45 degree incline with nothing but loose ash underfoot in the latter stages. It’s forbidden to go up without a guide but… well you know how it is. We set off a couple of hours before sundown, when the air was beginning to cool. As we ascended the world seemed to drop away vertically beneath us, the village a cluster of tiny white dots, the sea an intensely blue miasma shimmering without definite location or boundary. After a few hours we reached a plateau at the top, a landscape of grey-black pummice stones framed by sheer cliffs of iron-stained basalt. It is the most unearthly place I have set foot. The islanders call it the Valley of the Moon.

After a couple of minutes the earth shook and a fountain of incandescent lava rose several hundred feet into the air. Those who have witnessed an active volcano at close quarters will know what it felt like to behold this. It is probably not possible to convey it to those who have not. There’s a unique sense of connection to the deepest heart of the planet, to the cataclysmic processes which forged the continents, something appalling yet also life-affirming.

My companions and I ate our supper there and unfurled our sleeping bags. We lay there side by side on a patch of black ash watching the volcano spit its fire into the black sky every fifteen or twenty minutes. Somehow we all drifted to sleep.

At dawn we made the final ascent to the summit, swathed in swirling sulphurous mists. From here we could look down into the glowing craters. But we wanted to make our descent before the sun grew too hot. After picking our way between ravines we took the most direct route: a scree of black ash down which we half-ran, half-fell, arriving laughing, aching and black at the bottom where we stripped off and threw ourselves into the cool water. We must have descended 600 metres in a couple of minutes.

I must find a house for myself and Landon Fuller ready to start work at the beginning of October. My expectation was that this would be somewhere near Napoli or Catania. But suddenly I am drawn to the idea of spending the winter on Stromboli. Fate has conspired to present this possibility. I departed today at noon on the hydrofoil which brought me here but events are in motion and we shall see what results.

For the last two days the weather has been very strange. After weeks of unbroken sun there have been spectacular lightning storms and today it has been raining. There is change in the air.

At Castel di Tusa a man called Antonio Testi runs an hotel whose rooms have been created by artists and designers from all over the world. He is much involved in the new cultural currents brewing in Sicilia. My friends Roberta and Bobo made an introduction and yesterday evening Antonio phoned to invite me to visit. From there I may make a short visit to Palermo to see Gabriele, with whom I travelled last summer. Then I shall spend a week or so in Catania, following other threads laid before me by Roberta and Bobo.

For the second half of September I shall be in the fabulously remote Isola di Pantelleria, close to Tunisia, with Sebastian and Karen.

As I write curious children come over to my table and stare. Between paragraphs I turn the PowerBook towards them and invite them to play. I’m a little self-conscious about producing such an expensive device in a place where people are have so little material wealth.

Hopefully I shall succeed in the next few days in sending some of the despatches I have written. It already seems like an eternity since I flew from London. Oh, and my phone account from last year is up and running again: +39 328 916 1968.

I think this is the first time I’ve used capital letters in an email
since 1996. An unexpected development.

: cH