Monday, January 30, 2012

Politics "alla palermitana"

The race for Palermo's next mayor is...heating up....  Being an American, I am often surprised at how many candidates Italian elections seem to have from a dizzying array of political parties.  This year the race is chock full of people, and it is interesting to see a diverse group of men and women of all ages vying for the post, bucking the trend that only old men and women run take part in the Italian political process.

The casual traveler probably won't give a care much who wins, but as you walk around the city, taking in the sites, you're bound to see a slew of political posters (manifesti politici) all over the city advertising the various candidates running for the post.

The site, Rosalio, has quaintly dubbed the process, Grande Sindachello, an homage of sorts to Grande Fratello, or, Big Brother (as it is known in English). Big there's an idea for American television executives ( we need more reality TV?). It is mind blowing how important social media has become for elections all over the world, with many of the candidates having Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

If you're curious about the political process in Palermo or want to know more about the candidates, check it out.  It is, of course, in Italian, and will require a decent understanding of the language...or you can simply gaze at the photos of the candidates, too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri

Palermo:  Palazzo Steri
In the coming weeks, I'm going to talk about the Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri, also known simply as the Palazzo Steri.

Once a jail during the Inquisition, it is now a museum with some interesting works.  It's an important place in the history of Palermo and worthy of some exploration.  If you're in the city, be sure to check it - it's located in the iconic Piazza Marina.

Da leggere:
Palazzo Chiaramonte-Steri from Wikipedia

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guy de Maupassant's Sicily

Over the past few months, I've been fascinated by a trend that I noticed -- why do so many authors, artists, musicians and others searching for inspiration always head to Italy? In this particular post, I'm going to look at the island of Sicily.

While technically not Italian literature, I was curious as to why so many authors and writers spent time in Sicily. I recently stumbled upon Guy de Maupassant's Sicily which was published in installments in Le Figaro and Gil Blas in 1885 and then again in 1886 in La nouvelle revue and as a chapter in La vie errante ("The Wandering Life") These writings describe Maupassant's travels to the island, his observations, and his reasons for going -- to see the splendid Venus of Syracuse, one of the masterworks of ancient scuplture.

Maupassant really captures the essence of Sicily, and it was ironic that many of his observations, at least of the buildings and monuments he visited, still ring true today. Maupassant also demonstrates how much Sicily has changed -- the thousands and thousands of orange and lemon groves have been replaced by urban sprawl as the island has changed and developed over the past 125 years.

Maupassant did much of his traveling by railroad and shows just how efficient and important rail was to Sicily. When Maupassat visited Sicily in 1885, the rail was a young 25 years old, but it enabled the author to see much of the island that might have been difficult to traverse by horse and carriage. Maupassant makes several observations about the crime and violence of the island but does his best to assure his readers that much of the danger is hype and fear -- a common misperception of the island even today. 

Maupassant begins his journey in Palermo and visits Catania, Syracuse and several other cities along the way, even making a trek to Mt. Etna to see one of Europe's most active volcanoes. He visits many ancient sites, recounts local anecdotes and describes many of the most important churches and buildings in Palermo, notably Cappella Palatina and the Duomo of Monreale (pictured) and the bronze ram of Syracuse, located in the Museo Archeologico Regionale "Antonio Salinas".

  1. Maupassant, Guy de, and Robert W. Berger. Sicily. Italica historical travel guides. New York: Italica Press, 2007. This is an excellent English translation of Maupassant's writing. The introduction and notes are excellent and provide background to the context of Maupassant's writings as well as links to further reading.
  2. Maupassant, Guy de. Viaggio in Sicilia. [Palermo]: Sigma, 1998.One of several Italian translations.
  3. Maupassant, Guy de. Cronaca d'un viaggio in Sicilia. Biblioteca storica del viaggio in Sicilia, 6. Palermo: EdiBiSi, 2000.

image credit: Duomo of Monreale, Sicily, all rights reserved

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bronze Ram of Syracuse

Housed in the Regional Archaeology Museum of Palermo ("Antonio Salinas"), this exquisite bronze statue is a rare find. The museum has been closed for renovation since July 2011, but hopefully it will re-open soon. It houses some excellent examples of Greek and Roman antiquities that were collected from all over the island. The ram featured prominently in Guy de Maupassant's travelogue he wrote about Sicily.

If you want to see other images from the museum, visit my Flickr page by clicking on the image of the ram or my name in the description.