1. The best thing about Sicilians is their love of life and the simplicity of a slow lifestyle. There is always time to say hello, to ask how you are, to be hospitable and share some stories in the market place, in the narrow lanes outside their houses, in the town square playing bocce in the afternoon. It’s as pure and simple as that.
2. Their good looks – “Sophia Loren and Isabella Rossellini” beautiful women and handsome “Marcello Mastroianni and Leonardo Dicaprio” men. It is that beautiful Mediterranean skin with a luminescence that shines through their soft even tan, blemish free, smooth moist skin – that’s what we love.
3. Sicilians are so stylish. Think Aeolian Island soft white and beige linen dresses that drape and flatter; add soft Italian leather handbags, strappy leather sandals, simple pieces of gold jewelry, elaborate Missoni statement necklaces and you have that innate elegant style that comes with embracing quality.
4. La famiglia is the centre of life. Sharing meals with nonno and nonna, with zio and zia and all the brothers and sisters, cousins and friends; sharing Mama’s home made pasta and rich tomato sauce – that’s what family is all about. Where their guests are treated like VIPs, and must “eat, eat, eat” everything from the antipasti and the 4 course s that follow even though they honestly cannot eat another morsel. “Basta, basta, basta” is not enough to curb the enthusiasm.
5. La Passeggiata is my favourite time of day when at dusk everyone dresses up and goes out walking arm in arm, wandering through the narrow streets to the main town square or, like in Ortigia along the waterfront. It’s a very traditional Sicilian social activity, a time to chat, a time to be seen, a time to relax at the end of the working day.
6. Sicilians love their Fiats and Vespas almost as much as they love their families. Vespas fly through the narrow streets, up the hills, down by the waterfront. Sit on the back, hold on tight and off we go, long hair flying in the breeze, feeling the sun on your arms and legs. Parking gets creative: against the wall in narrow streets, across the footpath and at right angles to the curb. It works. Meanwhile SUVs are out: difficult to maneuver in laneways, too wide for U turns and cannot fit through ancient stone doorways in the walls of ancient towns.
7. Sicilians love their food almost as much as their family and their cars. What’s not to love about paper-thin prosciutto wrapped around juicy ripe figs; or lashings of extra virgin olive oil over fresh tomatoes; and then pulling off a hunk of fresh bread and dipping it into the peppery green olive oil? It’s that balance of eating fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruit, with olive oil that makes the Mediterranean way of eating so good for you. There may be cake for dessert but you must also share a piece of fruit first taking care to catch the juice before it rolls down your lips.
8. Who else but Sicilians would have discovered how good it tastes to eat cold gelato on warm brioche, or to eat Sicilian almond torte for breakfast or cool down with a semi frozen lemon granita in the middle of a Summer’s day?
9. I love the generosity of Sicilians; their art of sharing is second to none. Wander through the colorful fish market in Catania and you will be inundated with offers of tastes of fresh shrimp; in the delicatessens of Syracuse you can sample cheese, olives and flavorsome salami; in the bars in Palermo and Taormina the bar tenders are so welcoming, giving complementary bowls of olives, bite-sized hot pizza and other spicy bar snacks to enjoy with your wine.
10. For Sicilians, drinking coffee is an almost sacred ritual. Coffee is served at a bar rather than a coffee shop; stand up or sit down; chat or go solo; take it as cappuccino in the morning; very icy caffe freddo in the hot summer; doppio or macchiato at any time of day; and then finish the evening with a splash of amaretto in your caffe corretto.