55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
All the passion and sadness of life on a bittersweet island,
This review is from: Midnight In Sicily (Panther) (Paperback)
I read Peter Robb's capolavoro while on holiday in Sicily. My first two nights were in Palermo, where I noticed that once the shops close no one dares the time-honoured tradition of the evening passeggiata. And a day later, I read why, in Peter Robb's prose. You hear a footstep round a corner, a door shuts somewhere, but nowhere do you see the people. They vanish as night falls. What you sense in Sicily but can't explain, Peter Robb puts into words. It is better than any guidebook and the nearest you'll come to getting under the skin of the place. The book is a strange juxtaposition of topics. He can take you from a three-page history of caponata, quoting the Italian Mrs Beeton, Alda Busi, and Elizabeth David, to a harrowing account of Mafiosi murders, and all within the turn of a page. Yet none of this seems strange. I went from seeing women begging on the street with week-old babies in their arms to the jet-set Milanese within four hours - from Palermo to the Aeolian Islands in summer holiday mood. The book is both passion and sadness. The elements of life worth experiencing - in prose, even if you never have the chance to set foot in Sicily to experience them in the flesh.
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Apr 2014 16:50:45 BDT
L. Ewen says:
I love Palermo and feel I must defend it. My experience differs greatly from your description "that once the shops close no one dares the time-honoured tradition of the evening passeggiata." Perhaps it was the era in which you visited.
I've been living there for the past 7 months and only once felt the least bit in danger. And that was in the middle of the afternoon in a particular neighbourhood in the north eastern quarter of the city.
I often found myself late into the night, alone or with friends, drinking in bars, or more, on the sidewalks that fronted their entrances, eating in Vucciria, dancing in old churches, or walking home late from dinners with friends. The footsteps I heard around the corner belonged, more often than not, to a new acquaintance who'd greet me with kisses and a "Come stai?!". The echo of a door shutting was regularly followed by the laughter of boisterous ragazzi on their way at midnight, to one of the many tiny clubs in centro storico. And the traffic on Via Maqueda or Roma, pedestrian and vehicular...insane until after midnight!
The city is broken and falling apart and yes, corrupt and sad and parochial. And vibrant and stunningly beautiful and hopeful and delicious and magical. The Palermitans I was fortunate to meet were always looking out for themselves, and always open-hearted, generous and inclusive. I had little Italian when I arrived and shopkeepers had the patience of Santa Rosalia as I struggled to express myself.
Of all the places in the world that I've spent time, Palermo holds my heart the tightest and most sweetly. Perhaps because of their horrific past, Palermitans embrace life more now than ever.
Please go to Palermo.
But read this most interesting book after.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›