Author(s): Shamus Sillar
Sicily, It's Not Quite Tuscany is a captivating tale of an Italian sea change. Over the course of 12 romantic months, two Australian newlyweds restore a rundown villa in a rustic corner of Italy, seeking the very essence of la dolce vita, stamping their entwined feet in vats of Chianti grapes, hosting boisterous Sunday lunches, and...Actually, stop right there, because although the author and his wife did go to Italy for a sea change they had quite the opposite experience, neither restoring a villa, nor stamping on any grapes. Instead, their year was spent in Sicily, in the sprawling city of Catania - the 'anti-Tuscany' of Italy. The apartment they lived in was owned by a nun and located in Catania's poorest neighbourhood, opposite a triple-X cinema. Mount Etna erupted soon after they arrived, chundering its ash over the city for two months; the author's encounter with a Sicilian quack resulted in his needing a neck brace; they had regular dealings with at least one Mafioso; as well as being robbed (and some of their visiting friends being robbed). They also managed to crash a Vespa. This, then, is an Italian sea change with grit. But it's also a story of optimism, endurance and acceptance, an exploration of the minutiae of Sicilian culture, and an example of how to find beauty - and humour - in the most unexpected of places. (Except the neck brace experience, which was far from funny.) And if all that's not enough, there's also a succession of sparkling vignettes about the couple's travel adventures across the length and breadth of the Sicilian landscape, from craggy hilltop towns to seaside resorts for the obscenely rich and famous.