Today’s Sicilian Surprise

December 15, 2013

Every day in Sicily brings some weird new surprise. And I mean every single day. The day before yesterday, for instance, I was approached by a man in his cups who made hound-like eyes at me and said, “Only a woman can save a lost man like me.”  Yesterday the surprise was hearing that a dastardly new tax on my house is due tomorrow. Today as I dropped a wine-bottle into the dumpster, I saw at my feet a cardboard box full of….I don’t know what. A treasure trove or pile of rubbish? (I carted it home all the same.) You be the judge.


Some things in the box were in twin sets, but nonetheless they emit the smell of loneliness.  Do the Grecian ladies have anything to do with Sicily’s Greek past? Who owned these oddities, and why did she ditch them?


Are these the most God-awful bud vases ever created, or are they handblown Murano glassware?

3In person, statuesque Cleo is nearly the size of a toilet bowl, and made of similar material. (Come and get her if you live nearby!)


This is my favorite of the found items, because I know it is an original Sicilian kitchen thingamajig–thin wood wrapped around a fine mesh net. But what is/was its specific use? You’d think I would know these things by now, but I have no idea if it’s an old pasta strainer, a flour sifter, a rice washer, or ???



Here’s the dumpster with the box in question.


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35 comments to Today’s Sicilian Surprise

  • CallieCat52

    I wrote to you before that when we lived in Sicily we went to the dump on a regular basis and found the most wonderful castoffs!! I have a friend who made it his mission in life to repair and restore antique mosaics he would find. Another good place to “dumpster-dive” is next to graveyards. I found a lovely little castoff lion w/a shield that I packed out when I came back to the U.S. Congrats on your “finds”, Jann. May you find many more!!!

    • Jann

      Callie, why do you think people put trash near graveyards? I’ve noticed that too! A friend of mine found a vintage TV set that she loves near a graveyard. Seems bizarre-o!

  • Crazy!!! Jann, tesoro, I think you can consider this an early Christmas present that you have (in your inimitable style) wrapped exquisitely in a blog post and shared with all of us! Grazie mille. Un abbraccio Jxx

  • One person’s treasure is another’s trash…or in some cases, just more trash? Obviously the person discarding the “objets” figures someone might like them…Did you put them back in the box and set them by the bin again? I agree, that sifter/strainer is the real treasure of the lot. And they all provided an interesting blog. I’d say you got your money’s worth, Jann! 😉

    • Jann

      I haven’t put them back in the box yet, Lynne, because it appears I may have a few “takers” among my blog readers. So I’ll see how that goes first. But you’re right. Got a blogpost from them so they are much appreciated! (As only a fellow blogger can know. Ha.)

  • Jann, you know what they say about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure! I love the wooden bowl. Whatever it is, it’s cool! I love old, rustic things like that. They remind me of days gone by, you know? 🙂

  • yes I understand the ‘every single day’ part, we find all kinds of things in our rubbish or nearby….good luck with the chap in his cups xx

  • I also want to know about the man in his cups 🙂 Did you save him???

    Laughed at the washing gold comment. That man must live in Australia!

  • Linda

    Cleopatra is fantastic! I am heading South to Ragusa for some dumpster diving!

  • Sam

    I think one could have fun painting that head (and snakes) in vivid, super-realistic color. Might make one think it less like a toilet bowl.

  • Anasthasia

    I wish I were back in Sicily now and I would take
    the Grecian ladies and the Cleaopatra off your hands.
    I know I have no taste but I like them!!!

  • What Treasures!
    Who could throw out that amazing Cleopatra Head!??? Seriously?
    I Loooooooooooove.
    XXxxxxxxx Many Kisses from MN for you, Jann.

    • Jann

      🙂 Kim you make me laugh; wish I could carry it in my suitcase back to the US for you but it would probably be in a thousand pieces by then. xxxx

  • Jann, this one cracks me up! I’m not an aficionado of antiques, so these things very well COULD be priceless. But if they are, well, I’m kind of with you — not exactly my taste and style. Especially those bud vase-things, ha!

    • Jann

      Debbie, probably the joke’s on me because I wouldn’t know a priceless antique if it hit me over the head. But the box of stuff makes me curious to see the home of the previous owner. Must be quite unusual.

  • The last item is for washing gold.

  • Fun! I remember the thin wood strainer from my Papa and Nona. They strained tomato seeds in it. They had the biggest best beefsteak tomatoes. And Nona swore her sauce tomatoes were the only ones worthy of her 3 day sauce making. We had reels of 8mm Kodak film of that garden, the winter cellar full of drying herbs and veges and fruits and of course, the deep dark red wine in gallon jugs we pressed in oak barrels. All those reels melted because we stored them in a trunk up in the fourth floor attic of our old New Jersey house. So sad. However, as you can see, the memories have survived! As Nabokov wrote, “SPEAK MEMORY”
    Merry Christmas! Next time I’m there I will contact you (in fact I’m in Malta soon, but don’t think the Pozzallo catamaran runs in winter, or does it?).

    • Jann

      Tom, great to hear from you and thanks for the wonderful picture you paint of your Nona’s garden and cellar. Though the reels didn’t survive, your memories did, which is the important thing. Enjoy Malta!!! We love it there. The catamaran may run if the sea isn’t rough, but the problem in winter is that you may get across one way, and then the wind kicks up and you can’t get back.

  • wish I was closer + love them

  • Oh I love these posts. Your Sicilian surprise has become mine. Thanks, Jann! “The smell of loneliness,” I hear the long ago echo of “Solo, abandonado!” from the Met stage. Thanks for the memory, the photos, the writing.

    • Jann

      Susan, thank you. Sei dolcissima. Ha–“Solo, abandonato!”–yes, that’s exactly what these objects are crying!!

  • vicki carol

    What a box of treasure you found. Probably someone’s Mother or Aunt died and the younger people want modern. How happy the person is knowing that you rescued her belongings. Some one must want Cleo. Put it outside and put free on it and it will be gone in an hour. I think the wooden item is a flour sifter because of the small wire mesh. The smaller the mess could mean it is a strainer for separating the pulp from the juices. What ever it is ,it is precious for all the time it has been used and the working hands that caressed it. Good for you.

    • Jann

      Ah, Vicki, thank you for these thoughts. Yes, it’s sad thinking the owner might have passed away, and her kids don’t want her old stuff…

  • I think you have some beautiful treasures (smile). I actually like the vases and can see lilies in them! Of course I like the urns, too. Wish we could know the story or the “why” behind the box ending up there!

  • wild Jann…the last item is for sifting flour….they come in many sizes…this looks quite fine perhaps for sifting the bran out of flour to make pastry (i use a modern version but my mom had these in her cantina!) Called Crivelli…setaccio i think.

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