Settling in Sicily: A Long Decision, Part 3

May 17, 2012

In Italy I find myself whispering—for I haven’t stopped talking to my mother—”Are you living this too, madre mia?”

It feels as if I’m picking up where she left off.  A leitmotif of my life has been actually doing the things she talked about doing but didn’t because she was saddled with four kids. My mother deposited her dreams into me, like moms always do to daughters.

Gradually the house has become a home. The decision was long, and so far it seems right. Je ne regrette rien. Non mi pento di nulla.

Here are snippets from my new world (yes, I have a thing about green):

Caltagirone cups from Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


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Settling in Sicily: A Long Decision, Part 2

May 13, 2012

“It’s happened,”  I  emailed family and close friends when I finally bought my dream home in Sicily. “The deed is done!”

My euphoria was the kind of helium-filled joy that you recognize much later as one of those few moments in life when every star in the firmament aligns perfectly and glitters with a rare intensity.


Duomo in Ragusa Ibla, copyright Jann Huizenga

A few days later, in response, an old friend forwarded an email from one of his buddies, a British diplomat in Milan. It read: Anyone buying property in Italy needs psychological counseling. I send my deepest sympathies to the lady. If it is not too late, she should withdraw and run—not walk—as far away as she can from this country.

Talk about bursting my balloon…


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Settling in Sicily: A Long Decision, Part 1

May 5, 2012

It took me years–decades actually–to settle in Europe. An adolescent daydream turned into a young woman’s pipe dream, then a middle-aged reverie.

Time flowed fast as a mountain river in spring.

It took my mother’s death to make me really get it. Time is a Thief.

Do you know what I read to her on her deathbed? Under the Tuscan Sun. A book she’d picked out. As her life ebbed away, mine came strangely into focus. A mother’s last gift to a daughter.

Soon afterward I mustered a little courage, went against my cautious nature, and discovered Southeast Sicily.

Never mind that it took me another five years to find the house with the fat green doors. Find it I did.

Cui camina licca, cui sedi sicca.  

Who walks gains, who sits withers.  

(Old Sicilian proverb)


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Ancient, Abandoned & Alone

April 22, 2012

Blank-eyed homes in green pastures.

Humming with lizards.

Cooing with doves.

Which one is yours?

Sicily waits.

Abandoned House in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Abandoned House in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Abandoned House in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Abandoned House in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Abandoned House in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

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Life on a Shoestring in Sicily

November 18, 2010

People ask: Do you, uh, have a trust fund or something? How can you afford a house in Italy?

Answer: We’re just a couple of free-lance artist-teacher types, wondering from which tree the next job will drop. I acquired the house in Sicily on a shoestring budget by sheer force of will. (Prices in Sicily are, certo, a fraction of those in Tuscany.)

We practice frugality. We schmear paint on the walls ourselves with big sponges, sand plaster from raw stone, putty every crack and crevice.

Our coffee table is a weathered old skid scavenged from the street. We extracted the rusty nails and polished the brittle wood to a shine.

We eat from mismatched china scavenged from Sunday-morning flea markets.

Old Caltagirone Ceramic Bowl, copyright Jann Huizenga

Old mixing bowl from the Modica flea market, €5

Glasses found in a flea market in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Glasses from the Modica flea market, €1 each

We decorate with “trash” that Sicilians have tossed.

Sicilian sconce chandelier, circa 1950, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian chandelier, circa 1950, from the Modica flea market, €10

Old Sicilian church chair with woven seat, copyright Jann Huizenga

"Found" antique chair, gratis

Green door, copyright Jann Huizenga

Bath door made of found wood (and flea-market knobs, €2)

Baroque Sicilian Chair, copyright Jann Huizenga

Flea-market chair, €30

We shop the sales at Upim.

Italian Flatware from Upim, copyright Jann Huizenga

Flatware purchased on sale at Upim (Italian version of K-Mart), €1 each

We frequent church bazaars, jam-packed with cheap new or vintage homemade goodies.

Sicilian Crocheted Potholders, copyright Jann Huizenga

Potholders crocheted by a local woman and sold at a church bazaar, €2

And did you know that in Sicily you can bargain for new beds and couches (like for cars in the US)?


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