Poppies & Happiness

April 27, 2015

Poppies spring from the old stone steps.poppies, copyright Jann HuizengaA wind blows as I clatter down all 100 of them to the village “drawing room.” But in the piazza there’s warmth: we’re cocooned by the cathedral and buttery palazzi all around. The sun keeps my foamy coffee warm.
cappuccino, copyright Jann HuizengaAn old car gleams with nostalgia out on the street.

fiat 500, copyright Jann HuizengaTwo carabinieri saunter by in suits with a bright red stripe. They always travel in pairs. Brioches bake just inside the door. Bells roar. Umbrellas and birds flutter about. Even my hair is clean and smells good as it blows over my face. I scrawl in my notebook. Could there be a more perfect moment?

The piano teacher shuffles by and asks where is il marito, the husband? A constant concern of his.

Now all that remains in my cup is foam. I take the tiny spoon and scrape and scrape. I cannot bear for this moment to end.

Along comes Salvatore, 96.

sicilian elder, copyright jann huizenga

He tells me stories, this time about how he helped to plant the towering palm trees on the piazza as a kid. I love(d) these palms with a mad passion; four of the six have just been chopped down. (Big brown bugs.) My happiness quotient drops to 90%, fretting about it (again).

There’s the clanking of glass as the barista with rock-like biceps plunks an ashtray on every single table. A pigeon swoops by, too close.

Three tourists labor up the hill toward the cathedral. “No! Go away!” I don’t actually yell this, though I want to. Out come the purple iPads, raised high overhead like golf trophies. My happiness quotient drops to 85%.

Here comes long-lost chain-smoking Giorgio, with his long grey ponytail. He helped plaster my old wine cantina. We kiss hello; talk 15 seconds; kiss goodbye–lots of kissing with a few cliches thrown in for good measure. Happiness quotient bounces back up.

Do I have a right to be happy? People are dying in earthquakes, sinking in rickety boats in the Mediterranean. Joy brings guilt. I get up to visit Suleiman, a refugee from Ghana being housed in the village. For five months he’s been lost in the Italian legal system. Will he ever find happiness?

ghana refugee in italy; copyright Jann Huizenga




Welcome Back Sun

March 27, 2015

Sicily, Sunny Sicily, was underwater most of March. I wasn’t here til three days ago, but i knew the moment I set foot in the house; water washed down walls, the floor was ponding.

But there’s a bright new sky today. Lizards slither. Underwear waves on balconies. Palm and olive branches abound.

Sicily; Hanging Laundry; copyright Jann Huizenga

Olive and palm branches, Sicily

Carrying olive branches on Palm Sunday, Sicily; Copyright Jann HuizengaSicilians are still swaddled in winter gear.

Though tourists are convinced it’s summer.

Tourist in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Carmelo, my favorite barista in the whole world, is once again serving outdoors. He hasn’t set eyes on Kim for almost a year, and yet he remembered his drink: a doppio, double espresso.

Barista in Sicily; copyright Jann Huizenga

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Tanti baci della Sicilia,



Summer’s End

September 9, 2014

Cari amici, where’ve you been??? I’ve missed you.

And I miss aromatic streets where sheets billow out like sails. People with olive-black eyes. Sun crawling over the cupola. Loud-mouthed merchants and tiny old ladies. Chaos at the post office.  Jasmine growing wild.

I’ll be back in Sicily before too long I hope, but till then, here are a few more things I miss.


Sicilian Friends

copyright Jann Huizenga

lion fountain

bella figura

attenti al cane wall

Hope you had a wonderful August, Dear Reader, and thanks for stopping by.


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A Cave of Men, and Qualms

July 26, 2014

Around eight in the evening, in a town I don’t know, I pause to shoot this wide-eyed fella and his a wispy beard.

Come on in. Don’t I want to see the club?

I hesitate. Will someone spring on me? Twist my arms and slaughter me?

Man at Club Entry, copyright Jann Huizenga

You have to stoop to get inside the old scratched door. Claw marks?

The place is dusky and cavernous.

He says the name is La Caverna.

I squint and pick my way through the pitch-darkness. Who is lurking at the back of the cave?

It’s only Mr. White Glasses, smoking. Turns out he’s the owner of the cavern.

Mr. White Glasses, copyright Jann Huizenga

Mr. White Glasses leads me toward an even blacker room in the back. Is this where they hold the hostages?

Mr. Little and Friends, copyright Jann Huizenga

But no. There is only sweet Mr. Little and his tame friends playing a game.

Mr Little's Friends, copyright Jann Huizenga

Laughing, chatting, joking. Not even drinking.

I’m charmed.

The fella leads me back out and wishes me a buona serata.

Sicily Man, copyright Jann Huizenga

I almost never feel any qualms about traveling sola in Sicily. But once in a while, if you could read the thought bubble over my head it would say, “Nitwit. Is this really a prudent thing to do?”

Do you travel alone? How cautious are you?


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Aeolian Islands Romance: The Stuff of Fiction (& Real Life)

June 5, 2014

Have you seen the super-romantic Il Postino (The Postman)? This is where it was shot, 20 years ago.

Pollara, Aeolian Islands, copyright Jann Huizenga

The tiny port of Pollara on the islet of Salina, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

The film is fiction: it’s all about falling madly in love: a simple, shy Sicilian postman wins the heart of his voluptuous true love with a little help from Pablo Neruda and Neruda’s seductive poetry.

But reality is just as fine. In November 2005, Libby Lush, a Sydney native who was on holiday from her job as a physiotherapist was traveling sola on the island. (Sola–Did you catch that, ladies???)

In Libby’s words:

Getting off the hydrofoil alone, with nowhere to stay and no contacts, there was the strangest sensation of ‘returning home’. Something about the place felt so familiar and comfortable. Salina had a magical, mystical and romantic feel to it. A full moon added to the atmosphere. There seemed to be more stars in the sky here than I’d ever seen before…  The island was peaceful, quiet, slow moving, yet definitely not boring. As if it belonged to another era but lacking nothing. The locals were warm, fun loving, generous, tolerant and hospitable. They seemed to have found the balance for a perfect life style with family life, social interaction, work and play all in harmony. 

Libby was sitting at the bus stop one day when handsome Santino roared up and offered her a ride. How could she refuse? But that was the extent of her “holiday romance,” and when Libby left the island after 5 days, she thought her days there were over. However….

Aeolian Islands Couple, copyright Jann Huizenga

Libby and Santino with the village of Pollara in the background.

As fate would have it my next visit to Salina would be six months later, followed by another trip that Christmas. Destino! Santino and I were married on Salina in November 2007 on another mild mid- November day. A perfect day.

Libby has learned perfect Italian, and she’s exchanged a busy urban life for a slow rural one.

Everyday seems to bring a new surprise. Salina is a place that enters your heart and soul and never leaves. The mistake would have been not to board the hydrofoil on that mid-November day in 2005. 

She now spends her days “cooking, sweeping, writing and living ‘la dolce vita’ on the island of Salina” with Santino.


There is a difference between existing in a place and living in a place. (Elizabeth Lush)


Thank you, Libby, for the inspiring story of your life.


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