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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A Story of Sicilian Bread

May 25, 2014

Sicilians revere bread. The never lay it upside down. If they drop it by accident, they kiss it. They never throw it away. Well, if it’s moldy they can, but not before apologizing to Jesus.

Since becoming gluten-sensitive, I idolize bread too. This is the round loaf sold by a man in a little truck who comes merrily tooting his way up the street everyday. Look what 80 cents will buy. I pinch it and sniff it and then prop it up on my sideboard, just so, to remind me of the good ole days when I could wolf down the entire loaf in one sitting, slathered in sweet butter and Sicilian orange marmalade.   Round of Sicilian Bread, copyright Jann Huizenga Buon Pane a Tutti! is the bread man’s mantra. “Good bread for one and all!”  It’s baked in a forno a pietra, wood-burning oven. Bread Truck in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga My favorite part about bread shopping is watching my sweet across-the-street neighbor Lina, who lives on the second floor. She tosses some coins in a basket and lowers it.

Lowered Basket for Bread in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Giorgio loads in the bread.

Hauling up bread in a basket in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaAnd up it goes with a tug of the wrist, just in time for lunch.

Hauling up Bread in a Basket in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


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Mid-May Peaches, and Other Thoughts

May 15, 2014

Eeek! It’s already mid-May. I don’t know where the days go. It’s hard, changing careers at this stage of my life–tackling photography, translation, and writing after so many years of teaching. Figuring out how to afford a life in a new country. I’m slooooooooow, everything takes hours–and then more–to seep into my thick head. So with apologies: I have only enough time today to post peaches. (Compliments of my local market.)

Each juicy peach is filled with the perfume of Sicily. And with love, for you. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sicilian peaches, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Peaches, copyright Jann Huizenga

PS I’ve been posting on Facebook everyday. I’d love you to visit me there!


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Mario and Nuvola: An Industrious Pair

May 4, 2014

Meet Nuvola (left) and Mario (right).

They live and work in Castelbuono in the Madonie Mountains, not far from Cefalu.

Several years ago Mayor Marco Cicero had the idea of eliminating garbage trucks from the old town and substituting six donkeys–going back to the way things were done 60 years ago. Nuvola (Cloud) works everyday except Sunday, clomping door to door gathering and separating trash. She and her fellow donkeys are all female because, according to Mario, women are more docile and diligent.

Garbage-Collecting Donkey in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The sweet creatures get pretty bogged down.

Trash-Collecting Donkey in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The town is saving money (no need for truck upkeep or gas!) and there’s less exhaust from trucks. Eco-friendly, says the mayor.

But as animal rights groups and the mayor of New York are trying to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park as being abusive (though the “Horse Whisperer” says the horses are content), I’m wondering: what do you think??? Are trash-hauling donkeys a good idea?


ABOUT CASTELBUONO: Nuvola (Cloud) gets her name from the clouds often hanging over this lovely town. If you’re on holiday in Cefalu, be sure to visit! There’s a stunning Norman castle and museum, some interesting shopping (check out “manna” and the fabulous sweet shop called Fiasconaro), and a yellow piazza bubbling with water, chatter, laughter.

Central Piazza in Castelbuono, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


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Sicilians on (Easter) Parade

April 21, 2014

The week-long Easter madness in Sicily is winding down–whew.  (Today is Pasquetta, when folks move en masse to the countryside to picnic on yesterday’s leftover lamb and sleep it all off.)

Sicilians get all dolled up for Easter, like Americans used to do about 40 years ago. Fashion trends this season seem to be bow ties and rat’s nest coiffures for young men and super-stiletto-platform shoes for women. (Flowing robes for Jesus, Mary, and priests.)

Young Sicilian Couple, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Girls, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Man with Bouffant Hair Style , copyright Jann Huizenga

Young Sicilian Women, copyright Jann Huizenga

Young Sicilian Men, copyright Jann Huizenga

Sicilian Boy in Porkpie hat, copyright Jann Huizenga

Young Sicilian Priest, copyright Jann Huizenga

Jesus and Mary meet in Pozzallo, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga


Hope you had a great Easter/Passover/weekend. xxxxx


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