As well as the overall sense that Shamus Sillar’s wife Gil is a Saint, Sicily, It’s not Quite Tuscany portrays Sicily in a very contemporary and Australian style. Its also a book from a male perspective something which seems a little rare when writing about Italy these days. Whilst I really enjoyed Penelope Green’s books particularly See Naples and Die, as a male it did not hit the spot in the same way as this book does.
It’s a book about a young married couple who spend a year genuinely soaking up the earthiness of this amazing island in its most basic location, Catania, a city which certainly doesn’t enjoy good press and this book doesn’t really enhance it. Yet you are given a sense that by letting the town wash over you it’s not all bad. There is a rich description of the people, the sights and
the festivals all interesting and all part of the rich tapestry that is Shamus’s view of Catania and Sicily.
Shamus is hellbent on seeing every festival, climbing every hill and generally being immersed in the culture even if they are on a very tight budget. It’s not a travelogue as such but certainly takes you on a journey around the island and the key sights. Stories of long walks in the heat with no water, swimming at a black beach,and an erupting Mt Etna are just some of the gems.
I loved the stories about trip planning, New Year on the Aeolian Islands, the Festival of Saint Agatha and it’s war cry particularly it’s similarity to “Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi! His explanation of why so many gum trees on a Northern Hemisphere island answered a question which I had pondered myself.
The description of Enna and the views from the hilltop, Syracuse, and Palermo brought back fabulous memories of these amazing places. Well maybe the Capuchin Monastery was gruesomely accurate rather than a fabulous memory!
It’s a book which indispersed travel stories with life in Catania. Stories of time spent with friends made, and fellow dwellers in their not so salubrious apartment block. You get the sense that it’s a challenge but one that Shamus and his wife were up for.
Having had the opportunity to visit Sicily on a couple of occasions I was able to visualise the places and feel the atmosphere of this truly memorable island as I turned the pages. I yearned to revisit the places mentioned or to visit those I hadn’t.
If you’ve been to Sicily you will reminisce, if you haven’t you’ll want to go!
It’s a great book, a fun read.
PS if you want to see what Shamus is talking about visit his website