Seen in Sicily


The Mafia gets points

for having

the best restaurants.

David Beard


A tour of Sicily for 11 days? I imagined this island to be just a bunch of rocks so I had serious doubts. Sarah Murdoch, the Goddess of Packing Light and honorary Sicilian, won me over with her enthusiasm and passion, swearing 11 days is not enough to see all of Sicily’s best.

Turns out, Sicily has always been the bread basket of Italy and driving through the island revealed a rolling landscape of fertile farms, vineyards, citrus and olive groves. Even if you don’t have 11 days, here are more than 11 things worth seeing and doing:

1. Visit the charming Contessa of the Palazzo Conte Frederico. Her family converted their Palazzo’s stables into Palermo’s most royal B&B.  She will be thrilled to host your private party and her love story with her husband will make you swoon.


2. Take the local pulse at bustling open markets and catch quaint domestic street scenes like this genius manual elevator.


3. The Cathedral of Monreale has 68,000 square feet of mosaics illustrating various passages from the Bible. Each tile measures about the size of the fingernail on your little finger. What’s even more amazing is  that the artisans of this Catholic church were Muslims imported from Constantinople–which explains why the work is similar to the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.


4. The Sicilian Goddess of Pastry, Maria Grammtico, hosts group lunches and pastry baking demonstrations. Signora Maria was orphaned very young and had to work at a convent crushing almonds as a little girl. Her biography Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood tells how she turned the difficulties of her childhood into a literally sweet life.


5. If the kids tag along, this family of puppeteers in Ortigia will remind you of the Von Trapp family of the “Sound of Music” with their Italian productions.


Trivia for lovers of antiquity: Where do you find the world’s best preserved Greek ruins? Sicily, of course!  In the very long history of this strategically located island’s revolving door of ruling powers, the Greeks had their turn and a few of Sicily’s hills are littered with their art and architecture.

6. Sing an aria at Segesta’s amphitheater. With its incredible acoustics, you can hear the person on stage whisper even when you’re this far. And do notice the backdrop of mountain, sea and neighboring island off the horizon.


7. On the rolling hills of Agrigento, the Temple of Concordia stands majestic, looking out to the sea. If you’d rather not melt your wings in the heat like this fallen Icarus, visit Sicily off season. At night, this temple and its neighboring ruins are lit for your viewing pleasure as you sip a granita at your hotel terrace.


8. From the Roman chapter of Sicilian history remains the mosaic floors of the Villa Romana Del Casale from 500 BC. Carpet sellers could not possibly have made a penny from this family who had every inch of their 4,000 sq. feet covered with a variety of scenes and patterns. My favorite was the long hallway of now extinct exotic animals captured in Africa for the Roman extravaganzas at the Coliseum. The “Bikini Girls” in the next room are actually  female athletes of their time.


9. “Passeggiata” is for people watching. In the early evening at every town especially on Sundays, locals meander down Main Street to say hello to each other and catch up with daily gossip.  Dress well for La Bella Figura, a good first impression and photo opportunities.


10. Eat well and/or cook better! Learn how to make Arancino rice balls, caponata, fresh gelato, Sicilian pizza,… at the Nosco Culinary School in the hillside town of Ragusa.


11. Can chocolate be made without heat, butter or artificial additives? Solve the mystery while chocolate tasting at Antica Dulceria Bonajuto in the town of Modica. Had to bring home their pistachio chocolate Easter Eggs.


12. Wine tasting does not get more charming than in the company of the handsome father and twin sons who run the Benanti vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna. I love how the labels of their wine bottles  combine the family patriarch’s love of wine and Renaissance art.


13. In Siracusa, whisper in the Ear of Dionisio or sing your heart out with a grand chorus.


I didn’t even make it to Sicily’s beaches! Taormina is popular with its pebbles and if you prefer sand, head towards the Southern coast facing Africa.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Sicily travel tips.  La Dolce Vita Easter to you!


Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

How To Raise An Adult

I think

if I make it to 40,

I can be pretty amazing.

Wendy Wasserstein, Uncommon Women & Others


Wandering Rome with my teen surrounded by magnificent sculptures, I imagine the discipline it took artists to mold hard stone into flowing robes and graceful figures. They give me a measure of comfort realizing that parenting teens requires as much patience and dedication–while remembering to keep our hands tied behind our back.

Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life? How has this shift left them unprepared to live life on their own?

Julie Lythcott-Haims sums up the effects of “helicopter parenting” from her observations as a parent and as an academic administrator working with college Freshmen in her book How To Raise An Adult.

The central aim of parenting has evolved to preparing children for success and every act of nurturing gets judged on the basis of whether it will usher a child toward a life of accomplishment or failure. This standard holds our everyday choices hostage to worries for their prosperity and future. As the New York Times article of Heather Hevrilesky puts it, “A child who soaks in the ambient anxiety that surrounds each trivial choice or activity is an anxious child, formed in the hand-wringing, future-focused image of her anxious parents.”

Much as we want to exempt our children from pain and suffering, Julie Lythcott-Haims underlines that learning through experience is the best way humans learn. If we don’t allow our children to suffer the tribulations of life, we are not doing our job of preparing them to be adults. It is necessary to hold our tongue and stay out of their way as they stumble, learn how to pick themselves up and arrive at their own answers.

This book is both pro-parent and pro-child, well researched, easy to read, and full of comforting and practical advice for parents walking the tightrope of being supportive without being controlling. Tough, I know!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what it takes for your to allow your children to figure things out on their own.







Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman


Best TED Talks by Women

Women are made 

to be loved,

not understood.

Oscar Wilde


To celebrate Women’s History Month 2016, here’s a short list of my favorite TED talks by women to inspire all. Enjoy!

The Secret to Desire in Long Term Relationships by Esther Perel

Our need for comfort and stability in a relationship goes against what feeds desire. What to do?


Why 30 is Not the New 20 by Meg Jay

Raising teens? A few things to think about…


Can we “Have it all”? by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Can we ever live and let live on the matter of our life choices?


The Opportunity of Adversity by Aimee Mullins

What’s a gorgeous woman to do without legs?


The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What is the untold version of the story you believe in?


Be an Opportunity Maker by Kare Anderson

How can you use our talents if you’re “phobically shy”?


The Price of Shame by Monica Lewinsky

How do you move forward from being shamed on a grand scale?

Why Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads by Dame Stephanie Shirley

How a child refugee of Nazi Europe made her life worth saving

Dare to Disagree by Margaret Heffernan

Is loving people who don’t think like us worth it?

How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over by Mel Robbins

How to get what you really want, just pick one!


The Person You Really Need to Marry by Tracy McMillan

Divorced three times, what if he isn’t the one–again?

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite inspiration.



Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman



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