With no regard for safety and scant respect for convention, let alone the law, an unlit Vespa carrying three people roared towards us up a dark Palermo alley. Since the big trials of the Eighties and Nineties, The Mafia, they say, has been emasculated and trivialised. However, certain pirate habits of mind persist in Sicily.

Everything here is more deeply etched than the mainland. The Baroque is more Baroque, the wines are stronger, the volcanoes more active, the people more charming, the dolci more sweet, the despair more profound, the food better.

Sicily’s greatest writer was Giuseppe de Lampedusa, a Shakespeare scholar who spoke English with an exquisite Oxford accent, but who never visited England. Lampedusa spoke of the violence of the landscape, the cruelty of the climate and the continuous tensions in everything. Worst? The terrifying insularity of mind.

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