Afternoon Gossip Sicily

John P Brady - Sicilian cafe


I go to an internet cafe slash panino house and take advantage of their air conditioning, free internet and of course spicy salami panini.

It is the ‘study’ period in Catania. This means that the diligent studious few spend a full month in preparation for one 20 minute oral exam.

In practice this means they dutifully lug some books along with them to the beach or to the bar. Because the exams are in the oral format the students have been conditioned into thinking that the best way to remember the useless info that they study is to read it and then repeat it aloud. Therefore all over Catania there are those who sit and talk to themselves. At times like this it’s quite difficult to identify the maniacs.

One young man comes in and sits by a table. He opens a book and commences to mumble paragraphs out loud to himself. To the casual stranger he is little more than another freak chattering to himself in public. To the trained eye, however, he is an erudite Catanese student.

Some students meet specially in air conditioned rooms and test each other’s knowledge by posing exam questions that they have invented. No one knows what will be asked; out of a book of 200 pages, one may be asked three or four quite specific questions. They must answer correctly though to at least 3 of these or be failed on the spot.

This cafe is polluted by some particularly inane and rather chatty Sicilian ladies. They prance around with little purpose other than to seek attention from whatever men are in the vicinity. They spend their entire ‘study’ period drinking caffe freddo, eating gelato and gossiping about foreigners who are in earshot.

‘Is he an American?’ asks one.
‘Probably, look at him. He’s definitely a foreigner,’ concludes another.
‘Be careful, maybe he’ll hear you,’ warns a third.
‘Don’t worry, he can’t speak Italian.’

I continue typing, perfecting my ignorant innocence.


John P Brady writes fiction, articles and a blog about life in Italy, where he has chosen to make his home.  His first book, a collection, entitled Back to the Gaff has been recently published by Roadside Fiction.  It concerns the wild happenings in Dublin by night and documents the attitudes of the youth in modern Irish society.  Keep up to date with his writing by subscribing:


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Back to the Gaff

Scandalous Narratives of Contemporary Ireland

Dublin, Ireland, Irish writing, short stories

Back to the Gaff is a book by new author John P Brady, which describes the excessive and outrageous nature of Irish night life. Meet an array of eccentric individuals who populate the bars of Dublin, living lives of decadence and abandon. Their frolics inevitably lead to a trip ‘back to the gaff,’ which in Dublin-speak means gravitating towards someone’s place of residence where the depravity continues.

Ebook and Paperback available: 




John P. Brady is an Irish writer, Financial Trader and occasional journalist.  He divides his time between Ireland and Italy.  His interests include travel writing, social comment and eccentric debauchery. His first book, Back to the Gaff, described as "Trainspotting meets Dubliners" is available. Buy the ebook

5 thoughts on “Afternoon Gossip Sicily

  • November 12, 2012 at 13:46

    One day I’ll be brave enough to turn around to those types and give them some witheringly erudite put-down in Italian. For now I just settle for laughing / tutting at appropriate points of their conversations and making them paranoid. Passive-aggression’s where it’s at, baby.

    • November 12, 2012 at 14:41

      Don’t mess with a passive-aggressive woman! You could begin a fake conversation on your phone in Dante-esque Italian, that would do it.

  • February 19, 2013 at 00:35

    For those who are not erudite enough, gossiping about foreigners means “cuttigghio” in sicilian.
    Bye bye my mad Irishman friend!

    • February 19, 2013 at 03:00

      Ciao Francesco, “cuttigghio” e’ una nuova parola per me! Grazie! I’m sure the lovely Sicilian people never gossip about us ‘mad’ foreigners! Your command of English is nothing short of unbelievable, my friend!

  • February 19, 2013 at 14:33

    No worries mate.
    Thanks because your point of view is so funny and polite but as you know “what is essential is invisible to the eye”.


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