Sunday, January 14, 2018

On our second full day in Palermo, we went “Cooking with the Duchess”, with me still shaking from my fell.  This needs a bit of preliminary explanation.

Giuseppe Tomasi, Prince of Lampedusa, author of the “Leopard”, had no children. Late in life he adopted Gioacchino di Lanza, a distant cousin from an even grander family. Gioacchino is still alive – indeed, some months younger than I am. Giuseppe never did much of anything in life, except write a masterpiece. Gioacchino has had a distinguished career as a musicologist.

The title character in the book is based on Giuseppe’s great-grandfather (Burt Lancaster, in Visconti’s film). The great-grandfather had a princely nephew who appears in the book as Tancredi. His adventures may or may not be vaguely historical – but his physical presence and mannerisms are based on Gioacchino.

OK: so here we are, me and Archie, presenting ourselves at the Palazzo Lanza Tomasi on Thursday morning. Lampedusa lived there during the last months of his life, and sets the death of the Gattopardo in an hotel next door. He – Lampedusa – actually died in Rome.

It all went swimmingly. Archie said afterwards that he had feared they would be “snooty”. They weren’t. We strolled with the Duchess on the terrace, picking herbs and lemons for lunch. We went with her to the market to buy fennel and fish and olives and bread. We worked in the kitchen. All was brilliantly organised and totally calm. We had a break for wine and another for coffee. And, somehow or other, at one, we discovered that we had cooked a four-course lunch for 14 people.

White-gloved servitors appeared at that point to serve lunch to us in the rather grand dining room. We were all good friends by that time – an American couple, a German one, and me and Archie. A bit of a WWII morality play. And I sat next to Tancred. And I can tell you that his eyes are, indeed, blue. And that he is delightful.

Most of the time, however, he talked to the German woman on his right, and I to his son Giuseppe on my left. When I read about that fatal dinner party at Donnafugata, I always picture Concetta to the left of Tancredi, with Angelica beyond, in the position of the German woman. I don’t know if there is any textual evidence for that.

Now I will go watch the Queen on television and knit onwards with Archie’s sock. I must get back to that shawl.


  1. Ahhhhh, what fun you had! I am so envious.

  2. Aah how I am envying you! My Mum was sooo impressed, when staying with her cousin in Wesern Australia, when the cousin said "I need a lemon" and popped out to the garden and picked one.

  3. skeindalous8:42 PM

    It sounds marvelous.

    So glad you enjoyed yourself....and the good food!

  4. It all sounds just wonderful! I am so glad you made the trip and can now tell all of us about it.

  5. Anonymous8:56 PM

    Such a good description, Jean. I feel as though I was there with you. Chloe

  6. What a wonderful experience you and Archie had! If you managed to get any pictures in the midst of your cooking please post a few on your blog.

  7. I am just a little envious.

  8. I am enjoying the description of your adventures.

  9. I finally reread The Leopard. So your description of your experiences really resonates (if that's the right word). Wow is all I can say.

  10. Anonymous3:46 PM

    I just read the Leopard as well.
    Your cooking class and lunch sounds just fabulous. So glad you and Archie did it!

  11. =Tamar9:11 PM

    What a delightful experience!

  12. I just went and looked at the website for A Day Cooking, swooning.