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‘We will miss you’: Italian author Camilleri, creator of ‘Inspector Montalbano’, dies

Italian author Andrea Camilleri, who earned worldwide acclaim for his series of 30-odd whodunnits starring inspector Salvo Montalbano in the fictitious Sicilian city of Vigata, died Wednesday aged 93, a Rome hospital said.

'We will miss you': Italian author Camilleri, creator of 'Inspector Montalbano', dies
Photo: Associazione Amici di Piero Chiara Follow

Italian author Andrea Camilleri, who earned worldwide acclaim for his series of 30-odd whodunnits starring inspector Salvo Montalbano in the fictitious Sicilian city of Vigata, died Wednesday aged 93, a Rome hospital said.

Born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Camilleri saw his works turned into a TV series in 1999 that was picked up in Britain, the United States and Australia.

Camilleri said he owed a “huge debt” to Belgian writer Georges Simenon's detective Jules Maigret, but Montalbano takes his name from Catalan novelist Manuel Vazquez Montalban, creator of gastronome detective Pepe Carvalho.

Also a theatre and television director and scriptwriter, Camilleri published his first Montalbano novel “The Shape of Water” in 1994 when he was 69 years old. 

“I love him and I hate him. I owe him practically everything, he opened the door for the other books,” Camilleri told Italy's La Stampa newspaper.

“But he's invasive, pretentious, unpleasant and when I encounter a problem, I can see him turning up telling me 'I'd do it like this',” said the writer known for his overflowing ashtrays.

Camilleri died Wednesday after a period in intensive care.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce that at 8.20am…. the writer Andrea Camilleri died. His condition, which remained critical over the past few days, worsened in the last hours, compromising his vital functions,” the hospital said.

It said the funeral would be private, as per the family's wishes.

“Goodbye to Andrea Camilleri, father of Montalbano and tireless narrator of his native Sicily,” Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter.

Fellow deputy prime minister Luigi di Maio said it was “Sad news for Sicily, which loses a son, and for Italy.

“We will miss you.”

Camilleri has sold some 20 million books in Italy, and his Montalbano novels have been translated into about 30 languages.

The writer was known for often mixing Sicilian dialect with standard Italian.

“Let's say I invent one percent of the words but the rest comes from the dialect of Sicilian farmers or workers,” Camilleri told AFP in an interview.

Camilleri, who published his first novel aged 57, also had a long career in moviemaking and radio.

“I am blind, but losing my sight made all my other senses come back to life,” he said in 2017. 

“They have come to the rescue. My memory has improved, and I remember more things than before with great lucidity, and I still write.”

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LA BELLA VITA

La Bella Vita: Free Italian museum tickets, Sanremo, and real spaghetti carbonara

From seeing Italy's best sights for free to avoiding crimes against Italian food, new weekly newsletter La Bella Vita offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like an Italian.

La Bella Vita: Free Italian museum tickets, Sanremo, and real spaghetti carbonara

La Bella Vita is our regular look at the real culture of Italy – from language to cuisine, manners to art. This new newsletter will be published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to newsletter preferences in ‘My Account’ or follow the instructions in the newsletter box below.

The cold weather and grey skies mean February is the month when I’m most tempted to stay at home and keep warm, preferably with an Italian hot chocolate. But it’s a shame to stay in when there’s so much to do and see in Italy, even at this time of year.

Carnival season officially kicks off this weekend, bringing much-needed colour and joy to towns and cities across Italy at what would otherwise be a pretty dull time of year. The most famous Carnival of all is of course in Venice, and this year’s edition promises a return to its former grand scale after three years of limited celebrations.

If you’re thinking of attending this year, here’s our quick guide to the events and what to expect:

Venice Carnival: What to expect if you’re attending in 2023

A masked reveller wearing a traditional carnival costume In St Mark's Square, Venice

The 2023 Venice Carnival will start with a floating parade down the Grand Canal on February 4th. Photo by Andrea PATTARO / AFP

Another reason to get out and about this weekend is Domenica al Museo or ‘free museum Sundays’, when museums and other sites open their doors ticket-free on the first Sunday of every month.

As admission to major historical monuments and museums in Italy often costs upwards of €15 per person, there are big savings to be made and the free Sundays scheme is understandably popular among both tourists and residents.

Free entry applies to hundreds of state-run museums, archaeological parks and monuments, including world-famous sites like the Colosseum, Pompeii, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, the Reggia di Caserta and Trieste’s Miramare Castle. See further details in our article:

What you need to know about Italy’s free museum Sundays

There is however at least one good reason to stay in and watch some Italian TV: The Sanremo Music Festival returns on Tuesday, February 7th, and it will likely be the main topic of conversation all week.

If you’re a fan of Eurovision, you’re pretty much guaranteed to love it. But some people don’t find the appeal of the show immediately obvious, to put it mildly.

So what is it about the festival that pulls together an entire nation, regardless of whether they fall into the ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ camp? We looked at just why this 73-year-old song contest is such an Italian institution.

Why is the Sanremo music festival so important to Italians?

In the latest international Italian food controversy, Italian media reacted with anger and dismay this week to a recipe published in the New York Times for ‘tomato carbonara’, which recommended adding tomato sugo along with the eggs, and replacing pork cheek and pecorino with bacon and parmesan – an adaptation which was described as “provocative”, “disgusting”, and a “declaration of war”.

For anyone who doesn’t want to traumatise their Italian dinner guests or risk sparking a diplomatic incident, here’s the classic recipe plus a look at the rules to follow when making a real Roman-style carbonara:

The ten unbreakable rules for making real pasta carbonara

However, you might be surprised to hear that adding cream – or tomato – to your carbonara recipe isn’t actually the worst food crime you could commit according to Italians.

From fruity pizza toppings to spaghetti bolognese, an international study revealed which of the most common international ‘adaptations’ are seen as most and least offensive.

RANKED: The 11 worst food crimes you can commit according to Italians

Remember if you’d like to have this weekly newsletter sent straight to your inbox you can sign up for it via Newsletter preferences in “My Account”.

Is there an aspect of the Italian way of life you’d like to see us write more about on The Local? Please email me at [email protected]

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