A couple of weeks ago we had a short break in Sicily. As usual, before I travelled I looked to see if there were any local basketmakers or products. And as usual I read that basketmaking in Sicily is something of a dying art.

So it was a bit of a surprise to run into two sets of basketmakers in the same day! The first were Claudio and Rossella, who had a stall at the market on Ortigia, Syracuse.

Their stake and strand baskets are made using olive tree prunings for the stakes and local split cane as the weavers. They also sell local herbs and soap. There’s a video about them here.

They also weave with palm – I couldn’t resist this wonderful fan.

One of the other stalls at the market had this rather nice fish trap on display.

Later that day, in the gorgeous baroque town of Noto, I met Corrado Ferla, who was making baskets and hats from palm leaves. The technique was a variation on coiling, using cordage made from palm as the core and then wrapping with more palm leaves. His work was beautiful – and so slow, especially as he had to make the cordage for the core before he could start weaving!

Further on in the trip in Scicli (famous for hosting the police station of the fictional Inspector Montalbano), we met Ron Carmelu, whose family has lived in a cave house for several generations. Ron also makes baskets – as well as so much else, including ricotta strainers, farm implements and whole nativity scenes. Quite an extraordinary place!

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