Which palace would you prefer to live in? The one on the left, Palácio Nacional da Pena, looks all colourful and quirky from the outside, but inside the rooms are small, dark and overstuffed with furniture and ornaments. The one on the right, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, is less breathtaking from the outside (although the double chimney is quite cool), but the rooms inside are spacious and light and decorated with beautiful azulejos. It is also conveniently situated in the town centre, unlike it’s whacky counterpart which a one hour uphill hike from the Portugese town of Sintra.
We (my sister and I) decided that we would choose the Palácio Nacional da Pena on the condition that we could put a helicopter pad on the roof and redecorate the interior. Now who’s going to buy it for me?
Aside from gallivanting around picturesque palaces, we spent an enjoyable couple of days exploring Lisbon, eating Belém tarts and reading. I read two of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano Mysteries – light, lyrical Sicillian crime novels with mafia, drugs, femmes fatales and gourmet Italian meals all thrown into the mix. I didn’t start at the beginning of the series because although my parents have the first three or four books at home, my sister and I bickered about who would get to read them first with the result that neither us got to read them.
I remember when I first moved to Switzerland swapping book recommendations with a friend. She said, ‘Oh there are these wonderful Italian detective novels but I’m afraid they’ll never be translated into English because they’re written in Sicilian dialect.’ It was the Inspector Montalbano books she was talking about, and of course they have been successfully translated into English, albeit almost a decade after being published in their original language. The Sicilian dialect is comically rendered as some kind of lazy London / New York accent in the speech of Montalbano’s colleague Catarella, who handles incoming calls to the police and passes on semi-accurate, semi decipherable messages (when he remembers) such as :
“Doctor Latte wit’ an S at the end jes’ called. He said that ’cause that they’re having that funiral service for that sinator that died and seeing as how the c’mishner gotta be there poissonally in poisson, atta furinal, I mean, the c’mishner can’t come to see youse like he said he was gonna . Unnastand Chief?”
Catarella’s appearances in the books are, however, so infrequent that I wonder why my friend thought his peculiar dialect would be a barrier to translation. Perhaps the books were originally written entirely in dialect but only Catarella’s small contributions have made it into the English translations to provide a little flavour? Regardless, the English versions are lively, colourful and delicious reads, ideal for whiling away hours on a sunny beach.
What are your holiday reading recommendations?