Why Sicilians Love Their Sicily

I’m not sure.  But it might be because, packed onto this triangular “isola,” one sees all of Italy’s magnificent landscape, with the exception of the ruggedness of its northern Alps and Apennine mountain ranges, and its beautiful lakes north of Milan.  I was going to write “snow capped” mountains, and then I remembered the snow on Mount Etna, a paradox for sure, given its other face features the simmering volcano.

Maybe it’s that paradoxical, elemental nature. A people fiercely independent, having learned throughout the ages to look after itself, yet begrudgingly appreciative of the money directed its way from the European Union.  Money needed to bring it into the 21st century with roads and services.  Or the infamous crime affiliations, particularly in Palermo (they filled a necessary void and then as the saying goes: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely) juxtaposed with their yearly reverent pilgrimage up Mount Pellegrino to pay homage to its patron saint, Rosalia, attributed with saving thousands from the Black Plague.  Or the intensity of their nature…that “in your face” intensity with hollering, hand gesture, black eyes flashing only to, in moments, have their arm around your shoulder, white teeth gleaming in a smile of affection.

I only know that as we drove across the island, through its centre, towards Agrigento, when I said to Rosario, a native son from Cefalu, “Conoscuto perchè i siciliani amorana la Sicilia, è molto bella,” he graciously corrected my Italian to “inamorana,” and replied “si.” My travel mates and I were enthralled with Sicily.

Mountains.  Fields full of wild flowers – purple, deep crimson, yellow and finally those red poppies I’d been longing to see since Tuscany.  Yellow broom.  Grove upon grove of olive, orange, lemon and other fruit trees.  Terraced vineyards.  Hilltop towns.  And the sea…soon enough always that deep blue sea.

As we traveled west and then south, we felt the heat rising and those of my travel mates keen for some tan welcomed our lunch break at the beach just this side of Agrigento.  We dined “al fresco” with the sandy beach to our backs.  I had a disappointing salad of iceberg lettuce (in my books this doesn’t even qualify as a vegetable), tomatoes and canned tuna.  I didn’t realize there were more offerings further inside the menu…pastas, pizza and fresh grilled swordfish.  Rosario, who’d asked for a “piccolo” portion of a customized primo – spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and green olives, insisted I take some.  “Grazie.”   I was delighted with the full bottle of vino bianco brought to our table, and then realized I’d have to make a serious dent in it as I was the only one drinking white.  “Grazie mille!”

A quick walk on the beach, and then off to Agrigento’s main attraction, another one of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Valley of the Temples, a collection of Greek columned buildings, easily rivaling those in Athens.  (Side note: Remarkably, Italy is home to forty-four of these sites, more than any other country in the world.  And for me, even more remarkable is the number that I have personally visited.)

By this time, the sun was beating on the hillside, and cooling shade was at a premium.  Dina said during the summer months, they book this tour at 5:30 pm when it gets a bit cooler.  In addition to these spectacular buildings, the sculptures of Polish artist Igor Mitoraj offered, for some of us, a beautiful counterpoint.

My father’s longtime work “mate,” Joe, is Sicilian from near Agrigento.  Years ago he taught me to drink espresso with sambuca. He introduced me to grappa.  He talks italiano with me when I’m home visiting my family.  And he is fiercely proud of his Sicilia.  His passion is contagious and I know planted the seed of possibility to visit his country…a seed that ripened into the fruit of this wonderful experience.

About Katharine Weinmann

living and leading with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity
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6 Responses to Why Sicilians Love Their Sicily

  1. meluccia, giovanni and maria says:

    Carissima Katharine,

    We live again our ancestral roots through your generosity of poetic words, beauty of photographs, exquisiteness of descriptions, and gift of sharing your journey – both inward and outward. We have tasted, remembered, witnessed, felt, smelled, and loved again through your entries. We long to receive you home again.

    Our Edmonton version of the Alps (flanking both sides of the driveway – easily mistaken for a frozen version of a biblical scene for the parting of the Red Sea) has actually disappeared! Resurrected from beneath these metres of snow pop tulips, irises, roses and God knows what else two Calabresi and one Abruzzese have sown from our respective secret stashes of seeds. The garlic (planted last fall) are well above ground, and we enjoy their incredible goodness and healing. Giovanni and friends are consistently bemoaning the quality of their “bambini” – tomato plants born of seeds meticulously saved from year to year, and shared amongst friends with earnest instructions and profound genealogical heritage – the fruit of reverent nurturing throughout this lineage of tomatoes. As always, these fragile yet powerful plantlings will grow to yield succulent pomodori that will scent the home, both inside and out, when they are enjoyed in salads and sauces. The earth at this end is exploding with the fervor of spring – it is with amazement that we daily note the lengthening of days and the greening of the city. The scent of the earth is strong after the short rains we have experienced – food for the soul indeed.
    We hold you in our daily prayers – may the remainder of your journey be ever more beautiful and abundant in joy and experiences.
    Ti vogliamo profondamente bene – MGM

    • Dearest M.G.M
      Your words, so beautifully written, have brought tears to my eyes as they have become the bridge of experience to welcome me home and remember, to savour sweetly, so much of what I love about Italy. Grazie mille! Katharine

  2. Kerry-Ann says:

    Incredibile! La ciliegina sulla torta!

  3. Susan Sereda says:

    Katharine – we too loved Sicily and are determined to return to see more of its beauty – determined for that matter to return to Italy to see more of this lovely country. The people are so passionate and proud of their homeland and this translates to being warmly welcomed by them, regardless of the encounter. We never experienced any indifference or impatience as I often wondered whether the many tourists that they encountered (some as you know not being as gracious as we would like them to be) must tax their patience.
    Loved your tales of your trails and trials and look forward to seeing your pics and hearing your stories when you return to Alberta – travel safe and welcome home – Susan

    • Yes, I’m deeply happy to have experienced Sicily. A perfect conclusion to my journeying and I feel at fuller sense of the magnificent country. I, too, am intent to return to both. Thanks for travelling with me, and we look forward to seeing you both soon. Katharine

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