We’ll Have You Erupting with Joy

When Etna started erupting last month, I received an email from my friend Charlie asking if I take my tours to the volcano. The answer is a resounding, yes! (NB that’s me, pictured on Etna.) I believe that seeing and feeling and drinking the power of Etna (and Mother Nature) is just as important as visiting ancient temples to Athena and Venus and churches that the Templars visited on their way to the Crusades. I want you to experience Sicily through and through… Culture, cuisine, arts, history, nature… You name it! Let’s talk! 

Come with me this summer or fall on one of our multi-sensory, small-group tours or, if you like traveling independently, we can help you plan a custom itinerary that will delight you and make you erupt with joy (yup, I just said that!). 

Find me here or on our website at http://experiencesicily.com. Let’s get planning!

Clues for Watching l’Opera dei Pupi 

Back before television was invented and became available in many households, in many of Sicily’s towns and certainly, in its larger cities, L’Opera dei Pupi, or marionette theater, was a major pastime for men and children of the popular classes. They loved to follow the trials and tribulations of their knightly heroes. A major character of the dramas was Orlando Furioso.

Now, for my non-Italian speaking followers, here are a couple of tips to understand the action on the little stage: 1. Orlando, our hapless hero pictured, is generally dressed in green or greenish blue and his shield has a cross on it. 2. The good guys, whose shields often possess suns and birds, enter from the stage left. The bad guys, whose shields usually have crescent moons and stars on them, enter from the stage right. There are many more clues and conventions to the Opera dei Pupi. For this lesson, we will keep it simple.

Form and Function with La Vucciria 

If I rode a scooter in Sicily, this is the helmet I would want: One that has Renato Guttuso’s (1912-1987) renowned painting La Vucciria (1974) imprinted on it. I saw this one not far from the entrance to the famed Vucciria market on Via Roma in Palermo.

Small-group Tours in Southern Italy

Now is the time to plan your summer travel! Airfare to Europe costs the lowest I’ve seen in years, and the strong dollar against the Euro enables you to get a lot more for your money. You may be thinking, “But I’m feeling apprehensive about travelling outside the US right now.” I can understand that; however, if you travel to the right places–and with the right people–you will encounter a more profound, locally seasoned experience that you could not have dreamed of on your own and where you’ll feel secure. Certainly, I’m always talking about traveling to Sicily with me (NB Taormina’s Isola Bella, pictured), but I have some friends who specialize in other regions of Italy and who offer similarly fabulous opportunities: Danielle Oteri and Christian Galliani specialize in Naples, Irpinia, and Cilento through their company Feast on History, and Michelle DiBenedetto Capobianco of Majella Home Cooking is offering a tour for the entire family in the Southern Italian region she knows best: Abruzzo. 

You’ll be amazed at what we innovative and entrepreneurial women have to offer our clients… without doubt, a summer vacation you’ll savor! Danielle has described her and our colleagues’ tours on her site herehttp://www.feastonhistory.com/recommendations/2017/3/20/small-groups-tours-in-abruzzo-calabria-and-sicily 

I highly recommend you look beyond the big guys and the big groups and the big cities because we will delight you with our deep connections to southern Italy and remarkable, personalized hospitality.

Today, Remember the Triangle

Today, please remember the Triangle Fire of 25 March 1911. 146 immigrant workers, many of whom were Sicilian (and Italian and Jewish), perished in a garment factory fire in New York City. We have them to thank for positive changes to our labor laws, regulations for workplace safety, and fairer workers’ rights. Take a moment today to thank them. 

Last evening, I chalked the sidewalk in honor of Michelina Nicolosi in the East Village, where she lived. She perished in the fire. At an event at NYU, also last evening, we learned how we can donate to create the memorial for the site of the disaster, so future generations recall the workers’ sacrifices. And lower right, artist Lulu Lolo performed her moving tribute, Soliloquy For A Seamstress, recounting the moments of the tragedy.

Contemporary Virgin Annunciate

The actual masterwork “Annunziata” by Antonello da Messina (c. 1430-1479) may be seen at the Palazzo Abatellis (the Gallery of Art for the Region of Sicily) in Palermo. The feast day, Annunziata or “Virgin Annunciate,” is celebrated on March 25. It recognizes when the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary she was chosen to give birth to Jesus. Da Messina painted his breathtaking work towards the end of his life, around 1476. The original is oil on wood. 

This depiction of Da Messina’s masterpiece, photographed in Palermo, is one example from the trend of street art that has popped up on walls throughout Sicily. With Mary’s eyes covered and a paintbrush in her hand, what message is the contemporary artist sending? What are your thoughts about this depiction? 

After 1669, Landlocked 

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I talked about Etna’s eruption in 1669 and how the citizens of Catania didn’t evacuate, which led to thousands of citizens perishing? Well, another casualty of Etna’s wrath during that eruption was Castello Ursino, pictured. Commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1239 and surrounded by a moat, for centuries, the castle (which has 2-meter thick walls) seemed impenetrable, especially because it stood on a coastal promontory, surrounded by the sea. Well, the eruption of 1669 had no fear, and Etna’s lava flow filled the fortress’ moats and continued flowing past it, creating a new coastline. There was so much lava, that today, the castle, which now houses Catania’s civic museum, sits inland, about half a kilometer from the sea wall. The message, still relevant today: don’t underestimate Etna!

Rooted In Tradition 

Chef Melissa Muller’s magnificent book, Sicily the Cookbook: Recipes Rooted in Tradition, is now available in book stores (Rizzoli). Melissa dedicated years to researching and absorbing Sicilian food culture. From wine grape varietals and cheese making techniques to the esoteric details of manna cultivation and ritual bread loaf shapes, she has composed a superb love letter to Sicily and its people and given us a definitive treatise to which to refer in order to truly understand the histories, traditions, and finer details of Sicilian cuisine. I should have posted this article hours ago, but I became enthralled with reading Melissa’s exquisite entries and pouring over Sarah Remington’s gorgeous photos. After having traveled to the center of Sicily with Melissa last year, I know how much work and love went into this project. Now that I have the volume (no exaggeration here!) I can’t wait to read more and make some of the recipes. 

Bravissima and congratulations Melissa! 

Spring Moon Dance 

Spring moon (from 2015) over the salt flats of Nubia, Trapani

Community, Cuisine, Culture, and Thanks 

Thank you to everyone who attended our feast in celebration of St. Joseph’s Day yesterday in New York City! My heart is so full after spending the day with you all and from the support of the superb staff Cacio e Vino. Let’s remember that La Festa di San Giuseppe is a day to give thanks and remember those less fortunate than us. 

Viva San Giuseppe!