Experience Sicily’s Evelina Buttitta and her husband toured Abbazia Santa Anastasia cantina in the Madonie Mountains today. She said it was, “Bellissimo.” Sicily has a robust wine production industry. For your visit to the region, we can organize tastings and tours of vineyards throughout the island, so you can “drink Sicily” too!
If you’ve had enough politics, Taormina’s Villa Comunale is a lovely place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the boutiques, restaurants, and G7 conferences happening throughout town. With its lush plantings and shaded pathways, you’ll feel like you’ve escaped to a different era. There is a reason for that! Villa Comunale was given to the town by English aristocrat and nature conservationist Florence Trevelyan (1852-1907), who once enjoyed bird watching from its cliff tops. Originally designed to be a private a pleasure garden, the Villa Comunale was initially called Hallington Siculo, or Sicilian Hallington; Hallington for Hallington Demesne, the town from which Trevelyan hailed in Northumberland, England and to which she never returned once she settled in Sicily in the early 1880s.
Taormina’s Ancient Theater, or Teatro Antico, is the inspiration for the logo of the 2017 meeting of the G7, happening now in Sicily. To give you some background, and put things into perspective (We are here for so little time.), the theater was built in phases, starting in the 3rd century BC by the Greek inhabitants of Mount Tauro, who added to the structure significantly in the 2nd century AD. The Romans then added their ingenuity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, transforming it from a auditorium for dramatic theater to an amphitheater for grand spectacles. From this photo, you can see the different construction styles. Taormina’s amphitheater is the second largest ancient theater in Sicily after Siracusa.
Fans of architecture will love La Martorana church in Palermo. It’s initial construction started in the 1140s, exploiting the Arab-Norman style fostered by Roger II and in this case, his trusted admiral, George of Antioch. Then, over the centuries, it took on Baroque elements and other styles. It has Greek and Albanian influences because of its affiliation with those churches. It has north African elements because of the artisans who worked on it. And the Baroque from the nuns under whose possession it was for centuries.
Find your favorite style in this photo!
One of my favorite things to eat in Sicily is panelle and cazzilli stuffed in a seasame seed bun (pictured). Panelle are flat chickpea-flour fritters made with fresh parsley, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Cazzilli, which is a vulgar way of saying “little penises,” are potato croquettes made with mashed potatoes, fresh parsley (or mint), grated caciocavallo cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Of course you can eat these finger foods without the bun, but when in the street, this is the best way! Be sure to eat it hot. It will melt in your mouth.
For more wonders of Palermo’s street food, read my article in the April 2017 issue of Dream of Italy at https://dreamofitaly.com/2017/05/02/palermo-street-food-try-sfincione-palmermitano/
25 years ago today, on May 23, 1992, at the location pictured left that now features this monument in Capaci, along Sicily’s autostrada between the Punta Raisi airport and Palermo, a half-ton of explosives were detonated under the highway killing anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo, and his police detail including Rocco Dicillo, Antonio Montinaro, and Vito Schifani. The blast, which registered on earthquake monitors, was the masterwork of the Sicilian mafia. The calculated murder of their hero also sent a tremor through the hearts of Sicilians. It marks one of the incidents that inspired a grassroots effort to stop the plague of organized crime that has diseased Sicily for centuries.
Pictured right is the commemoration that took place today (Thank you to my cousin Maurizio for the photo.), illustrating the power of the people of Palermo and Sicily to engage sweeping change in their society–from the ground up. Earlier this evening in Palermo, a series of speeches and music performances were held as part of this anti-Mafia celebration and commemoration. To put it in perspective, such an outward display of solidarity would have been dangerous 25 years ago.
Sicily’s anti-Mafia movement and its success is what we should glorify!
This weekend is the 38th annual Infiorata di Noto, or Noto Flower Festival. This year’s theme is “Sogni e colori del Principato di Monaco” or “Dreams and Colors of Monaco.” Over the last two days, along the Baroque town’s via Nicolaci, different art-school groups have been laying out their mosaic designs of flower petals and other natural materials into “carpets.” Utilizing elements including fennel, wheat, lavender, myrtle, olive and other tree leaves, carob powder, beans, dirt, sunflower seeds, onion, and of course, flower petals of different colors and species, the artists create vibrant images that inspire visitors who come from all over the world. On Friday, they inaugurated the festival, which also includes a street fair, live music and dance performances, poetry readings, and art exhibitions. When it’s all over, on Monday, the town’s children are invited to gleefully destroy the “carpets,” a ritual that represents sweeping out the old and bringing in the new.
(Photo by Experience Sicily’s local guide Sebastiano Garifo. Thank you Sebastiano!)
In 2004 in Palermo, a group of young men founded Comitato Addiopizzo, a nonpartisan, voluntary movement of merchants and consumers who en masse refuse to pay the “pizzo,” or protection money, to the Mafia. Following the philosophy that “A people that pays the pizzo is a people without dignity,” the cultural movement has swept the city and beyond.
Young people, and now older too, refuse to patronize restaurants, bars, and other merchants who don’t display a sign that says “Addiopizzo.” Palermitani realize that banding together is powerful, and as a result, things have changed dramatically. This store pictured sells “pizzo-free” products.
This weekend in Palermo they held the 12th additon of Festa Addiopizzo–a festival celebrating the merchants, artists, professionals, and consumers who support a world free of the pizzo.