Holding Court in Siracusa

The Duomo of Siracusa represents layers of history. The foundation–both base and walls of the structure–is an ancient, Doric-style Temple of Athena, built in the 5th century BCE (Once inside, you can easily see the columns of the Greek temple!). During the Byzantine age in the 7th century CE, the temple was converted into a…

The Famine of 1646

In the days leading up to the Feast of Santa Lucia, December 13, many Sicilians refrain from eating pasta and only eat un-ground wheat grain, or “farro,” that is prepared as a dish called cuccìa. Devotees observe this ritual to remember the severe famine that struck Siracusa and Palermo in 1646. During that time of…

A Faithful Maiden

Under the ancient Roman calendar, December 13 was the shortest day of the year: the winter solstice. Under our modern Gregorian calendar, the solstice in 2017 falls on December 21. In Sicily, December 13 is still recognized as a celebration of light, when they celebrate the Feast of Santa Lucia, the patron saint of the…

Light Up the Dark

Please mark your calendar to come celebrate our shared light in New York City on Sunday, Dec. 10 at 2PM at Cacio e Vino, where we’ll have a full luncheon with traditional Sicilian dishes for Santa Lucia, a presentation about the Patroness of Siracusa, and a short live concert of traditional Sicilian songs. Reservation and…

Ortigia’s Diana Fountain 

In the center of Siracusa’s Ortigia Island, in Piazza Archimede, is the Fountain of Diana. In 1906, Italian sculptor Giulio Moschetti (1847-1909) designed and constructed the modern, yet Baroque-feeling work that features the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, moon, and childbirth, i.e. the Roman Diana or Greek Artemis. Also present in the sculpture scene…

The Rough Blue Sea 

The sea at Ortigia, Siracusa today was rough from storms that passed overnight. Check out the big waves on the Ionian Sea! And wow, what color! It was a beautiful spring day, warm (about 65F/21C) at 1pm, then brisk (55F/15C) this evening.  I visited some fantastic hotels (inspecting them,  and importantly, *smelling* them for our…

Cookie of the Beholder 

Of course we know that for la Festa di Santa Lucia Sicilians eat Cuccìa (pictured top) and arancine (rice balls), purposefully avoiding wheat grain in recognition of the severe famine of 1624 that the patron saint of wheat, eyes, sight, and light helped resolve once she heard her devotees’ prayers. But what I learned from my friend…

Santa Lucia: They Called, She Responded 

The priceless silver statue of Santa Lucia (in the photograph pictured) will be processed through the streets of Ortigia on December 13, her feast day. Devotees wearing green caps and singing “Viva Santa Lucia” in a call-and-response fashion, will carry her sacred relics. This age-old devotion is rooted in the ancient Greek Persephone/Kore and Demeter myth, which…

Persephone’s Guidance 

As the seasons change where I live in the northeastern United States, and the days are darker longer, I turn to Persephone for assistance during the transition to winter. Part of the “Queen of the Underworld’s” responsibilities, once she descends into Hades each autumn, is the role of psychopomp–a guide for new souls crossing over;…

Sicily’s Modest Venus

Found in the Acradina quarter of Siracusa in 1804, the Venus Landolina is named for the archeologist, Saverio Landolina (1743-1814), who discovered the statue. Made from Greek marble in the 2nd century AD, the Roman era work is a copy of a Greek era work from the 2nd century BC. Because it is an unclothed…