Seeking Sicily: A Cultural Journey Through Myth and Reality in the Heart of the Mediterranean

By John Keahey

"Keahey's exploration of this misunderstood island bargains a much-needed examine a much-maligned land."―Paul Paolicelli, writer of below the Southern Sun

Sicily is the Mediterranean's greatest and such a lot mysterious island. Its humans, for 3 thousand years lower than the thumb of 1 invader after one other, carry tightly onto a tradition so targeted that they continue to be emotionally and culturally particular, viewing themselves first as Sicilians, no longer Italians. a lot of those islanders, sporting significant DNA from Arab and Muslim ancestors who governed for 250 years and built-in giant numbers of settlers from the continent simply 90 miles to the south, say proudly that Sicily is found north of Africa, not south of Italy.

Seeking Sicily explores what lies at the back of the soul of the island's population. It touches on heritage, archaeology, foodstuff, the Mafia, and politics and appears to 19th- and twentieth-century Sicilian authors to plumb the islanders' so-called Sicilitudine. This "culture aside" is better exemplified by way of the writings of 1 of Sicily's maximum writers, Leonardo Sciascia. Seeking Sicily additionally appears to modern Sicilians who've by no means shaken off the affects in their forbearers, who believed within the historic gods and goddesses.

Author John Keahey isn't content material to permit photos from the island's overly touristed villages hold the tale. beginning in Palermo, he journeyed to such locations as Arab-founded Scopello at the west coast, the Greek ruins of Selinunte at the southwest, and Sciascia's ancestral village of Racalmuto within the south, the place he skilled distinctive, neighborhood fairs. He spent Easter Week in Enna on the island's middle, witnessing surreal processions that date again to Spanish rule. And he realized approximately Sicilian food in Spanish Baroque Noto and Greek Siracusa within the southeast, and met aged, retired fishermen within the tiny east-coast fishing village of Aci Trezza, domestic of the legendary Cyclops and immortalized by means of Luchino Visconti's mid-1940s movie masterpiece, La terra trema. He walked close to the summit of Etna, Europe's greatest and such a lot energetic volcano, studied the mountain's function in growing this island, and appeared out over the expanse of the Ionian Sea, marveling on the 3 millennia of myths and background that cast Sicily into what it's today.

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It snuggles opposed to rolling hillsides, its baroque personality noticeable for miles, and within the foreground stands a latest inn numerous tales excessive blocking off the as soon as picturesque view of a handful of beautiful 17th- and eighteenth-century structures. What may well sleek fogeys right here were considering once they allowed the sort of constitution to be outfitted? neighbors in Noto, whilst I ask this question, shrug and say that it's the means issues regularly ensue: ideas are bent; zoning legislation, in the event that they exist, are overlooked; a want is exchanged the following and there. not anything is finished approximately it. those frequently gradual and useless construction codes apart, lifestyles in such a lot elements of the island seems quite filthy rich. Many older Sicilians have pensions, anything that was once infrequent simply many years in the past. more youthful those people who are unemployed—the South has an unemployment cost good into the excessive teens—receive a few form of monetary help from the nation, and plenty of, if single, nonetheless reside with their mom and dad. long past are the times of the peasant family members that sleeps on straw mattresses at the floor—all in a single, might be , tiny rooms. additionally absent, with few exceptions, is an important homeless inhabitants that many large-city americans see day-by-day within the usa, a land that Sicilian and southern Italian immigrants a century or so in the past considered because the land of milk and honey with streets paved in gold. these days, apart from the tumble of deserted buildings hidden away in areas like Palermo, the one closing vestiges of global conflict II are the scattered concrete bunkers sprinkled throughout ridgelines and the tops of broad, sloping fields. The island’s broad street approach is fairly good maintained with the exception of a few dramatic exceptions deep within the nation-state. approximately all tiny roadways among rural villages, as soon as not more than mule paths, are paved, serving the island’s transportation wishes fairly good regardless of periodic indicators caution of huge potholes or locations the place an important bite of 1 lane has slipped down a steep slope. Twenty-first-century Sicily turns out light-years clear of the Sicily of the mid-twentieth century. Enzo Sellerio’s black-and-white images, taken round the island within the Nineteen Fifties and early Nineteen Sixties, exhibit few vehicles, loads of mule- and horse-drawn carts, growers and their households handpicking grapes and hauling large grape-filled baskets on their backs, aged girls clothed in black, young children in knee-length pants and ragged sweaters. This was once a land nonetheless recuperating from the ravages of battle; northern Italy was once good on its approach to restoration, whereas Sicily used to be nonetheless digging out of the rubble two decades after the final bombs have been dropped. yet each decade during the last century confirmed a few development, besides the fact that sluggish. Sicily within the mid-twentieth century could have been the place the USA used to be within the century’s starting, however it used to be some distance sooner than its nineteenth-century , both earlier than or after Unification in 1861. For a glance at that period, Giovanni Verga’s fictional depictions of such overdue 19th and early twentieth-century residing stipulations for the Sicilian peasant classification are tough sufficient for americans to appreciate.

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