I got an email late last year from my mother about a tour of Sicily they had booked. Sicily’s been on her bucket list for a while. Her grandparents were born and married there, and when they first moved to New York they still had land. I’m not sure if they intended to go back periodically throughout their lives, depending on work, but somebody muddled those plans. In the 1930s, Mussolini started confiscating the land of absentee owners, so the family went back to sell their only link to “home.” Once accomplished, they came to America to stay.
My great-grandparents both lived to see their early 90s, and as long as I had known them the didn’t speak English. I often wondered how they were able to get by in the US, but after they died I learned that they knew English, they just didn’t speak it. I have to admit it puts an interesting spin on my memories, watching my aunts holler at them in English and me thinking, Why don’t you just learn a few Italian phrases and meet them halfway?
I certainly wished I’d bothered to learn it myself, because I joined them after their tour for a few days. Mom intended to see the village her family left behind, and I never turn down free room in a foreign country (almost done paying for the airfare). So away I went last week.
|Cathedral di Sicilia|
This was only my second trip to Europe, and I’m amazed by the apparent age of the continent. In Florida and Virginia, some landmarks date back to early Colonial times, so we’re talking 1600s at best. You travel to Sicily and you find ruin that go back to Christ. We stayed mainly in Catania – there are no Starbucks, but I found three Catholic churches on the same block. We attended Mass at the one above, which holds the relics of St. Agatha. You hear that Sicily served as home to so many people – Greeks, Jews, Muslims – over the centuries, but the Catholic presence is most obvious. The food is insane, too. I didn’t go hungry.