The idea of travel to Sicily has been a dream for so long. The island conjures up images of an aquamarine sea, tuna roaming the coastal waters, a sparking volcano and mysterious tales of the goddess. She has felt the tread of people on her footpaths for thousands of years. There are many temples to the gods on her hillsides. The invaders come and go leaving a bit of this and that adding more spice to the culture. I will arrive in gentleness to appreciate and enjoy a holiday on this sun kissed Mediterranean island. The plans have been made to go. Vado in Sicilia. I go to Sicily for a fine holiday. I gather myself and make ready to step into the unknown.
The dream took hold after hearing the voices of Il Volo of Italy. Il Volo are a trio of musical interpretive artists. They have steadily risen in the competitive field of pop music. Their style of classical pop recently won top prize at San Remo Italy Music Festival 2015. Even before I knew their names, I was enchanted by their bell’arte del canto (Art of beautiful song) style of singing. But, I couldn’t understand what they were singing in Italian. So, the curiosity to understand led to a fascination for all things Italian. A little language skill led to drinking wines from Italy, finding local Italian markets, reading books by women who have travelled or live on the island and even learning to appreciate opera. My mentors became the writers of two memoirs of life in Sicily. As a women, I turned to women who took a risk to leave their homeland and settle in Sicily. If they could go, why can’t I?
“A House in Sicily” by Daphne Phelps opened the door to Taormina and Casa Cuseni. Daphne inherited this house in 1947. She chronicled the adventure of taking on the house and making a home in post war Sicily. Her home became a refuge for writers and poets of the day. The Casa is now a B&B set high on a hillside in Taormina. Daphne is an old Greek name meaning laurel tree. She was a nymph who was being chased by Apollo. Her father turned her into a laurel tree to save her virtue. Daphne Phelps would have turned around and chased Apollo off with a look. Her spirit draws me to the island. I may not have her gumption, but I cannot go forward in life until I stand on that balcony myself. What will it feel like? I am not sure if Daphne is buried at the Casa, it seems fitting that I meet her somehow. A token of remembrance I must pack!
“On Persephone’s Island” by Mary Taylor Simeti is the second source of inspiration. Mary traveled to Sicily as a volunteer in 1962. She fell in love and married a Sicilian remaining on the island until today. Her narrative explores modern living on this mercurial island with its mafia and political corruption. She shares the experience of farming at their ancestral home in Bosco. Explores the myths and legend of Persephone and Demeter as having taken place on Sicily. She adjusted to life on the island and raised a family making the most of the opportunity to love and find acceptance on this mystical shore. Of course, it does cross my mind to find her and to meet her there. After all, I dare to think we have in common the contemplative nature to feel the old days in a place as well as the new.
All will be known in a while. I have found my courage to save, to plan and to prepare for Sicily. I have euros tucked away, clothes laid out to pack, and new shoes to wear. There is more to do, each day I accomplish one more task and find another. The cat needs watching. The hat, I must find a sun hat. The grass will need mowing or I’ll come back to a hay field. What about this? What about that? Oh, much to do before I go on holiday to Sicily. Quannu amuri tuppulìa, ‘un lu lassari ‘nmenzu la via. English translation of the Sicilian: When love knocks, be sure to answer. I have been falling in love a little with Sicily every day for two years now. I wonder if the fascination will evaporate when I am actually there. There is only one way to test this thought, go and find out. Una vacanza in Sicilia. There I go. I will be in Sicily for the Infiorata di Noto, the May Festival of Flowers in Noto Sicily.
To be continued…..
Drawing of Casa Cuseni by Domenico Minchilli