La Zagara, or How I Was Drugged in Sicily

January 21, 2010

Here’s how I got into trouble.

After teaching a short course in Ragusa in 2002, I’d returned year after year to Southeast Sicily to root around for a little casa. The Fates pushed back with all their might and I finally admitted defeat.

In the spring of 2007, I came to see friends one last time and close the Sicilian chapter of my life. Ciao, Sicilia.

A day before bidding the island farewell, I scaled the long staircase up from Ibla’s Piazza Duomo to see the cupola from on high. After many years cocooned in scaffolding thick as wool, it had reemerged triumphant.

San Giorgio Cathedral, Ragusa Ibla, Sicily

It looked good enough to eat, like whipped cream on a tumbler of granita. I felt a secret joy. Bells tolled, clouds slipped up from the valley. I inhaled la zagara—orange blossoms on the breeze—like a drug.

I turned. There, on an unassuming little row house with a mottled wall and weatherworn door, I saw the magic words: VENDITA.

House in Ragusa Ibla

I saw. I called. I bought. Cast myself into a new world just like that. 1-2-3.

Never imagining for a minute what was in store.

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13 comments to La Zagara, or How I Was Drugged in Sicily

  • catherine Billups

    Bob and Marianne, we just discovered Donnalucata which I loved. We have a house in Noto.

  • meanwhile, I have bookmarked your blog and look forward to following you!

  • You might say that! I studied in Firenze when I was in college and the drug never wore off. Many years and many trips back to Italy and I am still having a passionate love affair with the country. Unlike you lucky ones, who return and somehow make a wonderful go of it rebuilding old houses and live your dream in Italia…I have a long distance affair that is fueled and kept alive with my language studies. You can visit my at my blog “Diario di una Studentessa Matta” and join me in my quest to conquer this beautiful language! A presto!

    • Jann

      Melissa–what a great blog you have. I’m going to add a link in my Learning Italian sidebar!! I think it’s going to help me a lot…

  • I don’t blame you! I don’t think you can ever say goodbye to Italia! Che bell’avventura!

  • What an adventure! Beautiful photos.

  • Josephine Lissandrello

    Dear Jann: I just love your blog which jogs my memory book each time I read it. I fell in love in Rg. Ibla in 1956 and married Vincenzo 3 yrs. later in the Church
    of St. Giorgio. My grandmother lived on Via Camerina and Vincenzo was born and lived in Palazzo Cosentini on the piazza across from the Church of the Purgatorio.
    My great-grandfather, Nunzio Lissandrello, sculpted many of the works of art seen in various churches in ibla and surrounding towns. I’ve been there many times. Vincenzo died 13 yrs. ago, but I’ve returned to Rg. several times since then. It holds a special place in my heart. Thank you for loving it too.

    • jann

      Josephine–how wonderful to have you as a reader, to know a bit about your history, and that you were married in the cathedral! Did you know Palazzo Cosentini is undergoing renovation now? I think it’s going to be a museum. It’s so beautiful inside. Thank you for telling me about your great-grandfather the sculptor. It’s amazing. Please continue commenting. I have so much to learn from you… And the next time you’re in Ibla, please let me know!

  • Bob & Marianne McNamara

    Hi Jan,
    We will be in Donnalucata from 2/19 to 3/6. Will you be in Sicily at that time? Maybe come down to our place for a seafood dinner? We are putting in a second bathroom while we are there. Hope it moves faster than the work you are doing in the Ibla. We look forward to reading your blog.
    Bob & Marianne(Lucenti) McNamara

    • jann

      Marianne & Bob–I won’t be in Ibla then, unfortunately. Sorry to miss out on your amazing seafood. I guess we’ll have to wait till spring or summer. Good luck with your new bath project. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you! Thanks for reading.

  • sandee wheeler

    I hope this entry is the start of the story of rehabbing your Sicily house! Give us more!

    • jann

      Thanks Sandee–I do plan to blog a bit about the (sad) story of la rinovazione… I’ll probably intersperse it with other topics. Thanks for reading!

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