Day of the Dead

November 2, 2010
(first published Nov 2, 2009)

A few years ago, I wanted to buy a ruin of a house on a solitary road out beyond the Ragusa cemetery. Sicilian friends (perfectly rational, well-educated ones) said I was matta, insane, that I’d be visited at night by dead souls.

“What do you mean?” I hollered. “I live two blocks from a cemetery in the US and I’ve never seen a ghost!”

They looked at me mournfully and insisted that the danger was real. They themselves would absolutely never pay me a visit there!

So I gave up the idea of that house with its faded pink walls, shocked at how alive the dead are in Sicily.

Sicilian cemeteries are always set well outside of town behind imposing walls. Below is the Scicli cemetery, full of mausoleums, magnificent pines and tall cypress.


Cemeteries here are well-tended, with custodians and on-site florists. They seem to be open most of the day, even during the long lunch break.



Many of the tombs show pictures of the dead.


Streets have names, just like in a real town.


Today is il Giorno dei Morti, Day of the Dead. Sicilian families flock to cemeteries—arms overflowing with lilies, mums, roses, and daisies—to spend time with their dearly departed.


8 comments to Day of the Dead

  • Fantastic post. Love the photos, the sun on the line of tombs and the photos of that couple-wow! I’m quite fascinated with Italian cemeteries, especially at night when you can see the eternal lights twinkling in the countryside. I once went to do the annual spruce up for Gastrognome’s grandma on level 5 of what could only be described as a multistory car park with a scent of garden centre on a damp day, with tombs not cars obviously. I pinged the seemingly dead bulb on her neightbour’s tomb and his eternal light flicked back into action. I still haven’t quite got over the experience… lol at the Sicilian reaction to living near a cemetery, the Romans would be the same. I find their obsession with religion and extreme superstition quite at odds.

    • Jann

      Thanks for your comment, Ali. Sorry I wasn’t there to witness your relighting of that eternal flame–sounds a little spooky!

  • Jann

    Thank you all for your comments. Yes, cemeteries in Sicily and throughout Italy are invariably gorgeous places. Not usually on tourist itineraries, but not to be missed!

  • Beautiful photos! I witnessed families carrying flowers to the cemetery yesterday. The Sicilian cemeteries are very interesting, emotive places.

  • The cemeteries here are like mini towns aren’t they and I am always amazed at how well kept they are and at this time of the year absolutely teeming with visitors.

    Thankyou for your recent visit to News From Italy, much appreciated.

  • Beautiful images, especially that angel. My daughter and I spent yesterday morning at a cemetary in the closest town. I love cemetaries and have memories of All Saints/All Souls Day growing up in south Louisiana so yesterday’s visit brought up all sorts of memories and emotions. One of the things I first noticed upon moving to Italy was how well kept the cemetaries seem to be throughout the year, but yesterday was really impressive with the flowers and families.

  • In fact it was Basilicata…

  • I once spent an Ogni Santo down south in Calabria and noticed that they take this whole thing a lot more serious than up here. Yes the cemeteries are extra busy here now, but down there everyone was dressed as if in mourning. The place had a positively spooky feel to it.

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